10 January 2004 | F Gwynplaine MacIntyre
'The Avengers' meet 'Have Gun Will Travel'
"Knight Errant '59" (more about that title later) was an off-beat crime drama that was consistently enjoyable but not very believable: a clear forerunner to 'The Avengers'. It's also notable for being one of the earliest tv series to lose its leading actor, yet continue as successfully as before (maybe more so) with a new cast.
John Turner starred originally as Adam Knight, a private investigator for hire. Like the character Paladin in the Yank series 'Have Gun Will Travel', Adam Knight advertised his services in a highly theatrical way: "Knight Errant '59. Quests undertaken, dragons defeated, damsels rescued. Anything, anywhere, for anyone, so long as it helps. Fees according to means." Styling himself 'a twentieth-century Sir Lancelot', Knight established the Knight Errant agency: not exactly a private-detective firm, so much as a consultancy dedicated to helping anyone with any problem.
Knight was assisted by Liz Parrish -- a Rosalind Russell-style former columnist for the Daily Clarion -- and by Peter Parker ... no, not Spider-Man, but an idealistic young novelist who worked as Adam Knight's leg-man and researcher in order to get some 'life experience' that he could use in his novels.
The '59' in the title of this series (which premiered in 1959) was an unfortunate gimmick that turned out useful, as it helped to distinguish the episodes with the original cast from their successors. After the first year, actor Turner left the series: it was explained that Adam Knight had gone to Canada. The Knight Errant agency continued without him in a second series retitled 'Knight Errant Limited'. The agency was now headed by Stephen Drummond, an ex-publisher who was more interested in people than in books. (Did Peter Parker try to sell him any novels?) At this point, the agency took on several staffers who were obviously 'characters', and the overall quality of the series suffered.
Throughout its run -- originally from October 1959 to June '61 -- 'Knight Errant' was distinguished by off-beat plots and unusual characters with quirky motivations ... very similar in flavour and spirit to 'The Avengers', although without that series' fetishism. This is hardly surprising, as two of "Knight Errant"'s principal scriptwriters, Philip Levene and Roger Marshall, later contributed scripts to 'The Avengers'. Honor Blackman, so very memorable as the leather-clad Cathy Gale on that series, got some early experience as a guest star on 'Knight Errant'.
I have fond memories of 'Knight Errant', and would like to see this series revived.