Series 2 - Episode 12
The Big Thinker
Teleplay by Martin Woodhouse
Directed by Kim Mills
Brensell is working on a computer housing and suddenly notices thick white smoke pouring from a cooling pipe, he rushes over the secure the leak - the pipe comes away and he collapses, coughing, to the floor.
Cathy arrives at the computer lab with Dr Clemens (Walter Hudd), who tells her the whole building is the computer, 'Plato'. She says she wants to use the computer to translate dead languages. He explains they're still at the experimental stage when Dr Farrow (David Garth) comes in and Clemens says his ballistics are an easier task. Farrow tells them they're still unoperational, Brensell's not in yet and the 'boy wonder' is in fine form.
They enter to find the boy wonder, Dr Kearns (Anthony Booth), shouting orders to Dr Hurst (Tenniel Evans) and Janet (Marina Martin) - verifying Plato's computations by doing the sums in his head. He says the problem is in the memory unit, which is Brensell's domain - maybe a mouse has got lodged in the pipes; Dr Hurst tells Clemens Kearns is becoming intolerable. Mrs Gale approaches Kearns and he becomes all charm but loses interest when she introduces herself as Mrs Gale - it's rekindled when she says she's a widow. He asks her out but she declines when he callously says it would only be "little blue eyes" otherwise, right in front of Janet. Kearns decides he can't wait for Brensell any longer and gets the key from Janet. They enter the central unit; inside there's ice all over the machinery and while Kearns is shutting everything down, Cathy finds Brensell's frozen corpse clinging to the computer.
Hurst notes that the door was locked and the gas detector and failsafe were both off; Farrow says maybe Brensell turned them off. They're arguing about security when Clemens comes in and tells Hurst that running a secure establishment is like "fighting a boa constrictor". Farrow allays any fears about Cathy telling the press, saying she's a scientist and wouldn't tell anyone. She is of course telling Steed all - Hurst is in a panic and wants MI5, the Navy, anybody, to come in.
Steed queries Farrow's presence and is told he's using Plato to check calculations on star velocities. She tells him she's going to a party that night with Kearns to cultivate the contact, and concedes he's an objectionable young man.
Cathy tells Steed they use cryogenics to run the computer. Steed suggests it's best use is missile interception - high-speed flight path calculations, which makes it a prime target for sabotage. He tells her to keep an eye on Kearns, as he's ripe for subversion, and to handle everything as he has to go to the Middle East.
Kearns takes her to a poker game where Broster (Allan McClelland) and Blakelock (Ray Browne) are at the table with two other men with Clarissa (Penelope Lee) and a few hostesses watching. Kearns orders Cathy a gin and tonic from Nino (Clive Baxter) and says he's an average player but has an edge because he can calculate the odds and remember the cards. The game breaks up and Broster has a quick conference with Clarissa, telling her to find out who Cathy is while they give Kearns "a bit of a heavy evening". Kearns sits down cockily to the next game and Clarissa sidles up to Cathy, telling her she might as well have another drink as he's gone for the evening - she summons Nino and winks at him before departing, and he hands Cathy a drink. She sniffs it and smiles wryly as she puts it down again. Kearns wins easily at first and tells Blakelock and another 'small gun' to make way for the big boys - two determined looking men. Kearns ignores Cathy's advise to stop while he's ahead, sits back down and ruffles the deck, carelessly drinking from a glass Nino has just placed before him...
Steed has just fed Sheba when Cathy returns home, carrying a sozzled Kearns, who tries to punch Steed before collapsing on the divan. Cathy asks him why he's not in the Middle East then tells him that Kearns lost £500 at the poker game, the other players ganging up on him. She tells him they fixed her drink and he says, "Nice people!". Steed tells her to apply the pressure on Kearns - so the other side can't - and gives her a cheque for £500; Cathy tells him she thinks the opposition is Broster and Clarissa.
The next day, Kearns is rude to Janet again and Clemens forces him to apologise, or leave the lab.
Clemens consoles her and she's staring mournfully at Kearns as he feeds a tape to Plato when Cathy arrives. She's told they're working on ballistic calculations - just as Steed predicted! Kearns comes over and says it wasn't a good night for either of them, then notices Janet is worried about the results coming out of the computer. He checks the equipment and burns his hand on the casing. He tells Janet to switch off but nothing happens when she does so he starts pulling the fuses out and when Plato keeps going regardless, leaves Cathy removing them while he goes for the master switch. He pulls it and Cathy is electrocuted and collapses...
