Series 2 — Episode 17
Box of Tricks
Teleplay by Peter Ling and Edward Rhodes
Directed by Kim Mills
Production completed: 17 January 1963. First transmission: 18 January 1963
TV Times summary
Steed persuades night club singer Venus Smith to join a vanishing act, with remarkable results
Con man faith healer Gallam tricks a General’s daughter into unwittingly stealing NATO secrets by the use of his “healing boxes” - which are just tape recorders, capturing every word of top secret conferences. They use the dressing room of a nightclub conjurer to transmit the recordings and his assistant overhears it so when she’s killed, Steed installs Venus in the club and they uncover the plot. Steed exposes Gallam, and closes the security leak.
A nightclub conjuror Gerry Weston (Ian Curry) makes his assistant Valerie (Lynn Taylor) disappear from a box while the Dave Lee Trio provide a drum roll but when she reappears, she’s been shot in the back.
Venus Smith (Julie Stevens) sings “It’s a Pity to Say Goodnight” at the same club later on and waves when she sees the maitre d’ (Robert Hartley) lead John Steed (Patrick Macnee) to a table. Henriette (Jacqueline Jones), a hostess, intercepts the barman heading for Steed’s table and delivers his brandy with a caress of his shoulders. She sits down and he orders her a drink then asks about the ‘accident’.
She tells him the girl was murdered - someone was waiting with a gun; she’s about to say something else when she notices the manager watching them and excuses herself, saying they’re not allowed to talk about it. The manager (Dallas Cavell) approaches and tells Steed that “your client” - Venus - is a hit and he’s thinking of extending the booking for “the evening star”. He adds that business has been terrible since the girl’s murder but the customers started coming again after Venus was booked. Venus joins them and the Major congratulates her before departing.
Venus naïvely wonders how she got the gig, saying the Major received a phone call out of the blue and Steed tells her not to question fate. He claims he ran into her friend Kathleen, who was feeling a bit lonely as her father has just been given a NATO post. He suggests she visit her, then asks her about the club. She informs him that Valerie has been replaced by a girl called Denise. Venus thinks about the murder and concludes the killer used a silencer, and there ought to be a hole in the cabinet where the bullet passed through.
Steed spots Denise (April Olrich) in the club and asks the Major to introduce them. The barman, Nino (Gregory Scott), is told to give them a drink but when Denise discovers he’s more interested in the cabinet than her she’s furious and tells him to go and look at it himself - which he does! Venus has got there before him and is puzzling over a voice describing troop movements she can hear while inside it when he arrives. She explains to Steed there’s a trap in the dance floor above and the cabinet drops down inside the case, but he’s more interested when she mentions the overheard military orders, and the speaker repeating “Got that?”. He apologises he can’t stay for the show, hands her Kathleen’s address and leaves.
General Sutherland (Maurice Hedley) wheels his chair into the hall and asks Mary, the maid (Gail Starforth), to fetch him a brandy, then enters the parlour; as she leaves, Steed enters the apartment. His daughter Kathleen Sutherland (Jane Barrett) tells him off for ordering a brandy at breakfast.
GENERAL: I will not be told what I can or cannot do, by you or anybody else. If I want a brandy in the morning, or the afternoon, or the middle of the night, I shall have it. Got that?
He tells her not to fuss over him, he has an old permanent injury in his back but his general health is fine. She begs him to see Dr Gallam, a faith healer who can transfer the pain and suffering to himself. Sutherland scoffs and orders, “Once and for all, I wil lnot have that man in the house, got that?” He then wonders where his masseur has got to - Steed enters in a masseur’s outfit and apologises for being late then wheels him off for treatment. Kathleen immediately calls Dr Gallam and asks him to come to see her again about her father. Her father is currently asking Steed what he thinks of faith healers. Steed’s non-committal and says it’s often just as good to talk about things, then drops a hint about being at NATO headquarters and there being a concern about leakage of information. The General abruptly ends the session early and tells him if there is leakage of information, he won’t discuss it with him. Steed is obsequious and accepts an offer to join the General for tea but when he spots Venus in the hall he excuses himself, saying he doesn’t want to miss his bus.
