I’m going to watch these early episodes soon @caractacus potts thanks for the links, they are most useful.
apologies, I'm falling behind...
Lets look next at the Venus Smith episodes. They don't come chronologically next, and are not so neatly separated as the Martin King episodes. but it'll be easier to discuss the Cathy Gale episodes if we get Venus out of the way first.
Here's a good shot of her, young and pretty, and after her first episode she sports this stylish blonde pixie cut.
Venus Smith, played by Julie Stevens is in six episodes, recorded between Sept 13 1962 and March 8 1963. The first Venus episodes were actually recorded after the first Cathy Gale episodes, and the recording of episodes with the two actresses was alternated. Her first broadcast episode comes third in the season after two Cathy episodes, and only two more Cathy episode were recorded after the final Venus episode, so is not as if they abandoned the character even though Cathy proved more popular. I gather the reason she didn’t return for season 3 episodes is she was pregnant. However, like the Dr King episodes, most of these are clustered near the end, as if they knew they were not so good so left them til last.
Venus is a nightclub singer, recruited by Steed to go undercover with incomplete information. Julie Stevens gets to perform at least one song per episode, and in her first appearance sings Duke Ellington’s I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good. Note her original hairstyle, which made her look less childlike (later on we're told the character is only twenty).
Her singing style is more worldly sounding than one would expect from such a silly waif, but also rather too polite and warbly for Ellington. The piano trio that accompanies her first two appearances is led by Dave Lee, who also accompanied Macnee and Blackman on the Kinky Boots single. He final four she is accompanied by the Kenny Powell Trio. The bands are also seen performing instrumentals when she is not singing, the other characters knowledgeably discuss modern jazz, and there are scenes in the recording studio as well as nightclubs and various private engagements.
I'll skip the recording dates this time, and just give the broadcast dates, as these were broadcast in the same sequence they were recorded. See the table upthread for how they alternated with the Cathy episodes.
The Decapod (s2e03 October 13 1962) introduces Venus, in a Notorious type scenario. Steed recruits her from her nightclub job, never having met her before, because he knows the villain is looking for a new secretary. Steed is completely irresponsible here, not even telling her it’s a secretarial job (never mind a dangerous spy mission), she believes she’s been hired as a singer. Steed is also a shameless letch, ogling the cigarette girl at the nightclub as well as Venus. Villain in this episode is played by Paul Stassino, Domino’s brother from Thunderball.
The Removal Men (s2e06 November 3, 1962) is another rare foreign adventure, in the south of France. Episode begins with Steed breaking into a naked woman’s apartment, then locking her in the bathroom with a bottle to keep her company while he searches the place and steals the jewels. He’s a whole different Steed in those early days. Regular boss One Ten gives the orders. The Trio plays an instrumental while characters discuss Brubeck and Miles. Ivor (Inspector Teal) Dean has a cameo (I didn’t spot him). and from memory, Venus and her band are there in the same town completely by coincidence, playing a gig in a club owned by the villain, and Steed does not actually need her for anything. Which is an issue with most of these Venus episodes, the character is not not really needed. These are mostly Steed solo episodes with a sexy sidekick for comic relief.
Box of Tricks (s2e17 January 19, 1963). Venus goes undercover as a magician’s assistant, her talents as a nightclub performer are a bit more logically integrated than most of her episodes, and this has the weird visual factor we expect from The Avengers.
School for Traitors (s2e20 February 9, 1963) Venus goes undercover in a university, and gets rather more dialog in this one. Still not really needed to make the plot work, but she mingles with the students more credibly than Steed does. Steed receives his orders from a different boss this time: One-Seven (Frederick Farley), an impatient man who does not approve of these amateurs
Man in the Mirror (s2e22 February 23, 1963) takes place in an amusement park, and probably has the most of the weird factor of any of the Venus episodes. This is the one where we learn she’s only twenty. This episode introduces yet another boss, One Six (Michel Gover) whom Steed argues with (were they having management issues at this mysterious agency Steed works for? no wonder he acts unsupervised for most of his career, with all this workplace chaos), and we see another of Steed’s dogs, a (part-)greyhound(?) named Sheba. Sheba was first seen in the Cathy episode The Big Thinker (s2e12 broadcast December 15 1962)
Let's have a look then at Sheba with Venus and Steed
Here's a more formal portrait of Sheba from the John Steed's Flat fansite, which says she was Macnee's wife's dog in real life. Maybe why she's the best behaved of the various doggy characters? but she often improvises and starts licking Steed's face when he has lines to deliver.
A Chorus of Frogs (s2e24 March 9, 1963) is the final Venus episode, another rare foreign adventure, this time in Greece. For a spy show that rarely leaves the country, I think its actually Venus that gets the highest proportion of foreign adventures: 33% of all appearances! of course her job requires travel, so thats an excuse both to set the story somewhere exotic and include her character. Eric Pohlman (voice of Blofeld in the early BondFilms) is in this one, a good character and a very good performance. He even says “How do you think I made my money? By playing both sides against the middle, east and west.” He’d speak similar words again the same year! There’s a lot of stories elements in this one of interest to a Fleming fan: Pohlman's character is a successful, amoral businessman with a huge private yacht, complete with laboratory and inner hatch for scuba divers to explore the seafloor. Venus is almost irrelevant, there purely by coincidence once again, and as usual Steed puts her in harm’s way without giving her any information. One Six reappears.
Unfortunately, Venus rarely contributes much plot-wise to her episodes, except being occasionally put in danger, and her inclusion is usually forced. With the singer girlfriend, the jazzy nightclub environment, and the general noirish atmosphere, some of these Venus Smith episodes are more like Peter Gunn than the show we’re used to. Others are silly and have that weird visuals angle we should expect. There is also lots of gratuitous bikini cheesecake in the pool scenes, and implied nudity, which would not happen in later seasons. The two rare foreign missions make this more similar to Danger Man and The Saint.
I should point out, despite being the least qualified and least informed of all the Talented Amateurs, Venus always has a big smile for Steed and seems to really like him, despite him repeatedly endangering her life. Whereas Dr King and Cathy usually greet Steed's arrival with a "oh no not you again" glare.
What I am now wondering, as I look at how the recording schedule alternated Venus episodes with Cathy episodes: was the idea of having two different female leads to allow for recording more episodes faster? as noted, these are really Steed solo episodes that barely require the talented amateur. and as we shall see, most of the season 2 Cathy episodes quickly become solo Cathy adventures with Steed only checking in for a few scenes to torment her.
nothing to do with the Avengers, but just for comparison here's Ivie Anderson with the Duke Ellington Orchestra showing us how that song's meant to be performed.
(I cant figure out when this "soundie" was made, but Duke and Ivie first recorded the song in 1941)
finally we can discuss the Cathy Gale episodes, after a whole lotta episodes with lesser Talented Amateurs
I shall take at least two posts to cover Cathy's first season, as the first episodes recorded were broadcast towards the end of the season and reveal the character concept was not yet firmly set, they require a bit of detail to sort out.
