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I like sixties TV. Sixties TV is fun. It gave us... well, it gave us the abomination that was Roger Moore's Saint, but you can't hold that against it. That wasn't television's fault. It gave us lots of other things, though. Department S, Ironside, Adam Adamant, The Adventures Of Sir Lancelot, The Men From UNCLE, Doctor Who... they all came out of the sixties. And yes, Ironside is rather the odd man out in that equation, but I couldn't miss it out because it's brilliant. Anyway, sixties TV is good. It may have been cheaply made, and some people may mock the FX and production values nowadays, but it's important to remember that those are stupid people. Sixties TV seems to have more imagination than just about anything made nowadays, and frequently a lot more personality too. Hence Doctor Who would give us cardboard aliens that tripped up and head-butted the camera, but frankly who cares? Well, some people do. But I don't care about them.

Anyway, I've been watching The Champions again. I like The Champions. It's fun.

The Champions is one of the many TV shows produced by the late Monty Berman, one of the greats of the old world. It tells the story of three secret agents imbued with superpowers by a weird tribe deep in the Himalayas. Tough and experienced Craig Stirling and Richard Barrett, friends from way back, are joined by green novice Sharron Macready, who rounds off the threesome nicely. I don't know why she spells her name with two r's, unless it's just to annoy my spellchecker. Anyway, their story is laid out in the season opener, imaginatively titled "The Beginning", so rather than blether away making explanations, I'll just run through that.

There's a base in China, on the border with Tibet. Evil Chinese boffins are doing experiments with bugs, to make bio-weapons, and three agents have been sent to stop them. Sharron is the bug expert, and bio-weapons expert, and medical expert, and general science expert; Richard is sort of the tactician, in that he's the one who bothers to stop and think things through; and Craig is... very tall. Artfully daubed with black paint, they crouch in the undergrowth, waiting for a sign from their inside man. Having received it, they sneak into the base, and maggot-nap some of the little crawling beasties that that Chinese boffins are using for their dastardly experiments. Then, their presence having been detected, they flee in a hail of bullets. Gasp! Cue titles.


A Chinese boffin, being boffinly.


I love that fact that, not only does the boffin need to be reminded of what blood temperature is, but he also needs to be reminded of it in English. :D


Our heroes, complete with greasepaint. Not that you can see them properly, but that's Richard in the foreground, Sharron in the middle, and Craig in the background.


A maggot. Probably an evil, Communist maggot.


Our heroes pose in front of the Jet d'Eau in Geneva. Yes, they really are standing in front of it, and no, they are not just superimposed. Of course not.


It's an odd stylistic choice to suddenly plaster the titles across the heroes' heads, I know. Still, it does serve as a nice illustration of exactly how tall Stuart Damon is.
He's taller than Gene Barry, you know.







Fleeing from the evil Chinese Communist bullets, the gang reach their aeroplane, which they attempt to escape in. The enemy shoot at it, though, and the plane is badly damaged. Craig struggles to keep it in the air, so it's a bit odd that Richard chooses this moment to have a meaningful conversation with Sharron about why she joined up. Still, to be fair, it's hard to see where else they would have slotted it in, and it's a nice character piece for her. Even if it does transpire that she has a hundred and one qualifications, and has been a widow for years, all despite being only twenty-one. I guess he died on the honeymoon, huh.


Richard and Sharron and the bugs shelter on the floor of the plane, as bullets rattle all around them.


Meanwhile Craig attempts to fly the damaged aircraft to safety. They're losing height fast, however, and the camera keeps going all diagonal. That's never a good thing.


"How's it looking, Craig? Give it to me straight."

"It's looking diagonal, Richard."

"Damn."


The gang gather in the cockpit for a grim talk about their chances of survival. Sharron, bless, is worried about the bugs. I don't think a crash will bother them, Sharron.


Grim spies, dramatic lighting, frequently diagonal camera. This can only spell disaster.


Sharron, who has of course brought along a supply of wet-wipes, delivers rather a nice, shaky monologue about why she became a secret agent. Signing up to save the planet from evil Communist bugs seemed the obvious thing to do after the death of her husband, apparently. I fully endorse this attitude. More people should become secret agents as a cure for grief.


