The Avengers are back!
No, no, turn off the Alan Silvestri music, not THOSE Avengers. THE Avengers. The ORIGINAL Avengers. Well, we say origi… it doesn’t matter.
The Avengers are back at Big Finish! Following the epic conclusion of the Series 1 recreations, and a dynamic duo of Steed and Peel comic adaptations, it seemed like January 2017 was to have marked the end of Big Finish’s involvement with Steed and his band of associates. Then came August 2018 and the masterpiece that was Too Many Targets.
With the success of the grand crossover, Messrs Briggs, Haigh-Ellery, Richardson, Dorney et al. have decided to resurrect the comic adaptation range, and allow it to enter an all new era. We have the reintroduction of Emily Woodward as the magnificent Tara King and the living legend that is Christopher Benjamin as Mother, joining the irreplaceable Julian Wadham as John Steed. Four new Machiavellian machinations brought to life by the Big Finish crew; the question is, how do they fare?
It’s A Wild, Wild, Wild, Wild West by John Dorney.
We start off the set with just about as silly as the Avengers can get whilst also being thrilling, daring and, of course, a lot of fun. Ministry Agents John Steed and Tara King are called into action by Mother. There have been a collection of bizarre robberies within the New Forest, seemingly perpetrated by cowboys! When some secret plans are stolen, the duo track their lead to The Lazy J Western Holiday Ranch. But when it comes to pistols at high noon, will Steed and King be facing their final rodeo?
It’s safe to say that John Dorney knows the Avengers more than just about anyone. His skills at making the mad, mad, mad world of the Avengers believable come into full force here. Bringing the world of the wild west to life in Britain of the swinging sixties, Dorney brings us back into their madcap world once more. Alongside the brilliant script, we are given some star turns from the supporting cast of Hywel Morgan, Daniel Easton and Karina Fernandez all giving us their best rootin’ tootin’ wild west accents. Even though they can sometimes veer into the reverse Dick Van Dyke territory, it never distracts from this wonderfully madcap story.
Under the Weather by Phil Mulryne.
Usually known for his Doctor Who scripts, Phil Mulryne swaps sonic screwdriver for bowler hat and umbrella in this next tale. After an impromptu storm disrupts an air show they are attending, Steed, King and Mother discover that the storm is no natural occurrence. Having stolen an expensive new aircraft, killed one person and kidnapped another, the Avengers track the storm’s origin to the newly arctic-ised tip of Scotland. But as they brace the chilling and freezing winds, will they discover the true menace behind this weird weather?
Okay, this might annoy some people, but bear with us. Who remembers the 1998 Avengers movie with Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman and Sean Connery? This episode is like that but happily, it is better in just about every conceivable way. Mulryne’s script showcases a few familiar beats regarding the conceived plot of the villain. However, it is better by actually being in the hands of someone who knows what they’re writing about, plus being script edited by someone who is to the Avengers what Nicholas Pegg is to David Bowie.
Add some stellar performances from the guest cast of Leighton Pugh, James Joyce and David Sibley, and you have here a truly good redemption of the greatest sin of the past, whilst being entertaining in its own right.
Spycraft by Robert Kahn and Tom Salinsky.
Some more regular scripters return for this new set, as Kahn and Salinsky flex their fingers to the tune on Steed and Co once more. Steed and King have been drafted in to assist with the official visit of the incoming president of Ecuatoria, who just so happens to be an old friend of Steed’s from his university days. But when a mix up with their opposite numbers from Ecuatoria’s Secret Service inadvertently leads to the soon-to-be president being kidnapped, it’s up to Steed, King, Yeboah, Sesay, Mother, and Auntie to discover the culprit and not cause a gigantic diplomatic incident, at the Ecuatoria Embassy…
Crossovers are always nice, even when the thing being crossed over is just the thing but in another country. Because when done right, the fun you can have bouncing the more absurd things off of each character’s counterpart can make for interesting listening. Kahn and Salinsky know that all too well, giving us an excellently woven episode with both high stakes drama, and expertly timed gags aplenty. Plus the guest cast of Edward Dede and Natalie Simpson as Steed and Kings counterparts are spot on, showing both similarities and differences. Not forgetting the other guest cast of Jude Owusu and Ewart James Walters, with all, involved giving their all, whilst clearly having one hell of a time…
…Now You Don’t by John Dorney.