Cathy Gale, played by Honor Blackman (one of ours): widow of a farmer in Kenya, who led safaris after her husband's death before returning to London to complete a doctorate in anthropology, then spent further years travelling round the world for academic and charity work. To give sense of who she is and where she's come from, her first apartment is full of African sculptures, masks, a wide variety of guns mounted on the walls, and hunting trophies. Her background and decorating tastes are that of a female Alan Quatermain.
She is back in London working in a museum when Steed first meets her and recruits her for an undercover mission. Unlike Venus, she is actually more than qualified for such work, hella-smart, fearless, and more than capable of defending herself. Unlike Dr King, she likes the work and throws herself fully into her undercover roles as if she has finally found the career she has unwittingly been searching for all her life. Though she also distrusts Steed, knowing full well he makes a game of giving her incomplete information and calling him on his manipulative nature. Their perpetual quarrel over Steed's methods becomes a running gag, with him seeming to get deliberately worse just to torment her, while she goes into more extreme rages each time she catches him. Then smiles to herself once his back has turned, secretly she must like it.
and of course she knows judo, and after her first couple episodes gets into at least one brawl per episode, and of course she dresses in all leather whenever such a brawl is scheduled to occur.
First recorded episode starring Cathy Gale is Death Dispatch (S2E13 recorded June 23, 1962, broadcast December 22, 1962): another rare foreign adventure (seemingly not so rare in season 2), set in South America. This one begins with Steed and OneTen meeting next to a pool full of bikini babes. Steed flirts with the ladies while half-listening to his boss explain the mission, then chats one up and makes a date the second OneTen has done (by definition, this is two years prior to Goldfinger just in case you're thinking this seems derivative)
The conspicuous bit of dialog to watch for: OneTen tells Steed he shall be working with Cathy Gale on this mission. In these earliest episodes she appears to be a fellow agent working for the same unnamed organization. This shall get changed back to the usual Talented Amateur status in subsequent episodes, though even then her status sometimes seems official depending on the plot.
Her character seems off-model in this first outing, more happy less scrappy. According to one source she was threatened by producer Sydney Newman that if she smiled like that again she'd lose the job, so the fierce attitude we come to expect from her character was a deliberate directive from above.
Also of note: in her second scene she awaits a call from Steed in her hotel room clad in black brassiere, which must have been pretty hot stuff for 1962 television. I have not cropped this screencap. and if it seems I am objectifying Ms Blackman by including this shot, trust me the show makes it a strategy to objectify her womanly bod. Even though her character, skillset and background are most definitely not stereotypically femme-y, in almost every scene she is dressed in tight tops that she pokes right through, bosom cutting a perpendicular angle that cannot be ignored. The whole show of course has an expressionist visual aesthetic, where angles are extreme and odd objects foregrounded, so the recurring visual element of Cathy Gale's bosom cutting across the centre of the composition must be deliberate. Thus making her butch persona all the more gender bending and radical.
But to confuse matters further, there's Warlock (S2E18, recorded July 7 1962, with scenes rerecorded January 24, 1963, broadcast January 26, 1963. ) Warlock is the second episode recorded but was intended to introduce her character. Then got pushed so far back they rerecorded two scenes so that it was not Steed and Cathy's first meeting, and to remove the statement she was a fellow agent.
In this episode Steed is investigating a local occultist, an Aleister Crowley type, who has been conspiring with enemy agents. Steed visits the museum to consult with Dr Gale, an expert in the Occult due to her work in anthropology and field experience in Africa.
in the dialog we get, it is implied they have met before. But this scene was reshot after much of the rest of the season was complete, to make it fit the revised continuity and concept of her character. the original script can be found here, at the Mrs Peel We're Needed fansite. The "tag" scene (epilog) was also rerecorded. in the original version, OneTen appears and tells Steed that Cathy is a fellow agent, which Steed had been unaware of throughout the episode. The version of the "tag" we got has no OneTen, and Cathy is just a Talented Amateur.
here is the introductory dialog we never got to hear.
CATHY: Mr Steed? Do come and sit down.
STEED (SURPRISED): Mrs Gale?
STEED: I’m sorry — it’s just that I didn’t expect to find you so attractive.
CATHY: Just because you have to meet me at the British Museum you expect tweeds and glasses. Isn’t that a bit old-fashioned of you, Mr Steed?
This shot here would therefor have been our first site of Dr Catherine Gale, if the episode had been broadcast in logical order.
Much weirder than the first recorded Cathy episode, this one features occult ceremonies and civilised folk doing their idea of savage dances. The words “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” are spoken. Cathy is colder and bossier than she was in her first recorded episode, not smiling once til her final line, as if they’d rethought her character. Steed gets drunk and makes a clumsy pass at her which she easily rebuffs. Sinister foreign agent John Hollis is one of ours: Blofeld from FYEO!
Why these two episodes got pushed so far back in the schedule I do not know, but it may have been due to the fact Cathy's character was still being settled. In Death Dispatch she's a fairly standard field agent, she speaks Spanish well but otherwise nothing so odd about her. In Warlock, she's suddenly a scientific expert, specialising in the Occult. I don't think we ever hear about this interest in the Occult again. and both her attitude and rapport with Steed are not quite right yet, though the scientific expertise otherwise stays.
Third recorded episode was Propellant 23 (S2E02 recorded July 21, 1962, broadcast October 6 1962), broadcast second episode of the season but still after after the fourth recorded Mr Teddy Bear. Cathy's charatcer is more settled but maybe this isnt such a strong episode. This is an ensemble comedy about various characters employed in a small regional airport. Steed meets with Cathy and receives a call from OneTen at a lingerie shop. Cathy knows more about the McGuffin than Steed, and would therefor once again seems to be a coworker rather than amateur. Nicholas Courtney (The Brigadier) has a small part in in this one as one of the pilots: authoritative, short tempered and snooty years before Doctor Who.
Finally we come to season opener Mr Teddy Bear (s2e01 recorded August 4, 1962, broadcast September 29 1962), actually recorded fourth. Presumably they decided Cathy's character was now fixed, and this episode has plenty of the weird concepts and visuals expected of the show, thus a good start to a new season. (keep in mind there had been a delay following a writers strike, loss of the top-billed Ian Hendry, and they were reintroducing the show with a revised concept, thus needed to carefully think which episode should create the best first impression and represent the new direction)
Viewers at home may have forgotten about the noirinsh detective show with doctor Ian Hendry and his spy friend (I dont think it was even seen in all British markets in its first season). They would be justas likely have stumbled into this episode by chance, rather than by choice, and what they would have seen would be a rather shocking cold opening with no clue its a a work of fiction. Begins high concept with a journalist dropping dead of cyanide poisoning on live teevee. According to imdb, interviewer Tim Brinton was a genuine ITV newsreader of the day. I wonder if anybody in the audience took this seriously, War of the Worlds style?
