• title card: white all caps text reading ‘SCHOOL FOR TRAITORS’ superimposed on Davis slumped on the floor in a tweed jacket
  • Steed holds Venus tight as he listens in on her telephone conversation
  • Claire tickles one of her pet alligators
  • The students surround Venus, who sings ‘Yellow Bird’ as East plays the guitar and whistles
  • Higby holds Roberts at gunpoint
  • Steed asks Venus, ‘Coming, nmy dear?’

Series 2 — Episode 20
School For Traitors

Teleplay by James Mitchell
Directed by Jonathan Alwyn

Production completed: 9 February 1963. First transmission: 9 February 1963

TV Times summary

Steed and Venus go to a university and find there are degrees of treachery

Plot summary

While Venus sings at Rag Week, Steed probes the alleged suicide of Richard Davis. He invents a suicide note and pretends that Venus received it, thereby frightening the gang into trying to recover it, since Professor Shanklin and Summers know that they murdered Davis. With the killers exposed, Summers can no longer blackmail her boyfriends whom she tricked into crime, with a view to make them corruptable in their future political careers.

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Prologue

Venus Smith (Julie Stevens) sings “The Varsity Drag” at ... a varsity rag and is asked to dance by Ted East (John Standing). She turns him down, saying she promised to dance with her friend, Richard Davis. Jack Roberts (Richard Thorp) meanwhile gies up trying to twist, leaving Claire Summers (Melissa Stribling) to ask a disconsolate Ted for a dance instead. Venus goes upstairs to Richard’s room, only to find Richard is dead with a revolver in his hand.

Act 1

John Steed (Patrick Macnee) meets the aristocraticly dressed but surely Cockney One-Seven (Frederick Farley) in a pub run by Higby (Reginald Marsh) and tells him of Davis’ apparent suicide; One-Seven reveals that Davis had informed him he was being blackmailed to hand over his research, but hadn’t told One-Seven who was blackmailing him. One-Seven admonishes Steed for assigning Venus to keep an eye - unsuccessfully - on Davis, saying he disapproves of amateurs.

One-Seven: What’s your cover?
STEED: Literary research. I’m mainly interested in Dr Johnson’s friend ... Italian name...
One-Seven: Piozzi. Ex Thrale. You know, Steed, your cover usually has a large element of wishful thinking.

One-Seven announces he’ll stay with his friend the Vice Chancellor and when Steed asks what he’s to do, One-Seven quotes Samuel Johnson, saying, “Sir, I have found you an argument; I am not obliged to find you an understanding.”

Dr Shanklin (Anthony Nicholls) congratulates Davis’ assistant, Roberts, on being promoted to fill Davis’ post and the supervising metallurgist Professor Aubyn (Frank Shelley) echoes the words, lamenting what a loss Davis was. Green (Terence Woodfield) is then ushered in by the Proctor (Ronald Mayer) and asked why he’s been returning to college after hours. Green is warned that he’ll be sent down if he does it again1.

Steed catches up with Venus in the pub. She’s just told him there was no note or indication of suicide, and that Davis had been seeing an artist but it didn’t work out when Ted arrives with Claire. They’re introduced, Ted referring to Claire as a ‘bohemian girl’. When Claire reveals over the snooker table that she paints, Steed pricks up his ears and hurries Venus along to ‘see her agent’.

Steed chats with Ted and Claire, saying he’s doing literary research and asks if Davis was doing the same. Ted scoffs and says Davis was hardly literary, he was boring and probably didn’t have any friends. Steed says Venus was a friend and Davis sent her a note, contrary to the police report. Hearing this, Claire hurries off ‘to get a picture ready’ and Ted tries to casually learn more about the note.

Roberts arrives at Claire’s studio, bursting with the news that he’s been given Davis’ job. They kiss but she breaks away sadly, claiming she owes Higby a large sum of money. He’s flat broke and unable to help. She says she didn’t want his money, she just had to tell someone. A recent painting brought in no income because the cheque was made out incorrectly.2 She blusters that the buyer is in the middle of the Atlantic and had accidentally given her a blank cheque as well, and she coerces Roberts into trying to forge the signature.

