With the release of the lost stories by Big Finish of this seminal British Classic Spy thriller series. I have dipped my toe into the world of espionage and it is wonderful, more reviews will follow, not always in order, you can use the search facility within the page to find the exact episode you want to read the review.
1.1 – Hot Snow
The classic British spy espionage thriller from the late 60’s television, this is the remaking them again, but this time in audio. I must say from the off you get transported back to the time and place, the use of the Dankworth music is perfection and give the peace extra gravitas. Hot snow follows faithfully the story albeit with a fresh rework from John Dorney and Ken Bentley directing. Having seen what remains of these programme’s, the whole production makes this so realistic that it is uncanny, you actually feel transported back to that era.The main character set of actors that of Keel, Steed are perfectly casted, and take on the roles with what I consider to be meticulous ease, Big Finish have done a first rate job here with showing us that they can put together a cast that for all intense and purposes are equal to the one from the T.V. You cannot really fault the acting here at all from anyone, it is so tight it’s untrue.
We in this the first episode are introduced to Steed, and Keel the two main antagonists, the storyline plays out with a miss directed package of drugs being sent to Keel’s partner in their surgery, with the result of the gang behind it killing Keel’s finance on their way to buying a ring to mark their engagement. As you can image Keel is devastated at the loss, and the police after investigation consider it to be a professional hit. But why? When a large packet of heroin however is discovered at the surgery addressed to the wrong Dr Tredding, Keel starts to investigate, it’s then that Steed contacts him to ask if he will bring down the gang, and also solve the murder of his dead finance. Steed hatches a plan, already he is working two way intelligence as the gang already think he is working with them, what follows is typical 60’s early evening spy/espionage/thriller drama. It plays out wonderfully well and promises so much more.
1.2 Bought to Book
This episode starts with us hearing the broadcast of a 60’s radio broadcast of a horse race. We quickly move to Pretty Boy a east end gangster asking the owner of the bookie’s Prentice for his protection money, only for Prentice to tell Pretty Boy that he is paying a new mob ran by Mason. Right on queue Mason walks and no uncertain terms tells Pretty Boy he is moving in now and taking the Vance boy’s business, to make sure he does not forget he slices his face, as Pretty Boy reeling from the attack disappears Mason makes sure that the bookie Prentice knows he is the main man now who will be being paid for protection. Keel gets involved when Steed sets him up to be the goto Doctor to sort out Pretty Boy’s injury, this gives Steed an in with Vance’s setup and Steed is already in with Mason’s gang, the idea being that between them both they will be able to bring to justice the killer of Peggy – Spicer. Whow this is straight out of Black and White television and a big massive slab of nostalgia, gunmen, east end gangs – old style well dressed, sharp suit, not the ones we know these days. This like all of the other episodes is a 1hour episode and it takes on a wonderful tone, the acting between Howell and Wadham is remarkable and so well timed, I said before but these are the perfect pair for this style of drama, and, they bring something else to the parts, that I think on viewing what episodes are around, lacked in the original it is that good. I love the play out of this particular instalment, it is not one of those audio dramas that requires you to concentrate on the plot, it flows, and you know what is happening from the off. Great stuff and pushing the Avengers series by Big Finish on and upwards in my opinion.
1.3 Square Root of Evil
We begin with Steed having a taped transcript of an ex-spy Torbut being played out to him by his boss in Whitehall. It is now that we have full knowledge that Steed is a agent with the confirmation of whom his bosses are. We have gathered earlier on that Torbut has met with a rather grizly end at the hands of the Jimmy Bishop (the Cardinal to his nearest and dearest). Torbut was trying to break open a forgery racket, but it looks like he has got rumbled or that the gang are suspicious of his actions, needless to say that Whitehall need Steed to take over the case. They set him up as Reardon an Irish master forger who is due for release from a 10 stretch,and place him into the gang run by Hooper, Bishop is the muscle of the outfit. Bishop is instantly mistrusting of Reardon, and tries multiple times to catch him out, We think Reardon’s game is up when Bishop wife Lisa catches Reardon (Steed) cracking the gangs safe to try and find out who are the mysterious backers of the outfit and when are they going to release all this forged cash…
This is excellent we are once again thrown into that 60’s TV nostalgia with passion, and the writing here is first class, complemented by the acting skills of the cast. Clever work as been done on these “lost scripts” and it is paying off with this the penultimate adventure in the first box set. The clever way we work Keel into the story is a little weak in this episode, in truth we could not have had him at all and it would have still worked. But is does give us chance one more time to see the character post Peggy’s death, and also see who the new secretary Carol is getting on with the two Doctors, or is it three, as Tredding is played by Colin Baker. Who I think is perfect for this role, and comes across as a bumbling Doctor for real. Nice work looking forward to the last of the 4 in this series now.
1.4 One For The Mortuary
OK for the last episode within the box set, we, this time get treated to some real 60’s cold war spy games. Keel is tasked by Steed to attend a Medical Conference in Switzerland. There is of course another reason that Steed wants Keel to attend however. This is based around the premises that a new wonder drug as been created, and, for obvious reasons Whitehall don’t want it falling into the wrong hands. Keel even before his flight to the conference however is intercepted without his knowledge, and the game is afoot.
This feels like a much bigger episode than the others held on this first outing for the Avengers, it, feels much more Avenger than the others which is daft, as the other parts are of course genuine Avengers episodes. This though you can sit and image that it was filmed in beautiful 16mm black and white film stock, and played out on a Saturday evening on the early days of ITV. The quality held within this little gem are fantastic and it makes good listening entertainment. Wadham and Howell come into their own with this and once again the casting of them pays dividends. It is a more complex story than the previous three, and you cannot help but feel that Big Finish have be building up to this one. I look forward to Box Set 2.
Overall rating on all 4 stories