Farewell to Patrick Macnee, dead at 93

Mission accomplished. Purdey, Steed and Gambit whistling 'Colonel Bogie' in triumph at the finale of The Eagle's Nest, 1976. Eilean Donan Castle is in the background.

Mission accomplished. Purdey, Steed and Gambit whistling ‘Colonel Bogie’ in triumph at the finale of The Eagle’s Nest, 1976. Eilean Donan Castle is in the background.

And the sad times keep on rolling…

The death has been announced of Patrick Macnee, modest and self-effacing star of The Avengers and The New Avengers. He was 93.

That’s the same age as his pal Christopher Lee, who genre fans are still mourning. They were contemporaries, fellow travellers and good mates. They worked together several times: in The Avengers on TV and later as Holmes and Watson in a couple of so-so TV movies.

If Lee’s death marked the end of an era, Macnee’s passing completes it. And let’s not forget the death of Ron Moody, who died the same day as Christopher Lee. It’s been a rough couple of weeks.

Macnee was made a star by The Avengers, particularly when the Diana Rigg stories allowed him to make the most of that eccentric, bowler-hatted, umbrella-wielding dapper persona. But it also typecast him terribly. How many Macnee films can you name? I’d guess not many. And when he did pop up he was in support: in Incense for the Damned, in The Sea Wolves, in Octopussy and as an invisible character in the much maligned big screen version of The Avengers.

But Macnee represented a key period of British television. It lasted less than 20 years. And the role – as John Steed – was part of that magnificently fantastical world that we like to visit from the comfort of our sofas.

Of course he’ll never really die. The Avengers continues to play on our screens; it’s probably available right now as I write, on a satellite channel near us all. And then there’s that theme tune. Whenever I hear it – and particularly the thumping, jazzed-up version that accompanied The New Avengers – I think of Macnee. And Honor Blackman, Diana Rigg and Linda Thorson. And let’s not forget Ian Hendry.

But it’s Macnee that personifies The Avengers. I’ll think of him tonight as the news plays out on TV.

One more thing. My wife and I were married just over ten years ago at Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland. I knew it had been a film location – for The Master of Ballantrae, for The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, for Highlander and for The Eagle’s Nest, the premiere episode of The New Avengers back in 1976. I may not have told my wife, but I knew…

Farewell, Patrick. You were a class act.

Patrick Macnee 1922 – 2015.

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