• title card: white all caps text reading ‘DIRTIER BY THE DOZEN BY BRIAN CLEMENS’ superimposed on Captain Noble falling in a puddle on the tarmac as he is shot at
  • Steed sheilds his face from the heat and smoke as he walks through a burning assault course
  • A man stands near us on the right, facing awat and tied to a stake in the woods, on the other side of the clearing, a six man firing squad are taking aim at him
  • Purdey, in a fetching red dress and matching tights, sits in the middle of the pub surrounded by uniformed soldiers, one of whom has put a hand on her knee
  • Gambit, in the uniform of a Scottish regiment, stands at attention beside his new CO, Col Mad Jack Miller, who is similarly attired in camouflage fatigues and wears a black eyepatch on his left eye
  • Purdey is rescued from the minefield - she hangs from a ladder under a helicopter, holding a bottle of champagne and a glass

The New Avengers, Series 1 — Episode 12
Dirtier by the Dozen

by Brian Clemens
Directed by Sidney Hayers

TV Times summary

Old soldiers never die … or do they? Steed’s looking for a lost General. Gambit joins the Army, and Purdey faces one alone.

Plot summary

A journalist records footage of British mercenaries in Africa and Purdey and Gambit realise the mercenaries are British Army troops. General Stevens meanwhile visits the base of “Mad Jack” Miller’s regiment but is arrested when he queries why it’s empty. The New Avengers learn that Miller’s troops are the dregs and hard cases, yet he’s had no AWOLs in over two years, so they decide to infiltrate. Purdey chats up the soldiers at a pub but is locked up by Miller, while Gambit pretends to be a disgraced Highland NCO. He’s recognisied when he goes to free her and they’re pursued across country, with Purdey running into the middle of a minefield - but she’s saved by Steed arriving in a helicopter, lowering a ladder and informing Miller he’s surrounded by an armoured division.

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show plot summary

A journalist, Peter Travis (Colin Skeaping), films two British Army commandos gun down some guerillas in cold blood. The soldiers, Colonel Miller (John Castle) and Sergeant Bowdon (Shaun Curry), realise they’ve been filmed and shoot at him as he escapes into the jungle. Meanwhile Captain Tony Noble (Michael Howarth) and General Stevens (Michael Barrington) arrive to conduct a spot check on the 19th Special Commandos, but find the base deserted. Turning to go, they are challenged by a young corporal, Terry (Brian Croucher), who shoots Tony in the leg when he approaches…

Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt) awaits Travis at an airport rendezvous, but one of Miller’s men, Keller (John Labanowski), kills him with a knife, and tries to steal the film. Gambit’s fists, however, prove more than a match for him. Gambit and Purdey (Joanna Lumley) view the film and see the soldiers, acting as mercenaries. Back at the base, Colonel Miller returns and commends Terry, then has the sergeant put him on a charge for subordination; he has the general and captain confined to quarters. One of his soldiers, Freddy (Francis Mughan) has been shipped home sick and his friend George Harris (Alun Armstrong) assures him he’ll be up and about again soon. Major Prentice (Stephen Moore) meanwhile has called John Steed (Patrick Macnee) in to locate the missing general, saying, he took off for a random inspection some days earlier. He cites Miller’s troops and those of Colonel Elroyd Foster (The Old 33rd) as being the closest bivouacs.

Harris is getting worried about Freddy as his fever intensifies, but the orderly (David Purcell) says he doesn’t have the equipment to treat him. Harris jumps the orderly, warning Tony to keep quiet, and takes Freddy off to a hospital. The alarm is raised and a truckful of soldiers sets off in pursuit, Miller screaming he wants him alive. At the hospital, the examining doctor (John Forbes-Robertson) is very worried about Freddy’s condition, but some balaclavaed commandos burst in before he can reveal the ailment, knock him out and capture the two AWOLs.

Harris is court-martialed and executed by firing squad, Purdey hearing the volley from the roadside where Sgt Bowdon has waylaid her. The general and Tony also hear it, and Tony tries to escape… Steed is taken to the hospital by the major, and the doctor tells him about the military assault on his office, and the soldier’s tropical fever.

Purdey visits her Uncle, who just happens to be Colonel Foster (Ballard Berkeley) and learns he hasn’t seen the general, and that ‘Mad Jack’ Miller runs his division like a private army, but not before the Colonel reprimands his batman, Carver, for not offering Purdey a drink. Miller meanwhile has discovered Tony’s escape, and sends his men to search. He’s spotted and they open up mortar fire on him, but when Purdey tries to rescue him, the sergeant and Miller, whom she immediately recognises from the films, stop her.

The New Avengers learn that Miller’s troops are the dregs and hard cases, yet he’s had no AWOLs in over two years, so they decide to infiltrate. Purdey visits the soldiers’ local and learns from Terry that they’ve fought in South America before Miller turns up and has Terry arrested and Purdey escorted off the premises… at gun point. Just after she’s locked in a cell, Gambit arrives posing as the new adjutant, Major Gambit, ex- of a highland regiment.

Steed learns of Miller’s acquisition of 500 camel saddles just as Gambit does, and Miller welcomes him more warmly after seeing his decidedly dodgy military record - “nothing was ever proven, sir”. He sees Purdey’s soldier friend punished by a rough ride strapped to a gun carriage and learns of the command’s mercenary activities before he learns Purdey is lock up on the base. Steed meanwhile rouses Prentice to show him records of more acquisitions - canoes and alpine gear - the Middle East! Gambit is recognised by the corporal he fought at the airfield when he goes to free Purdey and they defeat their attackers just before Miller turns up in pursuit. Heading across country, Miller’s men start to close in on them, despite the resourceful use of Purdey’s bra. They spot Miller unguarded and Purdey’s sets off to cause a diversion while Mike captures Miller and Bowdon, but Purdey wanders into a minefield… Gambit warns her by firing at the ground until he hits a mine, but Miller says only he knows the safe path and Gambit surrenders his rifle.

Just then, Steed arrives in a helicopter telling Miller an armoured division has him surrounded, and Miller and Bowdon surrender. Purdey is saved from the minefield by a ladder dropped from the helicopter, and Steed thoughtfully lowers a bottle of champagne and a glass, too!

Production details

Produced:October, 1976
First broadcast:
  • London: 5/01/1977
  • Midlands: 19/12/1976
  • Sydney (ABN-2): 13/04/1977
  • Melbourne (ABV-2): 13/04/1977
  • USA (CBS): 22/12/1978
  • France (TF1): 5/03/1977

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