Originally penned in 1990, ‘Too Many Targets’ was a tie-in novel for The Avengers published in paperback from Doctor Who alum John Peel and his writing partner Dave Rogers. Big Finish have crafted his story into a brilliant adaptation for their ‘The Avengers’ range.
John Steed finds himself embroiled in a startlingly-familiar plot with missing scientists and dead agents. There’s a killer gorilla on the loose and a plague ravaging parts of the globe. For Steed, it’s business as usual.
Meanwhile, Tara King has been given an almost impossible task. Something rotten has infiltrated their organisation. Soon it seems that the fate of the entire world is hanging in the balance. Steed needs more than just his wits. He needs The Avengers. All of them…
For the Fans
For ‘The Avengers’ fans, ‘Too Many Targets’ contains some excellent fan service. It’s got continuity references and nods to events that happened in the original television series. But John Dorney, who adapts this story for audio, wisely keeps them a minimum so that they don’t interfere for new listeners. Besides which, there’s plenty of action, intrigue and shock moments to keep everyone entertained.
The cast that director Ken Bentley has assembled is magnificent. Julian Wadham is brilliant as John Steed; not imitating the irreplaceable Patrick Macnee but capturing his essence and putting it all into his sublime performance. Equally as excellent is Olivia Poulet as Emma Peel, who also captures Diana Rigg’s original performance and tuning it to that of Wadham so the original Steed and Peel dynamic is still there.
Also joining the main cast, Anthony Howell returns as Dr David Keel, having been away for a year. It’s like he never left!. Howell and Wadham don’t get a lot of time together but they make the most of it when they do and it’s a lovely reunion. ‘Doctor Who’ fans know Beth Chalmers is a fantastic voice actor by her versatility in various Big Finish productions. Here she gets to show her skills as Cathy Gale, originally played by Honor Blackman. Her pairing with Howell’s Keel is a match made-in-heaven too, something the scripts also takes note of in the end.
The main cast is rounded off with Carol Woodward as Tara King, originally played by Linda Thorson. When the series originally aired, it took fans a while to warm of Tara but hearing her here, it is hard to understand why. Woodward seems to understand the innocence of her character and her need to do what is right, even if she gets a little confused along the way. She is an excellent addition to the cast and it would be nice to hear Big Finish create some original tales for the Steed and Tara pairing in the future.
As we mentioned, Peel created a novel dripping with continuity so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this adaptation has more returning characters too. Lucy Briggs-Owen is back as Carol Wilson, she does a good job with what she is given but doesn’t get too much to do which is a shame. Hugh Ross is excellent as the villain Dr Cowles. For a man with such a distinctive voice, he also managed to make himself sound completely different. Unless you read the cast list, you won’t know it is him! Robert Portal makes an appearance as the returning villain of Dr Armstrong. For those who don’t know, Armstrong invented the Cybernaughts, who also make a reappearance.
Christopher Benjamin, the only member of the cast to have appeared in the original series, plays Mother, the leader of the organisation that Steed works for. While for fans of ‘Jago and Litefoot’, it might be strange to hear him without Trevor Baxter, he effortlessly fits back into the role. The rest of the cast made up of Dan Starkey, Leighton Pugh and Glen McCready do excellent jobs in their multiple roles.
John Dorney does a superb job of adapting this story. His clear Dorney’s love for the series shines through the script. He effortlessly gives the fans what they want but doesn’t allow that to alienate new listeners. The original series was always a rollercoaster and there are certainly hints of it here. But more than anything, this story is fun. Two-hours of pure entertainment. Well done, Mr. Dorney!
Honestly, ‘Too Many Targets’ must be one of the best ‘The Avengers’ audiobooks out there. The main cast all deliver stellar performances. The writing, both the original from John Peel and Dave Rogers and the adaptation from John Dorney is just excellent. Ken Bentley gives us some solid direction and keeps things moving briskly. A real treat, crafted with love, for any fan of ‘The Avengers’…unless you’re expecting the bloke with the shield.
Two agents are dead, and their murderers sound worryingly familiar. A killer gorilla is on the loose, a deadly disease is ravaging a distant country and an eminent doctor has been kidnapped. It’s all pretty much business as usual.
But when John Steed is called in by his old boss and given an appalling task to complete, at the same time as Tara is given one that’s even worse, it becomes clear that the myriad threads of a terrifying scheme are drawing together. The fate of the world hangs in the balance.
Steed won’t be able to handle this case alone.
The Avengers are needed. All of them.
Written By: John Peel and Dave Rogers, adapted by John Dorney
Directed By: Ken Bentley
Julian Wadham (John Steed), Olivia Poulet (Emma Peel), Anthony Howell (Dr David Keel), Lucy Briggs-Owen (Carol Wilson), Beth Chalmers (Cathy Gale), Emily Woodward (Tara King), Christopher Benjamin (Mother), Hugh Fraser (Dr Cowles), Robert Portal (Armstrong), Dan Starkey (Wallace / Charles / Brodny), Leighton Pugh (Hunter / Lipp / Marty), Glen McCready (Alfie / Charlie). Other parts played by members of the cast.
Producer David Richardson
Script Editor John Dorney
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs