I often pretend I’m besotted with Diana Rigg as Emma Peel in “The Avengers”, but it’s just an affectation really. I just like the retro-ness of the programmes.
Rigg’s replacement, Linda Thorson as Tara King, doesn’t have the same dedicated cult following, but I think she did a great job. Her character was slightly sabotaged by the writers, who made her a naive ex-trainee who is infatuated with John Steed. That left no scope for the ambiguous kind of relationship which Peel and Steed had shown, but as the series developed, Tara King came to be as independent as resourceful and Emma Peel. And, to use the modern terminology, just as “kick-ass”.
The story goes that producer John Bryce considered 200 actresses to find a replacement for Diana Rigg, and in a completely fair and unbiased process, selected his current girlfriend, Linda Thorson. He then started work on filming three new episodes. Work fell behind schedule, and ABC were unsatisfied with the shows Bryce had made. He was “let go” and Clemens and Fennell, executive producers of the Emma Peel episodes, were brought back to start again.
Under pressure to generate the amount of material which had been sold to the Americans, Clemens and Fennell didn’t discard Bryce’s rejected episodes, they cut and diced them and shot additional footage, and tried to cobble up three acceptable shows. None was very good, but the absolute turkey of the three is the car crash which is “Homicide and Old Lace”, a re-hash of Bryce’s lost “The Great Great Britain Crime”.
In the episodes with Bryce’s material, you can get an idea of where he was going wrong (mainly by being very, very dull) but you also get an uncomfortable insight into his relationship with Linda Thorson. For one thing, she was told to lose weight: charming. But he also decided that she’d be better off blonde. There’s a story that an attempt to bleach her hair ruined it, leading to the use of a wig instead.
True or not, in all three Bryce attempts, Linda Thorson wears an unconvincing blonde wig, as you can see in the re-used footage. But having authority over his partner’s appearance, Bryce must have sleazily pushed it a little bit further along the fetish route. In “The Great Great Britain Crime” Tara King wears black rubber hold-ups (and matching gloves).
In the illustration here, it’s all action with machine guns, and at least Tara, initially unarmed, ends up with both guns and leaves two dead villains.