Following the shock cold opening, this episode has much black humour as Steed laughs out loud at the villain’s various elaborate assassinations. Cathy poses as a client contracting to have Steed killed, and meets the assassin, who turns out to be a teddy bear at a desk speaking, listening and observing Cathy by remote control. Steed spends the last act expecting his own death any minute, also by remote control. This is in many ways like a Batman plot, moreso than a proper spy story.
Steed’s Dalmatian Freckles makes her first appearance. Freckles sits quietly while the villain searches Steed’s apartment, then runs for cover when Steed enters.
One Ten is once again Steed’s boss.
We also see both Steed and Cathy’s apartments, I think for the first time: Cathy’s apartment has a collection of African sculptures and masks and several odd shaped guns mounted on the walls. And though Steed's has a second floor, both apartments seem to be claustrophobic windowless sets with low ceilings, cheaply decorated. I couldn't get decent screencaps of either. In the third season both characters would get new apartment sets that looked much better and would be the major major recurring locations, but at this point the two apartments seem to be an afterthought.
here's a clearer shot of Freckles from John Steed's Flat , though my blurry screencap above gives some sense of Steed's decorating
Warlock might have had the weird factor deserving of the season opener spot, but the formative nature of Cathy's character probably pushed it to further back, and they felt the need to rerecord the dialog before broadcasting it. Mr Teddy Bear definitely has the weird visuals, and black humour. and the high concept opening scene might have been a good War of the Worlds style gag. So a bold and presumably effective choice!
and thus, after three lengthy posts with far too much detail about Recording Dates, we have finally got to Season 2 Episode 1! but with that, I think there's only thirteen episodes left to go, and hopefully we can cover those much more concisely.
and before we get to the remainder of Cathy Gale's season 2 episodes, I'll use this convenient breaking point to post this:
Honor Blackman was a guest on the Saint, shortly after her debut on the Avengers
The Arrow of God (s1e07 broadcast November 15 1962), also starring Anthony Dawson (another of ours). the online info on The Saint is not so detailed as the online info for the Avengers, so I cant figure out when this was filmed, maybe before she got the job as Cathy Gale, or maybe during one of the weeks when Venus Smith was recording an episode and Honor Blackman had free time?
interesting to see Pussy Galore acting alongside a futureBond, nearly two years before Goldfinger with Connery.
the episode is up on youtube
upthread @Napoleon Plural comments on how different these early episodes are from the Cult Show everyone remembers, both in tone and in how technically primitive they are.
I was wondering why I'd never seen an Honor Blackman episode over the decades, then they started showing them on True Entertainment. The sound isn't quite right so you have to strain to hear the dialogue, also the opening theme is different, quite downbeat and depressing so you just don't want to watch it. Steed seems more a sinister figure, generally ungallant and landing Cathy Gale in it, a bit like Cary Grant with Ingrid Bergman in Notorious. It's all a bit grim and I rarely manage to get through one, though you can see the building blocks of the better, later series is there. It must have been good at times, as it was a big hit in its day.
The technical aspect is actually rather interesting, though you have to allow for it. Videotape was more expensive and awkward to edit, so they avoided edits whenever possible. Like early Dr Who, these first three seasons were basically recorded live in-studio in one continuous take with a multicamera setup. Think of how our own Climax Mystery Theatre version of Casino Royale was done, this is basically the same thing except with occasional filmed inserts. We see lines blown, cues missed, boom mikes in shot, cameras banging into props with audible thuds, extras waiting their entrance caught on camera... and the actors just keep rolling with it, often with clever improvisations if you spot the goof.
Guest stars usually seem confused when they realise they've missed a line. Macnee and Blackman are clearly pros in this game, and each has their own distinct way of keeping the momentum when dialog goes offscript, and they are in character as they do it. Blackman stays stern and humorless, yet always gets the dialog back on course after one improvised line, you can sometimes see the guests eyes trying to follow what she's doing. Macnee on the other hand is a clown, taking the other actor's flub and making a bit of wordplay out of it before returning to the next scripted line, and you see the others laugh as he does this.
What's really impressive, once you appreciate the technical limitation of what they're doing, is the camera work, and the blocking and choreography. They must have had multiple sets built for each episode, presumably side by side in the same studio, and a multiple camera setup. I imagine this in terms of Saturday Night Live, as that show exposes the infrastructure of the live television production. There would be one booth at the back with a line up of monitors, and one director dictating the switch from one camera to the next. There would have been multiple rehearsals, where the actors not only memorised their lines and their interpretations, but their positions and movements, The cameras as well would have rehearsed their movements. And the camera movements are really slick once you start to watch for them. The next episode I shall get to, Bullseye, introduces Cathy in a crowded noisy room, and her entrance into the dialog is quite dramatic due to the way in which the camera has been exploring the room.
Speaking of camera moves, the producers decreed camera angles should always be odd like Expressionist films, and whenever possible from behind weird objects in the extreme foreground, or through windows or wineglasses or mirrors and such. So theyre making it difficult for themselves as well as the ambitious movements once the scene begins.
all of which is to say, forget the cult Emma Peel episodes, and Danger Man and the Saint, and instead accept these early episodes as their own thing and understand the technical limitations they are working within, these are really very creative. Think of it like music, the difference between a studio album and a live album!
Speaking of which, the show's music , by Johnny Dankworth, is darker and more downbeat, especially the main theme and the suspense theme heard so prominently in the remnants of Hot Snow. and these two bits get repeated a lot, But there a lot of other themes, some repeated some unique. Much of the rest of the incidental music is horn dominated jazz, often fun and zany. and there are tense drum solos, especially when Cathy has her leathers on and you know she's about to face some action . And as mentioned the Venus Smith episodes include much diegetic music, making the show almost like Peter Gunn.
the quality of the video transfers is another question: somebody has transferred these videotapes and kinescopes to digital format, and it looks as if there's artifacts from that. Some of the surviving episodes may not be in as good shape as others, thats a given, but you can also spot hairs on screen and other glitches that probably originated during the transfer process. in at least two episodes there's a fly crawling all over the screen! Lets hope someone redoes them one day with more up-to-date technology and a bit more care.
That's interesting, thanks! I think what bugged me is that I emailed True Entertainment to badger them to show these black and white shows of old, legendary but never really shown and then they did and it was a case of 'too much already!' It went on and on and I wish they'd maybe just shown 10 of them, the very best, say with the Cypermen, to reel us in. With their limitations I feel a bit mean saying this, but y'know. Not honestly sure Blackman was that sexy as Gale, still the leather thing was a new thing, plus the judo etc.
Season 3 has more classic episodes than Season 2, theyd settled into their formula and become a pop sensation. and the budget goes up, and Brian Clemens starts writing.
Season 2 as you can see, half of it is taken up by Dr King or Venus, or Cathy before theyd settled on her character. Leaving only half where she's fully formed, and its a matter of chance which one you watch. A top ten list would definitely help, and theres one on The Avengers Forever site
Remainder of Season 2 Cathy Gale episodes (the good stuff):
from this point on, the remaining Cathy episodes are broadcast in the order they were recorded, and her character seems fully formed.
