Big Finish: The Avengers: The Comic Strip Adaptations Volume 07: Steed & Tara King, Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Big Finish: The Avengers: The Comic Strip Adaptations Volume 07: Steed & Tara King, Review

Matthew Kresal grabs his bowler hat and umbrella.
The 1960s was a golden age for British TV thriller series, with shows fondly remembered now, the better part of sixty years later. Ranking high among those is The Avengers, which earned its iconic status thanks to Patrick Macnee as the debonair John Steed alongside fellow agents such as Linda Thorson as Tara King, taking on all sorts of wrongdoers throughout the decade. Steed and Tara were busy off-screen, too, in comic strip adventures printed in the popular TV Comic magazine. Now, in the seventh volume of Big Finish's continuing series of audio adventures, three more of those adventures have been realized on audio in all their 1960s glory.

Much like the pair's previous outing in 2021's Volume Five, this set wholeheartedly embraces the sometimes outlandish sensibilities of its parent show, particularly in its final years. A case in point is the opening episode, Nigel Fairs' The Fabulous Sky Beam Dilemma, which sees Steed and Tara trying to protect a visiting European leader from assassination via a novel method. The result is a bonkers plot of an Avengers episode, full of humor and an over-the-top villain with an equally OTT way of carrying out a simple objective. But then you'd expect no less, would you? And that is a big part of the fun of Fairs' script, along with the material he gives the lead pair to work with.

Robert Khan and Tom Salinsky bring those same sensibilities to their episode, A Tale in Tartan. If The Fabulous Sky Beam Dilemma played on European stereotypes and cliches, then A Tale in Tartan does so for north of the border in the land of Highlands and lochs. Khan and Salinsky send Tara on a mission to a castle-turned-research post, minus her usual partner, but meeting a suspiciously familiar one. With most of the cast playing duel roles (including Abi Harris impressively playing against herself in some scenes, though you'd never know it until you heard the extras or read the cast list), this is another over-the-top but immensely enjoyable listen with plenty of twists (however unlikely) along the way.

Rounding off the set This Train Terminates Here by John Dorney. In each of these sets, there's at least one episode that feels, without question, like it could and should have been an episode of the TV series. Dorney delivers with this script, sending Steed and Tara off on a mission involving the British rail system, pitting their wits against Septimus Crump and his sinister station-master plan. From investigations leading to interesting characters to action set-pieces and our agents finding themselves in a variation of a classic villain's move, This Train Terminates Here has classic Avengers written all over it and is all the better for it. If there's a reason to buy this set, it's this episode.

This Train Terminates Here also gets a boost out of its villain. Septimus Crump is a wonderfully written villain, but the performance from (as was announced as this review was written late) Paul O'Grady sells the character. Perhaps that's because O'Grady, as discussed in the extras and a video put up by Big Finish on YouTube, was a big fan of the series and got to fulfill something of a childhood dream by playing the part. Whatever the case, O'Grady's Crump is the right mix of villain with a madcap scheme with delusions of grandeur delivered with over-the-top glee. In short, a classic Avengers villain for a classic episode.

As with so much of the Big Finish output, it also benefits immensely from its casting choices. Reprising their roles of Steed and Tara King, Julian Wadham and Emily Woodward remain ideal audio performers for these characters. Wadham, in particular, captures the wit and twinkle in the eye of Steed, honed over numerous releases but also getting something new to play with in the middle episode. Woodward brings a spunky quality to her performance with some great banter between her and Wadham's Steed. Surrounded by a cast that includes Christopher Benjamin (who himself appeared in the Avengers three times in the 1960s) as their boss Mother and supporting players, including the aforementioned O'Grady and Harris, the results are solid across the board.

Featuring a classic Avengers episode with a pitch-perfect villain and anchored by the assured performances of its regulars, this latest entry in Big Finish's Avengers Comic Strips Adaptations is a solid one. Something true whether you're a fan of The Avengers or have fond memories of the series from long ago days. Don't take my word for it: grab your bowler, umbrella, and a pair of headphones because you’ve got a train to catch!

The Avengers: The Comic Strip Adaptations Volume 07: Steed & Tara King is exclusively available to buy from the Big Finish website until 30 April 2023, 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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