The General is introduced to Venus then decides to work in the study while the girls catch up. He asks for his tea to be brought through and barks, “And only one lump, got that?” - and Venus realises it was his voice she heard in the cabinet.
Denise visits Weston who’s painting some props. She accuses him of making a play for Henriette and then threatens to tell the police how he really felt about Valerie’s death. He’s about to slap her when they hear a loud thump in the nect room. They discover Venus, who has knocked over a skeleton prop. Venus enters and stares about, starry eyed, at all the magical props and innocently asks if Weston made the cabinet as well, then Denise hurriedly leads her back on stage to talk about Henriette. Gerry meanwhile sits at the mirro and puts on a grim mask, and stares at his horrifying reflection.
On stage, Denise tells Venus that Gerry has his eye on Henriette and she will show him a lesson by not doing the act - and wants Venus to do it instead! Venus refuses, saying she won’t go near the cabinet, so Denise shows her how to use it - she disappears, but doesn’t come back. Venus is scared by a noise backstage, but when she pulls back a curtain finds Steed and he offers to have a look. They open the cabinet and Venus screams when Denise falls out, strangled with a stocking.
Steed and Venus are with the Major and Weston in Weston’s dressing room after the police leave. Weston is annoyed Venus told them he’d quarrelled with Denise, and now has no partner for his act. He then hits upon the idea of getting her to do it. The Major stops him and asks Venus if she wants to, and she agrees to after a nod from Steed. Steed accompanies her back to her dressing room where she tells him it was the General’s voice she had heard. He tells her the General was nowhere near the club and asks her if she knows Gallam; she confirms that he treats some of the girls and is always hanging around with a ‘magic box’ which is supposed to contain healing elements - the patient carries it around with them. He asks her to introduce him, in the guise of a hypochondriac millionaire.
Dr Gallam (Edgar Wreford) meanwhile visits Kathleen and gives her a new box in exchange for the previous one, which she confirms he had near him at all times. Gallam is pleased and when she says the General is responding already, tells her he dreams of opening a clinic away from outside distractions and harmful vibrations. The General wheels himself in angrily, saying, “not if I can help it” and barks at Kathleen for disobeying him then orders Gallam to leave the house. Kathleen confronts her father but he insists the man is a charlatan.
Steed visits Dr Gallam, posing as the hypochondriac Thackeray who has dismissed dozens of doctors who said there was nothing wrong with him.
STEED: One even went so far as to prescribe healthy exercise and a plain diet.
GALLAM: Some doctors are most unsympathetic. Could you give me details of your symptoms?
STEED: Incurable lassitude ... Occasional spells of dizziness ... Acute internal disorders after heavy meals.
And above all, an indefinable, crushing sense ... (COUGHS)
that one is not -- as it were -- in tip top condition.
Gallam outlines the treatment via a sealed box of minerals that generate “radium vibrations”. Steed is excited about a cure that doesn’t involve ‘exercise or diet or anything nauseating like that’ but Gallam is reluctant to give him one. He asks for Steed’s address and our hero is evasive, saying he only recently returned to England and is searching for an hotel without draughts or central heating. Gallam offers to send it to Venus instead.
Venus arrives at the club early next morning and is given Steed’s box by Harry, the porter, (Royston Tickner). Weston sees her take it from the envelope and looks surprised. Not knowing what it is, Venus opens it and puzzles over the crystals, wires, tubes and sand inside. She rings Steed at the Sutherlands’ and he tells her to keep it safe until he arrives. He sees Kathleen asking Mary to post a letter and he offers to deliver it for her but she refuses, thinking he is opposed to Gallam treating her father.
