Episode 1 - The Town of No Return8 stars
by Brian Clemens
Directed by Roy Baker
A fisherman, Saul (Robert Brown), is tending his pots on the windswept Norfolk coast. He casually watches a figure emerge from the surf, encased in a vinyl bag. The occupant (Alan MacNaughtan) tears the bag open and asks the direction to Little Bazeley. Saul directs him as though nothing were amiss.
Steed visits Mrs Peel, who is practicing her fencing (sound familiar?). She flicks a foil at him and they don their masks to fight. While they parry he suggests she accompany him to the seaside, meanwhile rescuing her ornaments. She refuses to "carry his bucket and spade" but he persists and riles her by smacking her behind with his foil. He wonders if she's ever fancied herself as a school teacher then traps her in the curtains. When she emerges, he tells her they'll take the train and she learns he bought the tickets yesterday; the train leaves in an hour.
On the train, he explains that they got wind of "something odd" at Little Bazeley and four agents have disappeared investigating the village. He offers her Indian or Chinese tea and asks, "Milk or lemon?" but finds he only has milk when Mrs Peel asks for lemon. He then produces a full tea service, including a stand of small cakes and a boiling kettle from his carpet bag. The trains stops and another passenger gets into the carriage, prompting Steed to hide himself behind a book. The new passenger (Patrick Newell) introduces himself as Jimmy Smallwood, also bound for Little Bazeley to visit his brother Tom, the blacksmith and shows Mrs Peel a photo of Tom.
When they arrive in Little Bazeley, Saul watches them from behind the station sign. The reception at the pub is decidedly cool, until the proprietor, Flying Officer 'Piggy' Warren (Terence Alexander) emerges. He welcomes them and Steed makes a show of not knowing Mrs Peel while ordering drinks. Warren is guarded when Smallwood asks how his brother Tom is and startled when Steed asks for a room for a couple of days - Steed announces he's a property developer's scout looking for building sites. Mrs Peel causes consternation when she asks for a room until she can find permanent lodging and announces herself as the new school teacher. Jill Manson (Juliet Harmer) gets up from her stool at the bar and introduces herself as the headmistress. Mrs Peel hands her a letter from the Department, hoping "there isn't any mistake" then the man from the beach says they can always use a new teacher, and claims to be Mark Brandon, the district school inspector, only just arrived himself then states that now she's here she should definitely stay - with an undercurrent of menace.
Smallwood goes to see his brother and some of the villagers follow him, two carrying shotguns, which Warren dismisses as badger hunting. Smallwood wanders the deserted streets, followed by Saul while Warren shows our heroes to their rooms. The rooms are dilapidated and dirty, with shaky plumbing and large holes in the towels. Steed shakes off a strip of fly paper then they hear the sound of marching boots, but the shutters are nailed up so they can't see what's happening. When they descend, Warren stops them from looking outside and shows them to their table. Steed 'remembers' a letter he has to post, but Brandon takes it from him, saying he's passing the box. Before leaving, he tells Mrs Peel the school is at the old airfield.
Smallwood, who's been unable to find Tom at the forge, goes to the church where the sound of the choir spills from the stained glass windows. When he open the porch door, he finds the church completely empty and he departs, shaken, still pursued by Saul. Brandon meanwhile goes to the school and finds muddy prints from many boots in the hall. Jill emerges from a classroom at the sound of baying hounds - Saul is chasing Smallwood across the fens with a pair of bloodhounds. Steed and Mrs Peel hear the hounds as they sit, gasping by the smoking fireplace. Later, Steed tried to prise the shutters open but is unable to shift them and elects to try his luck sneaking out downstairs (he can "move like a cat in carpet slippers"). Warren hears him and challenges him with a shotgun; Steed claims to be looking for a nightcap - Warn gives a ribald chuckle and give him an entire bottle of brandy to take back upstairs. Mrs Peel laughs and asks what happened to "pussy-footed pussy" when he returns; Steed looks her up and down and asks "Isn't it time you were in bed?"
