Ministry of Order Details
You may notice that some books and websites organize The Avengers into six seasons, while other books and websites use seven seasons. So, which is right? Most people don't really care—they just enjoy the show. For the purists who demand a definitive answer, we begin with a little history...
Not as planned
The first color season was originally planned to feature 26 episodes, according to a promotional mailer prepared by the studio at the outset of the fifth season. As it happened, however, only sixteen episodes made it onto UK airwaves for their fifth season. The reason for this is a little complicated.
Producing a relatively high-quality series such as The Avengers is an expensive proposition, so the sale of the series to America became mission-critical. But the Americans balked at buying a monochrome series, making the switch to color something of a necessity. This, plus the added casting expenses (a steady stream of big-name guest stars that included the likes of Donald Sutherland, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, plus a trebled salary for Diana Rigg) made the series that much more costly to produce.
Unfortunately, the production company came to rely almost exclusively on American money—unfortunate because America was still running the show as a summer replacement, and was not placing regular orders for full seasons. Worse, no one in the UK was ordering any new episodes! Consequently, when an anticipated order for additional color episodes from the US did not arrive when expected, the coffers ran dry and the producers were forced to suspend production after completing sixteen of the planned 26 color episodes.
When the next order did finally come through from the US, the studio had been on hold for about a month and a half. This delay placed the rest of the fifth season in jeopardy, as there would not be enough time to get the remaining episodes on the air during the normal schedule. To complicate matters further, Diana Rigg had already decided to leave the show, and the studio was in a state of turmoil: ABC television was being consolidated into a new company, Thames, and The Avengers property was at risk of being orphaned.
Ultimately only eight of the last ten color Rigg episodes were finished, and as they were completed late, they were held back until the following UK broadcast season. Thus these last eight color Emma Peel episodes legitimately constitute a complete—albeit rather brief—sixth season.
Meanwhile, Linda Thorson was chosen to replace Diana Rigg, and after an aborted start with a different producer, seven Tara King episodes were rushed through production to meet the deadline for the first full season order from the US. The UK broadcasters elected to hold these episodes back and run them together with the 26 Tara King episodes that followed, creating a generous 33-episode seventh season for the UK market.
All of these historical wrinkles were overlooked by Dave Rogers and others when the first books on the series were published, and so most episode guides are still based on six seasons. (Indeed, to this day Rogers refers to the color Rigg episodes collectively as season five, as do Patrick Macnee and series copyright owner, Canal+.)
Subsequently, Cornell, Day, Topping (The Avengers Dossier) and others did a little more homework and produced evidence of this so-called "missing season." In an effort to be strictly accurate, they split the first color season in two, resulting in a total of seven broadcast seasons.
Resistance to change can be fierce in some quarters, and so many fans stood by Rogers, even in light of the fact that, in the end, the last eight Emma Peel episodes were promoted by the studio as a "new" season. Such "Dave Rogers Hardliners" often get into clashes with the "Seven Season Revisionists" who have embraced the accurate if untidy newer scenario.
But just to muddy the waters still further, the series was subsequently re-run and syndicated worldwide in the six-season format. This not only made organizational sense (reflecting the producers' original plan), but it also served to reinforce Dave Rogers' original scheme, however flawed it might appear to be.
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