• title card: white text reading ‘Propellant 23’ superimposed on a close-up of Meyer sitting nervously in his aeroplane seat
  • Roland, holding Meyer’s briefcase in the foreground right, is suspicious of Steed when Curly, stading behind him, says Steed had asked to take charge of the briefcase
  • Cathy and Steed rendezvous at the lingerie shop
  • Jeanette, on foreground left, becomes suspicious of Manning, behind and to her left
  • Tissot and the baker conspire... to get drunk
  • Roland and Pierre are astonished to discover Curly is now completely bald

Series 2 — Episode 2
Propellant 23

Teleplay by Jon Manchip White
Directed by Jonathan Alwyn

Production No 3505, VTR/ABC/1871
Production completed: July 21 1962. First transmission: October 6 1962.

Australian summaries

A passenger flying from Tripoli to Marseilles fears he is about to be murdered

Steed and Cathy find that a bottle of hair restorer plays a vital part in their investigation of a scientist’s death

Plot summary

A courier on his was to a rendezvous with Steed panics when he learns his life is in danger and dies when he arrives in Marseilles. Steed and Cathy search frantically for the sample of Propellant 23, a new rocket fuel, before it falls into the hands of the opposition. The sample is hidden in a hip flask, and a bottle of hair tonic. Both are stolen, one for a balding customs official and the other mistaken for alcohol by a tout working for a seedy hotel. Discounting the empty hair tonic, Steed and Cathy evade the local police and race to save the tout from certain death if he drinks it!

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Jules Meyer (Frederick Schiller), a passenger on an aeroplane, is handed a seemingly innocuous telegram. He panics, demanding to see the captain, saying it’s a matter of life or death. He pushes past the stewardess, Jeanette (Justine Lord), and the co-pilot, Robert (Michael Beint), and tells Captain Legros (Nicholas Courtney) someone is going to kill him.

Act 1

Another passenger, Paul Manning (Geoffrey Palmer) flirts with Jeanette who is making the coffee, ans asks if there’s anything he can do to help. Captain Legros tells Meyer he has to return to his seat but after the man suffers chest pains he’s allowed to stay. Jeanette enters the cabin and hands Meyer the hip flask he’d dropped in the passage, which seems to alarm him even more.

Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) is waiting in her car for John Steed (Patrick Macnee) who shows up and ignores Cathy’s annoyance at being summoned while on holidays. He tells her he’s meeting the plane from Tripoli. He’s meeting Meyer and will take his package to London, despite not knowing what’s in it. Cathy meanwhile will whisk Meyer away to safety, as he’s being pursued despite a 1,000 mile detour.

STEED: Well, it’s lucky I got a hold of you.
CATHY:That’s a matter of opinion!

At the airport, Lt. Leclerc (John Croker) arrives and reprimands Jacques Tissot (Trader Faulkner), a tout for a shabby hotel, for lounging around the airport. The barmaid, Laure (Catherine Woodville), who has a soft spot for the tout, joins Tissot in making fun of Leclerc. Leclerc enters the office where Pierre (Barry Wilsher) and Roland (Roland Nossek) are playing chess. Pierre greets him, and makes fun of his thinning hair, calling him ‘Curly’. Leclerc stiffly tells them the incoming flight from Tripoli has reported trouble aboard with a passenger and he’s to get two men to the runway; they all depart together and take two gendarmes along with them, leaving the waiting passengers and porters gawping after them.

