The superhero series The Champions significantly changed the
formula of ITC dramas, not just by introducing a fantasy element but also by
having three main protagonists instead of one, and making one of them a
Although Sharron is sometimes told by her partners Richard and Craig to stay
behind, she frequently proves that she has the same special powers as they do
(augmented strength and senses as well as empathic and telepathic abilities),
featuring prominently in such episodes as 'Shadow of the Panther' (tx.
15/1/1969), a black magic story co-starring Donald Sutherland, and 'Twelve
Hours' (tx. 18/12/1968), in which her medical skills prove crucial.
To offset the fantastical nature of the series' premise - the powers are
clearly magical, not scientific in origin, unlike ITC's earlier The Invisible
Man (1959-60) - the relationship between the three heroes is marked by much
humorous banter, while the plots are straightforward, comprising either cold war
espionage scenarios or more mundane villainy, like the neo-Nazis rings featured
in 'The Survivors' (tx. 6/11/1968) and 'The Search' (tx. 1/1/1969).
Probably the best episode is 'The Interrogation' (tx. 5/2/1969), not because
it is the most characteristic but because it is the most distinctive. Creator
Dennis Spooner, forced by budget overruns to make a flashback story which
recycled footage from previous episodes, took inspiration from 'Brainwash' (tx.
29/9/1967), an episode of his series Man in a Suitcase (ITV, 1967-68). Turning
adversity into triumph, Spooner crafted a powerful two-hander between the
usually wise-cracking Sterling, now drugged, imprisoned and disorientated, and a
mysterious interrogator played by Colin Blakeley, who fulfilled the same role in
'Brainwash'. Conversely, 'The Gilded Cage' (tx. 8/1/1969) is mostly played for laughs, with Barrett allowing himself to be kidnapped and spending practically
the whole episode in bed in his pyjamas.
Spooner's previous excursions into television fantasy were children's shows
like Doctor Who (BBC, 1963-89; 2005- ) and Thunderbirds (ITV, 1965-66), which
may account for the occasionally adolescent quality of the heroes'
characterisations, especially in scenes when they telepathically feel each
other's pain. However, the series can be interpreted as an allegory of the
growth process, its three youthful heroes, guided by their paternal superior
Tremayne, making the transition from innocent agents simply following orders to
more mature and complex operatives taking the burden and responsibility for
their actions, a precursor to the otherwise inferior children's series The
Tomorrow People (ITV 1973-79; 1992-95).