• title card: The Yellow Needle superimposed on a dark background
  • Dr. Keel and Carol check the newspaper
  • Inspector Anthony confers with his sergeant
  • Steed, disguised as a journalist, visits Bai Shebro and Ali
  • Sir Wilberforce is confident he will be fine
  • Jacquetta prepares to kill Sir Wilberforce

Series 1 — Episode 16
The Yellow Needle

by Patrick Campbell

Production No 3413, VTR/ABC/1318
Production completed: June 8 1961. First transmission: June 10 1961.

Production details

Studio details: Teddington Two
Production No. 3413
Tape No. VTR/ABC/1318
Transmission: 10th June 1961, 8.50–9.47 p.m.


Wednesday, 7th June, 1961
Camera Rehearsal10.30 — 12.30
Lunch Break12.30 — 13.30
Camera Rehearsal13.30 — 18.00
Supper Break18.00 — 19.00
Camera Rehearsal19.00 — 21.00
Thursday, 8th June, 1961
Camera Rehearsal10.00 — 12.30
Lunch Break12.30 — 13.30
Camera Rehearsal13.30 — 15.30
Tea Break, Line Up, Normal Scan & Make-up15.30 — 16.15
Dress Rehearsal16.15 — 17.30
Line Up17.30 — 18.00
AMPEX RECORDING18.00 — 19.00


Cameras: 3 Pedestals, 1 Mole Crane
Sound: 3 Booms (plus grams, but not listed on the equipment list)
Telecine: A.B.C. Symbol, 35mm mute inserts, slides

Running time: 57.10 = Play portion: 52.30 + 2 commercial breaks; 2.05 & 2.35

Regional broadcasts

ITV BroadcasterDateTime
ABC Midlands10/06/196110.00pm
ABC North10/06/196110.00pm
Anglia Television10/06/196110.00pm
Southern Television10/06/196110.00pm
Tyne Tees Television10/06/196110.00pm
Television Wales & West10/06/196110.00pm
Ulster Television10/06/196110.00pm
Westward Television10/06/196110.00pm
Scottish Television10/06/196110.00pm
Border Television--
Grampian Television--

TV Times listing

TV Times listing for June 10 1961, 10.00pm (Northern edition), with a picture of Ian Hendry smoking a cigarette at an Italian newsagent’s from the 1960 promotional shoot

Teleplay by Patrick Campbell
Also starring


Sir Wilberforce Lungi Andre Dakar
Dr. David Keel Ian Hendry
Carol Wilson Ingrid Hafner
Inspector Anthony Eric Dodson
Jacquetta Brown Margaret Whiting
John Steed Patrick Macnee
Chief Bai Shebro Bari Johnson
Ali Wolfe Morris

“The Avengers” theme composed
and played by Johnny Dankworth
Designed by Alpho O’Reilly
Directed by DON LEAVER

Sir Wilberforce Lungi arrives to nego-
tiate his country’s future, and brings a
secret tribal enemy with him. Keel and
Steed need all their faculties if they are to
prevent a disastrous assassination

An ABC Weekend Network Production

The Northern edition ended with An ABC Weekend Network Production and also has a photo of Ian Hendry from the pre-production photoshoot above his name. It’s possible that all editions were the same as broadcasts were synchronised.

I do not have a copy of the London or Midlands editions, if anyone has one, I would love to see it.

Episode availability

  • Video - no original footage is known to exist; a video reconstruction is available on the Studio Canal series 1&2 DVD set
  • Audio - reconstruction in The Lost Episodes vol. 3, by Big Finish
  • Script - scene breakdown, programme budget, and Barbara Forster’s copy of the camera script, edited with biro, lead pencil, blue pencil, and red pencil.
  • Publicity Stills - none
  • Tele-Snaps - 82, 10 repeated at a larger size

Continuity and trivia

  1. It would seem Terence Young was a fan of The Avengers and borrowed ideas from the episodes for his James Bond films. The Big Man only seen as a close-up of him petting an animal in his lap in Hot Snow is much like Blofeld in From Russia with Love - Fleming’s books never mention Blofeld having a cat. There is a description of Ali in this episode that reminds us of Largo’s lines about Philip Locke’s character Vargas in Thunderball:
    SHEBRO: Ali does not indulge. Nor does Ali drink. Ali is an abstemious man.

    The novel of Thunderball was published in March 1961 — after a copyright dispute was partially resolved - so the line about Ali, and Vargas, may have been inspired by Fleming’s description of Blofeld in chapter 5 of the book:

    For the rest, he didn’t smoke or drink and he had never been known to sleep with a member of either sex. He didn’t even eat very much. So far as vices or physical weaknesses were concerned, Blofeld had always been an enigma to everyone who had known him.
  2. It’s a shame that the title of the episode gives away the ending!
  3. A programme budget for this episode reveals it had an allocated budget of £3,770, excluding the free lance designer’s fee. Actual expenditure was £3951 12 s. - including £1,380 for the external designer’s cost so I guess that means they were technically under budget, unless they were expecting the free-lancer to be cheaper. There was an additional fee of £150 for the AMPEX recording.
  4. The budget sheet also reveals that Reed de Rouen was the “story adaptor”, and the production also hired a call boy and a chaperone - for the small boy in the opening teaser and maybe Christian Holder, who was 12 at the time.

    Christian tells me his father, the famous dancer Boscoe Holder, was friends with Harold Holness and Bari Johnson - Bari had been in Boscoe’s dance troupe in the Fifties - so he would have had “family” on set.

  5. The production also hired Dr. Michael Yates as medical adviser - presumably not the Brigadier’s Captain Mike Yates!
  6. The camera script records the cameramen as being: 1. Johnnie, 2. Mike (Baldock), 3. Roy, 4. David
  7. The camera script reveals that the episode had a 30 second over-run from the planned running time of 57.10
    Act 1: 20.15; 2.05 break; Act 2: 16.10; 2.35 break; Act 3: 16:35 = Total: 57.40
    There are a lot of lengthy cuts of verbose scenes in Act One, and a couple of shorter cuts as well. We can assume that they ran significantly over time in rehearsals, leading to the scenes being deleted.
  8. A production memo from Sydney Newman, who was standing in for Leonard White who had been in hospital, complained about the shambles of the recording session as one of the leading actors continually dried (forgot his lines). This resulted in two false starts and while the final recording went well it was clear the other performers had been thrown off by the disruption. This might account for the over-run despite all the cut scenes.
  9. Some of the dialogue is dated and would make actors and producers blush today - for instance, Asiedu addresses Steed as “Massah”. However, the Black leads do not suffer from this lazy scriptwriting.
  10. The Steed who said he had “no influence with the police” in Dance with Death has Inspector Anthony completely defer to him at the end of this episode, and can apparently commandeer RAF planes when required.
  11. The episode ends abruptly with a cliffhanger - we never know if Sir Wilberforce is saved, although it seems likely he will be.
  12. This was the first episode shown by Scottish Television which picked the series up much later than other active ITV regions (Border and Grampian did not start broadcasting until September 1961). Other regions such as Teledu Cymru and Channel did not commence until 1962.

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