Bowler hats, kinky boots, scheming scientists and preposterous plots are probably the first things that spring to mind when The Avengers is mentioned to anyone of a certain age.
Images of the dapper John Steed and the leather-clad Emma Peel driving around the English countryside thwarting bonkers baddies may be most familiar to audiences today, but rewind a few years to the series early days and you’ll find a much different series.
Designed as a new starring vehicle for actor Ian Hendry, familiar to British audiences as Doctor Brent in TV series Police Surgeon, The Avengers premiered in 1961 with a new theme tune and a new premise.
In the pilot episode, of which only the first 15 minutes still exist, Dr Keel’s (Ian Hendry) girlfriend is killed before he then comes into contact with the mysterious Steed (Patrick Macnee) who is investigating the crime.
Determined to “avenge” the murder, the pair would go on to solve various crimes and misdemeanours for another 23 episodes, before a strike cut the season short and the creators retooled it to promote Macnee to series lead.
The return of the show for a second season, complete with new co-star Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman), would see it become appointment television, if not for the strong scripts then certainly for its treatment of woman as equal – if not superior – to their male counterparts.