Later, Broster tells Clarissa the computer is out of action for a few months and the minor setback of Cathy paying the £500 won't stop them; Kearns will be more receptive after a few more IOUs. Nino announces Cathy, who gives Broster cash for Kearns' IOU. Broster asks her to dine with him but she declines; he offers a flutter for them money instead and she accepts - one card draw. She tells him to go first and watches carefully as he draws a Queen - she repeats the manoeuvre and draws the same and wryly says, "Snap! Do you want me to try for an ace? I expect you trim the short sides of the aces." "Clever, dead clever", says Broster, and reaches for the money - but Cathy chops his hand and picks up the money then bids him goodbye.
Clarissa and Blakelock are searching Cathy's flat when she returns home - he hides behind a bookcase while Clarissa begs not to be reported to the police, claiming that Nino thought Cathy was a policewoman and she was hoping to find out. Cathy tells he she doesn't believe her and offers her a cup of tea - she goes around the corner and surprises Blakelock, but Clarissa escapes while she deals with him.
The next day, Hurst is in a flap about increasing security but Kearns dismisses him, saying there was a fault in the test tape and that was the cause of the power problems. The other staff enter with Cathy, and Clemens asks Hurst for a private word after telling Cathy not to play with fire again. Farrow confides to Cathy that Hurst thinks they're being sabotaged - the test tape contained instructions to erase all the memory banks instead of doing further calculations. Kearns tells them whoever last put in the fuses put in the wrong values - then says he was the last one to put in the fuses. Janet anxiously asks him if he did make a mistake and he tells her they're being got at. She tells him he doesn't really care at all and he kisses her brusquely. Clemens enters and tells Janet to go home, then tells Kearns he's disrupting the project - not sabotaging, that's a separate issue - and is relieved of his duties for the time being. Kearns refuses to go, saying it would leave the project in the hands of halfwits and girls and Clemens says, "You just made my point, Dr Kearns".
Cathy enters the office to get a coffee and Janet asks her what she's really doing there - but it's her floundering romance with Kearns she's worried about. Cathy tells her she's not interested in Kearns but Janet needs to stop him gambling if she is. Cathy and Janet go back to the computer block, where Kearns is still working. Kearns reenters the centre just before them and finds the main door locked, and the telephone cord severed. He's just retrieved the key from Dr Clemens' office when the girls arrive and they enter together. Inside, the heat is stifling, the electrics are haywire again, and there's an odd smell - Kearns investigates and finds Clemens' body in a vent.
Next morning, Cathy tells Steed security consider both deaths accidents. Brensell was gassed, frozen or both; Clemens was killed by a bare wire shorting out against the vent he was in. When Cathy says Kearns has vanished, Steed is irate, saying a scientific establishment has turned into slaughter on Fifth Avenue and their prime lead has vanished in a puff of smoke.
Broster and Clarissa are debating where Kearns has got to, he considers phoning Cathy to find out but changes his mind and they show up at her flat instead. Broster tells Cathy they have Dr Kearns and he's planning to defect. Cathy refuses to believe them and they draws guns - Clarissa's is a gas pistol and Broster says it makes less mess. They're demanding Kearns' whereabout when Steed enters, noting the "amateurs are still hard at it" and holding Broster at umbrella-point. He tells Clarissa her gun only has a range of 3 feet and the villains are disarmed. Steed calls the police, using the alias Carruthers.
At the lab, Hurst ushers Janet and Farrow out, telling them it's a complete shut-down and he doesn't care where Kearns is. He's ordered no entry without a pass and adds, "that means we'll see no more of Mrs Gale" as they depart; Cathy comes out of a side room and smiles, then enters the main unit. She fends off Kearns who says he hid inside the unit and never left, fearing he'd be next. He theorises Clemens was lured into the vent by the combination of locked door, disabled 'phone and small gas leak - Clemens would have known he could escape by the vent. Someone enters the outer offices just as Kearns goes on to suggest that Clemens would have put the saboteur's name in Plato's memory banks; after the last sabotage, the memory was entirely wiped so anything in there must have been left by Clemens, and he starts testing the banks for data. He finds it but the safety door closes on them before they can go to see what it says. Outside, Farrow removes the output from the printer and crumples it up before turning the temperature controls right down. Inside, Kearns has realised the door was closed from the outside and when Cathy notices the temperature dropping he tries to remove a pipe, burning his hands on it. They try to use Plato to call for help and Steed, who's just entered, rushes to the printer when it begins typing "SOS" over and over. He calls security and is struggling to make sense of the controls when Hurst and Farrow enter. He tells Hurst to open the door to free Cathy and Kearns and they emerge, almost numb with cold. Kearns tells Hurst Plato can identify the murderer and they're about to re-run the programme when Farrow grabs a lead pipe. He destroys Plato but is killed when the pipe hits the electrical circuits.
Steed makes a cup of hot chocolate for Cathy at her flat and asks her to look after Sheba for a few more days as his plane leaves in an hour. "Don't tell me", she says, "the Middle East?" He takes the IOU from her, but graciously tells her to keep the £500 and buy herself a fur coat, just in case she gets cold again.