I apologise, I failed to note precisely which episode Cathy first wears all leathers, an important detail. Next time I rewatch all these episodes someone remind me? (Her first judo throw was actually in Warlock, where she flipped Steed) Many of these are essentially Cathy solo episodes, with Steed only popping in and out to torment her, and showing up at the last minute to rescue her when needed. Following Mr Teddy Bear, we only see OneTen in one more episode and no other bosses. For the most part Steed is unsupervised in the Cathy episodes beyond the first couple, and its more like Cathy is the agent and Steed her infuriating boss. Also, whenever Steed has to contact the police (eg having found a body or delivering someone for arrest) he uses a pseudonym (usually Carruthers), implying local authorities do not recognise whatever oranisation he work for (if indeed he is still employed at all!)
Within each episode there is the unspoken question of when Cathy decides to put on all leathers and why. She dresses relatively conventionally for most of the story, then just when there's a fight scene coming up happens to change wardrobe. Within the internal logic of the narrative this must be pure coincidence, and she never seems to change to all leathers unnecessarily, and I never notice other characters comment that the leather wardrobe she is now wearing is an unusual choice.
behind the scenes: Leonard White continues to produce until S2E13 The Big Thinker , after which John Bryce becomes producer for remainder of Season 2 and all of Season 3.
for example of the virtual Cathy solo plot, the very next episode: Bullseye (S2E04 broadcast October 20 1962) begins at an angry board meeting of an armaments company where one of the directors has just been killed. The camera pans the room, introducing various characters, til one steely voice cuts through the chaos: newest shareholder Catherine Gale, who is cooler and more knowledgeable than the rest and immediately given a position of authority within the firm, before herself becoming the prime murder suspect. A few episodes in, it is astounding how confident this Talented Amateur is in bluffing her way through an undercover mission. It is not til several scenes in that Steed finally appears, meeting Cathy discretely at the stock market: he has funded her share in the company and over the episode will make a tidy profit in his investment while Cathy puts her life in danger and solves the mystery.
as well as being the prototypical solo Cathy episode, Bullseye is also an example of the corporate malfeasance plots that would dominate this season, moreso than spy plots.
The Mauritius Penny (s2e07 broadcast November 10 1962) is more of a twohander, featuring a return appearance of Freckles the Dalmatian. A pastiche of 1930s Hitchcock, Steed even has a scary trip to the dentist’s. Plot revolves round stamp collecting and neoNazis. Ends with Steed receiving a crateful of stamps he'd ordered as part of his cover. These sort of deliveries in the last scene are a bit of a recurring gag in this season. Written by Doctor Who’s Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dikks. Hulke in particular would write many of these early episodes. Dikks would recycle the plot for the Doctor Who story Robot (**** deliberately misspelled to pass the swearfilter)
(Honor Blackman’s Saint appearance would have been broadcast about this point, Nov 15th 1962.)
Death of a Great Dane (s2e08 broadcast November 17 1962) Two Great Danes in this one, and though they don’t share any scenes, they are played by two different doggy actors. One of whom would return as yet another of Steed's dogs in Season 3. Another corporate malfeasance plot. More Steed dominated this time, and one in which we see Steed gets on better with butlers than their masters. This also might be the first plot where a grave does not contain the corpse its supposed to, a recurring trope right up til the end of Season 6.
Death on the Rocks (s2e10 broadcast December 1 1962) Fairly dry diamond smuggling plot. Steed and Peel pose as husband and wife. The important thing is we see Cathy’s flat being renovated, and she has a disturbing collection of stuffed alligators and mounted lions heads. Cathy is obviously unopposed to trophy hunting. Second episode in a row where she wears a tight Jersey Cow pattern top.
"watchoo want done wif dis den mum?
Traitor in Zebra (s2e11 broadcast December 8 1962) More military secrets being leaked, and an early quaint country inn full of local eccentrics plot. Steed is extra tuff, threatening a shopgirl and locking the bad guy alone in a room with a ticking timebomb.
The Big Thinker (s2e12 broadcast December 15 1962) Another virtual Cathy solo episode. Steed and Cathy meet in a pinball parlour, Cathy wins high score and Steed tilts. Cathy dresses in leather. First appearance of Steed's dog Sheba (see above) No mention what happened to Freckles, but that doggy-actor was rather skittish. Steed teases Cathy for being an amateur, calling her Mata Hari. Cathy has a casino scene.
This is the last to be produced by Leonard White. John Bryce shall produce the reminder of the season, including replacement scenes in Warlock.
Intercrime (s2e15 broadcast January 6 1963) Another Dikks and Hulke script. Cathy spends time in prison and impersonates a German assassin. Steed receives a shipment of guns at the end of the episode to go with the stamps he received at the end of The Mauritius Penny.
Immortal Clay (s2e16 broadcast January 12 1963) One Ten reappears after several episodes absence, and this is his final appearance. He and Steed meet in a sauna. He refers to Cathy as an “amateur” and does not approve of Steed using her. Two scenes later Cathy tells Steed she’s not “in his Business”. I wonder if Steed is paying her for all this work?
The Golden Eggs (s2e19 broadcast February 3 1963) Cathy is staying at Steed’s flat while hers is renovated, he stays at a hotel. It was several episodes ago we saw her flat being renovated (Death on the Rocks), so it must be a big job. No dogs to be seen, though her presence should have been a good excuse (Farmer/trophy hunter Cathy is less indulgent with the dogs than Steed is). There have been several episodes in a row where Cathy ends up in distress in the final scene, when Steed shows up at the last moment for no logical reason, and rescues her. In this one she has to solve it all herself and asks him later on where he was.
The White Dwarf (s2e21 broadcast February 16 1963) Sheba returns. Recurring gag where Steed plays dumb and asks Cathy to explain science, before revealing he’s already read all that, to her exasperation. Giant telescope and end-of-the-world premise resembles The Shooting Star, though we wont see Steed reading Tintin til season 3. Script for this scifi entry by Dr Who’s Malcolm Hulke.
Conspiracy of Silence (s2e23 broadcast March 2 1963) Sheba reappears. Another circus themed episode, where the clowns’ paint is used to confuse identity. Also another Cathy-centric episode, as most have been since Bullseye. Cathy and Steed have a nastier than usual argument in this episode. At the end, Cathy surprises Steed (and herself) by showing fear that he might have been killed, a situation which would be reversed in her final episode of Season 3 Lobster Quadrille. Surely some of this is improvised, as Cathy’s line she studied tattooing at school instead of needlepoint causes Steed to do a spit take.
Six Hands Across a Table (s2e25 broadcast March 16 1963). Cathy enters a doomed romance with a powerful and ruthless shipyard owner, played by Guy Doleman (our Count Lippe/Harry Palmer’s Colonel Ross). Another corporate malfeasance plot. Rather Notorious, except Cathy can take care of herself, though Steed does appear at the last moment out of thin air as usual in these episodes. This is an emotionally chewy story for Cathy, good acting as we watch her internal conflict, and extra good premise for the now expected Cathy vs Steed flare-ups.
