Series 1 — Episode 20
Tunnel of Fear
by John Kruse
Production completed: 3 August 1961. First transmission: 5 August 1961
TV Times summary
A “ghost train” ride has more than the normal quota of thrills when a leakage of international secrets leads Keel and Steed to an amusement park
Harry Black escapes from prison and enlists the help of Steed and Dr Keel in proving his innocence, neatly coinciding with a case Steed is investigating where top secret information is leaking into Europe from somewhere in Southend. They investigate and discover a Korean War veteran, brainwashed by the Chinese, is behind an espionage ring of his old battalion. He’s using a hypnotist at the fun fair and equipment hidden in the Ghost Train to transmit the information to Eastern Europe. Steed uses a special forces cigarette bomb to bring the spies to heel.
At a fun pier in Southend, a barker - Maxie Lardner (Stanley Platts) - dares fair-goers to ride through Tunnel of Fear. Several people get on, including a businessman in suit and tie, bowler hat and umbrella. When the ride stops, only the man’s umbrella remains in his car...
Back in Pimlico, Carol Wilson (Ingrid Hafner) is getting ready to go home when there’s a ferocious beating at the back door of the surgery. An injured man stumbles in, claiming to have been hit by a car and asks Dr David Keel (Ian Hendry) to patch him up. He refuses a pain killer when Dr Keel prepares a syringe, saying “I do things when they put me to sleep”, but he passes out from shock at the pain of having the first shard of glass removed from his back.
Keel remarks that the man is wearing prison clothes and looks as though he’s jumped through a window in an escape. Carol searches his pockets and finds a letter to Mrs Mary Black and Dr Keel insists she read it. She learns that the man is Harry Black, who claims to have been framed for a crime and has escaped to find out who framed him. Harry Black (Anthony Bate) recovers and swears he’s innocent but Keel orders Carol to ring the police. Carol refuses, citing woman’s intuition, and Keel says men can have it to. He tells Harry that breaking out of prison isn’t a very good way to prove his innocence and says he will call the police and they can sort it out. This angers Harry who asks him to give him a break and then shouts, “What’s the use? Well, what are you waiting for?”
At that moment, John Steed (Patrick Macnee) arrives with his enormous dog, Puppy, on his way to the kennels. Dr Keel calls him in and Steed sees Black and asks, “what hit him?” As he reads the letter that Keel’s handed to him, Puppy goes over and makes friends with Harry.
STEED: She likes him, never makes a mistake on character. She’s very unpopular around Westminster.
CAROL: More feminine intuition.
Steed jokes that he “knew Black’s tailor” then takes charge, calling One-Ten when he learns that Black is from Southend as it may tie in to a case he’s working on. One-Ten (Douglas Muir) approves the follow-up, and informs Steed that Harry had supposedly stolen the weekend takings of the Bel-Air fun fair.
Steed asks Keel to go to Southend and “ferret around a bit” and say he’s a “prison visitor” to speak to Mrs Black. Being an old stick in the mud, Dr Keel agrees so long as Harry turns himself in, and Steed says he’ll be personally responsible for taking Harry to the nearest police station. Before he goes, Steed tells Dr Keel that top secret defence information is leaking out of the country; they’ve been watching the secretary of a foreign embassy who has been lunching in Southend with a real estate agent called Wickram every weekend. Unfortunately, when Steed and Harry go to the car, some boys run up and fire their toy guns at Puppy and she bounds after them; Black takes the opportunity to steal Steed’s car and escape once more when Steed goes to retrieve her.
At the fun fair, Mrs Black (Doris Rogers) denies having a son until Dr Keel put Harry’s letter in the bag of cockles she sold him, which he returns, claiming they’re off. After she reads the letter she agrees to talk. Dr Keel does as Steed suggested and poses as a prison visitor who was helping Harry and she asks him to meet her in Madam Zenobia’s tent as there’s a man snooping around.
Madame Zenobia (Hazel Coppen) is a jobbing fortune teller who nips off for a quick cuppa after wheedling a £1 note out of Keel by suggesting she could tell him who framed Harry - and then just says “your future isn’t worth this much”! Mrs Black confirms that Harry was framed for the theft of £5,000 - the weekend’s taking from the fair - but she doesn’t know who did it either. Harry had gone to a party and she thinks someone gave him “one of them knock-out drops”; he was fingered by the night watchman, George Milner, who said he saw Harry hanging around after closing time. She suggests Dr Keel talks to Maxie Lardner, Harry’s best friend who bought him out and now runs the ghost train by himself.
