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"The Avengers: The Town of No Return (#4.1)"
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Reviews & Ratings for
"The Avengers" The Town of No Return (1965)

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13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

A good start to the 1965 season

8/10
Author: bensonmum2 from Tennessee
9 September 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've been a fan of The Avengers for as long as I can remember, but unfortunately, I've honestly never seen more than the odd episode here and there. Thanks to Netflix, I've decided to change that. I've also decided to not start at the beginning of the series, but with the 1965 season instead. As many fans will undoubtedly know, 1965 is the season that Diana Rigg joined the show as Mrs. Emma Peel. Mrs. Peel's introduction has to be one of the most "nothing" moments in television history. She's quite literally just there. No fanfare at all. But then again, this is The Avengers. The low-key approach to something like a new major character is in keeping with the show's overall tone. Like the character Steed, "unflappable" is a good work to use when describing the entire series.

The first episode of 1965, "The Town of No Return" encapsulates what I enjoy about the show. Quirky characters, bizarre situations, solid acting, and a sinister air of mystery are all present in this episode. Steed and Mrs. Peel arrive in a small town to investigate the disappearances of several agents who have gone in before them. The quaint little town is situated near a WWII air base. But something is wrong. There aren't enough people. And those who are there aren't who they seem to be. Steed and Mrs. Peel find themselves at the air base investigating an invasion from within (so to speak).

Even though this was their first episode together, Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee are as good always. Their chemistry seems to have been instantaneous. They are joined by a good, but small supporting cast that includes Terence Alexander as the overly genial barkeep named 'Piggy" Warren and Robert Brown (who I immediately recognized as M from the James Bond films of the 1980s) as the very sinister Saul. I'm sure that having a director as skilled in horror as Roy Ward Baker contributed greatly to the episodes atmosphere. As is the case with many of The Avengers episodes I've seen, the writing is the real standout. "The Town of No Return" is no different. It's well written and interesting throughout. Though some of the details in the underground bunker near the end get a bit messy, this is a very minor quibble to what is otherwise an entertaining start to the 1965 season.

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11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Excellent Script and Noir-ish Tone Introduce the Emma Peel Era

9/10
Author: Aldanoli from Ukiah, California
27 November 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The first episode to feature Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, the third (!) partner for John Steed (Patrick Macnee) is a fine introduction to what became this series' "golden age." It was also the first episode to use true motion picture film (instead of the ghostly and unsatisfying video tape- transferred-to-film, which had been used both in the Ian Hendry and Honor Blackman eras), allowing the show to be filmed outdoors and even (as in this episode) on location, opening up the series and giving it an immense infusion of realism.

Brian Clemens' ninth "Avengers" script demonstrates why he was the premiere writer for the series. He grabs the viewer's attention immediately with a bizarre scene -- a figure shrouded in black plastic emerges from the sea; then the plastic is torn open from within to reveal a man in a tweed jacket and tie carrying an umbrella! Equally startling is the bearded man on shore who calmly directs the new arrival to the town of Little Bazeley -- as if plastic-shrouded figures emerging from the ocean were a daily occurrence. The brooding skies and sometimes gloomy night-time setting in this small village are the perfect accompaniment as our intrepid hero and heroine try to find out why four agents have disappeared on assignment to this locale.

Still, if nothing else, this episode also illustrates why the two seasons featuring Diana Rigg are the best of this oddball espionage series that, as this season wore one, became something of a comedy-drama. For example, Steed arrives at Mrs. Peel's apartment, where he's first confronted by a peephole that appears to be a giant blinking eye, to find her practicing her fencing moves. She's wearing the first of several of her form-fitting "catsuits," which would become Mrs. Peel's trademark during the series, this one with a leather strip down the middle of the front and back. As if it were the most natural thing in the world, Steed joins her in her fencing, and as they parry and joust suggests a trip to the seashore -- only telling her after she assents that he'd already bought train tickets for the trip the day before.

