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The Champions 1.14 – The Search

Some editor at Wikipedia said we’d see the submarine set again, and here it is in the next episode, in a story written by Dennis Spooner where a sub with four nuclear missiles gets stolen. Cutting every corner, they reused some of the same stock footage and some of the same miniature work as last time as well. I know that older shows were designed to have minimal continuity because television stations back in the “classic TV” days couldn’t be trusted to transmit these in any order other than random, but you’d think that they’d have spaced these out by more than seven days on the original broadcast! Patricia English, Joseph Furst, and John Woodvine are among the guest stars. At least none of these actors were in the previous episode.

I enjoyed watching this one because Spooner is more interested than the other writers in having our heroes talk about their powers and their limitations. Craig has a clairvoyant hunch that the stolen sub is docked at a German island called Heligoland, where a sea fortress and sub pens had been housed during World War Two. When it looks like he’s wrong, he and Sharron briefly discuss whether the flip side of their powers means that they can be far more wrong than usual. As it turns out, the sub is at Heligoland, but not at the pens.

Our kid enjoyed the more traditional fisticuffs and humor. Sharron kicks a gun out of one thug’s hand, Richard punches another guy out a window to his death on the street below, and Craig escapes captivity and prowls around the sub eating the ham sandwich that his jailer had brought him. You can tell that the main bad guy means business when he slaps the sandwich out of Craig’s mouth. What a creep!

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The Champions 1.1 – The Beginning

During the 1960s and early 1970s, the ITC studio experimented with a few “international-friendly” formats to sell their shows around the world. The Champions featured a familiar grouping of secret agents: an American, an Englishman, and the posh, nebulously European woman. Or, as The Preventers, one of the funniest half-hours of television ever made, would put it a quarter-century later, “vaguely foreign.”

The Champions was created by Monty Berman and Dennis Spooner and produced in 1968. The 30 episodes were written by many of the same veterans who worked on most of Britain’s adventure TV shows of the day, and it starred Stuart Damon, William Gaunt, and Alexandra Bastedo as agents of a UN-affiliated agency called Nemesis based in Geneva. There were lots of these kinds of shows in the late sixties, but The Champions had a twist that really set it apart, and which I didn’t tell my family about: these secret agents have super powers.

In Dennis Spooner’s “The Beginning,” our heroes’ getaway plane crashes somewhere in the Himalayas after heisting a bacterial weapon from a Chinese laboratory. Days later, they wake up, their wounds healed and their minds and bodies improved somehow. They have fleeting memories of a secret city, ancient mystics, and technology far beyond our own. There was a lot of this in the sixties, and the old man flatly looks like he walked right out of a Steve Ditko-drawn issue of Strange Tales. So, with telepathy, enhanced senses, heightened reflexes, and super strength, our heroes overpower the soldiers sent to capture them and wonder how they’ll keep their powers a secret while serving the greater good. Guest stars in this installment include Joseph Furst, just to keep all the stuff in Geneva appreciably international, and Burt Kwouk and Anthony Chinn, who ITC had on speed dial whenever they needed Chinese soldiers.

I really enjoyed watching our son realize where this was going. Except I fumbled a little. I hinted that this would be a show kind of like The Avengers and Adam Adamant Lives!, forgetting that when you say Avengers to this kid, he immediately thinks of those other, lesser Avengers and all their movies and Lego sets. So he was expecting super heroes, and wondered what was up with these normal humans and all the machine guns! But he liked it, and it did have a fine little fight at the end, and I hope he continues to enjoy it.

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