The Champions

This very successful TV series from the 1960s – The Champions.

Alexandra Bastedo, found fame and sex-symbol status playing the secret agent and scientist Sharron Macready and appeared with William Gaunt as Richard Barrett and Stuart Damon as Craig Stirling in the show about three agents working for the Geneva-based law-enforcement organisation Nemesis who gain superhuman powers after being rescued from a plane crash in Tibet by a mysterious lost tribe. With computer-like intelligence and Olympian levels of strength and endurance, they can communicate by telepathy and are assigned to cases where world stability is under threat.

It was one of the globally successful series made by the television mogul Lew Grade’s international production and distribution company ITC. Alexandra Bastedo described her character as a “gutsy girl before her time”.

ABOVE – an action scene with Stuart Damon and Alexandra Bastedo

The Three agents listening intently ABOVE

ABOVE: Alexandra Bastedo looks very cool in what looks a tricky situation

ABOVE – Alexandra Bastedo in a dramatic scene. After her ac ting career came to a close she devoted her time and energy to an Animals Refuge in Sussex which gave her great delight and satisfaction along with a great deal of work. Then again, it was a labour of love for her

William Gaunt seems to have been in so much on Television and on the stage – from Midsomer Murders to Shakespeare, but to me his vest remembered role must have been in The Champions but that could equally well be said of both Stuart Damon and Alexandra Bastedo

The Champions, which began a screening on Talking Pictures TV from Sunday (7 March 2021) – it is a gloriously enjoyable example of the work of the ITC production company.

The Champions offers 30 episodes of beautifully stylish television that plays to all the ITC strengths. It was comfortably, not lavishly, budgeted, but never allowed financial restraints to stop the action taking place all around the world, while the cast and crew rarely strayed far from Elstree Studios in sunny Hertfordshire.

The three lead actors add to the gloss. Square-jawed Broadway star Stuart Damon plays Craig Stirling, piercingly blue-eyed William Gaunt is Richard Barrett, and as Sharron Macready, the luminously beautiful Alexandra Bastedo is perhaps the best-remembered of the trio.

The first episode, was entitled ‘The Beginning’ and it establishes the background to the series

While escaping from a mission in China, our heroes’ plane is hit by gunfire and crashes in the Himalayas – – a good bit of ‘Lost Horizon’ in there I would say. Craig, Sharron, and Richard appear to be done for – but this is Tibet in the 1960s. So of course there’s a lost city, whose friendly inhabitants don’t just repair the bodies of the agents but bestow them with superpowers.-

That more or less sets the scene for the rest of the series.

Back at the Geneva base of their organisation Nemesis boss Tremayne waits anxiously for news of his missing agents. He’s played by the fourth regular cast member, Anthony Nicholls

While the beginning of ‘The Beginning’ is occupied with setting up the premise, the second half gives an idea of future missions. 007-style MacGuffins, breezy wit, a dash of sometimes quite blunt violence, and those super-handy superpowers are all present and correct.

Felix Aylmer and William Gaunt in ‘The Champions’
This is very much like Robert Conway meeting The High Lama in ‘Lost Horizon’

Another element of every episode of The Champions that will warm the hearts of fans of the TV of this period is the wonderful array of actors filling the supporting roles. Here we have Felix Aylmer as the wise old lama, Burt Kwouk as the commander of the Chinese troops, and Joseph Furst shouting at (and over) Tremayne. Later episodes will give us such familiar faces as Nicholas Courtney, Bernard Lee, Caroline Blakiston, Roger Delgado, Anthony Ainley, Kate O’Mara, and some surprises

The lovely Alexandra Bastedo

So if you want to escape for an hour or so, travel back to the Sixties with The Champions. This is a beautifully-made series; straightforward storytelling mixed with a note of fantasy and presented with the most exquisite design choices the budget will allow and in COLOUR too. In terms of sound and vision, The Champions is a gorgeously attractive TV show. Well done Talking Pictures TV for showing this again

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