The Diabolical Masterminds of Series 5 (1967–8)
Dr. Henry Primble schemed to kill off the rich subscribers of the British Venusian Society, and then abscond with the money left by them to create a bigger and better laser with which to take over the country.
Or something like that... probably, he was just after the money.
He was ably abetted by the villainous Martin, who obviously had sour grapes about not being listed in the cast & crew.
They conducted their firey rampage from the comfort of a shiny raw-metal finished Ford GT40 sports car, with the laser mounted in the front luggage compartment. A pity the laser had such... unexpected... special effects. Not many laser spew out fake snow as used on Christmas window displays!
The Business Efficiency Bureau, led by the evil if somewhat cowardly Pemberton (he was afraid of the dark), schemed to make a fortune - 50% of their clients’ increased profits - by traumatising their clients’ business rivals either to death or to the point of madness.
They brought a new degree of ruthlessness to Avengers villains - these people would stop at nothing, including torture with surgical implements, to get their way.
Pemberton was the master mind, Dr. Voss divined people’s weaknesses and Gilbert did all the dirty work. Underneath it all runs a sickening line of human cruelty. None of this dirty three has an qualms about causing universal suffering. Their unwitting client, Jeremy Raven, remained entirely in the dark about their methods until approached by Steed.
Waldo Thyssen is in essence an homicidal maniac, a ruthless sadist and all round bad guy. He created an elaborate charade of a time machine, partly to fleece his criminal clientele of their ill-gotten gains, partly to have the fun of killing people in cold blood.
Matthew, Bruno, Edwin, Samuel and Herbert his supposed ancestors.
His various minions seem tame in comparison, with a few notable exceptions: Mitchell, Vesta and the Executioner (unless the Executioner is Mitchell...)
Imogen Hassall’s Anjali is rude and abrupt, but hardly evil, and Sweeney and Parker are ineffectual buffoons.
So too, the anonymous members of the troupe, easily hoodwinked by a prancing Steed and summarily dispatched.
Vesta, as Thyssen’s major partner in crime (and possibly his partner) displays great vehemence, but she too is easily subdued.
Major Alexandre Vazin and his charming wife Elena are pretty mediocre villains in the Avengers world. They were simply doing their country’s bidding - trying to bring the British economy to its knees by forcing the government to spend billions of pounds on pointless research. These days a user-pays government would have none of it, and simple lets some multinational conglomerate do the research off-shore in a privatised arrangement. But these were the sixties, when nationalised industry still meant something.
Their methods are pretty straightforward - killing in the name of, and faking invisibility despite the obvious plot flaws that their actions introduced.
They were assisted by their capable henchman, Ulric, and not in the least thwarted by the inept Ambassador Brodny. In fact, they used Brodny’s incredulity to try to convince the British agents that the invisibility formula worked - luckily Steed and Mrs. Peel are not so easily fooled as he. The Embassy Guard (played by the unstoppable Peter J. Elliott) is included here for completeness - he is never implicated in the plot, but would undoubtedly have assisted his country’s most glamorous spies.
The slightly aristocratic looking George Cunliffe - I swear he’s Prince Edward in disguise - is, unfortunately, an enemy agent. He probably went to Cambridge...
He plans to send details of secret military installations over the wall by teaching them to a trained parrot, who will reveal all in return for a cracker. Treacherous avian!
Still the bird is just a stool pigeon for the dastardly agents, and Cunliffe’s underlings prove particularly vicious. Robin and Verret combine to dispatch three of ‘our’ men with ease, and make attempts on both Steed’s and Emma’s lives. Robin is an attractive young punk who thinks nothing of gunning a man down in cold blood with a submachine gun, whereas Verret is a more experienced trained assassin - he bombs Steed’s umbrella and sets up Mrs. Peel’s death trap. (A good thing it fails).
More ‘Ipcress File’ than ‘James Bond’ here, the thugs are just nasty, there’s none of the flamboyance or sheer stupidity of other episodes. I should note that Edgar Twitter is the unwitting dupe who provides the agents with their cover, and is in no way implicated in the plot.