Laure tries to get Jacques to give up drinking, much to the mirth of waiting passengers, while Jeanette delivers Meyer his coffee on the plane. Steed gives Cathy a “Defenseur” — a Victorian Parisian lady’s purse-gun, then arrives in the waiting room just as the flight is announced. He notices a man — Siebel (John Dearth) — in a coat and trilby palming a scalpel and, striking up a conversation with him, notices his German accent. Meyer enters with the captain and police lieutenant, but collapses. Steed claims to be a friend so he can close and asks Meyer where the package is but Meyer dies before he can tell him. His hip flask slips out of sight to the floor…

Leclerc interviews Steed, confused why he turned up if he cabled he’d be unable to and checks his passport. Steed asks after Meyer’s luggage, learning he only had a briefcase. Roland returns from customs with the case but, being much smarter than Leclerc, won’t give it to Steed. He sternly tells him he’s the second Englishman in ten minutes to offer to take charge of it for Meyer’s family. Leclerc closes up the airport for the night, hurrying Siebel on his way and reprimanding Jacques for lying on the bench where Meyer died. Jacques finds Meyer’s flask and leaves hurriedly, delighted with his discovery.

Steed returns to Cathy’s car, telling her Meyer was poisoned. He tells her about the suspicious German and plans to return for the briefcase, mentioning what Roland said about another Englishman being after the briefcase as well.

CATHY: An Englishman, a German. How did the French get left out?
STEED: The French provided me with my one ugly moment.

CATHY: “Unable to meet you Marseilles” and there you are large as life, I’m not surprised.
STEED: Well, it was in code!
CATHY: I should get yourself a new code book.

Pierre leaves Roland initialing forms and gives Leclerc a bottle of hair restorer he’d found in Meyer’s case, as a peace offering for having made fun of him earlier. Siebel breaks into Rolands office before Steed arrives and searches the office. He is waiting with his scalpel when Steed enters through the office window…

Act 2

Steed meets Cathy the next day in a lingerie shop. She tells him she searched the briefcase thoroughly but found nothing — no hidden compartments, or anything hidden in the brush, book, toothpaste, shaving cream or fountain pen. Steed has a stiff neck and a plaster on his forehead from his fight with Siebel last night, and examines some lingerie while they’re talking to cover their conversation. Steed says he’d left Siebel pinned under a filing cabinet and hadn’t stopped to check if he was dead before leaving. The shopkeeper calls Steed over to the phone.

CATHY: Do you always arrange to take your calls in a lingerie department?
STEED: If humanly possible.

Steed grins and her as he takes the phone then talks to head office about export trouble with the consignment he was going to deliver. He’s told the consignment is a ‘specimen tin of fruit juice’ a new line they’re trying from Shanghai, and he relates how there are a couple of ‘competitors’.
Afterwards, Steed explains to Cathy that this means the fuel of a new Chinese rocket. Cathy knows all about it, and tells him the fuel is designated ‘Propellant 23’; if it’s a liquid they’ll be looking for containers and the airport is the place to start looking. Steed can’t go back there after last night, so he tells Cathy, “this is your big break”.

Paul is kissing Jeanette on the plane but she asks him to leave, saying she’ll get in trouble if he’s found there. He pretends to look for his lighter but searches Meyer’s seat instead. Jeanette laments Meyer and says he must have taken the poison in his coffee — which Paul had helped her carry. Paul jokes that he could have poisoned the coffee but Jeanette says an easier way would have been Meyer’s flask. Paul is very interested and asks who might know what happened to it and learns of Tissot.

Cathy arrives at the airport lounge shortly after Pierre and buys coffee and cigarettes — carefully choosing the same brand as Pierre. Laure quizzes Pierre about the robbery last night from customs and learns there was quite a fight, and one was badly hurt. Pierre tells her the police are looking for an Englishman called Steed, who was very interested in Meyer’s briefcase; he tells Cathy the briefcase contained nothing of value — he’d listed the contents himself. Roland calls Pierre into the office and Cathy slips her packet of cigarettes into his pocket while he’s paying Laure.

