For our next dip into the world of ITC, we’re sampling four episodes of The Protectors, which is nobody’s favorite series. It was produced by Gerry Anderson and Reg Hill, and everybody is surprised to learn that no matter how much we all love Anderson’s puppet series, The Protectors was the first time that Anderson was given the okay to produce a full second season of anything. In the US, it was successful enough in first-run syndication in the 1972-73 season that ITC needed a second batch of 26 half-hours for the next year.
So the show is kind of like Department S, only with far simpler plots and an anything-goes approach to why our heroes get involved in the case of the week. These heroes are played by Robert Vaughn, Nyree Dawn Porter, and, frequently, Tony Anholt. There are a whole pile of familiar names in the credits, from Anderson’s Supermarionation crew behind the scenes, to reliable vets like Brian Clemens and Ralph Smart contributing scripts, Don Chaffey and Charles Crichton directing, and of course it’s full of great guest actors.
The problem is that when you’re watching other ITC adventures, the plot will occasionally not matter quite so much so that we can focus on the leads being charming and witty and fun. With only twenty-five minutes available, this show is all plot and no character and very serious business. It’s kind of the opposite of the later Jack of All Trades, where the plot barely mattered much and everybody had fun and was ridiculous. I’ll explain why this comparison struck me when we get to the next episode.
So this time out, Patrick Troughton plays an evil billionaire who wants his brother, played by Vladek Sheybal, broken out of prison before he spills the beans on his criminal cartel. Everything is done with leaden weight and our heroes are unbelievably, conveniently, stupid not to realize that Troughton is not telling them all they need to know. But there are three fights, a small explosion, a helicopter, and some gunfire, which was enough to make our kid say “I think I’m gonna like this show!”
The Protectors followed the approach taken by The Persuaders! the previous year and actually filmed all over Spain, France, and Italy, so there’s a bit more to look at than the usual Avengerland locations. This one, set near Barcelona, even has a prisoner exchange in a bullring. But you just can’t help but wish this show was made with the same carefree and fun spirit of The Persuaders! and that after half an hour with these people you can remember any of their names.