Keel emerges from the tent and passes the fair’s hypnotist, Billy Flowers (Douglas Rye), who’s performing his enforced balancing act on a young woman. Dr Keel is then astonished to hear Steed’s voice announcing the “girlie girlie” show with a troupe of belly dancers. Keel is furious at being used and goes to confront him but Steed quickly points out that Harry is behind them, saying, “He got away”. Keel takes charge of Harry and leads him into the girlie tent but Maxie sees them and tells a bystander to fetch a copper to arrest Harry. Steed offers Maxie a ticket but Maxie glares at him and says he works there - and to keep his hands off his girl, Rosie.
In the tent, Harry explains his escape from Steed, telling Dr Keel he had to get down to Southend to try to clear himself. During the belly dancing show, Steed enters and warns Harry and Keel that the law are coming and he leads them out the side of the tent. Steed stalls the officers outside while they make their escape - but one again Maxie spots them leaving. Steed leads the officers into the tent and some of the girls flee outside, fearing the police have come to arrest them. Maxie rushes over and informs the police sergeant (Morris Perry) that Harry escaped out the back of the tent. The sergeant blows his whistle and rushes off. Mrs Black and Billy show up, wondering about the fuss, and Maxie tells them the police are chasing Harry. Mrs Black is startled, revealing that Dr Keel said Harry was in London, and after she leaves Billy says they have to get Wickram.
Harry and Dr Keel evade the police by ducking behind the coconut shy then Mrs Black shows them through a gap in the back fence before they are caught. Billy and the businessman in the bowler hat, Jack Wickram (John Salew), are concerned that Harry is back and in the company of a man called Keel - and Billy suggests, “they just might have rumbled something and sent this chap to nose around”. With the police gone, Steed restarts the show and, so that Maxie notices, blatantly flirts with Rosie (Julie Samuel), the lead showgirl and Maxie’s girlfriend. Maxie sees him and is furious but Wickram stops him from intervening.
Keel and Black head for the yacht of Harry’s girlfriend, Claire (Miranda Connell) who is ironing in her underwear. She hides then in the forecabin when the police sergeant arrives close on their heels and declares they aren’t there, as he can see from how she’s dressed. She tells him she heard someone running towards the pier and he leaves. Claire hides some baby clothes then says it’s safe to come out; Harry introduces Dr Keel to Claire, “who used to be my girlfriend”. Claire is upset and swears she hasn’t changed, she never thought he was guilty - but she doesn’t tell him about the baby.
Back at the fair, Steed makes a romantic move on Rosie in an attempt to find out about Maxie but Maxie enters the dressing room behind them and attacks Steed. They fight and Steed has knocked him down when Rosie smashes a vase over Steed’s head, knocking out the agent and allowing Maxie and Rosie to depart. Two other showgirls find Steed and call for Ma Black’s assistance.
Back at the yacht, Claire is worried when Harry says he’s back to clear his name and plans to reconstruct the crime to try to restore his memory. He’s armed himself with two paint scrapers joined by a wire but he tells Keel the evidence is against him - his handkerchief was stuffed in the alarm, his fingerprints were on the safe. Claire says she’s coming with them but Keel and Harry tell her she can help them more by waiting at the yacht - but she has other ideas...
After Mrs Black patches Steed up, she learns he’s a friend of Dr Keel and they exchange information. Steed phones One-Ten, giving the code word “Delta”. As they chat, Mrs Black shows Steed her photo album and he’s interested in a photo of Harry with Jack Wickram. She tells him Harry met Wickram in the army during the Korean War. Harry had a bad time over there but Wickram had it worse as he was taken prisoner.
MRS BLACK: When he come back he was very strange, you know, sort of like he had been brainwashed.
Steed tells One-Ten that Wickram was connected to Harry which raises One-Ten’s interest - but he still complains about having to care for Puppy for the night and asks Steed what he’s supposed to feed her as Puppy dumps a large dog bowl in his lap.
The night watchman, George Milner (Bill Maxam) shows Wickram and Billy that he’s now armed with a sawn-off shotgun. Harry and Keel return to the fair, slipping past Milner - and Keel wonders if Milner always carries a shotgun. Steed meanwhile slips inside the ghost train but Maxie sees him go in. Harry finds Claire outside the office and tell hers to keep watch and out of sight while they recreate the crime that Harry was done for. Harry goes through the motions like a man possessed1 while Claire waits outside - until someone grabs her from behind and covers her mouth with his hand. Inside, Harry goes to take the cash out of the safe then he cries out:
HARRY: Why am I doing this? I don’t want this Billy, I don’t want it, I don’t want it Billy! Billy, I don’t want it, I told you I don’t want it! Listen to me!
