Thursday, May 31, 2012
YEAR 1968: TARA KING
By 1968 the British teleseries THE AVENGERS had lost the services of Diana Rigg to portray the popular character of Emma Peel. For the serial's next (and, as it turned out, final) season, the producers cast Linda Thorson as John Steed's new partner. Whereas all of Steed's other partners for the entirety of the series had been "talented amateurs," King was introduced as a spy who had gone through the same training as Steed, and worked for the same barely defined secret organization.
In the circles of television fandom, many viewers disdained Thorson's character not for its own failings but simply for not being Emma Peel. It's questionable whether or not the series would have done any better, aesthetically or financially, had the producers attempted to follow the model set by Peel and the previous Cathy Gale figures.
Whereas the tone of the Gale and Peel seasons captured a fine balance of drama and tongue-in-cheek humor, the final season with Tara King (1968-69) fumbled, occasionally straying into the realm of farce (particularly in those episodes that dealt with Steed and King's supervisor, a fat man known as "Mother.") Being a more petite woman Thorson was not quite as impressive in fight-scenes as Blackman and Rigg had proven, but of the 33 episodes completed there are probably a good half-dozen battles in which King acquits herself just as well as her predecessors.
Tara King made her first prose appearance in 1968's THE DROWNED QUEEN by Keith Laumer, one of four paperback originals. Amusingly, sometimes Emma Peel was featured on the cover of a Tara King adventure.