• title card: white all caps text reading ‘IMMORTAL CLAY’ superimposed on the water tank containing the corpse
  • Machen, on the left, shows Cathy some of the teacups he potted
  • Allen asks Mara out on a date
  • de Groot sneers at Miller for being obsessed with Mara
  • Steed and Mara cling to eachother as they hide in the wardrobe
  • Anne admits to Richard - and Steed - that she let Lander into the pottery

Series 2 — Episode 16
Immortal Clay

Teleplay by James Mitchell
Directed by Richmond Harding

Production No 3516, VTR/ABC/2298
Production completed: January 10 1963. First transmission: January 11 1963.

TV Times summary

Steed and Cathy go to the Potteries in search of an unbreakable cup

Plot summary

Has Allen Marling created an unbreakable ceramic cup? One-Ten sends Steed to investigate as it could be used for missile nose cones. Enemy spy De Groot bribes Miller to steal the tile after his colleague Lander is killed and the corrupt potter forms it into a cup, destined for a trade fair behind the Iron Curtain. Steed has the night watchman switch the cup for another and stops the spy from stealing a vital state secret - a nice cuppa!

show full synopsis

show plot summary


Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) is shown into the design room of Marling Ceramics by Allen Marling (Gary Watson), where Mara Little (Didi Sullivan) is finishing a design on a bone china cup destined for the Leipzig Trade Fair. He shows Cathy his lab, where he’s trying to develop a tile with enough elasticity to be unbreakable. His brother, Richard Marling (Paul Eddington), enters and scoffs at his ‘world-shattering theories’, then leads Cathy away to show her the initial mixing phase, and they discover a corpse floating in the tank.

Act 1

One-Ten (Douglas Muir) meets John Steed (Patrick Macnee) in a Turkish Bath and tells him Marling’s is a small company on the verge of bankruptcy and can’t afford good laboratories, but despite the apparent impossibility of Allen’s theories, he could be right. Steed needs to investigate.

STEED: It’d be great not to break a cup every time I wash up, but I don’t see what that’s got to do with security.

He’s told Marling’s clay could be strong enough to cut through tempered steel, or make the nose cones of rockets - such a secret would be highly sought after, and an industrial spy was found dead at Marling’s yesterday. Steed confirms that Cathy told him about Lander and One-Ten complains about him using amateurs. Steed explains she’s writing a book on ceramics and knows the Marlings but One-Ten orders him to go there himself, in the guise of a ceramics expert. He has twenty-four hours to acquire ten years’ expertise.

Harry Miller (James Bree) is painting some china while Mara reads a gossip magazine. He tells her she’s prettier than Miss England and she dreams of winning a beauty contest. This reveals a jealous streak in him and he doesn’t want her to leave, or have other men look at her. He then notices she’s wearing a new dress which she admits Mr. de Groot gave to her. Miller’s upset and tries to press his suit, but she pushes him away, saying they’ll be seen.

Richard is in the shop when his wife, Anne Marling (Rowena Gregory), arrives; he complains about having to pay a full week’s wages to the staff when they’ve lost two days because of the murder.

RICHARD: Well, it might be worth it, at that. At least he can’t run off with you now.
ANNE: Richard, please! I’ve told you. Lander wasn’t anything to me. I just went out with him a couple of times.
RICHARD: And now the whole town knows about it. You must have been out of your mind.
ANNE: When did you last take me out? When did you want to?

Richard says the police suspect him - he had motive and means, and no alibi. On top of that, they are in trouble financially. They need to make a success of Leipzig or they’ll go under - he holds up a piece made by Miller and marvels that a man who spends half his time drooling over their glamour girl made it. He laments they won’t be able to afford Miller’s artistry if they don’t have a major success.

Steed meets Cathy in a museum and she tells him the Marlings inherited the business from their father - Richard does the books but Allen is the brains and potter. She feels sorry for Allen, who’s hampered by his brother.

STEED: It’s bad to feel sorry for people in our business, slows you up.
CATHY: I’m not in your business. Might as well remember that.

