FREEWHEELERS

 
Full Name: Freewheelers
Nationality: British
Organization: Freewheelers
Occupation Agency

Creator: Chris McMaster
Time Span: 1968 - 1973
ABOUT THE SERIES

       The Freewheelers are an unofficial group affiliated with MI-6.
       The genesis of the group, one which usually consisted of three teenagers, two male and one female, came about when the first three to become the team found themselves involuntarily mixed up with trouble by a former Nazi named Von Gelb who wants very much to undo the terrible calamity (his opinion) that was the downfall of the Third Reich.
       The three young people, Bill Cowan, Gregory Phillips, and Mary Maude, were having considerable trouble staying alive against Von Gelb and his rather extensive enterprise when they got unexpected but much needed help by Colonel Buchan (or Buchanan, I've seen it both ways but the former is most prevalent). The Colonel was an experience agent with MI-6 and well aware of the danger posed by Von Gelb. He was also smart enough to know that those these young adults were not trained operatives with years of experience, they were undoubtedly resourceful and, due to their predicament, already deep in it.
       So, without planning but also with considerable incentive, the group which would come to be called the Freewheelers came into being. The idea of using non-professionals for particular missions was not new to MI-6 or Buchan but to employ such young people was and with the new alliance would come a lot of learning problems for both the trio and their unofficial leader.
       The make-up of the Freewheelers would change occasionally as eventually each member would move on with his or her life. Cowan would hang around for some time while Phillips would be replaced with Nick Carter and soon after Maude would make room for Olga Yevchenko. That young woman would soon step aside for Fiona and so on.
       Mike Hobbs and Sue Craig and Steve Walker would show up after a bit and stay for a good time but even they would move on. Even their boss, the Colonel, would leave, getting a promotion placing Major Colin Wade in his stead.
       No matter the make-up, or the adult leadership, the Freewheelers would prove over and again that they were a very valuable, and entertaining, part of the British Secret Service.

BOOKS

Number of Books:2
First Appearance:1971
Last Appearance:1972

       The television series on which the two books were based had been around already for three years (4 seasons) by the time the first of the two books appeared on the shelves. As mentioned above, the membership in the Freewheelers would change a fair amount over time but at the point the books were released, the membership consisted of Mike Hobbs, Sue Craig, and Steve Walker and it is these three who make up the Freewheelers in the books.

1 The Sign of the Beaver The Sign of the Beaver
Written by Alan Fennell
Copyright: 1971

Diplomats all of the world are disappearing, kidnapped. It is the job of the Freewheelers and their colleagues in MI6 to find what is going on, a mission that will take them from England to the Persian Gulf and back. A few very unhappy tigers in a circus play a part.

2 The Spy Game The Spy Game
Written by Alan Fennell
Copyright: 1972

The murder of a British agent in Sweden looked like the work of the other side. Then one of their agents is also killed. The Freewheelers are called in to find who is doing the killing and why.

NOVELLAS AND SHORT STORIES

Number of Stories:1
First Appearance:1971
Last Appearance:1971

       As mentioned below in the Comic Book section, IPC Magazines' Look-In weekly publication had for a while in each issue two page serialization of stories. The third such adventure lasted four issues but unlike the other four stories were in text form instead of graphic, so the story is shown below.

1 Story #3 Story #3
Written by Unknown
Copyright: 1971

From Look-In v1 #16 to v1 #19 - 8 pages - [plot unknown]

TELEVISION

Number of Episodes:104
First Appearance:1968
Last Appearance:1973
Network:ITV

REGULAR CAST
Ronald Leigh-HuntColonel Buchan [ 1-4,6 ]
Tom OwenBill Cowan [ 1-4 ]
Adrian WrightMike Hobbs [ 4-7 ]
Leonard GregorySteve Walker [ 6-7 ]
Wendy PadburySue Craig [ 5-6,8 ]

