Series 2 — Episode 7
The Mauritius Penny
Teleplay by Malcolm Hulke and Terrance Dicks
Directed by Richmond Harding
Production completed: 18 October 1962. First transmission: 10 November 1962
TV Times summary
Steed and Cathy find that the world’s rarest stamp is the key to an evil and fantastic plot
The death of a stamp-dealer intrigues Steed and Mrs Gale goes undercover in the shop. They discover that the dealers’ lists are a code being used by neo-Nazis to plan an uprising in Europe, using the cover of auction houses to stockpile weapons. Cathy is spotted at their rally and unmasked as a traitor and taken to meet Lord Matterley, the new Führer, but with Steed and Cathy pointing machineguns at him, Matterley has no option but to postpone New Rule indefinitely.
Paul Goodchild (Philip Guard) breaks into his employer’s philatelic shop at night and is rifling through the post when he hears the owner, Percy Peckham (Harry Shacklock), telling Lord Matterley over the phone that a “Mauritius penny red 1847 and inscribed ‘Post Office’ has been listed for sale”. Goodchild enters and astounds Peckham by hanging up the phone and producing a gun; he shoots Peckham and takes the list of sale.
The next day, John Steed (Patrick Macnee) plays Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) a tape of Peckham’s phone call and she tells him the stamp is extremely rare and would never be sold on a list, it would be put up for auction.
CATHY: To have a stamp like that offered on a list is like seeing a Leonardo da Vinci painting advertised for sale on your local newsagent’s board.
STEED: You’d be surprised at the art work my newsagent offers for sale.
Steed explains that they were tapping Peckham’s phone because an agent was killed in Rome three months ago, bearing an envelope addressed to him.
Goodchild hurries a schoolboy (Anthony Rogers) out of the shop when Gerald Shelley (David Langton) arrives. He’s reprimanded for killing Peckham then explains that the postman gave Peckham the mail in the street so he’d seen the list – they only have to maintain cover for another four days before their movement takes control of the country, anyway.
Shelley worries about who may come looking for Peckham in the meantime and sure enough, Steed arrives, wearing thick spectacles and bluffing his way through the stamps, making a few errors. He claims he was recommended to them by Lord Matterley and startles Goodchild by asking if he could meet Mr Peckham. He peers in the back room, Shelley hiding behind the door, while Goodchild finds some Empires.
Goodchild tests him by mentioning a false stamp – a Maltese twopenny blue – and suggests he try the auctions. Steed notices the ‘assistant wanted’ sign on the door and is told Peckham is on holidays for a fortnight. Shelley is furious with Goodchild for using a trick question, and starts unpacking a crate of tommy guns, telling him they’re going back.
Shelley meets Brown (Alfred Burke) at the auction, telling him his target will arrive shortly. Moments later Steed arrives, just in time to see Lord Matterley (Richard Vernon) dramatically overbid to win a lot being auctioned by Maitland (Edward Jewesbury). Cathy arrives and, waving to Steed, accidentally buys a lot for £50. Steed graciously covers her bill, handing a cheque to the porter (Raymond Hodge) after Matterley guarantees his cheque.
Steed chats to his lordship afterwards and mentions Peckham going on holidays – Matterley is surprised, saying he spoke to him last night but was cut off. Steed returns to Cathy, telling her about the twopenny blue and Matterley’s disingenuousness, then draws her aside when he sees Goodchild enter.
Shelley checks the delivery book for Cathy’s purchase then summons Brown, who pushes past Steed to reach Goodchild, and puts a gun to his back. Goodchild refuses to leave the room, so Brown shoots him when the fall of the auctioneer’s gavel masks the shot. Steed goes to check and finds him dead.
Next day, Steed reads out a newspaper report of Goodchild’s murder and laughs when he reads that they are puzzled by who picked Goodchild’s pockets after he died – Cathy is currently sorting through their contents, which Steed has filched. She finds a stamp list from a Paris stamp dealer and notes that the stamps listed other than the Mauritius Penny are all of little value and would never appear on such a list. Steed deduces it’s a substitution code, with Cathy adding that it might be based on a stamp catalogue.
