Kaleidoscope, a Birmingham-based British non-profit organization specialized in the research and conservation of old television programs, announced that it discovered and acquired a copy of the episode “Tunnel of Fear” of the first season of the TV show “The Avengers“. It’s an extraordinary event because so far of the first season only the first episode’s first act and two complete episodes were available.
Today we’re used to having the possibility to find any TV show on DVD and where possible also on Blu-Ray but before the advent of the VCR market television programs were ephemeral products. The consequence is that in the ’60s it was normal that after a few years the magnetic tapes on which were recorded were reused.
This means that if a TV show wasn’t sold abroad probably there were no other copies. Even when it was sold abroad, after some time the copies might not considered useful. Basically, a TV show could fall completely into oblivion after a few years. Over the years things have changed enormously and many TV show have been at least partially recovered. In the case of “The Avengers” there were still 23 completely missing episodes among those broadcast in 1961.
“The Avengers” has become a cult show and in particular the era in which Emma Peel works alongside John Steed is considered the best. However, the first season was very different, with Dr. David Keel as the protagonist in his fight against crime started to avenge his fiancée’s murder, hence the title, with John Steed generally assisting him.
Those episodes were wiped as usual and only many years later someone started looking for copies and for some time the episode “The Frighteners” was the only one found in the USA, in an archive at UCLA. In 2001, again at UCLA the first act of “Hot Snow” and the entire “Girl on the Trapeze” were also discovered. The episodes of Kathy Gale era were all recovered but the first season is almost completely lost. In recent years, Big Finish adapted some screenplays into audio adventures but inevitably it’s not the same thing.
The episode “Tunnel of Fear” will be shown for the first time during an event that will be held in Birmingham on November 12, 2016. It will be an opportunity to take a look at an era of “The Avengers” that is little known. Together with findings such as that of two nearly complete “Doctor Who” serials a few years ago, this one represents a hope that other episodes still exist somewhere in the world.