There are, of course, more than 139 The Avengers episodes (sorry, The New Avengers, you didn’t make the grade, mostly because most of your episodes would languish, all-but uninterrupted, right down at the bottom of the ranking). 161 in total, but alas, the majority of the first season is missing, presumed wiped (there’s always the outside chance of another Tunnel of Fear). And no, I don’t count Big Finish as a valid secondary source. Most of the rankings and observations here reflect the previously published season rankings, and it’s a testament to the series’ quality that there are relatively few outright disasters (even if there are also, conversely, quite a number of that are merely average). So here are 139-71 (link at the bottom of the page to part two). Keep your bowler on throughout, and in due course, you’ll learn the most diabolical mastermind.
(6.31) Season 6 tends to get a lot of abuse flung at it, and unfairly so for the most part (once it hits its stride, it’s superior to Season 5). But it does feature a couple of absolute stinkers, and this is the biggest. A tiresome and irritating plot relies on hoodwinking Tara into revealing the location of Steed and his protected witness. The ‘B’ plotline, in which Steed plays various games with Angela Douglas, is only marginally superior. At least Mother (who is officially dead) has some decent moments.
Man in the Mirror
(2.22) A risible set-up – Steed persuades Venus Smith to take some photos at an amusement arcade, and she just happens to photograph the guy he’s hoping she’ll snap – only adds to the feeling that his some-time partner is a dozy as they come. The episode doesn’t get any better from there.
The White Elephant
(3.17) Steed’s yoga, comprising watching a daisy grow, is more interesting than anything else in this episode, in which Cathy goes undercover at a zoo in order to locate a missing pachyderm. Even Steed’s visit to a seller of bondage wear can’t lift its lustre.
The See-Through Man
(5.5) Brodny! That wacky Russian, he’s so funny. No, not really. Although, there’s no denying Warren Mitchell’s chemistry with Macnee. The invisibility plotline, in a season frequently divided between actual science-fiction premises and fake-out ones, fits comfortably into the latter.
(3.13) Nice set decoration at the Swiss cornea transplant clinic, and the reliable Peter Bowles, in his first of four guest spots, really goes for it in the manic laughter department. Unfortunately, despite ingredients that ought to inspire, Second Sight plods.
The Golden Fleece
(3.4) Some notable performers (Tenniel Evans, Robert Lee, Warren Mitchell again; this was his first of four appearances, two of them Brodnys) can’t rescue a limp plot concerning army veterans involved in gold smuggling.
Conspiracy of Silence
(2.23) Notable in as much as Steed’s infamy amongst the criminal fraternity is the antagonists’ focus – the Italian Mafia send some clown to kill him – but for little else. A conspiracy of snores.
(6.33) Sad to say, The Avengers does not end well. If the title matched the content, that would be something at least, but this is a substandard retooling (in premise) of 3.9: The Undertakers. Even the usually reliable Roy Kinnear (as Happychap, his last of four appearances) is left flailing. And mugging desperately. Still, the coda is fun (and okay, a little bizarre).
The Positive-Negative Man
(5.23) If 5.5: The See-Through Man favours fake-out SF, this features actual SF, with Michael Latimer painted green and electrocuting people. A bit dull, despite some cartoonishly victim-shaped impact craters.
The £50,000 Breakfast
(5.20) A redundant remake of Season 2’s Death of a Great Dane, most notable for a cameo from Anneke “Polly” Wills (3.18: Dressed to Kill).
(6.15) Writer Terry Nation was a reliable hand in respect of his work on both Doctor Who and The Avengers. But where the former ultimately tended towards limp rehashes, the latter mostly found him operating to his strengths. However, this early effort garnered some harsh words from Brian Clemens (in fairness to Terry, Clemens also wrote the lowest ranked entry on this list). Where Nation would later borrow (or homage) with aplomb, Noon-Doomsday is a bare-bones High Noon rip-off, and rather dull with it. Ray Brooks’ assassin makes for one of the few exceptions.
Traitor in Zebra
(2.13) Someone is passing on information from the titular naval base. The ingredients for intrigue are there, including a more than solid cast, but Traitor in Zebra ends up very uninspired.
