The Avengers – Ian Hendry ‘In His Own Words’ Reflects On The Avengers, Patrick Macnee And The Birth Of A Cult TV Series [From 1976]

With the exciting news that the previously missing episode of The Avengers, ‘Tunnel of Fear’, will soon be released on DVD by Studio Canal, we feature an article below that was written by Ian Hendry in the 70s – in which he discusses being involved at the very beginning of the series.

First published in 1976, The TV Times Souvenir Extra reflected on the history of The Avengers as part of it’s introduction for the then forthcoming series – The New Avengers. There was also a very significant contribution from Patrick Macnee, where he retells his life story and how he came to work on The Avengers, as well as a large selection of iconic photographs of all the major actors who worked on the original series. These include, of course, Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg, Linda Thorson, as well as the new cast of Joanna Lumley and Gareth Hunt.

As an aside, it’s also interesting to note that The New Avengers used the original ‘formula’ of the first series – two men and a female counterpart – with the latter role being played by Ingrid Hafner.

Picture: Ingrid Hafner [as Carol Wilson] and Ian Hendry [as Dr. David Keel] in Soho, London. Was Ingrid the original Avengers Girl?

It was Chris Williams who first brought this important point about Ingrid Hafner to my attention:

“I still like to think of Ingrid Hafner as the first Avengers girl, particularly if you watch the episode ‘Girl on the Trapeze’ and see how she works with Dr Keel to expose the baddies in a hands on action sort of way. Surely she was the inspiration that gave rise to the Steed/Avengers girl combo, and should be credited as such.”

I think if more episodes of the first series can be discovered, then the context of how it shaped the development of the subsequent series will also become clearer and more widely acknowledged. And that includes the role that Ingrid Hafner played in developing the importance of the female contribution to The Avengers. Whilst the role and character of Ingrid Hafner may have been somewhat different from that played by subsequent female actors in the series, we think she should be considered as the original ‘Avengers girl’.

Picture: Cover of the TV Times Souvenir Extra from 1976 – price 40p!

Transdiffusion have reproduced a marvellous online web version of this publication, which can be viewed here:

Transdiffusion – The Avengers and New Avengers TV Times Souvenir Extra [1976] 

The Avengers – ‘How It All Began’ by Ian Hendry

“It all seems improbable now. The New Avengers was born out of The Avengers, whose “Daddy” was a live cops-and-robbers-with-a-difference TV series called Police Surgeon (not to be confused with a later American series of that name).

The idea was that I, as a police surgeon, became an Avenger against everything evil after my girlfriend was shot down in the street by the baddies. It is one of the ironies of life that the shotdown girl was an actress called Catherine Woodville. Later, she was to become Patrick Macnee’s second wife…

Pat came into the series as my sidekick. For a long while, no one was sure if he was a goodie or a baddie. And, to be quite honest, neither did we.

Picture: Ian Hendry [Dr. David Keel] – on the set of The Avengers in 1961

But, in those first fumbling beginnings, it was Pat and myself as the actors who helped knock some shape into the whole thing. A lot of other people played their parts in it – as you will learn in this souvenir.

Here, of course, I’m talking as an actor. And from that point of view the series was both funny and furious.

Imagine it. In those early days, television was live. The viewer could watch a terrible fist fight – and 20 seconds later one of the fighters (who’d been covered in mud and blood) was supposed to walk in nonchalantly, impeccably dressed. That second scene, of course, was supposed to be happening hours, days, or even a few weeks later.

I remember one of those sequences where I was fighting a baddie in a studio mock-up of sewers. The fight ended wide me doing an 8 ft. back-fall into water. They had built an 8 ft. square water tank made, of all things, from whitewood.

Picture: The Avengers series was first produced by Iris Productions, a subsidiary of ABC Television

If you have ever fallen backwards from a height of 8 ft. into a water tank only 8ft. square, you’ll know that it is slightly dangerous. I reckon that when I hit the water, the clearance between my head and the tank wall was about a quarter of an inch.

Then came the next problem. A green slime had developed on the bottom of the tank. The baddie had to jump into the water on top of me, and we were supposed to continue the fight until I delivered my killer punch. I certainly won that particular battle. As I lashed out at him, I slipped on the slime and knocked him cold – for real.