Killer Whale (s2e26 broadcast March 23 1963) Season ends with a further exploration of Steed’s behaviour as a handler of amateur agents. Cathy is teaching judo to Joey, an aspiring boxer. At the same time Steed suspects something's up at a local boxing gym and wants to recruit someone to infiltrate, so offers to pay for Joey’s training and turn him professional. Cathy suggests there must be a catch, sideways glance at Steed. Joey is now the one given incomplete information and life put in danger, and Cathy finds she is the one withholding information as the investigation proceeds. But episode concludes without development of this theme, it would be nice to see Cathy learning something as she is put in the position she regularly criticizes Steed for. But that angle is dropped by the time her protégé realises he's part of a spy mission.
Instead the season's final episode ends with Steed and Cathy preparing for separate vacations (to explain to viewers at home why our heroes wont be seen for the next few months?) . We also see the result of Cathy’s renovations: her apartment now has a sliding front door with video security, and is now all sleek modern surfaces operated by remote control (or off-screen stage hands). wonder what she did with her collections of sculptures guns and hunting trophies, never to be seen again? But this renovated apartment would be one of the recurring sets for Season 3, much more prominent than the original apartment set.
Cathy Gale is really an amazing character. The first three talented amateurs were all unwilling and unqualified. Cathy knows the charming Steed is talking her into something dangerous, but she likes the challenge, throws herself into the job, and takes pride in doing it well, all the while giving Steed hell for his insistence on concealing information from her. Her unusual background makes her an Alan Quatermain/Indiana Jones type, very different from female roles seen on television at that time (in North America at least female roles on television were basically propaganda to keep women in the kitchen and out of the workforce). Honor Blackman herself reminds me of young Katharine Hepburn, with her steely voice, strong jaw and tuff defiant posture. Hepburn in turn was a gender bender in her day, always wearing pants never a skirt, and insisting on demonstrating her athletic skills at least once every film: I could imagine if she were twenty years younger she's have welcomed the chance to do judo throws on weekly television. Yet despite her butch persona, Cathy is also eroticised, in her all leather outfit, tight tops for occasions when she's not expecting a fight, and camera angles regularly framing her bust in the dead centre of the shot. Then next season we shall get the Kinky Boots.
Folks who find this season too technically primitive to watch should give it another chance, if only to appreciate one of the great characters of 60s SpyMania.
John Steed has evolved from the sinister character seen in the first season, being pretty much a fulltime comedian by now (though we see this is just a persona to disarm). But he is not yet the character we all know from the Emma Peel episodes, despite his good humour and charm he is a manipulative jerk. Episode after episode, he arranges an undercover job for Cathy without telling her, letting her think its a normal job offer, then when she figures it out halfway through the episode she throws a fit and he laughs in her face. He doesn't have to do it that way, but he chooses to because its his idea of a good joke (in Season 3 he will explain he needs her to act natural while undercover, thus she cannot know what the real game is). As the victim of the joke she has damned good reason to be pissed at him and its surprising she never just walks away as did Dr King. But she has a sense of ethics that motivates her once she knows the larger picture, so she serves her country despite the behaviour of her controller. Whereas Steed is a cynic in spite of his sense of humour, hints of backstory tell us he is deeply embedded in the morally gray realities of espionage, and the jokes he tells are often quite dark.
Steed makes repeated passes at Cathy, all easily rebuffed. She could easily kick his ass and he knows it, yet he keeps trying. But she lounges round his apartment, letting herself in when he's not at home, and the two seem quite intimate. Despite the surface tension, and her genuine anger at his methods, she likes Steed and smiles when his back is turned, she wouldn't like it if it were a more conventional relationship. And because of all these unusual complexities, I find the tension between them sexier than the more evenly matched Steed and Peel.
June 19, 1963, between Seasons 2 and Season 3 of the Avengers, was released Ray Harryhausen's Jason and the Argonauts
in which Honor Blackman featured as the Goddess Hera, patron of Jason, watching and guiding his voyage from above in Olympus
she didn't need to quit the show to make this movie
also featuring in supporting roles are Nigel Green as Hercules and Patrick Troughton as a blind prophet, with soundtrack by Bernard Hermann
you can watch it here at archive.org
season 3 of The Avengers, part one
There's lots of great episodes in this season, several quite espionage heavy. The rapport between Steed and Cathy is now firmly established and has become a cultural phenomena, such that they joke about it within the dialog of the show. And our heroes shall even put out a single!
As well as her all leather gear, Cathy shall now begin wearing the infamous kinky boots! they might have been in season 2 for all I know, but in this season they are repeatedly referenced within the dialog and repeatedly the focus of the visual compositions.
and though OneTen shall never reappear, we do see two other Steed bosses show up, always in espionage heavy episodes where an agent like Steed needs to be seen as part of a larger, somewhat morally ambiguous organisation. And we get one more Steed dog (another Great Dane) and both Steed and Cathy get fabulous new apartments, which shall become the major recurring sets of the season. also Steed begins reading Tintin, and behind the scenes Brian Clemens returns as a regular writer (having written two of the lost episodes from Season 1)
Brief for Murder, (S3E01 September 28, 1963), is one of the ones written by Brian Clemens. Recall that season 2 opener Mr Teddy Bear began with Cathy taking out a contract to kill Steed as a ruse to uncover the villain. this season begins with Steed murdering Cathy in broad daylight and getting away with it! How does she get better, and how do they remain friends? you'll just have to watch this episode to find out! What I shall tell you, is that after taking the summer off, Cathy and Steed are first seen having a huge fight In a public place when she recognises him consorting with a traitor. Exactly halfway through she is shot dead and her body disappears. In a foreshadowing of the O.J. trial, Steed is acquitted when his bowler hat doesn’t fit ‘im (see also the final episode of Seinfeld). After so many virtual Cathy solo episodes in the previous season, this is a virtual Steed solo with Cathy lurking round the edges of the frame.
The Undertakers, (S3E02, October 5, 1963), Written by Doctor Who's Malcolm Hulke. Elaborate and silly plot about a tax evasion scheme involving a phony retirement home. Steed again dominates. Lally Bowers steals scenes as a very silly widow.
There shall be a lot of oddly posed lounging round the two apartments thoughout this season. Here for example is Cathy casually waiting for Steed to serve her a drink. First appearance of the boots?
Grand finale is a filmed insert, an outdoor gunfight in a sculpture garden in between twice-life size statues of women and horses.
Man with Two Shadows, (S3E03 October 12, 1963), First of this season's espionage heavy episodes, and the third in a row where Steed gets most of the scenes. A fellow spy returns from the field stark raving mad, possessed of multiple personalities, and reveals a scheme to replace prominent Brits with plastic surgery doubles, including Steed. Cathy has orders to kill the fake Steed. Steed’s first boss of the season has a name: Charles (Paul Whitsun-Jones), and will be seen again. Given the convoluted cold war shenanigans Steed needs a boss for the plot to work. Thats Charles on the left giving Cathy the unpleasant order. We will see him one more time.