He tells her Lander was an industrial spy and One-Ten says Allen’s discovery will revolutionise weapons and aircraft if it works.
Back at the lab, Josh Machen (Bert Palmer) asks Allen for his wages and tells him the police are getting nosy; he burnt all of Allen’s clothes, despite being covered in clay from the tank - but lost one of the gloves.

de Groot (Steve Plytas) enters and expresses interest in Allen’s experiments then asks if his consignment for Leipzig is ready. Allen sends him to Miller, who is jealous when Mara offers to show de Groot her new dress and orders her away to fetch Richard. After she leaves, de Groot tells Miller he’ll need money to keep her and offers £20,000 for the new ceramic tile. Richard tells Cathy that de Groot is his best customer and a big order for Leipzig is good for business. She’s surprised to hear an East German town and he says politics doesn’t come into it, they sell cups and saucers, not H-bombs.

Josh arrives and tells Cathy he was a master potter until a car accident a few years ago - and shows her some of his old work. He admits the Marlings offered him the night watchman’s job because the accident was his fault and he received no compensation.
Steed arrives in the guise of a member of the Ceramics Research Council and Anne suggests to him than Lander broke into the premises on the night of his death. She goes to fetch Richard, giving Cathy the chance to tell Steed about de Groot’s consignment to Leipzig, which might be used to smuggle the tile, and that, contrary to Anne’s claim, Lander had a key.

Steed and de Groot meet briefly and Richard is pleased, thinking his Royal Marling is attracting attention. However, he becomes annoyed when Steed mentions the murder then asks to see Allen’s experiments.
Richard warns him Allen’s previous ideas haven’t turned out as hoped. Mara fetches Allen, who bashfully asks her out on a date which she accepts.

ALLEN: Wish me luck.
MARA: I’ll do more than that.

Allen enters just as Steed is about to be thrown out after suggesting Richard committed a crime passionel in killing Lander. Allen asks Steed to wait in his laboratory and tells Richard his tile works. Richard is dismissive, saying he’s busy, but Anne and Allen implore him and he agrees to come.

Steed enters the lab and finds Blomberg (Frank Olegario) in a lab coat, systematically smashing tiles with a hammer; Blomberg hits him then escapes. The Marlings enter to find Steed on the floor. He describes his attacker and they say they have no-one like that on the staff. Allen then produces his tile from his pocket. Outside, Mara tells Harry that Allen has an important visitor and she hopes the tile works but Harry, now madly jealous of Allen, scoffs at the tile.

Back inside, Allen asks what his ceramic would be worth and Richard is astonished when Steed suggests £5–6 million a year. Allen suggests the tile is the motive for Lander’s murder, which would clear Richard, then asks Richard to hit the tile as hard as he can. Richard does so, and it shatters into powder!

Act 2

Mara is doing exercises, worried about her waistline, when Miller enters. He hides Allen’s glove in the cupboard and she tells him de Groot wants to see him at his hotel. Miller asks her if she’d marry him if he had £20,000, increasing it to £50,000 when she looks unsure, and she agrees to get engaged to him if he ‘wins the pools’.

She’s parading around, demonstrating her catwalk technique, when Steed enters, and she nearly bumps into him. Steed tells them he’s looking for Allen’s missing ceramic tile. Miller nervously points the finger at the man in the lab who attacked Steed but Steed blithely tells him it had already been stolen before then; Miller then deviously suggests no-one saw Allen’s experiments and the tile never actually existed...

Richard meanwhile is lunching with Cathy and Anne. He is despondent and suggests Allen hadn’t succeeded at all, he’s always had to be nursed, but Anne insists Allen succeeded this time.
Steed meets One-Ten at the museum and explains the situation. When he tells him about the Leipzig Trade Fair, One-Ten leaps on the Iron Curtain connection - and says Steed is to blame for the tile being stolen and it’s up to him to get it back!

Richard meanwhile is on the phone and Anne complains that Cathy sees more of him than she does. She adds they can go weeks without exchanging a word except on design or invoices, and reveals a jealous suspicion of the time Richard has been spending with Cathy. 1 Richard is working 12 hours a day and has become so bitter he’s no longer capable of love. She admits going out with Lander, but says she didn’t really like him.

Miller meanwhile arrives at the hotel, when Blomberg is giving de Groot a massage. He complains about Blomberg being sent to steal the tile and triumphantly says he has it. Miller demands £50,000 “for me and Mara”. de Groot sneers at him, but agrees to the new price and warns him not to cheat him. Miller says the tile really won’t break.
He then gives Allen’s glove to de Groot, he’d found it next to the slip tank on the morning Lander’s body was found.

