Big Finish continues its range of The Avengers adaptations with Too Many Targets, a script by John Dorney based on a 1990 novel by John Peel and Dave Rogers. The selling point of the novel, and thus the audio drama, is that it’s the only Avengers story to unite Steed with more than one of his crimefighting partners at the same time (aside from the TV episode that transitions from Emma Peel to Tara King). Julian Wadham, Anthony Howell, and Olivia Poulet return as Steed, Keel, and Peel respectively, while Beth Chalmers and Emily Woodward debut as Cathy Gale and Tara King, in a diabolical plot so big it requires all of the “Avengers” to foil it.
The extras argue that Too Many Targets is to The Avengers as The Five Doctors was to Doctor Who, and that seems appropriate to me. If you’re a long-time Avengers fan, this will be a nostalgic combination of characters that you’ve never seen combined before. But if you’re not a long-time fan, I think this will still work for you. I originally saw The Five Doctors as a neophyte Doctor Who fan, with only a couple of serials under my belt; I think it was my first story for the First, Second, Third, and Fifth Doctors! Yet I still enjoyed it, as a window into many disparate periods of Doctor Who I would later delve into. Too Many Targets did the same for me with The Avengers. Though I know Keel and Peel from the audios, I’ve never encountered Cathy and Tara before, but this story makes me want to know more about both.
Long-time readers of my reviews will know I always enjoy the performance of Howell as Keel, and Too Many Targets is no exception. He’s grounded and human under that 1960s reserve, and Too Many Targets gives us some hints of his life after Steed; it seems like he and Lucy Briggs-Owen’s Carol are in a relationship, if not married. (The extras indicate Carol wasn’t in the original book, so I’m glad Dorney made that change, because Briggs-Owen as Carol is always charming.) Keel doesn’t get a ton to do, but I was glad to hear him again, and I still hold out hope that Big Finish’s future Avengers plans include him in some way. Keel is mostly teamed up with Beth Chalmers’s Cathy, who I thought was excellent. Chalmers is usually one of my favourite Big Finish performers, and her slightly husky voice here was great, and I also hope we hear more Gale adventures from Big Finish.
I still don’t know that Emma Peel, as played by Olivia Poulet, is a character I’ll ever love, but it’s nice to hear her here, and get an indication of a post-Steed life for her. I did like Emily Woodward as Tara King, who has a more naïve, innocent voice than Steed’s other female sidekicks, but can kick butt with the best of them when needed.
Other highlights include a return of Dan Starkey as One-Ten (though here called “Charles”) and the debut of Christopher Benjamin as “Mother,” one of Steed’s other superiors. I also really enjoyed Hugh Fraser’s role — one of my favourite Big Finish actors in general, with a wonderful voice, and he puts in a delightful turn here.
The plot is a follow-up to a couple of TV adventures, plus an unseen Steed and Keel adventure. To be honest, it’s not really the point, but it does have its highlights. Its main point is for all the characters to get a couple of good moments, and then everything explodes, and it does this admirably. The role Steed’s bowler plays in the climax is inspired. The tag scene at the end is an excellent and unexpected callback.
So if you’re even a half-hearted Avengers fan, I recommend this outing. If this is Big Finish’s last Avengers story, it is a worthy way to go, but if not, it seems like it should set up many more adventures to come.
Too Many Targets (by John Dorney, John Peel, Dave Rogers; starring Anthony Howell, Julian Wadham, Olivia Poulet, Beth Chalmers, Emily Woodward) was released by Big Finish Productions in September 2018.