As things become progressively more diagonal, the gang gather in artistic formation, having first made careful use of Sharron's handy wet-wipes. Well, you wouldn't want to go to your death covered in black paint, would you?


Craig and Richard, in the first of many scenes that have in no way inspired a thousand fanfics.

The plane is clearly in dire straits, and eventually, as Craig finds it increasingly impossible to fight the inevitable, it crashes. The impact tears the fuselage in two, and Craig is flung out into the polystyrene snow. As he lies there, weak and injured, a man in a yellow robe appears, and smiles down at him kindly. Craig is vaguely aware of being wheeled into a building where strange lights flash. Later, he reawakens in the snow. He feels different, and his injuries have vanished. The others are also uninjured, something that Craig finds he knows without needing to check. They discuss what happened, and when Richard hears about the man in the yellow robe, he wants to find him, and find out how the three of them come to be completely unhurt after the crash - especially as Craig's watch reveals that two full days have passed since they lost consciousness. Craig and Sharron think that the bugs are more important right now, and so the threesome resolve to split up - Craig and Sharron to complete the mission, and Richard to see if he can find the man in the robe. Craig and Richard have a lovely rapport in these scenes. Their manner is very relaxed and easy, and they clearly trust each other implicitly. Craig's habit of calling Richard 'kiddo' is a nice touch. According to their files, Richard is actually older than Craig, but it's a nice short-hand way of showing their long-standing friendship; which becomes rather important later on, as they begin to discover just what has been done to them.


Snow. I've seen a lot of that recently too, Craig, but I didn't go crashing a plane in it. Honestly, some people.


Knocked out by the crash, Sharron and Richard face a deadly onslaught of washing powder.


Don't drag your hand through the 'snow' like that, Stuart. It makes it look horribly fake...


Catweazle!


In dogged pursuit of our three heroes comes the entire Chinese Army, led by the Obligatory Burt Kwouk. That is actually his real name.


Some may call it superpowers, I call it hypothermia. Awakening in the snow, Craig realises that he feels markedly different. How different, he has yet to find out.

So off go our three heroes, heading on their respective missions. As they walk along, Craig suddenly gets a powerful premonition of danger ahead, although Sharron feels nothing. They go on a little further, and walk straight into a trap. Elsewhere, Richard gets a strong feeling that they're in trouble, and gets a picture of them in his head. He doesn't understand what it means, however, and carries on with his search for Catweazle. Craig and Sharron, meanwhile, are hustled along by their captors, headed for a rendezvous somewhere. They are to be interrogated, but as they walk along, something peculiar happens. At the exact moment that, some miles away, Richard slips and falls down a cliff, Craig collapses, hit by a sudden feeling of vertigo. He panics, asking where Richard is, worrying Sharron no end. So far she hasn't felt any of the peculiarities that the boys are experiencing. I assume that, because they've been friends for years, their psychic link is stronger. The Obligatory Burt Kwouk isn't interested in peculiar psychic links, however. He's just annoyed at Craig for holding things up, so Craig decides to capitalise upon this. Inventing a limp, he stumbles about in the snow, in a valiant attempt to slow their party down, only to get shot for his troubles. Meanwhile, Catweazle has found Richard at the bottom of his cliff, and revives him, explaining everything that has happened to him and his friends. As well as the psychic link that Richard and Craig are already experiencing, the trio now have enhanced strength, speed, sight and hearing, and various other talents that will only become obvious with time and practice. Realising what his vision of Craig and Sharron in danger meant, Richard hops up and promises to keep Catweazle's tribe a secret, before racing off to find his friends. He finds Craig flat out in the snow, although his bullet wound has already nearly healed. Richard explains things as they race off after Sharron, and the boys decide to put their new powers to the test in a rescue. They contact Sharron by whispering to her from a great distance away. She can hear them, but of course nobody else can. Using their new strength and speed, Craig and Richard then launch an attack upon the Chinese soldiers, getting the drop on all of them, and liberating both Sharron and the evil Communist bugs. Success! Now all they have to do is walk out of the Himalayas and back to their base in Geneva in time for tea.