Venus meanwhile returns to her room and finds Green searching her chest of drawers. She challenges him and he claims Davis was his friend and he wants to see the letter Davis had sent her before he died - she denies she ever received one and sends him away.

Roberts arrives at the pub and gives Higby the forged cheque and asks for the difference in cash, but Higby sneers at him and fetches another cheque he claims was given to him by Lynch and says the signatures don’t match. Roberts protests but Higby says he collects information and Roberts is a forger - bright boys like him end up being stinks master in crack-pot prep schools if they’re convicted. Higby keeps the cheque, asking for information in exchange for him not informing the authorities.

Roberts departs with his tail between his legs and Claire enters, gloating at her new victim. Higby tells her Green didn’t get the letter, but Venus didn’t go to the police and she muses whether there’s no note at all - why would he have sent a suicide note just before he was murdered?

Venus is telling Steed about Green when Claire rings and they listen together as she anonymously claims to be a friend of Davis, ordering her to leave the letter behind a college noticeboard that night. She’s baffled - as Steed hasn’t told her he invented the letter - and he sits down to prepare the letter Davis ought to have written, and seals some blank pages in an envelope.

VENUS: You don’t think Davis was murdered do you? I mean, you do really think he committed suicide?
STEED: If he was murdered, he wouldn’t have known in time to write to you, would he?
VENUS: But he didn’t write to me!
STEED: Precisely!

Green meanwhile is before Shanklin again as Higby has reported he was found in Venus’ room and cigarettes and money were found to be missing from the bar. Shanklin tell him he has no choice but to recommend he be sent down and he dismisses the boy, who tells East all about it on the way out. Steed meets Aubyn in the pub and chats with him about the metal fatigue research he’s doing, and learns that Roberts has replaced Davis.

Later that night, Venus slips the letter behind the noticeboard and Steed, loitering in the quadrangle, rushes up the stairs when he hears a gunshot - just before Higby arrives. He enters Roberts’ room to find an insolent Ted East waving a revolver around, claiming to be trying to work out how Davis killed himself. He says the rooms are stuffy so the window was probably open, so how come no-one heard the shot? Steed reminds him the dance was on and East counters that the band didn’t start until 8pm and Davis died before then. From the window, Steed sees Higby approach the staircase but can’t tell who it is because he’s wearing a hat. By the time he’s descended the stairs, the villain has vanished. He sees the letter has gone and East arrives, complaining about their conversation being interrupted. They spot Green lying in a corner of the quad, Steed grimly observing he’s been sent down all right - he’s dead!

Claire is furious when she discovers the letter is blank and gives Higby a jar of acidic face cream to give to Venus. He’s horrified but she tells him that he has to do as she says, and so does Venus Smith.

Act 2

Venus is making herself up when Steed arrives and conveys the news of Green’s supposed suicide. Changing the subject, he says she’s looking particularly beautiful and she thanks him for the face cream he sent her. Steed leaps into action and grabs the jar and smells the contents then manhandles her across the room to the sink to wash it off, only stopping when she explains she didn’t like the smell and hadn’t used it. He explains it would have scarred her for life and she wonders why anyone would do that.

VENUS: Why would anyone want to do a thing like that to me?3
STEED: I can’t imagine. Unless it was to warn you off.

East is strumming a guitar in the quad when Roberts arrives. Venus enters and is introduced and she’s stunned to see East with a guitar. He jokes that five years hard practice has let him learn only one song, Youtube video‘Yellow Bird’ which he plays while she sings. Roberts buts in and asks if he could have a word with Venus about Davis and they go to his room, leaving the troubadour in the quad with the other undergraduates.

Roberts makes Venus a cup of tea - and asks for the letter from Davis! She bluffs that its personal and she doesn’t have it with her and he suggests she made it up, he believes Davis was murdered as he was on the verge of a big discovery and wouldn’t have killed himself at such a time. Steed enters and Venus introduces them clumsily:

VENUS: This is a friend of mine, John Steed.
[LOOKS AT ROBERTS] John Steed, Geoff -
[LOOKS AT STEED] John Steed, this is Jack Roberts.
STEED: Jack Steed this is Jack? Anyway, marvellous.
ROBERTS: How do you do?
STEED: Call me Bert, thank you. how do you do?

