Sir Thomas Waller disapproves of his daughter's choice in boyfriends and hires a criminal to scare off an unwanted suitor. Keel and Steed rescue the swain from the criminal's henchman and discover a clue to an extortion plot. Only three complete episodes survive from this initial season of 26 episodes, but the first, "Girl on the Trapeze" (episode 6), was a solo effort for Ian Hendry's Dr. David Keel. "The Frighteners," episode 15, is therefore our first view of John Wickham Gascone Berresford Steed, played to unmatched perfection by the amiable Patrick Macnee, impeccably mannered, immaculately well dressed, and at least at this early stage, occasionally using a gun (but wearing his ubiquitous bowler hat, not yet with umbrella). We begin with affluent businessman Sir Thomas Weller (Stratford Johns) hiring a professional hit man called The Deacon (Willoughby Gray), fearing that his unknowing daughter (Dawn Beret) might run off and marry a small-time cad (Philip Gilbert) in pursuit of her wealth. The Deacon brings in two men to carry out a 'massage' on the bounder, who is all too aware of Weller's knowledge of his devious background, desperate to keep his 'fiancee' in the dark about his true nature. The character of Dr. David Keel had his own small surgery, here used by Steed as the setting for an interrogation with hit-man Moxon (Philip Locke), using his own brass knuckles. This is our first opportunity to see the two characters working as a team, but it is Keel who tricks Moxon into revealing the secret hideout of the mysterious Deacon. Keel's secretary Carol Wilson, played by Ingrid Hafner, another regular character only seen during the first season, is relegated to a brief appearance at the end, when Weller's naive daughter is gently dissuaded from a disastrous elopement by The Avengers. Videotaped in black and white, exactly like the Honor Blackman seasons that followed, this realistic, straightforward story provides another wholly fascinating glimpse at the way the series started out. Willoughby Goddard returned to the show in "Thingumajig" (one of the last episodes), Philip Locke returned in "Mandrake" and "From Venus with Love," Stratford Johns returned in "Legacy of Death," and Neil Wilson, as The Deacon's butcher shop curator, returned in "The Gilded Cage" and "The Interrogators." Designed by future director Robert Fuest, whose later credits feature "Wuthering Heights," "And Soon the Darkness" (both 1970), "The Final Programme" (1973), "The Devil's Rain" (1974), and both "Dr. Phibes" features starring Vincent Price. Both Ian Hendry and Ingrid Hafner bowed out after one season, so Patrick Macnee's Steed was promoted with no less than three partners the next year, only one of which would be retained for season three. The following four entries have not survived, so the next available episode would be #20, "Tunnel of Fear," only rediscovered in 2016 (after the closing six episodes the second season would begin shooting with "Mission to Montreal," although "Mr. Teddy Bear" would be the first to be broadcast, introducing Honor Blackman's Cathy Gale to BBC viewers).
This, the second surviving episode from series one of 'The Avengers' sees Steed seeking Dr Keel's help to expose an underworld character known as 'The Deacon'. Word is out that two of his men are going to put the frighteners on somebody in the Chelsea area. Steed and Keel intervene during the assault and capture one of the attackers. Afterwards Keel treats victim Jeremy de Willoughby but he is keen that the police aren't brought in. After pressure is brought to bear on the thug Keel manages to find The Deacon and learns that he has been hired by a powerful man who doesn't want de Willoughby anywhere near his daughter.
I really enjoyed this early episode; it certainly had a darker tone than most of the later, more surreal, episodes. It was certainly to see Steed threaten a thug with a cut-throat razor then Keel tells the man he has a broken neck and could die any moment! If that weren't enough he later threatens to squirt acid in a man's face later proved to be a bluff. The story is gritty and about nasty criminals rather than spies or 'criminal masterminds'. The cast does an impressive job; Ian Hendry is impressive as Dr Keel and Patrick Macnee is great as Steed. The guest cast are good too; especially those portraying the variety of unpleasant characters. As well as a good central story there is some humour, notably in the final scene where de Willoughby is exposed as a cad. Overall This was an impressive episode that fans of the series will probably enjoy.