Well - that and explain it all to their poor, long-suffering boss Tremayne, without revealing their amazing new powers.


Whilst Richard and Craig have elected to wear dynamic-looking flight jackets for their trek through the snow, Sharron has thoughtfully brought along a fur coat and a natty little hat on her spying mission. All this, and the wet-wipes. This lady knows how to travel light.


Richard gets a vision of Craig and Sharron in danger. Get used to it, Richard. You're going to be seeing that a lot. This show is big on close-ups of eyes. Eyes, ears and mouths. I definitely prefer the eyes.


The Obligatory Burt Kwouk celebrates the capture of the enemy agents, whilst simultaneously trying out for a part in the Pet Shop Boys' latest video.
Yes, I know they didn't have the Pet Shop Boys back in those days. Bear with me. :p


Reunited, Craig, Richard and their much better jackets plan their rescue of Sharron and her bugs.


Yes, Sharron, you are actually a super secret agent too. Stop hiding in the snow. To give the show its due, they were much better in their handling of the female star than most contemporary productions. Sharron got to do a lot more than the token woman in so many other shows, and they never dressed her in stupid exploitative clothing, either. I put this bit here down to teething troubles.


Back home in Geneva, the gang practice the standing-in-formation that is to become their stock in trade.


Their boss Tremayne is not impressed. He's far more interested in how they survived an air crash, several days lost in the icy wildernesses of the Himalayas, and capture by the Chinese, all without a scratch on them, than he is in how adept they are at standing in an aesthetically pleasing manner.

I love how he has a little pot of coloured pencils on his desk, so he can draw pictures in the rare moments when there isn't a major world crisis going on.


Having been dismissed by Tremayne, the gang wonder about their new powers, and how best to learn to use them. For some unfathomable reason a bright light appears out of nowhere and shines on them. Fortunately, lame gimmicks like that were not to become the norm.

Next time, disembodied voices, stolen gold, and gay crooks. And, happily, a distinct lack of hideous pink coats.

Comments

( 20 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
eandh99
Jan. 18th, 2010 12:18 am (UTC)
I have never seen this show - though I have seen the Saint and the Men from Uncle -- man, that girl has industrial-strength hairspray. Is it ludicrously bad acting like Roger Moore in the Saint?
swordznsorcery
Jan. 18th, 2010 02:34 am (UTC)
The acting's good, actually. The support cast and the Bad Guys Of The Week are rather good too. It's formula stuff - thirty episodes knocked out in double quick time - but it's well made formula stuff. Mostly. :)
elfbert
Jan. 18th, 2010 11:23 am (UTC)
I've just caused a number of my colleagues to look at me with VERY worried expressions as I tried to stifle my giggles during tea break. This review is awesome, and picks up on everything that I love about the show, and everything I laugh at too.

But...you SAY that Craig and Richard have spawned a thousand fics...but where are they?? I think Champs fic is seriously thin on the ground interwebs. And this should be remedied.
hambelandjemima
Jan. 18th, 2010 11:33 am (UTC)
But...you SAY that Craig and Richard have spawned a thousand fics...but where are they??
I'm glad you asked that. I can stop looking for them now while we wait for an answer.
swordznsorcery
Jan. 18th, 2010 03:16 pm (UTC)
Um. Well there were loads... Possibly they died with Geocities?

I don't think I imagined them. I'd be a little worried about myself if I had.
elfbert
Jan. 18th, 2010 10:44 pm (UTC)
There are some here:

http://thechampionsfan.homestead.com/fanfic.html

And some of them are very fine bits of writing - but they're not quite the C/R of my dreams XD

I'm writing picfor1000 at the mo (well, in the planning stages) and I think this whole discussion has now tempted me into making it ChampFic.
hambelandjemima
Jan. 18th, 2010 11:31 am (UTC)
I love this review. I used to watch the show when I was younger - repeats, obviously *eyerolls* - and it was one of my favourites then. Sadly I don't have the dvds but I have managed to catch it on ITV4 occasionally - it's a sure-fire way to get my kids to leave the room and let me have five minutes peace...