The rapport and repartee between Macnee and Rigg was already as natural and easy as if they'd worked together for years. It's enhanced by some small touches that signaled where the series would go -- for example, in the train on their way to Little Bazeley, Steed serves refreshments out of a traveling bag that could just as easily be a prop from one of their later "sci-fi" episodes -- at one point providing a boiling tea kettle from a bag that's just sitting on the seat! Later, in visiting the local vicar, Mrs. Peel again wears her catsuit (along with an odd-looking head covering) as if it were a common way to dress in mid-60s Britain.

Even without those touches, though, the episode features a crackerjack mystery, as the two agents split up to investigate the strange goings-on in the town, then reunite near the end for the climactic confrontation with the evildoers. Unfortunately, Mrs. Peel doesn't get to demonstrate the martial-arts moves for which she'd become known -- most of her fight scene is just her and another woman (and later, a man) wrestling around a barren room. Steed's "fight scene" is much funnier -- he's closed off in another room against a half-dozen attackers while the camera sticks with Mrs. Peel; but when she finally reaches him, she discovers that he's dispatched all of them without breaking a sweat!

Both Patrick Macnee and the lithe and lovely Diana Rigg were already in top form that would carry them through their all-too-short two years together. The episode also features an appearance by Patrick Newell, who in the last year of the original series would become the regular agent-in-charge, as the Ironside-like "Mother." Mention must also be made of an appearance by the fine character actor, Alan MacNaughton, who would later play the memorable character "Howarth" in the 1980s mini-series, "To Serve Them All My Days."

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Town Of Many Returns - it gets better with each viewing

10/10
Author: GrayHound from Manchester, UK
15 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'd never realised before, but watching The Town Of No Return this time I found Diana Rigg's portrayal of Emma Peel not quite as rounded as it will become; it's slightly too acidic – she always retains a trace of acid of course, along with her famous "Chelsea wit", but here she seems to be reading the lines as Cathy Gale - with a grudging resentment towards Steed, rather than a smouldering sexuality and feline superiority that she later possesses; it's not a complaint, just an observation. This episode has an intro sequence, or as much of an intro as we've ever had in the Avengers thus far – basically Steed and Mrs Peel have a fencing match – both physically and verbally – which allows a few small insights into their characters, mainly that Steed is more than happy to play dirty to win when necessary.

The classic scene on the train with Steed's tea things in the carpet bag is priceless and just typifies the Avengers as we now think of it; this scene wouldn't have fitted well into the earlier seasons, but the Avengers is now a different show with more emphasis on light entertainment and humour; it seldom relies on anything from the real world.

The two leads are amazing in this story and their relationship – although fledgling – is one that is a pleasure to watch. The supporting cast are all excellent, including a brief appearance from Patrick Newell, later to become Steeds superior "Mother" – and Juliet Harmer, who must have been filming Adam Adamant Lives! around this time. Terence Alexander and Jeremy Burnham are brilliantly cast and turn in memorable performances.

The setting of Little Bazeley is atmospheric and the mystery builds nicely. Some of the shots of sand dunes, graveyard and abandoned military base are so filmic and well-composed that I had to keep pausing to admire the frames. The plot – when fully revealed - is outlandish, but hey, this is Emma Peel Avengers, and outlandish and somewhat surreal is exactly what we want.

I can't praise this episode highly enough. For me the pacing is just right, the humour's spot on and everything comes together perfectly. This is Avengers-gold – one of the very, very best of the series. 10/10.