Steed is interested to learn that Roberts thinks Davis was murdered and Venus leaves them to chat. Steed postulates the existence of a subversive organisation which blackmails undergraduates to gain control over tomorrow’s leaders and Roberts confirms he’s been subject to the blackmail and names Higby, but doesn’t think he’s the top of the ladder. Steed promises him immunity from a forgery prosecution and asks him to pretend he’s ideologically convinced.

Roberts returns to the pub and tells Higby he doesn’t need the cheque as they’re on the same side and he had been trying to get in touch with the other side for some time.

Venus sings another song, “Happy Face”, for rag week and this time agrees to dance with the besotted Ted, but Steed arrives soon after and whisks her away to let her know that Roberts has disappeared, leaving the glum undergraduate to be easy prey for Claire. Ted walks Claire home but she sends him away from her door and enters to find Roberts.

He confronts her over picking up East, then asks her why she set him up with the cheque. She claims to have been trapped by the same people and she really loves him, then moments later lets Higby in and Higby tells him they never believed his claims of being one of them and pulls a gun on him.

Act 3

The police inform Shanklin and Aubyn that Roberts died from an overdose, and Shanklin mentions that Steed found both Green and Roberts, which he thinks odd...
Higby and Claire meanwhile are ensnaring East with the same 200 guinea cheque ploy. He laughs in their faces when Higby enters and says they want something done in return for not turning him in for forgery and is stunned when they ask him to kill someone.

Steed meanwhile is telling Venus he’s managed to get the county police4 to keep a lid on things and learns in return that Claire had gone out with every single man who had recently been found dead.
East timidly visits Shanklin and tells him about being tricked into forging a cheque, but when he says he’s been told to kill Steed, Shanklin gives him the revolver to do it with!

Steed breaks into Claire’s studio, leaving Venus on guard in the hallway, and he’s just found the cheque book when Venus rushes in to give the alarm. Higby enters and is knocked out by Steed and they hide in the corridor when Claire returns home. She learns from the groggy Higby what happened and phones Shanklin, who tells them to come over.

Steed meanwhile meets East in the pub, who candidly tells him he’s been instructed to kill him. Shanklin meanwhile tells Claire one of their ‘old boys’ is going to Washington on a diplomatic mission that week, and produces that victim’s cheque. Steed is led in by East, who produces a revolver which he aims at Steed, then tells him he wants Shanklin to do it himself. Claire takes the revolver as Steed, playing the surprised researcher, tries to grab it.

SHANKLIN: Mr East, your zealous execution of my instructions does you credit but I’m bound to say your method of carrying them out is very, very reprehensible.
CLAIRE: I agree. The question is, sir, what do we do with him?
EAST: There’s nothing much you can do with him, you see, it isn’t loaded.

Claire tries to whip East with the revolver but he grabs her arm as Steed leaps forward to stop Shanklin from getting another from his desk. The villains are overpowered, Steed handing Ted a revolver that has a few shots left, and Steed opens Shanklin’s copy of Samule Johnson’s diaries, in which the blackmail material is hidden.

The next morning, Aubyn learns from Sally that Higby is helping the police with their enquiries, which he considers very public spirited. He exchanges a few witticisms with Steed about Mrs Piozzi and Steed leaves, quoting Johnson’s line about the high road to London. Venus is miffed but gladly accepts when Steed returns, saying, “Coming my dear?” and they depart together, which makes Aubyn smile.


  1. Shanklin actually asks him, in a very old-fashioned way, if he has some ‘attachment’ in the town and Green replies, "Not now, sir!"
  2. Claire tells Roberts that Lynch made out a cheque to £220 but wrote “two hundred and twenty guineas” so no bank would accept it - fair enough, as 220gn is £231 anyway. The script reveals she was supposed to say that he had written out 200 guineas, which is £210.
  3. Julie blurts out “Heck! Hey! What happened to my- but why would anyone want to do a thing like that to me?”
  4. Fred Thursday must have been busy... or they’re in Cambridge.

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