Craig was my favourite, maybe because he was so tall. I think you mentioned that he was tall... Also, I always wondered if Alexandra Bastedo was a made-up name, but I couldn't imagine why anyone would make up a name like that.

Looking forward to the next review :)
elfbert
Jan. 18th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
Alex Bastedo lives near me. She has a donkey sanctuary and a dog's home, I think. I've met her a few times. She still looks as glam as ever.

I like Craig too, despite the fact he does sort of look like he's made of plastic. He makes up for that by being tall. Did anyone else notice his tallness??

I also, when I was younger and watching it at 6pm on BBC2, always thought it looked like Tremayne's hair and beard were made out of identical hair, whereas most people sort of have head-hair and beard-hair as quite different stuff. He looks like a stiff broom all over. So to speak. But I do love his scepticism, and his magic sliding door. (Although he has a non-magic, non-sliding door too, which makes me wonder why they always wait for him to let them out through the magic-slidey one).
swordznsorcery
Jan. 18th, 2010 03:12 pm (UTC)
Because magic slidey doors are way cooler.

Tremayne's beard was fake, btw, so you were right all along. :)
swordznsorcery
Jan. 18th, 2010 03:14 pm (UTC)
Bodie! :)

Yes, Craig is best. I think this is due to his wild enthusiasm, and complete inability to comprehend the possibility of failure.

Also the fact that he's very tall.
idontlikegravy
Jan. 18th, 2010 08:01 pm (UTC)
Craig is best

Controversial! (tho not really) and one to discuss on the comm, maybe? Personally I've always had a soft spot for poor put upon Richard, but I love Craig too.
swordznsorcery
Jan. 18th, 2010 09:20 pm (UTC)
I was about to answer you here, but I've just seen your poll, so I shall wait and go into more detail there. :)
(Anonymous)
Jan. 18th, 2010 03:58 pm (UTC)
Sixties shows are awesome. Ironside with Raymond Burr right? I saw a few of those, they were good. This show looks great! Never heard of it though. 'Pretty' cast and intriguing powers. One of my best friends is British and she also loved 'The Prisoner.' After getting my mind twisted watching the remake two months ago on AMC, I want to see the original! Look forward to more of these commentaries!
ladygretchen
Jan. 18th, 2010 03:59 pm (UTC)
Of course the above comment is ME! :Sigh!:
swordznsorcery
Jan. 18th, 2010 09:17 pm (UTC)
Yes, Ironside was Raymond Burr.

I hated the Prisoner remake. I don't think I made it through the first two episodes. You should definitely try to see the original if you can, as it's a classic. I have to admit, though, that I'm not a fan. It was too wilfully weird, I think. I seem to be pretty much alone in that view, though!
seal_girl
Jan. 18th, 2010 05:36 pm (UTC)
He he he!
Communist bugs :)
Washing powder-snow.

And the long suffering boss, too!

*loves*
Sealgirl
idontlikegravy
Jan. 18th, 2010 07:53 pm (UTC)
I assume that, because they've been friends for years, their psychic link is stronger.

Oh yes, I'm sure *that's* why ;-)
swordznsorcery
Jan. 18th, 2010 09:21 pm (UTC)
Well, that too. Obviously. ;)
idontlikegravy
Jan. 18th, 2010 07:58 pm (UTC)
An excellent and entertaining review!

I think it's one of the main disappointments about the show only getting one series that they were only just getting adept with their powers (and Sharron had just begun to really kick arse) when it ended.

You won't forget the presence of Jason King (sans 'tache) in the next ep, will you? :D
swordznsorcery
Jan. 18th, 2010 09:23 pm (UTC)
It is a shame that they didn't make more. There was a quick turn around with all of those shows back then. They were always moving on to the next show, and it's a terrible shame.

And no, I could never overlook the presence of Peter Wyngarde. :)
( 20 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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