Tara King comes to DVD
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The final season of the original Avengers finally comes to DVD & VHS in region one. "The Forget me knot," the debut episode of Ms. Tara King played by Linda Thorson, was released back in 1998, but only now is the entire series seeing the light of day - and it's been well worth the wait. There are many of course who do not rate these last adventures featuring the debonair John Steed as Britain's top government agent as highly as what had gone before, and it's easy to see why. Steed's pairing originally with Mrs Gale (Honor Blackman) and later Mrs Peel (Diana Rigg) had been an excellent match for his skills. With Mrs Peel leaving the show, the producers, Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell followed suit and John Bryce was brought back to the programme, following his stint producing the early Mrs Gale episodes.The first thing Bryce did was to cast his girlfriend, twenty one year old Canadian Linda Thorson as Steed's new assistant, Miss Tara King. In order to complete the delivery of episodes to the US market, production was fairly rushed, and what came out of it was deemed substandard. Bryce was sacked and Fennell and Clemens brought back to rescue the production. Clemens was particularly unhappy about Linda Thorson's role, but it was too late in the day to do anything about it. They set about filming the initial block of 8 episodes (extended to 9), rehashing two of the abandoned Bryce episodes, and bringing back Mrs Peel for the one-off story "The forget me knot" to introduce the new character of Tara (although this "debut" was actually filmed third). Once these episodes were ready, they set about producing the final batch of 24.There is a very significant shift in the character of Tara King between these two production blocks as Thorson began to gain confidence in the part. Also added as a regular into the later stories is Steed & Tara's boss, "Mother," played by Patrick Newell. Thorson's inexperience and the naivety of the character are often cited as the reason the show was cancelled after these episodes were transmitted. Personally, I think the inclusion of the very annoying "Mother" to be a far more valid reason. But it's all a matter of taste.The stories are included on the discs in the order they were first transmitted in the UK. I would strongly recommend viewing them in PRODUCTION ORDER (easy to track on any Avengers website). There are several reasons for this. It's easier to warm to Miss King as you follow her character development. It also makes more sense to understand her constant hair changes and costume. She started as a blonde, moved to a be-wigged brunette, and only in the latter 24 episodes did we see Thorson's own hair. We can also see how the actress started in "slimmed down mode" (on the orders of the TV station) but regained her lost weight as the series moved along. The character also started out as a complete "spy" trainee, but by the second production block, had become one of the most experienced agents in Mother's department. I also enjoyed seeing the rehashed sets from episode to episode too. All these nuances are lost by following the stories strictly in disc order, and indeed the characterisation of the leads is actually confusing if you simply watch the shows in disc order.As for the discs themselves, sadly A&E have once again neglected to include any extras at all. All there is are a few still photos, although it has to be said that the menus are at least very well done. The picture quality is certainly very sharp, but there are definitely flaws due to sparkle and dirt. Sadly, "You'll catch your death" has been transferred incorrectly, and the picture strobes and jumps throughout. Clearly no-one at A&E was paying much attention to the remastering process.Clemens believes this batch of episodes to be the best of the entire run of The Avengers. He has stated that everything came together right in terms of production and scripts. I can't say I agree entirely. They are certainly as enjoyable as anything else, but the total fantasy nature of the stories and the weakness of Tara and Mother characters combine to take the edge away when compared to the earlier Peel episodes. Regardless, it's all camp and wacky fun and I still highly recommend this collection to any fan of the series as there is plenty here to enjoy."
Linda Thorsen takes a few days off, but she's still beautifu
Patrick W. Crabtree | Lucasville, OH USA | 09/23/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Prior to 1967, "The Avengers" was yielded in black-and-white. Going to color was a definite improvement; however in 1968 there were three additional significant changes:
1. Mrs. Peel (Diana Rigg) was traded out for Steed's new partner, Tara King (Linda Thorson).
2. The producers asserted that the 1968 episodes were more [paraphrasing] "believable" -- in fact, just the opposite is true. The '68 episodes are more bizarre than ever, but still very good.
