Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Champions: The Complete Series Special Edition (1968) Film Review
The Champions: The Complete Series Special Edition
Reviewed by: Merlin Harries
The Champions was originally released in the swinging sixties and was the brainchild of Dennis Spooner (The Avengers, Danger Man) and Monty Berman (The Saint, The Baron). Among its contemporaries at the time were other well known series such as The Prisoner, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Protectors all of which adopted themes of espionage mixed with science fiction and fantasy.
The premise for the series surrounded Craig Stirling (Stuart Damon), Richard Barrett (William Gaunt) and Sharon Macready (Alexandra Bastedo) all of whom were operatives of a covert UN organisation called Nemesis. The series commences with The Beginning, with the spies are on a secret mission flying over the Himalayas when they crash and are left injured and unconscious in their derelict plane. They are abducted from the wreckage by a group of enigmatic figures who treat their wounds and return them to the site of the accident where they awake having lost three days. With no knowledge of what happened following their collision the trio separate, Stirling and Macready elect to walk out of the mountains while Barrett decides to go back and find out what actually happened to them following the crash.
While travelling out of the mountains Stirling and Macready are captured by a Chinese military patrol and imprisoned. Following this Barrett, on his separate quest to discover what happened to them, encounters an old monk who reveals to him that they have been given special powers and that, in time, they will learn to use them for the benefit of humanity. At this point Barrett realises he has been receiving telepathic images of his fellow agents and that they have been taken captive by a hostile force. Following this he promptly mounts a successful rescue attempt and the group escape to Geneva where they are left with the realisation that their new powers will drastically change their lives.
The science fiction element of the series concerns the group gradually adapting to their new-found abilities that include extra-sensory perception, telepathy, heightened intelligence and enhanced physical abilities. In much the same vein as The Prisoner and The Avengers the show also latches on to a post-war sense of international paranoia with Nemesis' modus operandi being to preserve world peace and tackle worldwide terror. Each episode pits the spies against a myriad of international criminals, assassins and global super-villains in a melting pot of international politics and cold-war hysteria.
There are inevitably episodes that will stand out as firm favourites such as Autokill which sees the agents caught up in a plot to brainwash innocent victims into becoming ruthless assassins. The latter also represents the last episode on the box-set and stands as an apt testament to its uniqueness at the time. As Barrett is captured and drugged in the hope of turning him into a brain-washed assassin, Stirling and Macready uncover a sinister plot to use the agents of Nemesis against their own organisation. Fortunately, using their special powers, they are able to track down their colleague in the nick of time as Barrett had just been programmed to kill his fellow agent Stirling.
The Champions is a genuinely entertaining piece of Sixties TV that excels in not taking itself too seriously while offering a refreshingly imaginative collection of adventures in which the three agents have to call on their mysterious powers. The box-set is a worthwhile addition for any aficionado of spy thrillers with a splash of sci-fi/fantasy and rightly enjoys something of a cult following. While it may not possess the gritty paranoia of Mission: Impossible or the surreal verve of The Prisoner it does succeed in blending adventurous plots with just the right amount of good old fashioned British humour.Reviewed on: 02 Aug 2006