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9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Enter: Emma Peel

10/10
Author: ShadeGrenade from Ambrosia
2 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

After a long break, 'The Avengers' returned to I.T.V. in September 1965 with a new production team ( headed by Julian Wintle ). The show was now on film, allowing for more ambitious plots, Laurie Johnson's theme ( with its famous kettledrum opening ) replaced John Dankworth's, and most importantly, Diana Rigg had arrived as 'Mrs.Emma Peel', arguably the most famous 'Avenger' girl of all ( Elisabeth Shepherd was cast originally, but replaced because she had no flair for light comedy ). Like her predecessor 'Mrs.Cathy Gale' ( Honor Blackman ), Emma was a widow, fond of leather suits and karate, and possessed a quick wit. Her relationship with John Steed ( Patrick Macnee ) seemed platonic but there were hints given that it could have been deeper. At the start of the episode, Steed visits her at her flat, and it is obvious they are well acquainted.

The show essentially remained the same - a light-hearted espionage romp that got more outrageous as it went on. Several agents have vanished mysteriously from the seaside town of Little Bazeley, so the Avengers investigate. They find it strangely underpopulated. The school is empty because the kids are 'on holiday' even though it is mid-term. Parish records have been tampered with. At night the sound of marching can be heard coming from the streets. 'Blackwood' ( Patrick Newell ) is there to see his brother Tom, the local blacksmith, from whom he has not heard in a long time. A stranger ( Robert Brown ) has taken his place. Blackwood is then found dead on the beach. Nearby is a deserted R.A.F. base. In an air-raid shelter, Steed and Emma find an army preparing to take over the country one town at a time...

Written by Brian Clemens ( who had risen through the ranks to become associate producer ), this gets the 'Emma Peel' era of 'The Avengers' off to a strong start. Rather than make concessions to the American market, 'The Avengers' decided to be ultra-British - and it worked! The opening in which schools inspector Mark Brandon ( Alan MacNaughtan ) walks out of the sea in a protective bubble probably inspired the scene in the 1998 movie in which Steed and Emma walk across the frozen Thames in transparent globes. Terence Alexander ( 'Charlie Hungerford' from 'Bergerac' ) plays 'Piggy' Warren', the handle bar moustached-landlord of the inn where the Avengers are staying. He appeared several times in the course of the series, most notably as 'Ponsonby' in 'The Correct Way To Kill'. Robert Brown later played 'M' in the Bond movies of the '80's. Juliet Harmer, who plays the schoolmistress 'Jill Manson', went on to be 'Georgie Jones' in the B.B.C.'s 'Avengers' rival 'Adam Adamant Lives'. Patrick Newell made a further appearance in the show - 'Something Nasty In The Nursery' - before climbing into a wheelchair to play 'Mother', Steed's boss. Jeremy Burnham a.k.a. 'the Vicar' - wrote several of the best Linda Thorson episodes.

When repeated on Channel 4 in 1996, Charles Catchpole - then television critic of the 'News Of The World' - lambasted it because only a few soldiers were on view instead of an army. He has got to be joking. Many modern series would find it tough to put an army on screen, so how did he expect a show from thirty-five years ago to be able to do this? Directed by Roy Baker, whose credits include the best 'Titanic' movie ever - 'A Night To Remember' ( 1958 ).

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Introducing Mrs Peel

9/10
Author: Tweekums from United Kingdom
8 April 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As this episode opens a man walks out of the sea and heads inland to the village of Little Bazeley. It is a village that has already aroused suspicions; Steed informs Mrs Peel that four agents have been there and each has vanished. The two of them catch the train there along with Jimmy Smallwood, a man who is going there to visit his brother the blacksmith. Once there the three of them head to the pub where the locals seem less than friendly; although the landlord, 'Piggy' Warren, assures them they are friendly when you get to know them. It soon becomes apparent that the villagers don't want anybody snooping about; the bedroom windows in the pub are boarded up and any attempt to go out at night is blocked. Smallwood heads off to find his brother and is killed! The next day Mrs Peel goes to the school, posing as a new teacher, but is told the children are on holiday and Steed goes for a walk round the old aerodrome. As their investigations continue it becomes apparent that nobody is quite who they seem and whatever they are up to they have food to feed an army!

