• title card: white all caps text reading ‘THE LION AND THE UNICORN BY JOHN GOLDSMITH’ superimposed on a white car plummeting off a cliff
  • Purdey and Gambit politely usher the Unicorn into the Paris apartement
  • Ritter hides behind a crowd of nuns in white wimples and robes as he escapes
  • The model is shocked as her dress is ripped off during Grima’s ateempt to escape
  • Marco prepares to press the button on the detonator as Ritter stands next to him
  • Gambit’s finger hovers over the detonator button, Steed and Purdey smiling at his side - Steed’s hand is on his elbow and is about to make him accidentally press the button

The New Avengers, Series 2 — Episode 4
The Lion and the Unicorn

by John Goldsmith
Directed by Ray Austin

Plot summary

Failing to capture “The Unicorn” in Cornwall, the Avengers follow him to France and capture him in Paris, but one of his own men accidentally kills him when aiming for Steed. The Unicorn’s gang kidnap a visiting Prince in retaliation and they have a tense negotiation as they try to exchange a dead man for royalty. The gang become suspicious and their mute enforcer Grmia parachutes onto the building, dicovering their leader is dead and Gambit has to chase him through the streets of Paris in a street-sweepers van. They put a bomb on the Prince at the exchange but Steed has fixed the lifts and they’re able to remove it, and throw it at the boss, before he can detinate the bomb, so the gang members surrender.

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John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Purdey (Joanna Lumley) search a coastal hotel - with stethoscopes - until they find the room they want but Purdey accidentally knocks over a bin, alerting their quarry, and they have to escape. Their quarry, top assassin “The Unicorn” (Jean Claudio), gives chase, firing at their departing car and his men pursue but ultimately fail to stop their escape, all their cars crashing. Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt) learns the Unicorn is planning a hit, but Steed has a plan of his own...

Sure enough, a minister (Gerald Sim) leaves a cathedral and is mobbed by a throng of journalists and photographers - and the Unicorn. He shoots the cleric and takes off, pursued by Gambit. Afterwards, Steed removes a bulletproof vest from the minister, who is perturbed to learn it was the Unicorn who made the hit - he has a triple D rating. Gambit calls from the airport; the Unicorn has left for Paris but Gambit bugged his phone booth and knows his address - and has arranged an RAF jet to get them all there ahead of him.

In Paris, Steed collects a few bottles of the Unicorn’s champagne, and Gambit’s guns - he wants the Unicorn alive. Purdey, on watch outside, sees the Unicorn arrive and they overpower him with fountains of champagne - and a kick from Purdey. However, Ritter (Jacques Maury) has seen Purdey follow the Unicorn into the house...

They settle into the Unicorn’s immeuble, but Ritter is worried and calls Marco (Raoul Delfosse) who tells him not to enter the building, but to investigate Purdey’s presence. Ritter sees the New Avengers in the apartment from a neighbouring building and Marco orders him to kill Steed - but aims at Steed’s reflection in a cheval mirror, and his wayward shot kills the Unicorn instead. Purdey and Gambit give chase but he gets away through a flock of nuns (sound familiar?). Steed puts a security cordon around the building so the gang won’t know the Unicorn is dead - they’d never believe they hadn’t killed him - and the gang decide to take a hostage of their own.

On a TGV crossing the French countryside, two bodyguards (Jean-Pierre Bernard [Arlo] and Ludwig Gaum) protect the compartment of a visiting prince. Arlo bars Ritter entry to the carriage, flashing his Sureté ID. By the tracks ahead, Marco’s mute aide Grima (Henri Czarniak) prepares some chloroform. Ritter pulls the emergency brake and when the guards check the compartment, the prince has disappeared.

Commander Leparge (Maurice Marsac) arrives and demands they concede to the kidnappers’ demands as royalty must not be seen to be vulnerable - and blanches when told that the Unicorn is dead. Marco makes the prince comfortable while Steed tells Leparge to stall for time - 24 hours while he visits the Unicorn old second in command, Henri Duval (Raymond Bussieres), who’s playing boules in a Parisian parc. He’s coerced into revealing the name of his replacement - Marco, but it’s not much of a clue. Leparge gets the postponement, but makes Marco suspicious by saying the Unicorn is dead - to the world, having drunk too much - but he hadn’t drunk at all since Steed shot him in Morocco. Marco sends Grima to investigate - he parachutes onto the roof and finds the Unicorn’s body but the New Avengers give chase - Gambit in a three-wheeled road repair van, Purdey with her radio on the rooftops directing him past a series of slapstick vignettes. They discover he’s an illiterate mute and can learn nothing from him. Marco calls to arrange the transfer and Steed makes it on his terms - using Marco’s name to show the Unicorn’s anger at the situation - and nominates the Unicorn’s building.

Purdey fixes the lifts, but Marco has put a bomb on the prince. Steed, using cameras and two-way radios, arrange for the prince to be put in one lift and sent up, while the other, ostensibly containing the Unicorn, is sent down. The fixed lift shows it’s going up when in fact it descends to the basement where Steed and Purdey are, and they remove the bomb which Gambit delivers at Marco’s feet just as he realises the trick and goes to detonate it. After a bit of juggling, Ritter and Marco surrender when Purdey kicks the bomb into their 2cv. Steed congratulates Gambit and Purdey, and accidentally sets off the bomb when he pats Gambit’s shoulder, but the villains emerge blacken but unhurt.

Steed and Gambit go out to sample the history and culture of Paris - and wind up at the Moulin Rouge.

Production details

Produced:May, 1977
First broadcast:
  • London: 16/11/77
  • Midlands: 1/11/77
  • Sydney (ABN-2): 27/02/78
  • Melbourne (ABV-2): 27/02/78
  • USA (CBS): 15/12/78
  • France (TF1): 27/07/79

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