Big Finish: The Avengers: The Comic Strip Adaptations Volume 06: Steed & Mrs Peel, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: The Avengers: The Comic Strip Adaptations Volume 06: Steed & Mrs Peel, Review

Big Finish blows the doors of the budget with three epic spy-fi adventures. Matthew Kresal joins them on location.
The 1960s remains a golden age of British spy and adventure TV series. Among those series was The Avengers, which earned its iconic status thanks to Patrick Macnee as the debonair John Steed alongside fellow agents such as Diana Rigg as Emma Peel gracing screens throughout the decade. All the while, Steed and Mrs. Peel were busy off-screen in a series of comic strip adventures appearing in various publications such as TV Comic. It is those stories that Big Finish has been adapting as audio dramas since 2016, with the latest box set featuring three more adventures for the iconic spies.

While the trio of stories is all standalone, they do seem to this reviewer linked by one common thread. Namely, plots that would have been well suited for the series in its sixties heyday but would have busted its budget into pieces. Take Roland Moore's Seven Deadly... Assassins, which opens the set, for example, set aboard a cruise ship transporting a precious jewel with the pair guarding it against seven assassins going by the deadly sins. Meanwhile, Stand and Deliver by Sarah Grochala takes Steed and Peel to a Highwayman's Ball where Agatha Christie meets John le Carre via the peculiar spy-fi sensibilities of The Avengers as the pair get involved in the search for a traitor. Last, but most certainly not least, is You Won't Believe Your Eyes from John Dorney, which puts the pair into another twisty caper involving dinosaurs, polar bears, and lions spotted in the Surrey countryside before getting to the potential weapon behind those sightings. Any of the three could easily have been episodes of the series more than fifty years ago, but affording them would have been another matter. The country house location and the action sequences in Stand and Deliver with windmills and chases on horseback would have cost a season's worth of location filming budget alone!

As a result, this volume, perhaps more than any of the other comic adaptations, showcases the strengths of Big Finish's Avengers audios. Director Samuel Clemens (himself the son of longtime Avengers writer/producer Brian Clemens) and sound designer Simon Power bring the unique settings of each episode to life superbly, from Clemens direction of the cast to Powers work creating everything from cruise ships and country house to car chases or encounters with dinosaurs in the countryside. Indeed, Power's work is very much the cement that glues these three episodes together. The icing on the cake here is Jamie Robertson's score, which captures the musical vibes of the Steed and Mrs. Peel era of the TV series as the episodes unfold.

The set also benefits immensely from its cast. Reprising their roles of Steed and Mrs. Peel, Julian Wadham and Olivia Poulet continue to be ideal audio performers in these roles. Wadham, in particular, captures the wit and twinkle in the eye of Steed, honed over nearly a decade playing the part. Poulet, meanwhile, captures the self-assuredness of Mrs. Peel superbly in her own right, with the banter between the two perfectly replicating Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg in their heyday. Clemens assembles around them solid supporting casts for each episode, including Harry Myers, Lucy Heath, and John Dorney himself, giving the entire set a solid set of performers.

Altogether, their work not only recreates The Avengers' televisual roots but expands upon them expertly in another medium for maximum effect. Whether you're a fan of The Avengers or merely have fond memories of the series, there's something in this set that you should find appealing. And, if you’re in need of a few hours of escape (and, frankly, who isn't these days?), you could do a lot worse than spend time in the company of Steed and Mrs. Peel.

The Avengers: The Comic Strip Adaptations Volume 06: Steed & Mrs Peel is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 30 April 2022, and on general sale after this date.

Matthew Kresal is a writer, critic, and podcaster with many and varying interests. His prose includes the non-fiction The Silver Archive: Dark Skies from Obverse Books, the Cold War alternate history spy thriller Our Man on the Hill, and the Sidewise Award winning short story Moonshot in Sea Lion Press' Alternate Australias anthology. You can read more of his writing at his blog and at The Terrible Zodin fanzine, or follow him on Twitter @KresalWritesHe was born, raised, and lives in North Alabama where he never developed a southern accent.

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