Keel reassures him he’s not Billy and they slip outside where they are confronted with the business end of Milner’s shotgun.
Billy questions Steed in his calm hypnotist voice but Steed’s answers are evasive, prompting Wickram to think he’s faking being hypnotised. Billy asks him about Keel but they learn little from him other than Keel “will go to heaven”:
STEED: Dog-sitter, doctor, lives in Pimlico, will go to heaven .... Yes, will go to heaven.....
(He pauses for a while then babbles:)
STEED: ...wears a 15½ collar, is 5'11½, was a wing three-quarter at Rugger, golf - has a handicap of four, well-read - pedestrian appetite, fond of children, fond of children, fond of children, fond of children.
Wickram yells at Billy to shut him up. Meanwhile, Mrs Black clobbers Milner with a lump of wood and they escape, but Maxie drags the captured Claire in just as Billy is helping Milner to his feet. When the others return to Claire’s boat they find Mavis looking after the baby - a shock to Harry, who doesn’t think he’s the father. Mrs Black tells him not to be upset, and she’s going to stick by Claire and the baby before him, no matter what.2 Mrs Black mentions that Milner wasn’t the only one hanging round the fair; she’d seen Billy Flowers, the hypnotist, as well. “Hypnotist”, Dr Keel murmurs, the penny dropping, and he reminds Harry that he’s said “Billy” in the office. Keel asks if Billy had been at the party on the night of the robbery, hypnotising people for fun, and Harry confirms he was. Keel says “that might explain a lot” and they head for the fair to find Claire.
The villains have gathered in the office where Milner shows them Harry had been repeating the crime, which makes Wickram decide they have to pack up and get out. Billy says “the line’s open now, there’ll be stuff coming through” and asks for ten to fifteen minutes, which Wickram allows. Harry has told Keel that Wickram was also at the party and he stands guard outside while Keel goes into the Ghost Train and unties Claire and Steed when he finds them in one of the tunnels. Claire tells him she was captured by Maxie and at that moment Harry is being recaptured by Wickram and his gang at gunpoint outside.
Steed hears the hum of electronic machinery in the tunnels and discovers a room where a computer is hooked up to the Cross Channel telephone cables that run under the pier, intercepting, decoding and relaying the messages. Before he can do much to the equipment the villains burst in with Harry, backing our heroes against a wall as they take charge of the room. Wickram plugs back in the cables Steed had disconnected and tells Billy to call the Captain, they need the boat to flee the country.
Steed takes out his cigarette case, causing Milner to bark at him, but he just asks to light a cigarette. Wickram does the honours, watching him carefully. Steed asks Wickram “Were you a Desert Rat, Tobruk 1942?” He holds up his cigarette and points to a line marked on it and says it like the improvised bombs from the Second World War, when it burns to the line - or is jabbed sharply against the wall - the room and everyone in it will be blown to pieces. Wickram says he’s bluffing, then demands the cigarette. Steed sneers, “Come and get it” - then adds they now have about ten seconds. Maxie runs for the door, the others turning to watch him. and in the confusion Keel and Harry disarm the spies, pointing their revolvers at them as Steed carefully trims off the burning end of the cigarette with a pair of nail scissors.
Keel breathes out slowly and tells Steed that was quite a bluff. Steed, who is calling the authorities, replies that he quite scared himself, as “these thing cost a fortune” - making Keel blanch as he realises Steed had not been bluffing at all. Steed offers Keel a cigarette from his case and Keel declines, wondering which others might be bombs, and says he was thinking of giving them up.
- He picks the lock of the door with a bit of wire, uses the paint scrapers to keep the alarm circuit from breaking (knowing exactly where the contacts are on the door and frame), then gets Keel to open the door slowly and stuff a handkerchief in the alarm bell over the door (at which Dr Keel observes it must have been a two man job). Harry then robotically removes the lightbulb from the pendant light, grabs one of the folders on the desk and immediately finds the safe combination. Keel holds the torch while Harry opens the safe.
- It’s a bit unclear if the baby is Harry’s or not. Mrs Black says Claire was taken in by a smooth-talker but surely Harry hasn’t been in gaol long enough for it to be someone else’s baby.