Series 2 — Episode 11
Traitor in Zebra
Teleplay by John Gilbert
Directed by Richmond Harding
Production No 3513, VTR/ABC/2171
Production completed: November 29 1962. First transmission: December 8 1962.
TV Times summary
Steed joins the Navy and Cathy makes artificial rubies to help track down a saboteur
With Crane facing a court-martial for leaking secrets from HMS Zebra, Mrs Gale and Steed search for the source of the leak. The real traitor, Mellors, becomes alarmed and contacts Rankin who has him killed by Franks, an enemy agent who runs the local newspaper. Franks then kills Graham to give himself more time, but Steed pursues him to the base where Franks has planted a bomb. Faced with being destroyed by his own device, Franks defuses it and Steed saves the day.
Sub-lieutenant Crane (Danvers Walker) is ushered into the office of Captain Nash (Noel Coleman) by the escorting officer, Williams (Richard Pescud). Nash informs Crane that he’s to be held under close arrest, accused of passing on information of a top secret nature to a person or persons unknown. Nash hopes he has a good defence and Crane replies, “Yes sir, I’m not guilty” and is led away.
John Steed (Patrick Macnee) arrives at a seaside inn dressed as an RN Commander, he asks Maggie (June Murphy) for his room and orders a pink gin. He ‘notices’ Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) sitting in the lounge and Maggie tells him she’s working at the naval installation; he orders Cathy a gin and tonic and sits down at her table.
Cathy queries his uniform and he tells her he’s posing as a naval psychiatrist, acting unpaid. She reminds him that seamen don’t wear their caps “between decks” - he hastily removes it. She then tells him that the base has a good laboratory but she’s discovered nothing in a week; nobody’s even mentioned Crane. Steed tells her Crane’s confined to his cabin until after the next test of the new defence equipment at the end of the month during the NATO exercises. Cathy notices Maggie approaching and she quickly changes the subject.
Steed drinks up and drives to the base where he visits Crane and asks him about the evidence found in his locker, which Crane says had been planted there. Steed tries to get a rise out of him, citing his admiration of Socialist efficiency and staying back after work. He accuses Crane of getting in too deep after being approached by the other side but the man maintains his innocence. Steed concedes he’s telling the truth and says he’s on Crane’s side.
Steed then visits the wardroom where Nash has just admonished a gloomy Sub-lieutenant Graham (William Gaunt) for talking shop in the wardroom on a social evening - he had mentioned they were having trouble with one of the computers. Joe Franks (Richard Leech), the local newspaper owner, laughs and says he’s signed the Official Secrets Act.
Steed is introduced to them and the head boffin, Dr Thorne (Jack Stewart). They promise Steed a tour of the facilities in the morning. Nash tells his secretary, Lt. Mellors (Ian Shand), to order drinks from the wardroom steward (Michael Browning) while Franks queries Steed a bit too closely about why he’s there.
Rankin (John Sharp) is meanwhile losing badly at darts to Old Thomas (Philip Becker) when Linda (Katy Wild) comes into the inn, angry at being stood up for a date. She tells Maggie she’s saved £80 and will leave for London soon – Maggie agrees, and holds aloft her piggy bank, saying another £15 and it’s bright lights for her.
Steed is shown around the lab next day and Dr Thorne introduces him to his new assistant, “Dr Gale”, who is manufacturing artificial rubies with a high pressure flame. Steed grins and asks:
STEED: Aren’t you frightened of burning your fingers?
CATHY: What woman would be for a ruby this size?
After Thorpe has moves away a bit, she tells him the ruby formula has changed and they’re retesting on a new frequency and satellite next week. They wonder if the traitor is Thorne and Steed works out the information would have to be passed on that night for the test to be jammed.
That evening, Mellors practices darts at the inn but when Rankin comes downstairs he hurriedly rearranges his darts into a particular pattern on the board before leaving; Cathy enters and notices Rankin checking the position of the darts, which he writes down 1. She challenges Rankin to a game and he says he’ll play when he gets back from the shops. She takes the darts and practices for a while.
Rankin meanwhile lets his dog off the leash after slipping the numbers in the collar and the dog runs into Linda’s shop, where she removes the paper. Rankin is concerned to see Graham enter the shop and goes in to retrieve his dog. Linda is cross with Graham for breaking their date the previous evening and won’t tell him where she’s getting the money she’s saving. He tells her to call him if she’s in trouble and returns to the base.
Graham attempts to get the Captain to read his report in the wardroom but is intercepted by Mellors, who brushes him off then excuses himself from Nash and Steed, saying he has some business in the village - which makes Steed instantly suspicious. A moment later, Nash takes his leave and Steed plays snooker with Graham. Graham drunkenly tells him Crane was his only real friend and is innocent, his report identifies two other channels by which the information could have got out.
Rankin receives a phone call at the inn and tells his caller to come to see him rather than talk on the phone; he then makes another call and says a friend from HMS Zebra is coming to see him, having run into trouble, and they may have to...
RANKIN: All right, then, we’ll leave it like this: if he comes out alone, you’ll know why.
