Season 2

Some Avenging Thoughts on International Women’s Day

When Avengers first aired, it was a show starring Ian Hendry as Dr David Keel, and John Steed (played by Patrick Macnee) was a secondary character. When Hendry quit after one season, the producers decided to make Steed the main character, and to give him a female partner. They hired Honor Blackman for the role, as Catherine Gale. Because they had a bunch of Hendry scripts left over, and because they didn’t have a budget to commission more, they ended up adapting scripts originally written for the male character of Dr David Keel to the female character of Catherine Gale.

The Gale era of Avengers was a watershed in television history. Catherine Gale was the first female character on television to be treated as not only the complete equal of her male partner, but as better than he was at some things. And not only that, it was done with utter seriousness: Steed was in no way threatened by Mrs Gale’s skills and strengths (in fact, he is regularly bowled over by her), and her character was not written either with lampoon of gender roles in mind or as any kind of misandrist.

Catherine Gale was a PhD in anthropology; a supremely intelligent woman who could think her way out of almost any problem; a judoka who could pummel the tar out of pretty much any opponent (Blackman actually learned judo for real for the role and did her own stunts); a crack shot and big game hunter; a freelance contractor who could do anything from help manage a charity to write essays about medieval couture to catalogue a museum. She helped Steed collar the bad guys on a regular basis, working side by side with him as his equal, not as his subordinate or sidekick. She never played the damsel in distress, and although Steed had to rescue her occasionally, she had her own chances to repay the favor when the baddies captured him.

Catherine Gale would become the inspiration for the character of Emma Peel, who maintained the relationship of equals and high level of badassery of her predecessor. Both characters have been a source of inspiration for generations of women audience members.

But it was Catherine Gale, PhD, a woman who took no shit and gave no fucks, who broke that barrier first.

So here’s to Honor Blackman and Catherine Gale, original badasses both.


Bold Deserving Rogues

One-Ten: How did you get on with Dragna?
Steed: We got on well. I rather like him.
One-Ten: You would.

In this scene from The Removal Men, Steed and his boss lounge on a beach in the south of France and discuss how to deal with the villian, a character named Dragna whose primary business is arranging assassinations for money.

We learn something important about Steed here. He has met Dragna, been a guest in his home, made a business arrangement with him while posing as a criminal for hire. He knows full well what it is Dragna does for a living. Steed has set himself against Dragna, and will do everything he needs to do in order to bring him to justice, including shoot him, which he ends up doing in Act III.

And yet Steed says he likes the man.


Great Detectives Think Alike

“Mr Teddy Bear,” the first episode to air in Season 2, and the first to feature Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale, is full of references to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. I’ve published several of these on my tumblr page already, but by request I’m aggregating them here and adding some I’ve found since.


Professional Respect

Steed has many emotional responses to the villains he has to catch. Some of them, like Cartney in “Touch of Brimstone” and the Major in “Danger Makers” he loathes with all his being. Others, like Henry in “How to Succeed at Murder,” he finds pitiable. But for some he has a kind of collegial respect.


Sister Act

In “Dead on Course,” Steed and Dr. King go to the coast of Ireland to investigate an air crash, one that appears to be part of a disturbing pattern of such crashes. The sole survivor of the crash, an air hostess, is recuperating in a nearby convent, which is also acting as a temporary morgue for the dead passengers and crew.  Unfortunately, the villains are hiding out at the convent, too, disguised as nuns. When the air hostess wakes up and starts to talk, one of the baddies strangles her. (more…)