First time we see Steed reading Tintin in Tibet, in English hardcover. This would have been the second to most recent volume at the time, published 1960. When one of the villains interrupts Steed's reading, Steed shows the book to the baddy and says "very clever little chap!"
The Nutshell (S3E04 October 19, 1963) Another espionage heavy episode, and though I usually avoid value judgements, this one is surely one of the greatest of the bunch.
“the Ministry” has directly requested Cathy’s help before calling in Steed, once again raising the question of whether she is actually a fellow agent after all. No, she is later referred to as a “member of the public”, but still granted extraordinary privilege to enter a facility few are allowed to know exists, as Steed and Gale investigate a break in at the underground bunker 50 stories deep where government shall retreat to in the event of WWIII.
When Steed is suspected of treason, Cathy and other characters speculate he is cracking under pressure, motivated by his well observed vanity to “outwit both sides”, a bit of psychoanalysis of Steed’s character (he is vain!). Again a Steed centred episode. Steed is even tortured by his own side.
Note, Cathy wears silly hats a lot this season, hardly less conspicuous than Steed’s bowler. Here she is entering the top secret bunker, hardly the outfit for such a serious occasion.
one plot thread of this episode involves a cabaret escapologist, who has a man tied up in her apartment while discussing business with Steed. Does this remind anybody of Pulp Fiction?
First appearance of Steed’s new apartment (5 Westminster Mews), with the sunken living room, fabulous view of the city skyline and decorated with naval paraphernalia. Steed has a portrait of an ancestor on his wall, one episode after we learn he’s a Tintin fan. Coincidence, or Sir Francis Steed? Almost, its great grandfather, R.J.K. de V. Steed, portrait presented by the Bagnell and Wintle Hunt in 1892
Death of a Batman (S3E05 October 26, 1963)
Back to the corporate malfeasance plots of Season 2, exposition foreshadows the high tech start-ups that now dominate our economy. We learn a bit about Steed’s service in WWII, he was with the I Corps and did “under the counter” work.
Here's a decent shot of the view out Steed's window, good enough to require a telescope. Next to Steed’s window Is an abstracted map detail scaled up, it seems to cover the door to his unseen bedroom. Other walls in the apartment are mirrors, or cutaways to other rooms, which shall allow for lots of the expected expressionist compositions even within a "normal" domestic space.
Cathy needs Steed’s help to remove the boots.
Katie the Great Dane’s first(?) appearance.
November Five (S3E06 November 2, 1963) A nuclear warhead has been stolen (shades of Thunderball!), which the government is covering up, and Cathy runs for parliament to force the issue. (In real life, Blackman was a lifelong activist for the Liberal Democrat Party). Action centres round parliament, and the Guy Fawkes context would be reprised in A Touch of Brimstone. When not in and round parliament, the scene shifts to an advertising/image consulting firm with a fantastic pop art stage set, and Steed looking through distorted glass.
...and again with the boots.
(more to come!)
The Gilded Cage (S3E07 November 9, 1963)
First Cathy-centric episode of the season, after several Steed heavy episodes, This may be my single favourite Cathy episode, not just because it foreshadows Goldfinger, or suggests an alternate reading of Goldfinger. Its really a great performance from Blackman, and artfully conceals much info from the viewer. Great performances also from the villains Edric Connor, Patrick Magee, and Norman Chappell.
The bad guy feeds a fly to a venus flytrap. This animal cruelty on film would never be allowed today.
to balance the above image, here's former trophy hunter Cathy being nice to an animal.
A virtual audition for Goldfinger, and the basis of my theory, ahem, that cinematic Pussy Galore is not Fleming’s lesbian gangboss but Cathy Gale undercover. What happens after Bond gets her in that clinch in the barn? She does one final judo flip so he can’t move, and explains she’s the secret agent who’s been handling this for months and stupid Bond’s about to blow her cover, now you shut up and follow my plan. The rest follows logically, even the news she is the one to successfully get a message out. The only bit I can’t work out, is how does she put that Flying Circus together so quick? though I wouldn't be surprised to learn Cathy has her pilot’ s license.
Police identify Cathy’s lost purse from a ticket in her name for leather boots to be re-heeled. Speaking of which, when the bad guys search her luggage they are fascinated by what they find.
Second Sight (S3E08 November 16, 1963) Another rare foreign adventure, with a second act unpersuasively in the Swiss Alps, not even bothering with the stock footage. Radically visual, with a blind man living in a modern art gallery. Note Steed now has a tiger skin in his apartment (a gift from the trophy hunter?).
The Medicine Men (S3E09 November 23, 1963) another written by Malcolm Hulke. Episode is about an artist and printmaker, forging product packaging for overseas counterfeits. Very Pop Art, and another radically visual episode
Kinky boots and bowler hat consummate their mutual fascination, with tea set in the background: this show is now fully self aware of why people are watching and is fulfilling our desires.
This exciting episode features Honor Blackman’s right nipple on almost-live television!
A nd here we see Blackman auditioning for the role of Emilio Largo, just in case the Pussy Galore gig doesn’t work out (her little friend is named Samson, but belongs to one of the guest stars rather than Steed.)
The Grandeur That Was Rome (S3E10 November 30, 1963) The first time we learn Steed’s umbrella hides a sword? About villains plotting a new Roman Empire, who all dress the part and roleplay when they meet, prototypical of recurring Emma era plots
The Golden Fleece (S3E11 December 7, 1963) Another Great Dane sighting, and Steed reads Tintin in the Land of Black Gold, en francais. Cathy again ends up with her hands full of smuggled gold. One of the villains points angrily to Cathy and tells Steed "you oughta watch her!"
Don't Look Behind You (S3E12 December 14, 1963) another written by Brian Clemens, and another of the very best of the early era.
Is this the first episode we see one of Steed’s vintage cars? He says he just bought himself a “spanking new car”. There’s so few exterior shots so far it must be. Its not the Bentley, it’s something called a Lagonda. There’s a two minute sequence of Steed driving Cathy to a house in the country, a filmed insert in the regular video footage, local villagers cheer in the streets as our pop culture heroes drive by.
After the drive in the country, this is another virtual solo Cathy episode with Steed missing until the very last scene. Cathy is invited to a mysterious mansion, with no host, where she is pestered by two overacting intruders and various haunted house tricks and extra expressionist camera angles and set décor. Villain turns out to be an old enemy of Cathy and Steed’s from in Berlin in 1953(!!), implying partnership going back much further than the first meetings we saw in the previous season, and again the suggestion she is not an amateur! When Steed finally appears, there is another Cathy outburst "you knew about this all along", but for once he too was surprised by what happened to her. General concept is remade with Emma Peel in the fifth season as The Joker.