       When I first saw information about the Freewheelers, I made the erroneous conclusion that it was a Mod Squad rip-off being about three teenagers who went to work unofficially for the government, albeit British instead of American and in the spy business versus crime-fighting. Then I looked at the dates and saw that though they were both in 1968, Freewheelers saw its premiere in April of that year while Mod Squad did not come out until September. Could there still have been a connection? Sure, but the possible link became a whole lot more tenuous.
       More likely is what was written in Wikipedia: "Chris McMaster [saw] the popularity of adult action series such as The Avengers and Department S amongst teenagers and saw the potential of a version aimed at a younger audience." The fact that the show lasted as long as it did, staying around for 8 seasons of usually 13 episodes each, showed he was correct.
       The action drama was only a 30-minute one which is probably why the first season combined several episodes into one adventure. In later seasons, the storyline was extended to encompass the entire season.
       Sadly, "The first five series were all wiped by Southern, but telerecordings of series 1 and a single episode from series 2 survive." so we do not have the opportunity to revisit the missions.

1 Menace! The Sleepers
Episode 1-1, first aired 04/Apr/1968


2 Menace! No Smoke
Episode 1-2, first aired 11/Apr/1968


3 Menace! The Camp
Episode 1-3, first aired 18/Apr/1968


4 Menace! The Ultimatum
Episode 1-4, first aired 25/Apr/1968


5 Menace! Face to Face
Episode 1-5, first aired 02/May/1968


6 Recipe for Danger: Too Many Cooks
Episode 1-6, first aired 09/May/1968


7 Recipe for Danger: One Man's Meat
Episode 1-7, first aired 16/May/1968


8 Recipe for Danger: Trouble Brewing
Episode 1-8, first aired 23/May/1968


9 Recipe for Danger: Bring to the Boil
Episode 1-9, first aired 30/May/1968


10 The Big Freeze: Icarus
Episode 1-10, first aired 06/Jun/1968


11 The Big Freeze: Valkyrie
Episode 1-11, first aired 13/Jun/1968


12 The Big Freeze: Anvil
Episode 1-12, first aired 20/Jun/1968


13 The Big Freeze: Gotterdammerung
Episode 1-13, first aired 27/Jun/1968


14 The Zander Plot: Breakout
Episode 2-1, first aired 20/Nov/1968


15 The Zander Plot: Treasure
Episode 2-2, first aired 27/Nov/1968


16 The Zander Plot: Master Plan
Episode 2-3, first aired 04/Dec/1968


17 The Zander Plot: The Code
Episode 2-4, first aired 11/Dec/1968


18 The Zander Plot: The Lighthouse
Episode 2-5, first aired 18/Dec/1968


19 The Zander Plot: The Stones
Episode 2-6, first aired 25/Dec/1968


20 The Zander Plot: Time Bomb!
Episode 2-7, first aired 01/Jan/1969


21 The Zander Plot: Doomsday!
Episode 2-8, first aired 08/Jan/1969


22 The Secret Base: The Key
Episode 2-9, first aired 15/Jan/1969


23 The Secret Base: Black Knight
Episode 2-10, first aired 22/Jan/1969


24 The Secret Base: Vulcan
Episode 2-11, first aired 29/Jan/1969


25 The Secret Base: Double Trouble
Episode 2-12, first aired 05/Feb/1969


26 The Secret Base: Damocles!
Episode 2-13, first aired 12/Feb/1969


27 Rammed!
Episode 3-1, first aired 09/Jul/1969


28 The Banshee
Episode 3-2, first aired 16/Jul/1969


29 Mined
Episode 3-3, first aired 23/Jul/1969


30 Trapped
Episode 3-4, first aired 30/Jul/1969


31 Tanks!
Episode 3-5, first aired 06/Aug/1969


32 Caged!
Episode 3-6, first aired 13/Aug/1969


33 The Tower
Episode 3-7, first aired 20/Aug/1969


34 Triton
Episode 3-8, first aired 27/Aug/1969


35 Kidnapped
Episode 3-9, first aired 03/Sep/1969


36 The Voyage
Episode 3-10, first aired 10/Sep/1969


37 The Island
Episode 3-11, first aired 17/Sep/1969


38 Blockade
Episode 3-12, first aired 24/Sep/1969


39 Thunderbolt!
Episode 3-13, first aired 01/Oct/1969


40 Not in Jest