Dorney returns to the writer’s chair for the final episode of the set, and oh, boy is this a good one! After an unexpected night at the theatre, Steed and King find themselves in a bit of a pickle. Mother has been assassinated, or at the very least, attempted, and the finger is being pointed at Tara! Plus, several strange occurrences and unexpected crimes are awash around the country. As Steed and King attempt to locate the mastermind behind it all, John discovers an old foe waiting in the wings. And this time, they want Steed dead…
A good thing to note about Dorney’s work is that he can make just about anything work. Such is also the case here. Although it is very nicely tied to a previous adventure adapted by the Big Finish crew, Dorney has crafted this one in such a way that it is still immensely enjoyable, even without the prior context. Mad, silly, dramatic, epic, and every other word that describes the Avengers, all rolled into one glorious package.
With Maggie Service and Nicholas Asbury, who gets to go full on scenery-chewing maniacal villain, heading up the small but impressive guest cast, this is a brilliant story to end on. Quintessential King-era Avengers!
Big Finish could have easily left the Avengers range as it was back when the last Series One episodes were released. Although we would have been (and indeed did) clamouring for more, we would have been happy with what we had. This set, with its stellar stories, certified casting, dynamic directing from the impeccable Ken Bentley, and superb sound design by Steve Foxon and masterful music by Jamie Robertson, has proven that not only do we want more Avengers stories but that so do the lovely people over at Big Finish. (Don’t believe me? They’ve another two sets planned for next year and after!)
Steed, Peel, King and Keel have been one of the company’s biggest and best risks to take in recent years. Not only has it paid off, but in spectacular style. We only hope it’s not too long before ‘we’re needed’ again, to join them on their amazing adventures…
The Avengers: The Comic Strip Adaptations: Volume 3 is available to purchase on CD and Download now from the Big Finish website.
This title was released in February 2019. It will be exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until March 31st 2019, and on general sale after this date.
Based on the adventures of Steed and Tara King in the TV Comic strips.
1. It’s a Wild, Wild, Wild, Wild West by John Dorney.
Steed is quick on the draw, Tara gallops away.
After reports suggest a series of robberies in the New Forest were committed by cowboys, Mother sends the Avengers into action.
The trail leads to the Western style ranch known as The Lazy J. But will it be high noon for Steed and King?
2. Under the Weather by Phil Mulryne.
Steed is put on ice, Tara is blown away.
Steed, Tara and Mother visit an air show to see a demonstration of a new aircraft.
But the plane is stolen from under their noses… and seemingly… by a storm! Something strange is in the air. And it needs the Avengers to sort it out.
3. Spycraft by Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky.
Steed meets his equal, Tara gets the cream.
When a visiting dignitary is kidnapped on British soil, Steed and King have to leap into action.
But with questions of diplomatic immunity getting in the way, they may need help from an unusual pair.
4. …Now You Don’t by John Dorney.
Steed finds things get tricky, Tara takes the stage.
A strange gift leads to Steed and Tara King spending a night in the theatre. But who brought them there? And why?
An old enemy of the Avengers is on the scene. And he will stop at nothing to get his revenge!
Written by: John Dorney, Phil Mulryne, Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky.
Directed by: Ken Bentley.
Julian Wadham (John Steed), Emily Woodward (Tara King), Christopher Benjamin (Mother), Hywel Morgan (Cody/ Jim), Daniel Easton (Billy/ Sam), Karina Fernandez (Jessie), Leighton Pugh (Flight Lieutenant Tudor/ Volkov), James Joyce (Flying Officer Halliwell / Melnyk), David Sibley (Dr Weatherby), Edward Dede Miles (Yeboah), Natalie Simpson (Ruby Sesay), Jude Owusu (Charlie Okonjo/ Kasim), Ewart James Walters (General Babatunde), Nicholas Asbury (Margrave the Magnificent/ Sir Godfrey Thorpe), Maggie Service (Circe/ Mina). Other parts played by members of the cast.