Thursday 6 July 2023

The Avengers - The Interrogators

The Interrogators is a very fine Tara King episode of The Avengers, written by Richard Harris and Brian Clemens and directed by Charles Crichton. It went to air in January 1969.

I’ve always been a fan of the Tara King era and I’ve always enjoyed Linda Thorson’s performances.

This one has a very solid plot with some nice misdirection. At first we think we know what is going on. A British agent is being mercilessly interrogated by the bad guys. The chief villain is a British officer named Colonel Mannering (Christopher Lee) but we’re pretty sure he’s really a traitor working for a foreign government.

And then comes the first twist and we question everything we think we know. There will be more twists which will keep us wondering just how much we really know.

The British agent doesn’t break under torture, but one of his contacts gets assassinated. We’re not really sure how the bad guys got the information.

Mother is perplexed. Nothing seems to add up. There has to be a leak somewhere.

Tara thinks she’s found a vital clue. It’s a cigarette stub, with a very unusual tobacco blend.

Tara will end up being interrogated as well, but whether the interrogation is carried out by the good guys or the bad guys is still open to question. Tara certainly doesn’t know at this stage.

There’s a reasonable amount of action with Tara having some decent fight scenes. Steed gets to use his armoured bowler hat.

There are plenty of surreal touches. The music guy and the balloon seller are highlights. We get to see a lot of Mother in this story and Patrick Newell is in sparkling form. As usual the meetings with Mother take place in bizarre settings.

Christopher Lee provides some real menace but some nice ambiguity as well. It’s a vintage Christopher Lee performance. The acting overall is excellent and the sheer hopelessness and foolishness of the British agents under interrogation, determined to follow orders without exercising the slightest degree of intelligence, adds some amusement.

Charles Crichton directs with energy and style.

Mostly this episode works because it strikes the perfect balance. The script works as a clever spy thriller story, there is genuine suspense and mystery, and just enough outlandishness and lightheartedness. It’s a Tara King episode that stacks up quite favourably against the best of the Emma Peel episodes.

The Interrogators is highly recommended.