• title card: white all caps text reading ‘CAT AMONGST THE PIGEONS BY DENNIS SPOONER’ superimposed on Merton falling backwards over a cliff
  • Turner examines the wreckage of Rydercroft’s plane
  • Steed arrives at Bridlington’s hut which is dotted with signs forbidding cats and singing
  • Zarcadi sits in his feather-decorated wicker chair, his hand outstretched in dismissal of Turner, a sneer on his face
  • Steed leans out of his Range Rover to speak to Gambit - they’ve both arrive at tthe same time with the same cargo
  • Zarcadi lies at the base of a tree, dead; his hawk flies down to his side

The New Avengers, Series 1 — Episode 5
Cat Amongst the Pigeons

by Dennis Spooner
Directed by John Hough

The Age summary

Birds couldn’t kill a man, steal and spy and crash planes and have the Avengers running for cover … could they?

Plot summary

A series of dead by flocks of birds accompanied by strange whistling sounds reveals only one clue - a tag from “Sanctuary of Wings”, a shelter run by the mysterious Zacardi. Agent Turner follows the trail but is captured and interrogated while the New Avengers follow other leads. Turner escapes but can only stammer the name “Waterlow” before dying. Steed and Gambit interview Waterlow, learning that only Zacardi could control the birds while Purdey finds the bird tag and is captured when she visits the aviary. Zarcardi tells Purdey of his plans for world domination using birds, before ordering them to tear her apart, but Steed and Gambit arrive witrh baskets full of cats to save the day.

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show plot summary

Pet shop owner Hudson (Joe Black) tends his cages, takes some rubbish outside and hears a strange whistling sound. When he returns, all his cages are empty. Elsewhere, Ministry agent Merton (Andrew Bradford) stops his Jaguar in the countryside, panic-stricken, and calls John Steed (Patrick Macnee), warning him that Hugh Rydercroft will be assassinated at noon. The radio transmission is cut off by the sound of an angry flock of birds, and Merton falls from a cliff trying to escape them.

The New Avengers investigate Merton’s car while his comatose form is removed, Purdey (Joanna Lumley) finding a few loose feathers. They intercept Rydercroft (Basil Dignam) and examine his plane, while security officer Turner (Matthew Long) complains about the unwarranted intrusion. Their fears are well founded however as Rydercroft’s plane is brought down on the dot of 12, even though seconds before he’d told the air traffic controller (Brian Jackson) visibility was 100%.
At the crash site, chief investigator Lewington (Hugh Walters) finds feathers trapped in the ailerons and Turner finds a bird tag that leads him to “Sanctuary of Wings”, a bird refuge run by Zarcardi (Vladek Sheybal). Zarcardi is warned of Turner’s presence by his birds and when he enters an aviary he’s attacked, Zarcardi playing a strange flute outside. Meanwhile, the New Avengers have finally worked out birds attacked Merton and Rydercroft. Turner is tortured by Zarcardi’s birds while the New Avengers go through Rydercroft’s contacts, Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt) taking Foster and Steed, Bridlington; Purdey goes in search of Turner who tells Zarcardi where the logs of the crash site investigation are held - Purdey meets Lewington but when they go to check the logs, all they find is a feather and an egg - Zarcardi’s pigeons have made off with the paperwork. Turner escapes from Zarcardi when he’s busy sending his hawks to kill Foster - Gambit sees them and races to Foster’s penthouse flat but by the time he gets there, Foster is dead several storeys below next to Gambit’s Jag.

Turner finds his car destroyed by birds just as Steed arrives at Bridlington’s workshop, passing “No Cats” signs (sound familiar?). He hears a haunting whistling as he enters… but Bridlington (Gordon Rollings) is playing a flute - he tells Steed he hasn’t perfected it yet but controlling birds with the flute is preferable to the mass extermination of birds suggested by Foster.
Turner makes it to Steed’s country house, but is a quivering wreck when they find him and can only stammer the name “Waterlow” before dying. Steed and Gambit head off to see Waterlow, then Purdey finds the bird tag in Turner’s coat. Zarcardi arrives to kill Waterlow (Peter Copley), who is telling Steed that birds compete with mankind for food, and with overpopulation a mounting problem, birds must be limited. Zarcardi calls an attack, but they escape by diving into the swimming pool, much to the relief of Gambit. Waterlow names Zarcardi as the only person able to mount such an attack, and tells them to find his ex-assistant Tomkins.

Purdey arrives at the sanctuary where she befriends a finch. Zarcardi puts a hawk in Steed’s Range Rover after Gambit goes after Tomkins. Zarcardi’s flute playing causes the finch to peck Purdey, and the hawk to attack Steed, who quells it by driving into the back of a removal van and covering it with his bowler hat. Tomkins (Kevin Stoney) tells Gambit that Zarcardi could train birds to kill and he had been - literally - blinded by Zarcardi’s science. Zarcardi meanwhile tells Purdey of his plans for world domination using birds, while Steed visits Hudson’s pet shop for some necessary supplies…

Steed and Gambit both turn up at the sanctuary with hampers full of cats, which are let loose on Zarcardi’s aviary and save an escaping Purdey from being slaughtered by his birds. “Pussy? Galore!”

Production details

Produced:June, 1976
First broadcast:
  • London: 16/11/1976
  • Midlands: 1/11/1976
  • Sydney (ABN-2): 30/03/1977
  • Melbourne (ABV-2): 30/03/1977
  • USA (CBS): 17/11/1978
  • France (TF1): 8/01/1977

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