Episode 4-1, first aired 29/Apr/1970


41 A Thing Like Death
Episode 4-2, first aired 06/May/1970


42 Package Deal
Episode 4-3, first aired 13/May/1970


43 Spartika
Episode 4-4, first aired 20/May/1970


44 Merely Players
Episode 4-5, first aired 27/May/1970


45 Agincourt
Episode 4-6, first aired 03/Jun/1970


46 Microdot
Episode 4-7, first aired 10/Jun/1970


47 Kythera!
Episode 4-8, first aired 17/Jun/1970


48 The Dictator
Episode 4-9, first aired 24/Jun/1970


49 Petrov
Episode 4-10, first aired 01/Jul/1970


50 Decoy
Episode 4-11, first aired 08/Jul/1970


51 Firing Squad
Episode 4-12, first aired 15/Jul/1970


52 Explosion
Episode 4-13, first aired 22/Jul/1970


53 Sniper!
Episode 5-1, first aired 20/Jan/1971


54 Spin Off
Episode 5-2, first aired 27/Jan/1971


55 The Mill
Episode 5-3, first aired 03/Feb/1971


56 Blackmail
Episode 5-4, first aired 10/Feb/1971


57 Zukov
Episode 5-5, first aired 17/Feb/1971


58 Russian Roulette
Episode 5-6, first aired 24/Feb/1971


59 Destruct
Episode 5-7, first aired 03/Mar/1971


60 Zyton!
Episode 5-8, first aired 10/Mar/1971


61 Entombed
Episode 5-9, first aired 17/Mar/1971


62 Roll Up
Episode 5-10, first aired 24/Mar/1971


63 Booby Trap
Episode 5-11, first aired 31/Mar/1971


64 Pipeline
Episode 5-12, first aired 07/Apr/1971


65 The Answer
Episode 5-13, first aired 14/Apr/1971


66 Nero
Episode 6-1, first aired 27/Sep/1971


67 Operation Seagull
Episode 6-2, first aired 04/Oct/1971


68 Medusa
Episode 6-3, first aired 11/Oct/1971


69 Mayday
Episode 6-4, first aired 18/Oct/1971


70 Pirates
Episode 6-5, first aired 25/Oct/1971


71 The Threat
Episode 6-6, first aired 01/Nov/1971


72 Doomsday!
Episode 6-7, first aired 08/Nov/1971


73 Black Box
Episode 6-8, first aired 15/Nov/1971


74 Cypher
Episode 6-9, first aired 22/Nov/1971


75 The Parcel
Episode 6-10, first aired 29/Nov/1971


76 The Race
Episode 6-11, first aired 06/Dec/1971


77 Red Herring
Episode 6-12, first aired 13/Dec/1971


78 Pay Off!
Episode 6-13, first aired 20/Dec/1971


79 Traitor!
Episode 7-1, first aired 04/Sep/1972


80 The Race
Episode 7-2, first aired 11/Sep/1972


81 Framed!
Episode 7-3, first aired 18/Sep/1972


82 Vertigo!
Episode 7-4, first aired 25/Sep/1972


83 The Knot
Episode 7-5, first aired 02/Oct/1972


84 The War Game
Episode 7-6, first aired 09/Oct/1972


85 Helga! (1)
Episode 7-7, first aired 16/Oct/1972


86 Helga! (2)
Episode 7-8, first aired 23/Oct/1972


87 Midsummer
Episode 7-9, first aired 30/Oct/1972


88 The Mine
Episode 7-10, first aired 06/Nov/1972


89 Tricked!
Episode 7-11, first aired 13/Nov/1972


90 Ares!
Episode 7-12, first aired 20/Nov/1972


91 Archimedes
Episode 7-13, first aired 27/Nov/1972


92 Contact
Episode 8-1, first aired 06/Aug/1973


93 Libra
Episode 8-2, first aired 13/Aug/1973


94 The Auction
Episode 8-3, first aired 20/Aug/1973


95 The Third Man
Episode 8-4, first aired 03/Sep/1973


96 Rapids!
Episode 8-5, first aired 10/Sep/1973


97 Darkness at Noon
Episode 8-6, first aired 17/Sep/1973


98 Double-Cross!
Episode 8-7, first aired 24/Sep/1973


99 Impasse!
Episode 8-8, first aired 01/Oct/1973


100 The Crypt!
Episode 8-9, first aired 08/Oct/1973


101 Switched!
Episode 8-10, first aired 15/Oct/1973


102 Break-Up
Episode 8-11, first aired 22/Oct/1973


103 The Think Bank
Episode 8-12, first aired 29/Oct/1973


104 The Hoist
Episode 8-13, first aired 05/Nov/1973


COMIC BOOKS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS

Number of Stories:5
First Appearance:1971
Last Appearance:1972

       IPC Magazines was a very prolific entertainment publisher in Britain from the 60s until the present. Quite a few different titles showed up under its umbrella through the years and many were popular enough to last several decades.