There was no time to do anything about it. I had to jump from the tank, run round the set to where the wardrobe and make-up departments were ready with a towel to dry my hair, and slap on a dry top coat so I could make a casual entrance to a room with Steed by my side. This scene was allegedly happening some many hours later.

Underneath I was sopping wet, but as far as me viewers were concerned, I was as warm as toast in my lovely overcoat. I was having it good. Back in the water tank, an inoffensive, unfortunate stuntman, trying to earn an honorable living as a TV baddie, was graciously drowning.

Happily, the studio crew got him out in time.

Picture: Ian Hendry [as Dr. David Keel and Patrick Macnee [as John Steed]. From promotional set of photographs taken in Soho, London in December 1960

Those early days were all hysterical and mad and silly. We loved it, really. Most of all we loved the companionship and atmosphere. I’ve had a theory throughout my acting career that the first consideration of an actor is to be part of a happy company.

We rehearsed in an old building opposite a pub in Hammersmith. After the cast had been given their copies of the script, I would take them over to the pub, act as mine host, tell them not to worry because they were still on the payroll – and we’d get to work. Then Pat and myself, and sometimes a few others, would go to a nearby steak house. After that, it was usually Pat and I who would grab a bottle of scotch or brandy and go to a flat off Kensington High Street to beat out our latest approach to The Avengers characters.

There were some wonderful times. Once, we were supposed to be locked in a wardrobe from which we had to shout, in unison: “Let us out, let us out”.

The wardrobe, made of the most fragile plywood, couldn’t have withstood an assault by a placid four-year-old girl, much less the combined physical might of two magnificent Avengers.

Eventually, I think it was an old lady who let us out. In reality, if either of us had breathed out too hard the whole wardrobe would have burst apart.

And there were doors that wouldn’t open, and handles that fell off when they did. The scenery collapsed once.

Don’t forget, all this was going out live, just as your see it from your seat in a theatre.

But I do think we managed, in those early days, to develop a new style. I was supposed to be phlegmatic, and when I got too boring Steed was there to send me up and tell me not to be so serious. And when Steed got too outrageous I was there to say: “Oh come on, don’t overdo it”.

The New Avengers cost £4,000,000 to produce. In the beginning, Pat and I felt as though The Avengers cost fourpence. But it did have something special, it did develop into a world beating television series, and it did help a lot of people to stardom. Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg, Linda Thorson, and now, I reckon, Joanna Lumley and Gareth Hunt. Not to mention Pat Macnee himself.

Although I was the first Avenger, Pat will always be Avenger-in-Chief. Now he will take you down The Avengers memory lane in the following pages. I’m glad I was one of the first to go down it”.

by Ian Hendry [1976]


Recently, two interviews – both produced by Ulster TV – have been discovered in Northern Ireland by the Kaleidoscope team. The interview from 1962 features Ian Hendry, in which he discusses why reasons behind his decision to leave The Avengers. The interview from 1964 features Patrick Macnee and includes reflections on working with Ian in the very first series. It is understood that both of these interviews will eventually be made accessible to the public by the Kaleidoscope team and we await further details.

Two Rare TV Interviews Discovered – Ian Hendry ’62 and Patrick Macnee ’64

The video below shows Ian Hendry reuniting with Patrick Macnee and them both sharing their recollections of working together on the very first series of The Avengers. This video is an extract taken from Ian Hendry’s ‘This Is Your Life’ in March 1978:

Video: Ian Hendry reunites with Patrick Macnee – March 1978

Picture: Patrick Macnee tells his life story in the TV Times Souvenir Extra [1976]

To read more about the life story of Patrick Macnee and to see the online version of the original TV Times Souvenir Extra publication, please visit:

Transdiffusion – The Avengers and New Avengers TV Times Souvenir Extra [1976] 

You can keep up-to-date with all the latest articles by following us on Facebook and / or Twitter:

Ian Hendry Appreciation Society Facebook Page 


Ian Hendry Tribute – Twitter Page

Until next time,

Neil Hendry
Editor, Official Tribute To Ian Hendry

Further Reading

A detailed account of the life and work of Ian Hendry in the new biography:

Read: ‘Send in the Clowns – The Yo Yo Life Of Ian Hendry’ by Gabriel Hershman

Send In The Clowns - The Yo Yo Life of Ian Hendry

More From Ian Hendry