Mellors arrives, worried about Graham’s report and tells Rankin he’s quitting. He has not noticed Cathy watching them. Rankin tells him “The Skipper” will be very displeased. Mellors demands to know who the Skipper is so he can put his case directly but Rankin won’t say and tells him to return to the station and meet back at the inn in two days. Mellors agrees and leaves the inn - alone - and is strangled when he gets back in his car.
The next day, Franks introduces himself to Cathy at the inn and offers to show her the district after dismissing Mellors’ murder as a robbery. Steed arrives and Cathy tells him the structure of the ruby can only be determined once it’s made by getting a list of the components, but is puzzled why Mellors was killed if he was the leak. Cathy mentions that Franks said the murderer was an outside labourer and that Mellors had played cards with Rankin last night.
Back at the base, Graham and Thorne find the crystal has perfect grain and they’re ready for the test that weekend. Nash enters and tells them the a ministry bureaucrat will observe the test and they’ll succeed as there’s a new frequency and crystal, unknown outside the station. Graham suggests that’s only if they have the real culprit locked up. Nash tells Graham the death of Mellors may have nothing to do with the case and almost nobody knows the real reason why Crane has been confined to quarters. Graham smiles and says that if the test is jammed it’ll prove Crane’s innocence.
Cathy is shown Frank’s newspaper offices and she notices he has a clear view of the naval station from the office window. He’s just moving in to seduce her when the phone rings. He goes to answer it and she starts searching the office, finding a scrap of paper with the numbers supplied by Mellors, then Franks suddenly reenters the office.
FRANKS: Well, have you seen enough? Have you seen enough to convince you?
CATHY: To convince me of what Mr. Franks?
FRANKS: That it’s worth spending threepence a week on our little paper.
She hides the paper in her boot and then returns to the inn where Maggie is just going out to see Linda.
CATHY: Not very. I’m not sure I didn’t make a complete fool of myself.
She shows Steed the paper, and he puzzles over the numbers then tells her they’ve determined the jamming is being done locally using a short-range Stiletto transmitter. Steed says the paper looks like a darts score and Cathy tells him she found it in Frank’s wastepaper basket, but he didn’t play darts. Steed asks who plays darts at the inn and when Cathy mentions Mellors, Steed turns to her happily.
STEED: Mellors... I don’t think you made a fool of yourself at all.
Franks visits Linda in the shop and is annoyed when she asks for more money, or she might tell someone about passing bits of paper conveyed by the dog. He tells her if she wants to enjoy the money and go somewhere more glamorous, she has to be alive. This shocks her into silence and he storms out.
The next test is being prepared in front of an audience of Ministry of Defence people while across the valley, Franks locks himself in his dark room and turns on some electrical equipment, a large transmitter descending from the ceiling... Franks checks his stopwatch and turn the dial on equipment and the test is jammed, same as before.
Afterwards Graham tells Cathy his report indicated how others could discover the components. Cathy asks him if he knows who Mellors passed the information to and he says, “No — have you?”, and looks at her carefully, both of them fully aware that she’s broken her cover.
That night, Graham receives a call from an anxious Linda. Nash, joking with Franks, tells him he hopes this girlfriend will be more presentable than the last one and when Graham replies, “No sir, she wants to talk to me about a dog”, Franks is startled and says he must go. He slips a pill in Graham’s beer and leaves, bidding goodnight to Steed at the bar. Steed joins Graham at the snooker table and strikes up a conversation; Graham finishes his pint and asks him to tell Crane he thinks he’s onto something, then collapses. Steed rushes to him and asks, “What is it, Graham? What do you know?” before calling for help.
Steed visits Linda, who is scared to let him in until he mentions Graham. He tells her Graham is dead and asks about the dog - she finally tells him it’s Rankin’s and she takes notes from the collar, but is too scared to say who collects them.
Steed goes to the inn and tells Cathy that Graham’s been murdered and to search Rankin’s room. He ducks out, asking Maggie to delay Rankin by chatting him up if he returns before he does. Franks meanwhile is on the phone to his controller, saying they have to get out as things are hotting up. He’s ordered to act that night and retrieves a detonator 2 from his filing cabinet...
Rankin returns to the inn and, despite Maggie’s best efforts, finds Cathy in his room then slips back past Steed on the landing. Maggie tells them he escaped and they set off in pursuit. Rankin goes to Frank’s office and tells him Steed and Mrs Gale were searching his room, Franks dismisses this as there should be no evidence and Linda won’t dare talk. Rankin see headlights coming over the bridge towards the office so Franks sets up the transmitter as a microwave weapon to boil the blood of anyone who enters the dark room.
FRANKS: Of course, our central committee have strong views on people who leave evidence lying around - or talk!
Franks kills Rankin before leaping out the window just as the Avengers arrive. Steed and Cathy enter the office and Steed disconnects the device, noticing it’s a very good portable jamming device. Cathy finds Rankin’s body and they ponder Franks’ next move.
Franks has gone to the lab and forces Dr Thorne at gunpoint to let him into the control room. He knocks out Thorne and sets the bomb on the controls but Steed attacks him as he exits. He’s forced back into the control room by Steed, who rescues Thorne and locks Franks in the room with the bomb, forcing the saboteur to defuse his own bomb as the alarms across the station go off. Franks is hauled away by some sailors and Nash tells Steed and Cathy his opinion of psychiatrists has gone up immensely and Cathy goes to tell Crane the good news.