The Avengers Forever organizes Avengers episodes in a unique way. Unlike most books and websites, where episodes are grouped by season and ordered according to original transmission date, TAF divides the whole of the series into eras, according to Steed's partners, and lists episodes in production order.
Why is it done this way? Is this not contrary to the "proper" way of doing things, which is to order the episodes according to their broadcast premiere? Very likely. But organizing The Avengers presents some special challenges.
Right off the bat, there is the problem of determining the "official" broadcast premiere. Across the whole of the series' country of origin, its transmission sequence was rarely the same in any two regions; some regions did not even run certain episodes until reruns. With literally dozens of regions from which to choose, most purists settle on London. That's all well and fine, except that London never even saw all of the David Keel episodes...
Some may argue that production order makes no sense because production is usually done at the convenience of the work, with no regard for continuity. Well, guess what? Broadcasters are no better! Just as an example, the order in which Tara King episodes premiered in the UK was so thoroughly jumbled that the character—who was "retooled" midway through production—suffered wildly random, irrational shifts in behavior (the only one they got "right," for obvious reasons, was "The Forget-Me-Knot"). She fared much better—and was also seen first—in the US.
As already stated, the series transmission sequence was rarely the same in any two UK broadcast regions, so who takes precedence? No region "owned" the series. And so, declaring broadcast order in the country of origin to be canon not only poses some dilemmas with regards to the choice of region (as Dave Rogers found out), but brings no real value to the picture since broadcast order was pretty much ad hoc.
So, if broadcast order has little or no meaning, what's so special about production order? It's an episodic program, anyway, so the order in which it is viewed makes no difference (with one "exception"). How about alphabetical? Well, most people seem to agree that production order at least allows one to study the evolution of the series, which can result in some subtle revelations about the characters.
Granted, strict adherence to production order places the "exception" third on the Tara King episode list; however, it is worth noting that, although the episode has an obvious chronological "home," it was not Linda Thorson's premiere on screen owing to the chaotic behind-the-scenes changes taking place at the time. Thus, students of The Avengers can appreciate how she grew into the role in the episodes completed earlier (which include a pair of never-aired versions), not to mention seeing the same for her predecessors in their respective seasons.
Even following production order is not as simple as it may appear, for the series' history is not "neat and tidy." Beginning with the filmed episodes, the producers often had multiple episodes in production at once, and official completion dates are still a bit fuzzy in spots; also, production became increasingly chaotic, with re-filmed, cannibalized, and unaired episodes, as well as seasons of wildly different lengths. Indeed, for many years The Avengers was thought to have had six seasons in the UK, when in fact it actually had seven.
Things weren't that much better back in the Cathy Gale days, when "Warlock" was planned to be Cathy's premiere, but the producers had to re-write her introduction to Steed when the broadcast order was jumbled and ten other episodes ran first. Once again, production order allows us to see Cathy evolve, beginning with Honor Blackman's first episode, "Death Dispatch." Following broadcast order, we see her for the first time in "Mr Teddy Bear," by which time the producers had already made changes in her character.
Admittedly, production order is not a panacea: we are left having to choose between when an episode began production or when it completed production. Most tend to choose the latter; however, a few episodes were completed long after others were begun ("Homicide and Old Lace" springs to mind), and so following production completion order does result in some minor temporal anomalies. Nothing is perfect!
Inspired by Alistair (Elan Avengers) McGown's attempt to reconcile the UK and US networking structures, I broke the entire series into sections (which I call Production Blocks) that coincide with the broadcast seasons of the series' two principal markets, and also closely mirror actual production activity. The following table shows how this works:
Note that the series' organization under "Syndication" is roughly how most of the world perceives the series, since very few videotaped episodes (Blocks 1-3) ever made it to foreign shores prior to the age of cable.
By the way, I have no problem with other people taking other approaches; I do not insist that mine is the "right" way; all I am trying to do is shed a little more light on the whole picture to justify the choices I have made. If it is of any consequence, the series' owners, Canal+, organized their website by production order (although they stick with the six-season format, likely for the sake of simplicity).
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