(2.3) Jon Rollason’s last appearance as Doctor Martin Dr King is another Season 2 episode that ought to be better than it is. Steed is under suspicion for passing on secrets while simultaneously assigned to protect the French UN negotiator.
Girl on a Trapeze
(1.6) Steed makes no showing in the first complete remaining Avengers episode. So that’s a demerit right off the bat. Still, there are compensations to be found in Doctor Keel’s circus trip – it’s full of communists! – mostly in the form of Howard Gorney’s cold-stricken superintendent.
Death on the Rocks
(2.12) Steed and Cathy Gale infiltrate a diamond smuggling ring; the best part is the death-by-plaster-of-Paris-facepack teaser.
(2.26) The Season 2 finale deserves points for basing a plotline on ambergris smuggling, of all things. Steed is furnished some witty lines, but the teleplay itself is a dissatisfying mismatch of fashion and boxing tropes.
Mission to Montreal
(2.1) And this one, the Season 2 opener, finds Steed and the newly-employed Doctor King attempting to recover some stolen microfilm on a ship bound for Canada. The focus is mostly on the lacklustre interplay between King and an Italian movie star (Patricia English), but Steed is on form in his steward’s guise.
(3.12) A stolen nuclear warhead, an assassinated MP, a ransom plot turned plan to nuke the country… And yet, much of the proceedings take place down the gym. Still, the ad agency is strikingly designed. Convoluted and simultaneously lacking in excitement.
(1.1) The first episode. Well, twenty minutes of it. As such, it’s very difficult to give Hot Snow a fair appraisal. It certainly doesn’t have the feel of a legend in the making, in the way the openers of several other legendary series have. However, Ian Hendry is expectedly formidable, and Doctor Keel’s mission statement is set up effectively.
My Wildest Dream
(6.8) Some strong visuals, but the premise has been better utilised previously (in 5.26: Honey for the Prince). Still, we’re treated to Peter Vaughan hamming it up as a German agresso-therapist, one who encourages “killing in fantasy”. Notable too for a very upset Philip Madoc (his fifth and final guest spot) and an early appearance from Edward Fox.
(6.4) A Spock’s Brain-type affair, in which one of Steed’s nemeses manages to make a comeback from beyond the grave. Split! is dotted with decent performances, including series returnees Christopher Benjamin (his third and final outing) for laughs and Julian Glover (his third of four) for serious thesping. Mostly, though, it plays out in all-too obvious ways.
A Chorus of Frogs
(2.24) Julie Stevens’ final appearance as Venus Smith in this yacht-set scenario. She and Steed investigate mysteriously dying divers (agents who are the titular “Frogs”) and inevitably, she sings us a song. Or two. If the whys and wherefores fail to engage, Eric Pohlman is memorable as the vessel’s host.
The Removal Men
(2.9) Steed pretends to be an assassin, so he only has to pretend to kill a French film star (Edina Ronay). Venus Smith sings. Obviously. Serviceable, but lacking a spark. Notable for One-Ten (Douglas Muir), Steed’s pre-Mother Number One, wasting no time getting his mitts all over the French totty. (We also get to see Arthur Hewlett’s One-Twelve, of course, in 2.3: The Sell-Out.)
Have Guns – Will Haggle
(6.6) Steed and Tara pose as arms traders in a salvaged John Bryce production. Have Guns – Will Haggle, like most of the brief Bryce period, has a reputation as a bit of a barrel scraper, but its problem is mostly that it gets stuck in one location for the duration, rather than leading to the usually round of investigations, quirks and confrontations. Nevertheless, there’s solid work from Nicola Pagett, Jonathan Burn and Johnny Sekka.
Two’s A Crowd
(4.11) There are no outright dodos in Season 4, but Steed doing doppelgangers, despite an enjoyable Patrick Macnee performance, is about pedestrian as the show gets. Then there’s Warren Mitchell as bumbling Russian agent Brodny, The Avengers‘ Harry Mudd (so “beloved” they brought him back).
(2.7) Steed and Venus enter the world of Balkan presidents and wrestling: a heady combination. Some good moments, and Philip Madoc (his Avengers debut) is on fine form as the president’s brother-in-law, but there’s much too much in-ring combat.