The next day, Mrs Peel goes to the school and finds it strangely deserted. She discovers rows of muddy boots in a cloakroom then overhears Miss Manson complaining about being sent "another batch so soon". Brandon replies that he is in command now and she'll do as she's told. They pause when Mrs Peel enters and Jill says she will have little to do as the children are on holidays. "In the middle of term?" queries Mrs Peel. Brandon hastily says they bends the rules a bit for little places like this, and it enabled Miss Manson to set up a new gymnasium. Mrs Peel offers to help and is told she would be better off working out her class schedules. Mrs Peel goes to find Steed on the beach and tells him something odd is going on there. "As odd as this?" he asks, and indicates a dozen sets of footprints leading out of the surf - she recalls the boots at the school and mentions the 'holiday' in term time. Steed notes the tractors are still in the fields and cars rusting in the furrows. They find Smallwood's body hidden under some jetsam in one of the dunes and Steed takes Tom's photo.
They go to the smithy where Saul is impersonating Tom Smallwood; he tells them Jimmy went back to London on urgent business - Steed hopes to trip him up by suggesting Jimmy took the early train but Saul says there isn't one, Jimmy borrowed his car. Back at the pub, the Avengers ponder why someone would want to impersonate a blacksmith. Realising they haven't seen a soul since they've arrived except the highly suspicious badger hunters, all wearing gum boots, Mrs Peel goes to the church to check the parish records. The vicar (Jeremy Burnham) tells her he has bats in his belfry - literally - before introducing himself as Jonathan Amesbury. He shows her the books, but the last few years' records have been cut from the register.
Steed meanwhile visits the airfield and is reminded of his own wartime service. Amongst the rubble of the old barracks he finds a graffito commemorating Piggy Warren, killed in action 1942. Mrs Peel is searching the school and finds the cupboards and desks crammed with tinned food and other supplies. A man stumbles in, muddy and gasping. He warns her "below, below" and says he's Mark Brandon. He indicates a photograph on the wall before collapsing. Hearing the baying of hounds, Mrs Peel hurriedly takes the photo and leaves before Saul and Brandon enter. Brandon notices the empty photo frame.
Mrs Peel goes to the vicar and shows him that the Jill Manson in the photo is someone else. He confirms that none of the people in the photo are their current namesakes then says she's an impostor as well. When she admits this, he pulls a revolver from his cassock. She says he won't use it during choir practice and opens the vestry door, but in the nave she finds a reel-to-reel tape playing choral music. He says the music is appropriate - a requiem - she hits him with the photo and makes for the door but is confronted by Brandon and Saul.
Steed returns to the pub and finds Piggy fixing a fuse by candle light. Piggy hands Steed the candle and tells him that Mrs Peel has gone to London and chortles at Steed 'fancying his chances'. Steed spies Mrs Peel's cases in the pantry and menaces him with the candle, singeing his moustache and snarls that it doesn't matter, he's already dead. Warren reveals that she's at the forge and Steed goes to rescue her, but must first fend off a murderous Saul, wielding a red hot horseshoe. He defeats him with a few blows of his steel-reinforced bowler and then finds Mrs Peel, trussed to a saddle - "tight girth", she winces, as Steed frees her. He tells her what happened and she shows him the stores at the school. They deduce a piecemeal invasion - village after village being replaced with new inhabitants until the whole country is a new population and Mrs Peel recalls Brandon's warning of "below".
Steed and Mrs Peel enter the old wartime bunkers and find an armory packed with weapons and explosives, and hear soldiers training. They realise there's only one exit from the bunker and plan to destroy the mechanism when they're interrupted by Brandon. The vicar and Miss Manson follow him in but the vicar is quickly knocked out, leaving Steed to deal with Brandon while Emma fights Jill. Brandon falls on the door control and it starts to close, just as Steed, inside, is faced with four curious soldiers. Jill keeps Mrs Peel from coming to his aide, then the vicar attacks her, so by the time she manages to open the door, Steed has dealt with all four of them. They hear more coming and Mrs Peel swiftly closes the door, trapping the army underground (sound familiar?).
Mrs Peel drives them away on a Vespa motor scooter, daydreaming about dinner in a cosy inn with a big thick steak; Steed says, "let me tell you what I have in mind..."
|Production dates:||29-Oct-64 - 13-Nov-64 & 21-30-Jul-65||Drinks|
|Transmission dates:||Foreign title||
whisky and soda
|Germany||20-Dec-66||(Stadt ohne Rückkehr)|
|France||2-May-67||(Voyage sans retour)|
|Italy||29-Oct-80||(Il città senza ritorno)|
|Spain||---||(Pueblo sin retorno)|