With the premise of this earliest incarnation of The Avengers now firmly set up in the first box set, the Big Finish team tackle some of the middle first season stories, beginning with this very down to earth tale of an insurance racket which has cost the life of one man – and may well cause the deaths of others.
You do have to wonder why the bad guys don’t see through Carol straightaway when she goes “undercover” – after she can’t even think of a cover name, and then starts talking suspiciously, I’d have expected her to be thrown out rather than humoured. Still, the story wouldn’t work unless she is put in harm’s way, and this is a feature of Peter Ling and Sheilah Ward’s original script.
That original version featured Mark Eden as the French owner of the salon (if you want to get an idea of his French accent, find a copy of The Saint and the Brave Goose aka Collision Course, the 1978 Return of the Saint double episode; for bonus points with that you get Stratford Johns doing an even worse French accent). The part is played here by Terry Molloy, who is considerably more subtle!
It’s a story that gives us a lot more insight into John Steed and his perhaps slightly sybaritic tastes – the gold cigarette case, fancy car and opulent apartment aren’t exactly what you expect from the Steed we’ve encountered so far – as the character starts to evolve. Julian Wadham captures that air of Steed being someone to underestimate at your peril, working very well with Lucy Briggs-Owen as Carol, whose appetite for danger is rather greater than Steed (and certainly Keel) might imagine.
Verdict: A solid crime caper. 8/10