This episode may see the introduction of Steed's new partner, Mrs Emma Peel, but if you didn't realise it was their first case together you'd never guess; nothing is said to suggest they haven't worked together before… at least this way it doesn't matter if episodes are shown out of order. Given that it is Diana Rigg's first episode she does a surprisingly good job; her character, Mrs Peel, has a great chemistry with Patrick Macnee's Steed. The guest cast were pretty good to; Terence Alexander was great fun as ex-RAF officer 'Piggy' Warren with just the right accent and a superb handlebar moustache. Also notable are Jeremy Burnham who plays the vicar and Patrick Newell who plays Smallwood… and will become better known for playing 'Mother' in the final series. There is some good action to be seen and it is combined nicely with the humour.

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7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Introducing Mrs. Emma Peel

8/10
Author: kevin olzak (kevinolzak@yahoo.com) from Youngstown, Ohio
13 February 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"The Town of No Return" became the first episode for Diana Rigg broadcast in Britain, and it was a fitting introduction for the Brian Clemens era. Now shot on film, the series was able to go on location, truly refreshing to see after the confines of the often cramped sets of previous videotaped entries. Watching the series from the beginning, it is somewhat jarring to see Dame Diana Rigg instead of Honor Blackman, but the transition is so smooth and effortless that one never misses Cathy Gale. If anything, the delightful rapport between Steed and Mrs. Peel tops everything that came before, and the little tap on her bottom from Steed's sword is an indication that he has a relationship with her already much closer than the one with Cathy. Clemens was determined to make the show succeed in the world market by emphasizing its very Britishness, and through the comedic styles of Patrick Macnee and his new co-star. To this day, there are a select few who tend to dismiss Diana Rigg as 'overrated,' and nowhere near as good as Honor Blackman, to which I ask, does that make Linda Thorson 'underrated?' I love the entire series, but Emma Peel is special, and its worldwide audience of 120 countries remains an unbroken record for any TV series. Storywise, it sets a pattern for much of what was to come, a solid mystery with few characters, location filming for authenticity, and above all, the two stars doing a delicate balancing act that even the writers could not script. Few of the Emma Peel episodes would have worked in the Cathy Gale era, and this one is a good example (Honor Blackman apparently disapproved of the more fanciful story lines just coming into vogue in time for Emma). "Mandrake" was a latter Gale entry set at a deserted village in Cornwall that surely would have benefited from location shooting (best remembered as the one in which Honor Blackman broke her opponent's nose, knocking him unconscious). One of the greatest plusses about the filmed shows was the greater emphasis on the fights, too often poorly choreographed and badly shot on videotape (the exciting climactic showdown lasts over two minutes here, whereas a typical Cathy Gale judo fight rarely lasted more than 10 to 20 seconds). Steed walks through a deserted air field that appears to have been bombed out by the Nazis in WW2, the kind of sequence that simply wasn't possible in earlier years. It's interesting to see Patrick Newell in an early role unrelated to his wheelchair-bound Mother, or in "Something Nasty in the Nursery." Terence Alexander, later seen in "The Correct Way to Kill" and "Love All," falters only when required to guffaw, though having a forceful Steed get information by setting fire to his moustache was a fitting touch. Alan MacNaughton would return in "Who Was That Man I Saw You With?" while Jeremy Burnham would make appearances as an actor in "The Fear Merchants" and "The Forget-Me-Knot," turning to screen writing for the final season ("You'll Catch Your Death," "False Witness," "Love All," "Fog," and "Who Was That Man I Saw You With?"). Yes, we loved Cathy Gale, but it was time for her to go, because Emma Peel was a perfect fit for the more light-hearted adventures to come. Like Cathy's debut episode, no backstory is offered on Mrs. Peel, other than having just finished a science paper, leaving her free to accompany Steed on his latest assignment (her maiden name of Knight is not revealed until "The House That Jack Built," none was ever offered for Cathy).

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