She pretends to notice a moment later and goes to the office to retrieve them. She feigns curiosity and asks Pierre about the fight and the briefcase, suggesting Meyer might have had a bottle containing poison in the case. “A bottle!”, Pierre gasps, then recovers and denies there was one. Roland is suspicious of her questions and asks for her name and hotel — Hôtel des Saints Peres. Roland calls the police to tell them of Cathy’s ‘anxiety over a bottle’, meanwhile Curly is getting it out of his bathroom cabinet…

Jeanette meets Laure and learns she’s worried about Jacques, with whom she’s fallen in love. Laure asks her to visit him to see if he’s all right, the hotel won’t take calls for him so she can’t contact him. A moment later, Cathy arrives and asks Laure if she’d found a bottle around her counter and she’s is concerned — Jacques wouldn’t be able to resist it. Cathy asks for his address which alarms Laure — now she knows something is wrong. Cathy is even more alarmed to learn she’s the second to ask for it — the first was an Englishman!

She rings Steed, telling him to go to the Hotel Excelsior, quickly — if Tissot drinks it, it’ll tear his insides out. Pierre catches her in the lounge after she hangs up and confesses he gave Meyer’s bottle of ‘hair restorer’ to Leclerc as he’s balding. Cathy goes to Leclerc’s address, finding the now empty bottle. Siebel arrives and masquerades as Leclerc, demanding to know why she’s there, then tries to kill her with his scalpel. She’s onto him, however, with his thick shock of hair, and pulls her gun after deflecting his blade with her handbag. He tries to escape and she knocks him out.

Act 3

Jeanette arrives at Tissot’s and finds Paul searching the apartment. She realises he’s looking for the flask, remembering his interest on the plane, and says the police want to talk to her about Meyer’s death. She proposes telling them about the flask, and Paul’s interest. He glances at her and says, “Darling, you don’t want to cause a lot of misunderstanding and trouble”. She’s angry and says she doesn’t believe him, and he thrusts her brutally away from him…

Manning makes contact with Siebel at the airport who pretends to be making a phone call while Manning waits outside the booth. Manning says he’s arranged a reception for Steed at Tissot’s. Even with the bottle empty and Cathy involved, there’s still the flask to find. Steed is searching Tissot’s when two gendarmes (Graham Ashley and an extra) arrive, tipped off by Manning; he escapes when they’re distracted by Jeanette’s body being found under the bed.

Tissot visits a baker, Jean Martin (John Gill), for a drink and brandishes the flask victoriously. Cathy meanwhile gets a list of Tissot’s haunts from Laure, who remembers him recently befriending a baker from the Glutiet district called Jean Martin. Siebel overhears and follows when Cathy leaves. Tissot has just pour two glasses from the flask when Steed knocks on the door, asking if Tissot is there. Jacques hurriedly hides the flask when his name is called. When Steed asks for ‘the bottle’ Tissot denies knowledge of it but Cathy finds their glasses and verifies they contain Propellant 23, although thw wine bottle does not.

Tissot refuses to say where it is then Manning enters carrying a gun and says he’ll tell him. Cathy tries to use the wine bottle as a weapon but Manning sees her and calls Siebel who comes in the side door. He’s holding a gun and Cathy and Steed are searched, Manning taking Cathy’s gun. He demands the flask from Tissot and Cathy and Steed jump Siebel but a shot from Manning halts the attack. Tissot takes the opportunity to escape but is shot, slumping to the floor and knocking over the hidden flask. Siebel picks it up and Manning orders his captives to leave. Cathy pretends to trip and hurt her knee on the steps, pulls a pistol from her garter and shoots Siebel, Steed clobbering Manning in the confusion. Steed pockets the ‘fruit juice’ while Cathy checks to find Jacques is still alive, then Steed spots Cathy returning the gun to her garter and says he thought she said black was so obvious…

Next day, Roland stops by to ask Laure how Tissot is recovering. Laure laughs and says he says he’ll never touch another drop as long as he lives. “I’ll belive that when I see it!”, Rolan replies. Pierre arrives a moment later, pursued by an angry Curly, who reveals the effect of the so-called hair restorer:

CURLY: Look at this! Not a hair left! I was doing so well…

Steed is lining up to board his plane when Cathy arrives, saying he forgot the package — he panics, thinking she means the ‘fruit juice’, but she hands him a box of pastries from Martin’s bakery.

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