3. There is more involvement by Steed's boss, "Mother" (a wheelchair-bound chubby guy who shows up in very strange places to discuss Steed's progress on respective cases).
This DVD package, (2 DVDs, individually cased and further packaged in an attractive cardboard box, this "Set No. 3" color-coded GREEN), is the third of FIVE sets for the 1968 episodes. The marketing of "The Avengers" can be quite confusing so I wanted to get that information out up front. This is also the BEST way to buy the DVDs (by the "set" rather than by the "volume") for any season, from 1963 through 1968.
Patrick Macnee shrewdly plays John Steed, England's gentleman undercover agent. Linda Thorson is one of several of a line of Steed's voluptuous sidekicks. In the U.S., most of us didn't even know about Honor Blackman and Macnee's other (earlier) partners until years later when these episodes finally emerged on VHS tape. Diana Rigg can probably claim about 60% of the credit for the vast number of U.S. audience members who were glued to their TVs when "The Avengers" finally hit here. The other 40% (not forgetting Macnee's fine performances) had to do with the presentation of this excellent series.
Starting in 1965, with Rigg, the filmscore was notably updated and played more prominently throughout the story, enhancing the action and suspense. Also, the action itself was boosted. There was never a dull moment with Steed and Mrs. Peel. And these episodes were all FUN -- one embraced a sense that Macnee and Rigg were having a great time in making these films. Now that I've seen episodes from "The Avengers'" earlier years, ('63 and '64), I can see that they dragged quite a bit during that earlier era and were much more soap opera-ish. The fun continued throughout the final year, 1968, even though Linda Thorson was simply never quite as dynamic or as sexy as Diana Rigg. The '68 filmscore and title scenes at the beginning and the conclusion of each episode were spiffed up a bit too.
Each of these 52-minute episodes is futuristic (at least for the period) and on the cutting edge of excellent television productions. I know of no series, "The Original Star Trek Series" excepted, which has remained as timeless as "The Avengers". You'll encounter, in the 1968 episodes, every nemesis ranging from Eastern spies posing as murderous British Army officers to equally murderous hotel desk clerks.
In the 1968 Set No. 3 (which includes Vols. 5 and 6), we're talking about six very enjoyable, action-packed, color episodes:
"The Interrogators" - Agents are called in for crash courses in interrogation - but their contacts are disappearing. Christopher Lee (of Hammer Horror Films fame) guest stars in this fine entry.
"The Rotters" - A murder spree hits the timber industry and it is up to Steed and Tara to nail down the unlikely villains.
"Invasion of the Earthmen" -- Following the death of a fellow agent, Steed and Tara uncover a plot to conquer space and come face to face with their worst fears.
"Killer" - Dead agents are piling up in a graveyard so Steed works with the Lady Diana Forbes-Blakeney to expose the secret at the heart of the murder spree (Tara goes off on vacation).
"The Morning After" - When Steed and a comical traitorous agent wake up to a plot to detonate a nuclear bomb in an English village, the former enemies work together to prevent a catastrophe. Tara pretty much sleeps through this one.
"The Curious Case of the Countless Clues" - Pursuing a band of callous criminals, Steed suddenly finds the tables turned when the killers target Tara.
The storylines of the various "The Avengers" episodes seem absurd to varying degrees as we view them today - but 1968 continued to escalate the absurdity beyond the previous years' entries. This did not diminish my enthusiasm for the "The Avengers" because the overall series always manifested a "Batman" (TV series) tongue-and-cheekness about it. I mention this only to prepare viewers for this actuality.
The casting in all episodes is spot-on, punctuated with the very best sets and scenic locations. And Linda Thorson's astounding beauty (tenoned with her great figure!) really accentuates the `60s look in her mod attire.
I'll be reviewing all of the 1968 sets, (as I mentioned earlier, there are five in all, with 2 "volumes" per set), so be on the watch for my comments regarding the other sets at their appropriate sites on Amazon. In the meantime, while not exactly as marvelous as the 1967 episodes, this particular set still garners my highest recommendation!