The Fear Merchants
(5.1) Patrick Cargill’s cool shades and minimalist office space only go so far in making up for a fairly standard-issue murder-for-hire yarn.
Whoever Shot Poor George…
Whoever Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XB40?
(6.9) The operating-on-a-computer-like-it’s-a-person has been done before, of course (only with a bomb, in 4.8: The Gravediggers), but it’s still fairly amusing when a cyber-surgeon sets to work on the title character. The rest is rather less essential.
The Trojan Horse
(3.22) The bizarre premise – yes, I know this is The Avengers, but still – of a racetrack as a front for hitmen is most notable for TP McKenna wining and dining Cathy, and Steed’s pack lunch at the stables (champagne, caviar and crackers).
Box of Tricks
(2.18) One that throws in intriguing elements – con men, secrets-snatching and stage magicians – but ultimately collapses beneath the weight of unbelievable plotting. Steed poses as a masseur and a hypochondriac, and Venus does some singing. I know, the latter’s a surprise.
The Grandeur That was Rome
(3.8) Both the title and content have the flavour of a later era, but for the most part, this unfolds without the same flair or consistency of approach. Commentary on chemicals destroying the environment is mixed up with bacchanalias, the results falling between two stools. Hugh Burden is suitably degenerate as the Ancient Rome-fixated food manufacturer.
Escape in Time
(5.2) Peter Bowles is a winner, as is the time-tunnel effect. Unfortunately, you know this is a swizz almost from the first, which makes much of the proceedings feel like they’re treading water.
Homicide and Old Lace
(6.30) Commonly derided as the absolute dog end of the show, it’s certainly true that the salvaged footage from The Great Great Great Britain Crime isn’t exactly scintillating. But even then, it boasts Adam Adamant Lives’ Gerald Harper on top military idiot form. What makes Homicide and Old Lace pretty painless is the spirited banter between Mother and his aunts as he attempts to tell his tall tale in spite of their constant interruptions.
They Keep Killing Steed
(6.17) Some decent elements, not least Ian Ogivily’s irresistible (to the ladies) Baron von Curt, but the multiple “Steeds” isn’t as cleverly used as it might have been. That said, the real Steed enjoys putting down Ray McAnally’s villain, who has the nerve to consider himself the Avenger’s equal.
Never, Never Say Die
(5.10) About as sci-fi as the show gets, with several Christopher Lees running around and a plot that is, give or take, a robot version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It’s all rather dry, however, and double the Lee would only pay off if he were well used.
(4.7) Creaky, clanky robo-fun. If you’re about seven. Otherwise, the high point comes early on, in the form of John Hollis as Sensai. Hollis, of course, ROCKS!
(5.15) Another Season 5 entry remaking past glories. It’s 3.7: Don’t Look Behind You this time, and benefits from strong production design and the commanding presences of Ronald Lacey and Peter Jeffrey. On the debit side, it’s a story – Avengers girl in peril in an empty house – that has been overdone already prior to this (and it wouldn’t be the last of them either).
(2.17) A low-key murder at the pottery – Cathy’s writing a book on ceramics! – is more soap than thriller, with strong performances from Paul Eddington and James Bree. The latter is particularly notable as a sad older man obsessed with the business’ frivolous young lovely.
Tunnel of Fear
(1.20) Recently recovered, and an amusing Season 1 showing for Steed. He goes undercover at a circus fairground, meeting with variable success (Macnee’s not quite in his element). Tunnel of Fear is more noteworthy for its domestic strife subplot than the brainwashing and spying.
Dead on Course
(2.2) Nothing to do with the fairway – that would be 4.17: The Thirteenth Hole – Dead on Course is nevertheless replete with elements one might expect from later series stories: an isolated village, nuns with machine guns and a heinous scheme to cause plane crashes.
Man with Two Shadows
(3.6) One of the series’ seemingly mainstay “let’s double Steed” plots, and not actually a bad one. If you can persevere through the so-so first half, Man with Two Shadows even broaches some bona fide ethical dilemmas. Macnee’s better here as an impostor than in 5.16: Who’s Who??? but playing himself is definitely his strongest suit.