Gallam meanwhile visits Venus and tells her Thackeray is not an honest man and asks her if he told her he was a doctor, which she denies. He drapes a stocking around her neck and tells her to be careful, and to tell “Mr Steed” not to interfere in his business again.
Weston arrives just as she hides the magic box and hurries her off for their performance. Steed arrives a bit later and Venus joins his table, nervous about the cabinet, and tells him Gallam warned her off. Venus is asked to join Weston on stage and enter the cabinet. Gallam enters her dressing room meanwhile and steals the box. Steed is very much relieved to see Venus reappear unharmed and toasts her safe return before going to look at the box which Gallam has now hidden in the base of the descending cabinet, with a wire wrapped around it.
Henriette leaves for a date with Gerry just as Venus discovers the theft, and she spots the box in the cabinet base as they leave, the central part having ascended to the stage. Steed cautiously prods it with his umbrella, and flicks it out seconds before the booby-trapped cabinet smashes down.
Steed tells Venus that he’d noticed the wire and suspected the trap which Gallam had rigged to get rid of him. Venus says the stakes must be high, then remembers Gallam refused to accept money and is puzzled.
Kathleen slips a new box in the carrier of her father’s wheelchair then wheels him into his meeting with NATO officers in the parlour. She departs with the old box and takes it to Dr Gallam. She tells him her father is in another conference and he suddenly tells her he hadn’t fully recharged the box he gave her and will need it back that night - he’ll supply another - and asks her to join him for dinner at the Gemini Club. She smiles to herself at the dinner date invitation and her heart skipsa beat.
The General meanwhile confronts Steed, saying he knows he’s not a masseur and Steed tenders a letter of instruction which explains why his identity had been kept secret from all ranks. The General assumes he’s being relieved of his post because of Steed, but he tells him there’s a security leak in the house and asks to interview Kathleen, shocking the General. He then heads to the club where he warns Venus:
STEED: This is it, fireworks night.
VENUS: What do you mean?
STEED: I’m not going to be throwing roses.
Kathleen arrives at the club in time to hear Venus sing “It’s De-Lovely” and is joined by Steed, who asks her if she’d believe Dr Gallam was a fraud if it could be proved. She reluctantly hands over the box when he says it affects her father’s reputation then gasps when he opens the box and reveals a cassette recorder. Gallam enters and sees her telling Steed she’s been putting the boxes in the General’s chair. She’s distressed at her folly and Steed tells her to take the box back home and lock it up. The magic act starts again and Gerry asks Kathleen to be in the act instead of Venus; she protests but he’s persuasive - and holds her arm menacingly tightly - and she’s led to the cabinet while Dr Gallam heads downstairs.
Below the stage, she confronts Gallam and he leads her to Gerry’s dressing room, where he takes the box from her and attaches the tape to a player concealed in an upright piano. Kathleen tries to escape while he’s busy but Gerry enters and brutally knocks her down. He takes over from Gallam, who’s fumbling with the tape, and tells him it’ll only take a moment to transmit the whole thing when Steed bursts in. Steed knocks Gallam down, then overpowers Gerry who’s pulled a revolver on him, but Gallam recovers Gerry’s revolver and holds him up. Gerry runs out then Gallam follows after retrieving the tape, locking the door behind him.
Steed checks that Kathleen is all right then tells her to stay where she is, as Gallam is armed; he then proceeds to break the lock on the door. Gallam meanwhile is hurrying through the basement corridors and takes a couple of shots at Steed, who provokes him into shooting a couple times, casually lighting a cigarette after inducing a sixth shot by tossing away the cigarette packet. Gallam approaches, gloating that Steed has no gun, and is easily knocked down by Steed when Kathleen grabs him from behind.
STEED: He’ll be alright. Call the police.
KATHLEEN: Steed, I’ve been very silly.
STEED: Never mind. Phone’s in there.
Over champagne and brandy, Venus and Steed discuss the case - until Steed has had enough and asks her to dance - but she keeps on chatting, annoying Henriette and the other dancers.