For fans of classic British television programmes, the fact that many of the original episodes from the 1960s have been deleted or lost is a sad tragedy. Sometimes though, like a miracle, old episodes will reappear in the strangest of places. It has happened to Doctor Who with episodes of The Daleks' Master Plan being found in a church basement. This time it is The Avengers whose 1961 episode, Tunnel of Fear that suddenly appeared. It has been brushed up with a good quality and recently released on DVD.
Tunnel of Fear sees John Steed and Dr. David Keel investigating a case of a man pleading his innocence. With the connections of a strange fair at Southend, Steed is intrigued as it seems to tie in with an investigation he is already involved with.
If one is like me, your Avengers knowledge begins with the episodes from the eras of Emma Peel and Tara King. From there you learn that Steed had a friend, Cathy Gale before Peel. Finding out that the original co-star for The Avengers was a male is a bit of a surprise and this was one of the bigger reasons for me checking this ep out, besides being a huge fan of the show.
From the first series of the show, a total of three episodes survive in their totality with a few clips here and there from others. What I liked is that Steed is already the Steed we know and love, a suave and mysterious agent with an eye for the ladies, but someone who gets the job done.
While the style of Tunnel of Fear will be familiar for fans of television in the sixties but what really stands out is the standard of the script. Setting the story around a funfair that is being used for ulterior motives fits well with the fears following WW2 surrounding espionage and brainwashing.
It would be a crime to go into Tunnel of Fear too much as it would spoil the episode, but what I will say is that it does feel like an episode that would sit well with the later series'. It might not be so surreal but Steed makes it instantly recognisable. While in 1961, the show wasn't as well rounded as it would be later, it has left me with the wish to see more found and restored...