Series 6 (1968–1969)
Macnee and Linda Thorson
When Rigg left the series in October 1967, the British network executives decided that the current series formula, despite resulting in popular success, could not be pursued further. Thus, they decided that a “return to realism” was appropriate for the sixth series (1968–69). Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell were replaced by John Bryce, producer of most Cathy Gale-era episodes.
Bryce had a difficult situation to handle. He had to find a replacement for Rigg and shoot the first seven episodes of the new series, which were supposed to be shipped to the US together with the last eight Emma Peel colour episodes. Bryce signed his then-girlfriend, 20-year-old newcomer Linda Thorson, as the new female co-star and chose Tara King for her character. Thorson played the role with more innocence in mind and at heart, and unlike the previous partnerships with Cathy and Emma, the writers allowed subtle hints of romance to blossom between Steed and King. King also differed from Steed’s previous partners in that she was a fully fledged (albeit initially inexperienced) agent working for Steed’s organisation; his previous partners had all been (in the words of the prologue used for American broadcasts of the first Rigg series) talented amateurs. Bryce wanted Tara to be blonde, so Thorson’s brown hair was bleached. However, the process badly damaged Thorson’s hair, so she had to wear wigs for the first third of her episodes until her own hair grew back. Her natural brown hair was not seen until the episode “All Done with Mirrors”.
Production of the first seven episodes of the sixth series began, but financial problems and internal difficulties undermined Bryce’s efforts. He only managed to complete three episodes: “Invitation to a Killing” (a 90-minute episode introducing Tara King), “The Great, Great Britain Crime” (some of its original footage was reused in the 1969 episode “Homicide and Old Lace”) and “Invasion of the Earthmen” (which survived relatively intact except for the scenes in which Tara wears a brown wig).
After a rough cut screening of these episodes to studio executives, Bryce was fired, and Clemens and Fennell were summoned back. On their return, a fourth episode called “The Murderous Connection” was in its second production day. After revising the script, it was renamed “The Curious Case of the Countless Clues” and production resumed. Production of the episode “Split!”, a leftover script from the Emma Peel colour series, proceeded. Two completely new episodes were also shot: “Get-A-Way” and “Look (Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One) But There Were These Two Fellers”.
Dennis Spooner said of the event:
Brian left The Avengers for about three episodes, someone took over, and when Brian returned, it was in a terrible state. He was faced with rewriting a film they’d already shot. The episode had a story error where Steed leaves for a destination. The villains then realise this and pursue him – yet arrive there before Steed does. It was fixed by having a character ask Steed, ‘What took you so long?’ He replies, ‘I came the pretty way’. “You can only do that on The Avengers, you see. It was just my favourite show to work on.
Clemens and Fennell decided to film a new episode to introduce Tara King. This, the third episode filmed for the sixth series, was titled “The Forget-Me-Knot” and bade farewell to Emma Peel and introduced her successor, a trained but inexperienced agent named Tara King. It would be broadcast as the first episode of the sixth series. Tara debuts in dynamic style: when Steed is called to Headquarters, he is attacked and knocked down by trainee agent King, who mistakes him for her training partner.
No farewell scenes for Emma Peel had been shot when Rigg left the series. She was recalled for “The Forget-Me-Knot”, through which Emma acts as Steed’s partner as usual. Rigg also filmed a farewell scene for Emma that appeared as the episode’s tag scene. It was explained that Emma’s husband, Peter Peel, was found alive and rescued, and she left the British secret service to be with him. Emma visits Steed to say goodbye, and while leaving, she passes Tara on the stairway, advising that “he likes his tea stirred anti-clockwise”. Steed looks out of the window as a departing Emma enters the Bentley driven by Peter, who from a distance seems to resemble Steed (and was played by Steed’s regular stunt double, with bowler hat and umbrella).
Linda Thorson (born Linda Robinson; June 18, 1947) is a Canadian actress, known for playing Tara King in The Avengers (1968–69).
Thorson is best known for her role as Tara King (succeeding Diana Rigg as Emma Peel) in the last series of the British TV adventure series, The Avengers, with the original star Patrick Macnee. She was reunited with Macnee in a commercial for Laurent-Perrier champagne in the mid 1970s which led to the series reappearing as The New Avengers, although Thorson did not regain her role.
Since then, she appeared in character roles in many TV series and films, including Thriller, Return of the Saint, Valentino, The Greek Tycoon, the cult horror film Curtains, Blind Justice, Alan Alda’s Sweet Liberty, and Marblehead Manor.
She appeared from 1989 to 1992 in the daytime drama One Life to Live as Julia Wheaton Medina. She also appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation, playing female Cardassian starship commander Gul Ocett in the 6th-season episode “The Chase” (1993). From 1998 to 2000, she played Isabel in the Canadian series Emily of New Moon.