Was there any explanation of Steed’s love of Tintin? It’s a favourite of mine, too!
because John Steed, like yourself, has excellent taste in literature!
within the dialog I think "very clever little chap" is the only time he actually comments on what he's reading, except once he mumbles to himself "blistering barnacles" and chuckles. otherwise its a bit of a visual gag that he reads comics, and goes along with his overgrown schoolboy persona. And contrasts with Cathy who reads all the latest scientific literature (but its a put-on, a role Steed plays: a running gag is he will ask Cathy to explain the science, and once she's done Cathy realises to her frustration Steed already knows all that, he's just good at hiding how smart he really is)
still, we never see Steed reading Beano or Biggles or anything else, its always Tintin, so in real life Macnee must like the series and be making a point of plugging the books. And Tintin does have many espionage plots, I'm sure anyone who read Tintin just because they saw John Steed reading the books was well pleased with what they found.
but a question to anybody else who knows: has Patrick Macnee himself commented on Tintin? maybe forum member @Mikey Richardson knows, he wrote a book on the Avengers
above I joked that the prominent portrait of Steed's great grandfather was "Sir Francis Steed". For those that don't know, the Tintin adventure Secret of the Unicorn features a portrait of Captain Haddock's 17th century ancestor Sir Francis Haddock . This was one of the sources of the Spielberg film, and will be the third Tintin volume we see Steed reading this season.
Death a la Carte (S3E13 December 21, 1963)
Steed goes undercover as a chef and cooks faisan à la langue docienne. This episode also includes a filmed insert of Steed climbing the outside of a tall building. The filmed inserts are becoming more common, guess their budget's going up?
Dressed to Kill (S3E14 December 28, 1963) Another written by Brian Clemens.
First appearance of the tuba? This would be a recurring decoration in Steed's apartment in the later seasons.
Steed is invited to a costume party on a train, along with loudmouthed Leonard Rossiter and Doctor Who’s Polly: Anneke Wills dressed in a sexy cat costume. Steed calls her “pussycat”. And grabs her tail. This one would be remade in the Emma Peel era as The Superlative Seven, again with good costars (Donald Sutherland etc). Cathy crashes the party disguised as a Jawa.
The White Elephant (S3E15 January 4, 1964)
About a mystery set in a private zoo, with a cast of critters, expanding from the usual doggy actors to now include parrots snakes and kangaroos (but no actual elephant). Reference to Cathy’s big game hunting days, she really is a female Quatermain. After her farmer husband died in Kenya, she supported herself by leading safaris.
as part of his investigation, Steed visits a metallurgical shop making handcuffs and manacles, a bit of kink two years prior to A Touch of Brimstone.
The Little Wonders (S3E16 January 11, 1964) Guest-starring Lois Maxwell as a nun with a gun. Here's the virginal Miss Moneypenny mowing down a classroom full of gangsters in cold blood.
The Wringer (S3E17 January 18, 1964)
A straight spy story involving a courier route out of Hungary (and revealing more of Steed's hardcore espionage past), which abruptly turns into a brainwashing plot anticipating The Ipcress File, with similar sound and light show plus a twitchy beatnik jive spouting brainwasher. Brainwashing is unwittingly on behalf of Steed's employers, who have lost track of the department, and Steed is their next victim. Steed’s boss Charles reappears and is prominent, only the second time we’ve seen a SteedBoss this season but integral to the plot. Cathy’s been reading the Official Handbook, and even though she’s a mere Amateur she gives Charles hell and does his job for him, exposing his mismanagement. . As Charles is chubby pompous and condescending, he is in some ways a prototype for Mother from Season 6.
The Ipcress File...
...which also featured trippy scenes of a British spy being brainwashed by rogue agents on on his own side ...
...came out a year later.
Mandrake (S3E18 January 25, 1964)
first season torture victim Philip Locke (Vargas from Thunderball) returns as a twitchy villain helping wealthy widows poison their husbands for profit, and arranging for burial in a remote Cornish village next to a tin mine. Cathy gets into one of her best fights ever in the graveyard, and seriously injured a guest actor while performing this scene.
we see him bounce right off the gravestone which must have hurt...
...and we see that Kinky Boot being used defensively to escape the chokehold...
...but it was this move that caused on-set concern before recording could resume
...coming up next, our Pop culture heroes record a Pop Song!
Goodness. You have been busy.
I remember seeing the Tintin cartoon series on TV in the 60’s, they showed it in 5 minute time slots before The News on BBC1. It’s good to know that Steed had good tastes in literature a well as everything else 😁
you did request episode by episode reviews, though I certainly cant do them the way you do. But I'm trying to say something about each one. and napoleon wished for a top ten list, so I'm trying to draw attention to the ones that I think are better or more significant. I do wish I'd made more screencaps of the weird visuals, since thats one of the unique aspects of the show and something that can be illustrated in a thread like this.
I remember seeing the Tintin cartoon series on TV in the 60’s, they showed it in 5 minute time slots before The News on BBC1.
oh that Belevision series! we'll have to bump the Tintin thread to talk about those, I did find them all on youtube a while ago, I should post links if I get a chance.
We have a Tintin thread ? Oh, my...
in February 1964 Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman released a single called Kinky Boots, backed by the Dave Lee Trio, who had accompanied Venus Smith on her first two appearances in the show.
here is the toon. I assume the video montage was made much later
(EDIT: and I notice, not only does Macnee say "Puss in Boots" but in the montage that line is matched to a scene from the Gilded Cage where theyre looking at the contents of the gold vault. Thatd be the (clever) choice of the artist doing the montage years later, but the fact Macnee said "Puss in Boots" at all in February 1964 is a coincidental bit of foreshadowing!)
according to discogs the original release came in a plain paper sleeve. The b-side was called Let's Keep It Friendly, which I can find no information about.
later reissues did have picture sleeves
and why did two teevee actors record a pop single?
turns out Honor Blackman recorded a whole album called Everything I've Got also in 1964! and invited her pal into the studio to record the novelty record at the same time
(DOUBLE EDIT: isn't that the plane and car from Goldfinger? so this album was released once the film was underway, therefor after she left the show. She was busy that year.)
anybody have either the single or album in their collections? neither Kinky Boots nor the b-side are on the original album, though they were added to some reissues.
according to wikipedia’s comments page: Kinky Boots was originally performed with different (and racier) lyrics sung by Millicent Martin on “That Was The Week That Was”. I'll have to see if I can find this original version.
thanks @chrisno1 I was looking forwards to spinning Honor Blackman's album, but I'm getting the Video Not Available error
that'll pay me back for all the times I posted those Shout! Factory TV links that only seemed to work in Canada. But hopefully folks in Britain or elsewhere can enjoy the album.
one thing I do see is the artwork is different, that's the US cover and that's definitely a Goldfinger shot, with a big Goldfinger tie-in hype sticker!
which inspires me to look at the list of episode recording dates in the Mrs Peel We're Needed website again. The final episode Lobster Quadrille was recorded March 20 1964, so a couple of weeks after this single was released, they must have been almost done the series when they made the single. When did they begin filming her scenes in Goldfinger? it seems this album was begun during her final days on the show, and the artwork at least was done when she was working on the film, to tie it in. We should probably look at that question after I finally get to Lobster Quadrille, but i'm curious about the chronology as she seems to have been quite busy that year.
Still now I'm thinking Macnee's "Puss in Boots" line might not have been coincidence at all, they might have already known her next character's name when they cut the single.