Steed finds an appointment in Goodchild’s diary at 3pm and plans to keep it in his stead after convincing Cathy to take the assistant’s position at Peckham’s.
Before he can leave, Inspector Burke (Alan Rolfe) and Sgt Andrews (Edward Higgins) arrive to interview him about Goodchild’s death and search his flat after being warned at length to be careful of Steed’s valuable wine collection.
BURKE: (MOVES TO BOOKSHELVES) I suppose you haven’t the Dead Sea Scrolls or anything amongst this lot, have you?
STEED: (LAUGHING) No, you can’t do much damage there. I don’t think there’s anything earlier than 1600.
Steed chats with Sgt Andrews while Burke searches but notices that Andrews is wearing Oxford shoes instead of regulation boots. Steed puches Andrews in the stomach when he looks down at his shoes then turns on Burke and wrestles him to the ground. Andrews recovers and clobbers Steed with his truncheon.
Mrs Gale arrives at the shop where Brown is deciphering a list and enquires after the job advertised; he looks at her intently, recognising her from the auction room...
A short time later Steed comes to, Freckles licking his hand and his charlady, Elsie (Grace Arnold), buzzing around him with a vacuum cleaner. She tells him she had quite a time cleaning up his flat while he slept – drawers pulled out, suit all in a heap. He lies that they had a wild party last night then checks the desk and finds his revolver missing so he rushes out, Elsie handing him his coat.
CHARLADY: Mr Steed! You’ve forgotten your coat, you know.
STEED: Oh, what would I do without you, dear.
CHARLADY: Oh dear! What’ll you be forgetting next?
STEED: Feed the dog, will you?
CHARLADY: How does he keep it up? I don’t know.
At the shop, Mrs Gale is sorting stock when she hears Brown on the phone. He tells the caller he’s hired “the girl at the auction” as an assistant – to keep an eye on her – and is told to kill her. Brown agrees and says he’s received final instructions from Paris: Norway and Denmark will move at the same time they do and he relates the coded instructions.
Lord Matterley arrives at the shop, surprised to find Cathy there and even more surprised that Brown is in charge. Cathy fetches Brown and finds him nailing a crate shut in the storeroom. She offers to clean up in there while he assists Matterley, who is after some early Americans, then opens the crate and discovers Peckham’s body inside.
She tries to hammer it shut again with her shoe, pausing when she hears the schoolboy return to the shop, whereupon Matterley leaves. A lorry driver (Edwin Brown) arrives to take the crate to the auction rooms and fastens the crate with his crowbar, then goes for his mate when he discovers how heavy it is.
Brown bursts in, finding Cathy looking at the list and says they can stop pretending, then menaces her with the driver’s crowbar, keeping her silent while the driver and his mate (Anthony Blackshaw) remove the crate. Brown starts interrogating Cathy but is interrupted by the driver returning for his crowbar. He leaves and Cathy makes a break for it and fights Brown, knocking him out with a karate chop. She finds a ticket to a philatelic convention at the Grosvenor rooms that evening in his pocket and takes it.
Steed arrives to keep the appointment, telling Miss Power (Delia Corrie) he’s Goodchild. He’s shown in to see Sheila Gray (Sylvia Langova), a dentist. She checks his teeth and Miss Power realises he’s not Goodchild as he doesn’t match the dental records. Sheila prepares a needle, saying they’ll fix a cavity, and Miss Power ‘reminds’ her she was supposed to call the hospital at 3pm, raising Steed’s suspicions.
Sheila calls Shelley who tells her to keep Steed there until he arrives. In the surgery, Steed has been discovering totalitarian tendencies in Miss Power’s politics. Miss Gray menaces him with a high speed drill and tells him they know he’s an impostor, then Miss Power knock him out with novocaine.
