Behind the Scenes: Tara King Era, Part 1
Page 6 of 9

Since Diana Rigg was essentially out of the picture even before the first color season was completed, the producers had started a search for a replacement. Several guest actresses were considered, and some hush-hush screen tests were being done (Patrick Macnee for one was kept in the dark during the whole affair). But it all came apart when the new season drew near and utter chaos slowly engulfed the studio.

ABC Television Films (set up by Associated British Corporation after it had merged with Associated-Rediffusion to form Thames Television) decided to make a substantial stylistic shift from fantasy back toward reality, and in a mysterious power play ostensibly involving John Steed's characterization, Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell were shown the door. John Bryce, who produced three-fourths of the Cathy Gale episodes, was appointed the new producer. Macnee contemplated ending his tenure with the show, but hung in there long enough to see the tables turn yet again.

Barely completing three episodes ("Invitation To A Killing," "The Great Great Britain Crime" and "Invasion of the Earthmen") and falling behind schedule, Bryce found himself in way over his head, so Clemens and Fennell were asked back and granted complete control. Well, almost... they had to live with Diana Rigg's replacement, who was allegedly recommended by actor John Huston and booked under the approval of Don Boyle, head of ABC in America. Selected out of 200 applicants and told to lose weight and go blonde, Linda Thorson was Steed's new partner, much to the frustration of Clemens and Fennel. READ MORE

Fresh out of school, the 20-year-old Thorson (who chose the name Tara King for herself) had never stepped in front of a camera, yet she was given a very demanding part—made more so by the legacy of her predecessors—in a cutthroat industry. Worse, her character appeared to have just a wee bit less "backbone," which made Emma Peel fans all the more heartbroken. Ironically, when John Bryce was sacked, Thorson spoke of leaving, but Macnee talked her out of it—something he wishes he'd done with Diana Rigg.

Pressed for time by the contract with ABC in America, Clemens and Fennell were forced to rework the material Bryce left behind, rather than start anew. Tara was introduced in "The Forget-Me-Knot" (claimed by some sources to have been an unfinished Rigg episode) instead of the 90-minute pilot "Invitation To A Killing" Bryce had created. "Invitation" was chopped down to become "Have Guns - Will Haggle," and a leftover Emma Peel script, "Split!," was recycled.

Representing an uneven mix of Bryce and Clemens/Fennell material, the first seven new Tara King episodes were shipped, together with the last eight Rigg episodes, to the US, just in the nick of time. Subsequently the US ordered a full season of 26 episodes, and so the studio pressed on, without a break—although the production crew experienced one last major overhaul before getting back to work.

For help in understanding the progression of the show's history, the Avengers Timeline puts it in graphic perspective.

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Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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