(3.26) The last Cathy Gale episode, in which she and Steed investigate a smuggling operation. One might have hoped she’d be given a more sparkling send-off than spending a significant portion of the proceedings tied up. The last scene though, replete with references to Goldfinger, goes some way to making up for it.
Return of the Cybernauts
(5.18) The second sequel of Season 5 (if you count Brodny’s return as the first). Peter Cushing’s stock villain is out for revenge (he’s the brother of 4.7: The Cybernauts‘ Michael Gough). He’s also intent on wooing Mrs Peel. This one’s more engaging than the original, but that still isn’t quite enough.
The House That Jack Built
(4.24) Emma finds herself imprisoned in a psychedelically-automated housetrap. Which sounds more enticing than it is in this re-envisioning of 3.7: Don’t Look Behind You.
(2.4) Honor Blackman debuts as Mrs Gale and displays instant chemistry with Patrick Macnee. Steed must pose as a diplomatic courier, but it’s director Jonathan Alwyn who has his work cut out for him, hopping across South America in a TV studio.
Death of a Batman
(3.10) Andre Morell and Philip Madoc are investment bankers indulging in a spot of insider trading, but Kathy Greenwood’s flirtatious investor steals the proceedings. The title isn’t really representative (it relates to the will of Steed’s old batman).
The Bird Who Knew Too Much
(5.3) Reasonably diverting spy fare in which Ron Moody’s parrot passes secrets to the enemy. Emma and Steed pose for Kenneth Cope’s fashion photographer while a couple of vicious killers add a highly unpleasant streak. Like much of Season 5, you get the feeling other episodes have done this better.
The Correct Way to Kill
(5.9) A remake of 3.24: The Charmers, and I’m not simply being a purist in ranking the originals as superior to the earlier versions in each case (particularly since I first saw this season long before the Cathy Gale episodes). The school for killers is a very serviceable idea, but the positives of Philip Madoc and Anna Quayle (“Olga from the Volga“) have to be balanced against the relative disappointments of Michael Gough and Terence Alexander.
(6.5) Peter Bowles yet again provides formidable villainous chops. Here, he’s another of those bounders who thinks they’re up to Steed’s standards. But woefully are not. A very science-fiction bottle of invisibility vodka is key to his escape. As you might expect then, there are some rather stodgy plot points along the way to the showdown. But also some nice stylistic touches, and Tara is granted a well-choreographed fight sequence.
(6.29) Terry Nation’s script featuring a death-dealing robotic box – I’ve no idea where that one came from – beneath a church boasts a cute title and Iain Cuthbertson on fine form. There’s also Willoughby Goddard taking more than a modicum of snuff. Thingumajig is serviceable, but it doesn’t quite come together quite as colourfully as it might.
Room Without a View
(4.9) Steed’s M Gourmet goes down a treat, but the Manchurian Candidate fixtures and fittings don’t really blend with the broader-toned hotel setting.
(2.8) Cathy invests in a dodgy gun manufacturer, but it’s Ronald Radd as a proto-Gordon Gekko (only more sympathetic) who lifts an otherwise so-so episode.
Super Secret Cypher Snatch
(6.12) There’s strong direction from John Hough and some effectively executed ideas (hypnosis gas rendering victims oblivious to the cypher being snatched) and design elements (white overalls and bowlers worn by the villains). Plus strong support from Angela Scoular and Simon Oates. But Tony Williamson’s teleplay feels a draft or two away from really hitting a groove.
Who Was That Man I Saw You With?
(6.27) A fun, fashion-conscious villain (Alan Wheatley), but a highly unlikely plot centring on delivering a devastating rocket attack against Britain through making Tara appear to be a traitor… It doesn’t really scan, but Aimee Delamain is rather wonderful as a lip reader who proves vital to Steed solving the case.
(3.1) Threats to a Russian concert pianist – in order to persuade him to assassinate the trade minister! – are on the incredible side, but Nigel Stock, as Steed’s Russian opposite number, makes a marvellous foil for Macnee and has a very amusing drunk scene.
Invasion of the Earthmen
(6.2) Another thoroughly lambasted Season 6 episode, but one boasting a suitable insane plan, a suitably shabby snake, a suitably silly spaceman suit, and a reasonably dramatic, murderous hunt-the-Tara plot. It’s far from a masterpiece, but it’s very watchable.
