April 27, 2023

#08-305: The Other Avengers

Macnee as Steed and Rigg as Peel (Wikipedia)

Note: Before the rise of the Avengers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (but around the time the Avengers superhero team first "assembled" in the comic books, in 1963) there was another team of "avengers" on British television--not as awesome, but a lot more fun!

Get Ready: What do you think an "avenger" does?

If I mention The Avengers, you might think of superheroes like Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, et al.

But the "avengers" I'm thinking of are from a TV series from Great Britain called, of course, The Avengers. It ran for 161 one-hour episodes, from 1961 to 1969. The main character in most of these was a "veddy British chap" named John Steed (played by veteran actor Patrick Macnee), who wore a bowler hat (or "derby") and carried a "brolly" (an umbrella). But the bowler is steel-plated like a helmet, and the umbrella conceals a sword.

Steed's sidekicks changed several times; the most memorable was Emma Peel (in Series 4 and 5), played by Diana Rigg. The assistants were foils for Steed's style: mini-skirts, boots, and all the other fashions of "mod" London in the '60s contrasted sharply with his gentleman's attire. But make no mistake: Mrs. Peel was smart, attractive, and very, very good at her job.

And what was the job of these "avengers"? Basically, spying. The prologue to the fourth series stated: "Extraordinary crimes against the people, and the state, have to be avenged by agents extraordinary. Two such people are John Steed, top professional, and his partner Emma Peel, talented amateur. Otherwise known as The Avengers."

The show was quirky. Steed worked for a top-secret government organization--the name of which was never revealed--and he would receive his orders in the oddest circumstances--in a full office atop a double-decker bus, for instance.

The cases, and the enemies, were just as odd. Among other challenges, Steed and Peel faced any number of mad scientists who shrunk them to the size of dolls, altered pet cats that became lethal "miniature tigers," created killer automata, performed mind transfers, and sent forth invisible soldiers.

Though it achieved a certain level of popularity in the U.S., the show was mainly a cult phenomenon. A rebooted series, The New Avengers, ran for two seasons in 1976 and 1977, with Steed and two more assistants, one of them male; nearly 20 spin-off novels and numerous comic books have been published; and a stage play, a radio series, and a dismal film version were also produced.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. automata
  2. avengers
  3. cult
  4. dismal
  5. et al
  6. foils
  7. quirky
  8. rebooted
  9. spin-off
  10. veddy

  1. and other people
  2. characters that provide contrast for others
  3. a British pronunciation of "very"
  4. peculiar
  5. robots
  6. attracting a small, dedicated group of fans
  7. started over again
  8. people who get revenge
  9. terrible; sad
  10. derived from another work

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for April 27, 2023

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. e; 2. h; 3. f; 4. i; 5. a; 6. b; 7. d; 8. g; 9. j; 10. c