       Look-In was one of those successful titles. It came into existence in the year 70s and hung around for twenty-plus years. Each weekly issue of 25-30 pages was filled with all sorts of topics about the television industry, all geared to the teenage market. Many articles of the popular shows (American and English) and some movies would be written, often talking about the stars and their likes and dislikes. There would be quite a few comic strips in each as well with most of the serialized adventures having one or two pages of the story in each issue.
       The Freewheelers would be one of those strips. In fact, they would be in the inaugural issue along with Wreckers at Dead Eye, Crowther in Trouble, Please, Sir!, and Timeslip. Some of these, like the Freewheelers, would eventually be replaced by others.

       The first 26 issues of Look-In would each have two pages in a storyline. The first tale would last 7 issues, the second would go 8, the third 4, and the fourth 7. Then the Freewheelers would take a hiatus until the end of the year when it would come back for one final, longer story. Then it would disappear for good.
       Of these 5 adventures, 4 were graphic tales and are represented below. The other one, the 3rd story of the 5, was a 4-page text adventure and can be found in Novellas.

Note: the titles for each of these stories is my own.

1 'The Escaped Spy' 'The Escaped Spy'
Published by IPC Magazines

Copyright: 1971

From Look-In v1 #1 to v1 #7 - 14 pages - The trio in the Freewheelers group for this adventure are Max Prentiss, Mike Hobbs, and Sue Craig, working under the temporary direction of Major Tom Graham. The three are offered a good chunk of money to drive a lorry carrying a large crate to a spot in Cornwall. Needing the money to paint their boat, they take it but soon learn, once the box is stolen from them, that it was being used to smuggle an escaped traitor.

2 'Rebellion in Rabat' 'Rebellion in Rabat'
Published by IPC Magazines

Copyright: 1971

From Look-In v1 #8 to v1 #15 - 16 pages - Carlos Franger is a enemy of Major Graham, leader of the Freewheelers, and the man behind the backing of rebels in the oil rich country of Rabat. He is about to gain control of the nation and that is something Graham does not want to happen. He sends Max, Mike, and Sue of the Freewheelers to that country to be on hand to help stop the rebels.

3 'Stranger in the Castle Ruins' 'Stranger in the Castle Ruins'
Published by IPC Magazines

Copyright: 1971

From Look-In v1 #20 to v1 #26 - 14 pages - Heading on a vacation to the northeast of England, the Freewheelers, Max, Mike, and Sue, are surprised to be stopped by a policeman who gives them a directive from Major Graham to head to a castle ruin but what they are to do and who they are to meet remains a secret.

4 'Rescuing Is Our Business' 'Rescuing Is Our Business'
Published by IPC Magazines

Copyright: 1971

From Look-In v1 #50 to v2 #11 -26 pages - A top nuclear scientist in an Eastern European country wants to defect and Colonel Buchan needs the help of the Freewheelers, Mike, Sue, and Steve, to head to that nation and assist in smuggling the man out.

MY COMMENTS

       The age I was when this series came out, mid-teens, I would have loved this half-hour action spy drama a lot. Unfortunately, wrong country, wrong continent, so I never knew about it. Looking on YouTube, I do not see much of it other than snippets but those do give a good idea of what was there. The changing of the characters would have gotten annoying, though.
       The books are pretty good young adult reading and do a good job of capturing what I believe was the feel of the television show. So do the comic books/strips. Worth the time spent reading them.

GRADE

My Grade: B

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