The Outside-In Man
(3.23) James Maxwell (later of 5.12: The Superlative Seven) delivers a strong performance as the titular agent released from an Aburainian prison and suspected of being out to murder the man who betrayed him. If its threads don’t quite come together, it definitely isn’t slumming it either.
The Forget-Me Knot
(6.1) Like 6.33: Bizarre, to a degree, as this is represents a disappointing send off. And also like Bizarre, the actual send-off scene is rather good (actually, Mrs Peel’s farewell to Steed is flat-out great). The memory-loss plot with Emma and Patrick Kavanagh is very silly but at least mildly amusing. As a Tara introduction, it’s no great shakes either – it succeeds better as a Mother introduction – but The Forget-Me Knot scrapes by on nostalgia value.
The Medicine Man
(3.16) An investigation into cheap knock-off pharmaceuticals, and a case where the perpetrators aren’t immediately obvious, which is always nice. Cathy sports an eyepatch, while Macnee offers up a dreadful impression of an Icelander.
Six Hands Across the Table
(2.25) Dubious business dealings in the shipping trade, with flirtations for Cathy and another good part for Philip Madoc. The title’s the most evocative aspect of the episode, though.
The Little Wonders
(3.20) Macnee’s much better here masquerading as the Vicar of M’boti than his undercover work in 3.16: Medicine Man (above). Steed is tasked to infiltrate mob organisation Bibliotek, where he’s surrounded by colourful underworld types. Unfortunately, Eric Paice’s teleplays (including 2.2: Dead on Course, 2.7: The Decapod and 3.12: November Five) tend to lack that crucial extra something.
Don’t Look Behind You
(3.7) Remade as 5.15: The Joker for Emma Peel, this is less polished but more appropriately off-kilter, with Cathy invited to an isolated mansion and menaced by weirdos (most memorably Kenneth Colley and Janine Grey).
A Surfeit of H20
(4.10) The premise of weather-to-order and the title are fun. Mr Cheeseman (I mean, Talfryn Thomas) makes an inevitable impression, as does Jonah (Noel Purcell), the prophet of doom. And Steed amusingly gets to pose as an affable idiot. Unfortunately, the nondescript villains rather let the side down.
Man-Eater of Surrey Green
(4.12) The one that inspired The Seeds of Doom, allegedly, and a rare science-fiction foray for the show at this point. It’s a Season 4 episode that’s played pretty straight, perhaps surprisingly, and includes Emma shotgunning a hapless henchman. The less said about Steed’s “herbicidal maniac” line, the better.
The Danger Makers
(4.21) The premise of military types enlivening increasingly unadventurous service with thrill-seeking escapades is only so-so, but matters improve considerably – and dramatically – when Mrs Peel is required to take an initiation test.
Mission… Highly Improbable
(5.24) Steed gets shrunk, Emma gets shrunk, and an over-sized desktop set gets a good work out. For all the conscious absurdity of the premise, this Season 5 finale probably doesn’t revel in its potential for silliness quite enough. The villain, meanwhile, has a disturbingly offhand manner in disposing of his miniaturised victims.
All Done with Mirrors
(6.11) An inspired setting, both in terms of location filming and the lighthouse focus, as Tara investigates sudden death via the use of a “retrometer” (requiring the mirrors of the title). Perhaps a little light on the eccentricity, though.
(6.26) Completely off the map as far as a semblance to even the “real” Avengers world is concerned, Fog fully embraces its faux-Victorian London – aside from the occasional Mother-commandeered Mini Moke. Steed and Tara investigate the murderous Gaslight Ghoul’s reignited reign of terror. Generally not very highly regarded – and it is very thin – but it ticks along breezily and Nigel Green is tremendous.
You Have Just Been Murdered
(5.21) A rarity in that the gag title premise manages to avoid wearing thin, as Simon Oates repeatedly doesn’t kill his bribery victims (until he does). Also present and correct: various attempts at double crosses, Mrs Peel getting some quality riverside fight action, and a villain who lives in a haystack.
70-1 can be found here