The Champions Explained

Show Name:The Champions
Format:Sci-Fi Action Adventure
Runtime:60 min
Creator:Dennis Spooner
Starring:Stuart Damon
Alexandra Bastedo
William Gaunt
Anthony Nicholls
Country:UK
Network:ITV
First Aired:September 25, 1968
Last Aired:April 30, 1969
Num Episodes:30

The Champions was a British espionage/science fiction adventure series consisting of 30 episodes broadcast on the UK network ITV during 1968–1969, produced by Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment production company.[1] The series was broadcast in the US on NBC, starting in summer 1968.

Overview and premise

The series starred Stuart Damon as Craig Stirling, Alexandra Bastedo as Sharron Macready and William Gaunt as Richard Barrett. The characters are agents for a United Nations law enforcement organization called "Nemesis", based in Geneva. The three have different backgrounds: Barrett is a code breaker, Stirling a pilot, and Macready a recently widowed scientist and doctor.

During their first mission as a team, their plane crashes in the Himalayas. They are rescued by an advanced civilization living secretly in the mountains, who save their lives, granting them perfected, human abilities...including powers to communicate with one another over distances by ESP (telepathy), and to foresee events (precognition), enhanced five senses and intellect, and physical abilities to the fullest extent of human capabilities.[2] [3]

Many stories featured unusual villains, such as fascist regimes from unspecified South American countries, neo-Nazis or the Chinese. The villains' schemes often threaten world peace — Nemesis's brief is international, so the agents deal with threats transcending national interests. The main characters had to learn the use of their new powers as they went along — keeping what they discover secret from friends and foe alike. Each episode began with a pre-credtis vignette in which one of The Champions demonstrated exceptional mental or physical abilities, often astonishing or humiliating others. In one example Stirling participates in a sharpshooting contest. In another, laughing hoodlums block in Macready's car, which she physically pulls out of the parking space one-handed.

The only other series regular, Anthony Nicholls, played the Champions' boss, Tremayne. Tremayne does not know that his agents have special abilities, though he does ask innocent questions about just how on their missions they managed to carry out certain tasks about which their reports were vague.

Production

The series was created by Dennis Spooner and its episodes were written by veterans of popular British spy series, including The Avengers and Danger Man. The series used an unfilmed script written for Danger Man.

The series was produced by Monty Berman who had co-produced, with Robert S. Baker, The Saint, The Baron and numerous B-movies of the 1950s. Berman went on to produce, working with many of the writers, directors and crew, other ITC series including Department S, Jason King, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and The Adventurer.

Because of budget constraints, many sets were reused: three episodes were set on a submarine and three set in the arctic. Stock footage was used. Like most such ITC series much of the exterior action took place in and around the studio lot - usually, as was the case with The Champions, Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Herts. For at least one episode, Desert Journey, foreign filming did take place, but with a second unit, and extras standing in for the main cast.

The theme music to the series was written by Tony Hatch, with Albert Elms and Edwin Astley supplying incidental music.

Further broadcasts and releases

Although short-lived, the series is fondly remembered and had 3 repeats across the ITV regions, after its initial run, up to 1976, and once more on ITV in the mid 1980's. It has also seen several repeats in the UK, on ITV's digital channel ITV4.[4]

The Champions was broadcast on BBC2 in 1995, at about the time Gaunt was appearing in the sitcom Next of Kin and it had at least 3 further repeat runs after that, this was the last time complete prints were seen on UK Tv..

Episodes were released on DVD in North America,[5] and in the UK, where the full series has been released twice, with the most recent edition seeing Stuart Damon, Alexandra Bastedo and William Gaunt reunite to provide a commentary for several episodes (Damon's continuing role on US series General Hospital meant that Bastedo and Gaunt had to be flown to America for this to occur).[6] [7]

Adaptations

Films

In the 1980s, ITC edited episodes "The Beginning" and "The Interrogation" into Legend of the Champions, a feature length film intended for overseas markets.[7]

In November 2007, it was reported that Guillermo del Toro would produce and write a film adaptation of The Champions for United Artists.[8] In 2008, Christopher McQuarrie was signed to co-write and co-produce the film.[9]

Books

Paperbacks based on the TV series include:

Episode guide

TitleWriterDirectorGuest actorsUK airdate

External links

Notes and References

  1. Encyclopedia: ITC. screenonline. British Film Institute. 2007-11-10.
  2. Book: Rovin, Jeff. Jeff Rovin

    . Jeff Rovin. The Encyclopedia of Superheroes. Facts On File. 1985. 0-8160-1679-8. 351.

  3. 1968. 2007-11-10.
  4. News: The Champions set for film remake. BBC News. BBC. 2007-11-08. 2007-11-09.
  5. Web site: The Champions: Set One. Amazon.com. 2007-11-09.
  6. News: Willmetts. Geoff. The Champions: The Complete Series. Science Fiction Crowsnest. 2006-08-14. 2007-11-09.
  7. Web site: ITC's super heroes Sterling, Macready and Barrett have never looked better on DVD. Reviews. Cult TV. 2007-11-10.
  8. News: Siegel. Tatiana. United Artists revives Champions. Variety. Reed Business Information. 2007-11-07. 2007-11-08.
  9. News: McQuarrie to write, produce UA duo. Siegel. Tatiana. Variety. Reed Business Information. 2008-11-16. 2008-11-17.
  10. Encyclopedia: The Champions: The Sixth Sense is Death. The UK Sci-Fi Book Guide. Kieran Seymour. 2007-11-10.
  11. Encyclopedia: Les Champions: Lavage de Cerveau. The UK Sci-Fi Book Guide. Kieran Seymour. 2007-11-10.