It works fine on my phone. Just look it up on You Tube. It's very odd. Nit sure if it was meant to be serious. The lyrics are peculiar. #I have the power on anesthesia in my fist, anyone? The music light swing.
aha, yes I found that title track and a few others on youtube.
I'd say her delivery is more like German cabaret, with a lot of lines recited rather than sung, hamming up that steely tone in her voice.
Julie Stevens is obviously the better singer, but ironically its Blackman who became the big star and got the record deal.
The Secrets Broker (S3E19 February 1, 1964)
A wine cellar and a phony séance act. Cathy doesn’t offer any of her former Occult expertise with the séance act, has she forgotten all that already? Ends with Cathy and Steed doing a prototype of Peel and Steed’s wine reviews from Dial A Deadly Number
Trojan Horse (S3E20 February 8, 1964) another written by Malcolm Hulke
A horse racing plot: Steed enters the stables undercover as a representative of the Foreign Office, quarantining a Sultan’s horse and discussing doping scandals and ringers. Tibbett twenty odd years early! He brings a lunchbox full of champagne and caviar for a stakeout. Cathy demonstrates serious mathematical skills to get a job with the bookie.
Build a Better Mousetrap (S3E21 February 15, 1964) written by Brian Clemens.
Cathy joins a bike gang and terrorises a pair of little old ladies. Finally an in story explanation for the leather outfit, but she must be 15 years older than the rest of the gang. Quaint country inn and cast of village eccentrics typical of Rigg-era Avengers, no surprise it’s a Clemens script.
The Outside-In Man (S3E22 February 22, 1964)
In which Steed has yet another boss Quilpy (Ronald Radd) and this boss has his office behind a butcher’ shop, where Steed purchases bones for the dog. I think this shall be the last SteedBoss we shall see until Mother in Season 6, and as before a spy boss is needed to make this hardcore espionage episode work. (Charles probably got fired after the brainwashing incident).
A particularly twisty plot, about a British agent returned from the dead just in time for a diplomatic visit from the man he was assigned to kill five years earlier. These spy plots always tell us of Steed’s long background as a Cold War field agent, crossing borders and escaping prisons in eastern Europe, despite the fact we mostly see him wandering round quaint English villages.
also Cathy makes her entrance from behind this episode.
Steed keeps her completely misinformed this time, assigning her to tail the mysterious returned agent, then he himself disappears from all contact once she gets herself into trouble. He later tells her he had to keep her in the dark so her actions would appear natural. Steed is up to something and even his boss at the butcher shop doesn't know what he's playing at.
Tintin sighting: as Steed lets his phone ring unanswered, he is reading Secret of the Unicorn , and chuckles and says “Blistering barnacles” (in exactly the same tone of voice he will eventually say “Sock it to me” in Season 6).
Ends with Cathy saying “I don’t need to sharpen my teeth” as Steed hands her the bag of butcher’s bones he’s bought for the dog (and there’s no dog in this episode so he's being extra mean to her)
The Charmers (S3E23 February 29, 1964) Written by Brian Clemens
A Cold War story where Steed cooperates with his opposite number from the "other side" and agrees to trade the services of Mrs Gale for an opposition agent, who turns out to be an actress hired under false pretenses. We learn Cathy is on the list of Most Wanted Enemy Agents, right behind "J.B." Another visit to a Man Who Knew Too Much style creepy dentist office, then the plot leads to a haberdashery selling bowler hats and umbrellas, then a charm school where foreign spies learn to dress and act like English gentlemen.
I cant remember why the woman wears the weird mask that makes her look like a mannequin, but between her and all the bowler hats this episode is almost like a Magritte painting come to life. Remade as The Correct Way to Kill
Concerto (S3E24 March 7, 1964) Written by Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dixx.
Another Cold War spy plot, with a visiting Russian pianist, blackmailers and a strip club, and Steed’s opposite number (a different one. also from "the other side") with whom he drunkenly trades hats in the final scene. Return appearance from Junio as Steed’s latest dog.
And Cathy gets tied up.
Esprit de Corps (S3E25 March 14, 1964)
With Bill Tanner’s father Roy Kinnear, who calls Steed a “toffee nosed bloke”. Steed does Cathy’s laundry, and gets in trouble for putting leather in the wash. Another plot about reactionaries nostalgic for an earlier century plotting a coupe. Cathy learns she is heir to the Scottish throne. Steed is court marshalled and sentenced to death by firing squad, but fortunately Tanner's father accepts bribes from toffs.
Lobster Quadrille (S3E26 March 21, 1964)
Final episode of the early video taped era and conclusive outro for Cathy. About drug smuggling and chess.
Guest-star Burt Kwouk (one of ours) enters via a typical Avengers camera angle, playing the owner of a suspicious chess shop.
Steed visits a club done decorated with life size blow-ups of John Tenniel’s Alice illustrations (which go with the chess imagery)
for the entire final act, Steed believes Cathy has been killed and feels uncharacteristic guilt, saying “Mrs. Gale is my responsibility”. He actually hangs her portrait in place of his grandfather’s. In her last scene, having shown up alive at the morgue surprising everybody, she tells Steed “good bye” most conclusively, she is quitting. Just like Dr King, she is done with the spy business. Off to vacation in the Bahamas, which Steed trivialises by saying she shall be “pussyfooting around” (then repeats the pun in case we haven't got it). As soon as she exits, Steed is on the phone to another unnamed woman, offering her the secret mission Cathy has just turned down. Is that perhaps our offscreen unofficial introduction of Mrs Peel?
aha! I went looking for Millicent Martin's original version of Kinky Boots, no luck, but instead found something better
I've found Let's Keep It Friendly, the b-side to Kinky Boots, and its Macnee and Blackman as well, appearing to describe their charged but frustrated relationship. note the meowing
also a bit more info, from this webpage
Initially, the music for the song was used in a sequence for the satirical television series, That Was the Week That Was, produced and directed by Ned Sherrin, with presenter David Frost. The music played over a sequence featuring the high-fashion footwear.
Macnee and Blackman took advantage of The Avengers’ cult following and released the single in February 1964, with lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer – who went on to write the English libretto for the musical, Les Misérables.
In a newspaper interview in 2013, Blackman discussed being in the recording studio with Macnee to record Kinky Boots, describing it affectionately as a “nightmare” because her co-star “had no sense of rhythm” and “can’t sing”.
She said there was no chance of Macnee singing the lyrics, because he simply couldn’t sing. So they each had a few stiff drinks to combat their nerves. Blackman recalled having “a couple of brandies” and they decided Macnee would have to speak his part, because it was the only way the song was going to be recorded.
Macnee’s sense of timing was so bad that the producer reportedly had to tap him on the shoulder to alert him to the fact it was his line, so he could start speaking it in time!
Blackman recalled it was a “very funny” experience recording Kinky Boots, adding that the song had followed her around for the remainder of her career. She left The Avengers soon after the song was released to star in the James Bond film, Goldfinger, as one of the most famous Bond Girls, Pussy Galore, alongside Sean Connery as 007.