DE GROOT: It must be very satisfying to hate somebody the way you hate Allen Marling.
MILLER: Mara’s too fond of him.

de Groot tells him to mould the tile into a cup and add it to his consignment; he has the money to pay him and when Miller suggests he’s not the only one in the market Blomberg roughs him up a bit. de Groot warns him the people he haggles with would kill him - and he would too if he didn’t still need him. Miller submissively agrees to have the cup ready by Saturday.
Meanwhile, back at the pottery, Mara breaks into Miller’s locker but can’t find what she is after.

Steed asks Cathy to invite de Groot to tea so he can break into his hotel room. She’s to offer some T’ang pieces for sale, and make it known she’s in the market for unbreakable ceramics. Meanwhile, Miller makes the tile into a cup and Josh enters just as he tests it by dropping it on the floor. Josh pretends not to have seen and says he’s just doing his rounds, then departs, but Miller is suspicious of him.

Cathy offers de Groot up to £200,000 for Allen’s tile. He asks why she thinks he might have it and wants to know who she’s working for but she reveals nothing.
Steed meanwhile enters de Groot’s hotel and finds Mara, armed with de Groot’s revolver, searching the room. She tells him Miller is jealous of Allen and gave de Groot the glove to implicate Allen in the murder. She begs for Steed’s help.

Blomberg arrives to pick up de Groot and Cathy realises he’s Steed’s attacker. de Groot asks him to fetch his ‘machinery’ and subtly threatens Cathy.

DE GROOT: You know, people are afraid of Blomberg, I can’t think why.
I know he is terribly strong and has a nasty temper but he would never dream of hurting a friend of mine.
Never! You’ve nothing to worry, Mrs. Gale.
CATHY: That’s very reassuring.

Steed and Mara are about to leave and have to hurriedly hide in the closet when Blomberg enters. They watch him childishly play with the revolver, shouting “bang!”, with baited breath and cling to each other in the darkness.

Act 3

Back at the lab, Allen receives a call from de Groot. He hangs up, ashen-faced, and tells Josh that de Groot has the glove. When Josh tries to help, Allen insists he’ll take sole blame for Lander’s death.
Miller packs the cup into the consignment just as Blomberg knocks out Josh in the display room. Cathy enters with de Groot and he pulls out his gun while Blomberg takes her pistol, which de Groot confiscats. Blomberg leads Cathy to Allen’s lab while de Groot confronts Miller, and demands to see the cup. He waves the money at Miller and the cup is produced, but shatters easily when struck with a hammer. Enraged, de Groot shoots Miller and leaves with the cash.

Hearing the gunshot, Allen and Cathy try to overpower Blomberg and she has just succeeded when de Groot enters brandishing his revolver. He demands the cup but Allen knows nothing about it; de Groot resolves to kidnap Allen and force him to make a new tile. Steed and Mara meanwhile sneak into the pottery and find Miller’s body. Steed sends her to call the police. Blomberg spots Steed sidling into the office and de Groot opens fire. Chaos reigns as Allen and Cathy set upon Blomberg while Steed wrestles de Groot, coming to their aid after knocking out the dealer.

The next day, Anne admits she let Lander in with her key after he said he wanted to see the pottery before making a takeover bid. Once inside, he made a pass at her and Allen came to defend her honour - Lander hit his head on the tank as they fought and fell in, drowning before Allen could reach him. Steed says Allen will probably be acquitted of manslaughter.

Josh enters with Cathy and gives Richard the cup which he took after Miller left, then gave to Steed for safe keeping. The cup doesn’t break when Richard drops it and he and Anne are reconciled when they realise that Allen’s experiment worked. Steed tells Cathy she can return to writing her book... he has to return the figurines to the museum.

STEED: All that fuss over a little piece of mud.
CATHY: Would you say that was the official view of the Ceramics Research Council?
STEED: Undoubtedly.

  1. The same thing happens in Six Hands Across a Table where Ros suddenly has a jealous pang about why Cathy was with Brian the night before.

fan forum Donate Become a Patron!