Steed comes to some time later, groggy from the gas, and finds himself tied to the chair with Shelley gloating over him. Shelley indicates a crate awaiting Steed’s corpse then proceeds to interrogate him but Steed refuses to answer any questions. Shelley is on the point of pulling teeth to extract information when the lorry driver arrives and knocks Shelley out then unties Steed.
DRIVER: If I was you guv’, I’d change my dentist!
Cathy arrives at the convention with Brown’s ticket and is admitted to a neo-Nazi rally, Maitland railing against vacillation and ineptitude and the return to the evils of democracy. She surreptitiously turns on the tape recorder in her handbag.
Steed meanwhile learns from the lorry driver that Shelley was his best customer and he thought he’d been fiddling customs by getting them to take material to and from his launch on the south coast until one day a crate broke open and, under the antique muskets and flintlocks he found fifty brand new rifles. Stedd thinks for amoment and asks him to deliver the crate to the auction rooms, so as not to disappoint them...
Brown arrives at the convention but Andrews won’t admit him and goes to fetch Major Gray to see if he should be allowed in. At that moment, she’s letting the driver and his mate in with the crate, and Maitland is introducing a foreign delegate (Theodore Wilhelm) who will inform them of progress in Scandinavia – but instead rants about freeing Europe from democracy.
Brown is finally let in and goes with Burke, who’s wearing a colonel’s uniform, to see Miss Gray. He spots Cathy on the way and tells Miss Gray his ticket was stolen, pointing out Mrs Gale. At the conclusion of the delegate’s speech, a note is passed to Maitland who exposes Cathy as a traitor:
MAITLAND: ...and it is within our own ranks that we must be ever vigilant for danger! The enemy may always be within our midst!
(POINTS DRAMATICALLY AT CATHY)
MAITLAND: Believe me, the enemy of the New Rule is the enemy of the New Britain; and we know how to deal with traitors!
Cathy is dragged off for questioning by Brown. Miss Gray hands him a riding crop to use in the interrogation and sneers, “You ought to be quite safe now. She’s only a wo-man”. She then sneers at Cathy, saying “a friend would like to ask you some questions”. Ironically, when she’s thrust into the interrogation room, Cathy finds Brown unconscious on the floor and her friend Steed sitting with his feet up on the desk, waving the riding crop. Steed jokingly intones, “Please sit down my dear”.
Their leader, only known as ‘The Mauritius Penny’ arrives and Miss Gray tells him the noise in the back room is Brown interrogating a spy. Inside the room, Steed is thumping a desk with a truncheon while on the phone to One-Ten, explaining the disposition of the fascists and their armaments. He names the leader as Gerald George Shelley, Old Etonian, ex Guards officer, and proprietor of Grosvenor Auction Room but doesn’t know who the Mauritius Penny is yet.
The Mauritius Penny enters and is revealed to be Lord Matterley, now dressed as a general with fake medals, like every would-be dictator. Matterley dismisses their attempt to stop his movement – until Cathy stick a pistol into his back.
CATHY: You didn’t really think you could take over this country with a few fanatics in fancy dress, did you?
MATTERLEY: We intend to provide this country with the strong leadership it needs. You may call that fanaticism. To me, it is political inevitability.
STEED: I seem to have heard that somewhere before.
Matterley notices Brown recovering and stalls them until Brown reaches Cathy and she and Steed are overpowered. Matterley is announced to the convention and goes to address his supporters, leaving Brown on guard. As soon as he leaves, Brown is attacked and subdued. Matterley arrives and sadly announces the day of New Rule has been postponed – Cathy and Steed have submachineguns trained on the crowd and the dias.
The next day, Steed and Cathy return to his flat where Elsie is vacuuming the upstairs hall. They find the packing crate of the albums Cathy bought awaiting them, and Cathy claims to have found a rare stamp in the first album she picks up... Steed leaps at a catalogue and discovers no such stamp exists, and she grins naughtily at him.