• title card: white all caps text reading ‘FACES BY BRIAN CLEMENS & DENNIS SPOONER’ superimposed on a man wearing blue swimmers diving into a swimming pool, his head obscured by the splash of entry
  • Gambit points his pump-action shotgun aloft, horrifying Steed as he rapidly downs the clay pigeon, Steed’s gun is pointed at the ground
  • Gambit is dishevelled and dirty in his guise of an Irish vagrant
  • Mullins shows another vagrant, this one resembling Steed, into his quarters
  • Purdey, in the guise of the fast talking streetwalker, Lolita, pulls out her pistol; she wears a hot pink dress and fur coat, and is chewing gum
  • Steed holds up the pocket watch that saved his life, the face smashed and marked by the bullet

The New Avengers, Series 1 — Episode 9

by Brian Clemens and Dennis Spooner
Directed by James Hill

TV Times summary

Double trouble for The New Avengers. What do you do when the man waiting to kill you — is you? Who can Purdey trust? Is Purdey really Purdey?

Plot summary

At the Mission for the Distressed and Needy the brilliant plastic surgeon Dr. Prator turns sundowners into the government officials and politicians they resemble, planning to infiltrate the whole of the British government with turncoats (this is years before Boris Johnson’s oaffish goons). Discovering a man who resembles Steed, they start planning to take over the Security services as well, so Gambit and then Purdey separately infiltrate, pretending to be doubles of themselves. They both think each other has succeeded and it’s not until Gambit knocks out the ringleader, Craig, that they can breathe easy.

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Two sundowners, Mullins (Edward Petherbridge) and Terrison (Richard Leech) are poaching game when they hear a limousine enter the manor grounds, peering through the bushes they see the spitting image of Terrison in the back… later, Mullins uses the bow and arrow formerly used for killing rabbits to kill the passenger, a ministry official called Craig, and Terrison takes his place just before John Steed (Patrick Macnee) arrives.

At the Mission for the Distressed and Needy, Mullins shows Dr. Prator (David De Keyser) a runagate whom they tell will be prime minister some day. Those same sentiments are said by Wendy (Annabel Leventon) to Mark Clifford (Neil Hallett) while on a picnic, only she expects him to be the next prime minister. However, when he goes to fetch champagne from the Rolls, Mullins sticks him with an arrow just as he spies his double in the car and the ex-vagabond replaces him. Plans go awry however when the new double dies of a heart attack shortly after bluffing through a chance encounter with Steed in which he pretended to have forgotten an upcoming old boys’ match.

Steed takes Wendy to the morgue; when he and the attendant (Robert Putt) escort her out, Prator and Mullins break in and perform plastic surgery on the corpse. Next morning, after Purdey (Joanna Lumley) commits a faux pas about “an air of gloom”, the morgue rings to informs Steed of the break-in. Steed declares Clifford’s appendectomy scar is new, despite records showing him having one in 1969. The attendant says the records and Sir Nigel Rayner’s wife both said Sir Nigel should have had a mole on his right arm that wasn’t there when he died.
Worried, Steed interviews Lady Sheila Rayner (Jill Melford) who tells him Nigel changed after a trip to Switzerland; she thought he’d met another woman, but the only time she followed him he went to a mission hall - and he became forgetful about intimacies, pet names, cricket matches… and Steed remembers Clifford’s forgetfulness upon that last meeting. Steed tells Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt) that Dr. Prator works at the Mission - not a GP, but a plastic surgeon - and outlines his fear of a doubles plot, describing Clifford’s and Rayner’s changes and Gambit is sent undercover as an Irish gangrel called Terry Walton.

The villains go after a new target - Ministry bureaucrat Harold Bilston (David Webb). He sees his double in his car and runs, but is killed in a rundown market. Meanwhile, Steed gets Clifford exhumed, and the coroner, Peters (Michael Sheard), is astounded to find he still has an appendix. Purdey goes to get Clifford’s file so they can compare his fingerprints, but she’s told the file has been destroyed - by the false Bilston! Gambit is edgy about who’s real and who’s not, while Department of Home Security bureaucrat Torrance (Donald Hewlett) is hot under the collar about Steed investigating Clifford and Rayner. The false Craig is told and says he may need to replace Steed…

Wendy takes Steed to the picnic spot and he finds Mark’s corpse. Gambit packs, telling Purdey he’s going to Base 47, and she tells him Steed has changed… he visits Steed in his clochard gear and is told of the discovery. That night at the mission, Mullins spots Gambit and suggest him as a double - for himself - but Prator weirdly thinks there’s no resemblance. Gambit’s locked up to ‘dry out’ and Mullins releases another reformed drunk - who looks like Steed! Three days later, Gambit’s brought back to the doctor and he approves. Craig meanwhile tells Purdey Base 47 was closed down a month ago, leaving them both confused as to Gambit’s movements.

Gambit learns the boss is high is security and has been impersonating his double for five years. Prator tells Mullins to get rid of the real Gambit, who’s at Base 47 — where Purdey is looking for him. She dodges Mullins’ arrows and defeats him in unarmed combat but he collapses on an arrow and dies. She finds a card from the mission, so disguises herself as a Salvation Army corporal. At the mission, she learns from a tramp (J.G. Devlin) that Prator is a plastic surgeon. Craig arrives, saying Mullins hasn’t come back and he wants the fake Steed made ready immediately. He drives him to Steed’s mansion, telling him he’s about to become the world’s most eligible bachelor. Inside, Wendy gives Steed Mark’s watch; his double waits for her to leave then shoots Steed through one of the French doors…

Purdey tires of her Sally Ann outfit, and re-disguises herself as a cockney hooker called Lolita; she returns to the mission and demands that Prator change her appearance or she’ll kill him. He smiles and pulls out a photo of Purdey. Next morning, ‘Steed’ walks straight past Torrance without recognising him, and seems oblivious to most of his conversation. Meanwhile, ‘Purdey’ and ‘Gambit’ are introduced, and both suspect each other to be fake, leading to a wonderful vignette of them both testing the waters. Wendy returns, saying she’d given Steed the wrong watch and is taken aback when he says he’s mislaid the original.

Purdey is told she’s ready, and must kill her real self; Gambit’s already gone to do that to his - she goes to Gambit’s apartment and is horrified when he affects a Dublin lilt. She drives away, and en route tearfully rings Steed, then remembers Prator telling her how easily Steed will accept her and hangs up. Gambit meanwhile warns Steed about ‘Purdey’, but Purdey foolishly turns to Craig for help. They go to confront Steed, but Craig reveals himself and Steed disarms him, revealing himself to be the real Steed. He’d been saved by Clifford’s watch, and he locked the fake in the cellar.
Gambit arrives and Craig thinks he’s won - a furious Purdey tells him she cared for the real Gambit who was a thousand times the man he is. She’s more furious a minute later when, after knocking out Craig, he’s revealed as the real Gambit, and always had been.

They arrest Prator, and Steed turns to camera, declaring Purdey and Gambit “irreplaceable”.

Production details

Produced:July, 1976
First broadcast:
  • London: 14/12/1976
  • Midlands: 6/03/1977
  • Sydney (ABN-2): 27/04/1977
  • Melbourne (ABV-2): 27/04/1977
  • USA (CBS): 13/10/1978
  • France (TF1): 12/02/1977

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