• title card: white all caps text reading ‘CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE’ superimposed on a slightly crumpled photo of Steed and a revolver lying on a desk
  • Mr. James enjoys another laugh
  • Elizabeth spins around on the wheel during the knife-throwing act, dressed in her tiny shorts
  • Arturo and Carlo - disguised as Leggo - in their clown makeup, wave at Cathy
  • Rickie, worried about the turn of events, hugs Carlo
  • Cathy is annoyed when Steed makes light of her concern for his safety

Series 2 — Episode 23
Conspiracy Of Silence

Teleplay by Roger Marshall
Directed by Peter Hammond

Production completed: 1 March 1963. First transmission: 1 March 1963

TV Times summary

Steed hunts an informer only to find that he himself is number one suspect

Plot summary

The circus clown Carlo is called out of retirement from the Mafia to kill Steed, but he fails and goes into hiding and Mrs Gale is hot on his trail. Carlo has taken on the makeup of one of the other clowns and hides in plain sight, perhaps because Cathy seems more interested in the tiniest shorts in Sixties television on the shapely Elizabeth. The Mafia find Carlo and convince him to make another attempt but Carlo and Steed turn the tables on them, and Carlo shoots the neforcer and the Mafia boss Sica is arrested.

show full synopsis

show plot summary

Prologue

At a circus booking agency, Mr James (Artro Morris) is laughing at his office being a regular lost and found office - but this is the first time he’s found a man’s brother-in-law for him! Sica (Alec Mango) joins in the laughter but after James goes to fetch some cups, Carlo (Robert Rietty) says he’s never seen Sica before. He blanches when Sica explains with the word ‘Omerta’ then says he hasn’t been back to Italy in 16 years. Sica reminds him he took the oath and adds it’s the highest card, only death can trump it. Sica orders Carlo to kill a man, showing him a photograph of John Steed!

Act 1

John Steed (Patrick Macnee) takes Sheba for a walk, tossing a rubber ball for the dog, and Carlo emerges from the bushes, nervously clutching a briefcase. He trails Steed and draws a silenced pistol from the case. His shots miss and Steed takes cover behind a log, at which Carlo panics, dropping the gun and case, and runs away. Sheba meanwhile has sniffed out the case, which Steed picks up.

Sica visits Carlo’s wife Rickie (Sandra Dorne) at Gutman’s circus, telling her Carlo is in a lot of trouble and will be deported if the police find him. She’s frightened, knowing her husband will be killed if he returns to Italy, but swears she doesn’t know where he is other than he had gone to London and promises to let Sica know when she finds out.

Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) meanwhile visits James, and reveals she’s looking for a slim Italian clown who wears glasses.1 James says he might know him, then clams up when she calmly says he was supposed to kill an acquaintance of hers. She presses him and he identifies him as Carlo Bennetti, known as Bennett, but he’s not a killer. He recalls the meeting he and Carlo had with Sica the week before, and Cathy starts when he mentions the word ‘omerta’. James goes to find details of Bennett’s whereabouts and Steed arrives.

CATHY: You oversleep?
STEED: (LOOKS AT WATCH) Horse threw a shoe. Well, how are you getting on?
CATHY: He’s being very helpful.
STEED: It’s your honest face, he’s never done that for me.

She fills him in and he tells her “omerta” is a Mafia oath - the conspiracy of silence.2 He’s sure it’s linked to an international dope peddling case he’s investigating and asks her to find out what she can.

Later, back at his circus, Gutman (Roy Purcell) complains to Rickie that Carlo’s been away for a week and tries to make a move on her. She brushes him off saying he’d be nothing without Carlo and is told, after she rejects another advance, she’ll be on the street if Carlo doesn’t return by Saturday. She’s told she will have to share her caravan with a female journalist who’s coming to the circus - Cathy, of course.

Cathy is led in by Terry (John Church) and she’s introduced to the clowns Leggo (himself) and Arturo (Tommy Godfrey), and a knife-throwing act, Elizabeth and Collins (themselves).

She comments on the Italian names and Gutman reveals that Arturo is in fact a cockney. She apologises, saying he’ll get sick of her asking so many questions at which he says he won’t have time to answer them. Leggo and Arturo tell her ‘The Professor’ knows more about the circus than anyone else and Gutman mysteriously tells her ‘anyone will tell her where to find him’.

Terry delivers Cathy’s cases to Mrs Bennett’s caravan and Cathy arrives a moment later and introduces herself. She learns that a clown’s makeup is his trademark then asks where Carlo is. Rickie sadly says she doesn’t know and goes outside. Cathy examines some of the clown props then, unaware that the Professor (Willie Shearer) is peering in the window, searches the dresser and finds a revolver.

The professor watches her take a photo of Carlo then seal it in an envelope which she addresses to Steed. He then enters - he’s a midget - and introduces himself, saying his family has been in circuses since the fifteenth century. He tells her some circus trivia then tells her for a fiver he’ll tell her what she really wants to know - where Carlo is. Caught off guard, she denies that’s her purpose and he shrugs his shoulders and leaves, telling her to ask for the professor if she changes her mind... outside, Sica watches him leave.

Act 2

Next day, Cathy takes some photos of the troupe, telling Gutman her article will be one of a series about how the little guy struggles against big business. Meantime, Sica tries to force Rickie to tell him where Carlo is but Terry bursts in when she screams in pain and Sica’s sent packing.

Arturo puts his hands across his face when Cathy takes photos of the clowns and is upset when Cathy manages to take a picture of him holding the Professor. Leggo tells her Arturo’s a beginner - he’s only been with them for eight years.

Later on, Rickie reveals to Cathy that Carlo lacks ambition and is overly loyal to Gutman, who gave him his first job after the war. She lets slip that Carlo is hiding then covers up with a story about how dedicated a clown he is. Cathy wonders why Carlo is sad outside the ring and learns that they had a baby boy who died in a blizzard on Salisbury Plain. Rickie adds that Carlo’s scared of kids - he entertains them because in 1943 his plane accidentally bombed a convent, killing 80 children and some nuns.3

Cathy calls Steed at James’ office and tells him about Arturo, saying she’s sending some photos. Steed hangs up and asks James about Arturo, and he confirms what Cathy has already been told by the other clowns.4 Back at her caravan, Cathy catches Arturo looking through her photos.

CATHY: Good evening... What do you want?
ARTURO: I’m looking at your photos n’t I?
CATHY: In the dark? Why are you so interested in photos and so reluctant to pose for them? It isn’t modesty, surely.

Arturo tells her he’s been ‘blistered’ by his missus once already. She promises not to publish his photo and he thanks her and leaves. The professor hops in the window when she returns to the pile of photos and observes that Arturo is becoming friendly and she hasn’t taken him up on the £5 yet. She shows the professor some photos of Terry - one with a bandage and once with a circus ‘charity’ tattoo.

PROFESSOR: Nothing odd about that, Mrs Gale. Accidents in a circus is like coffee breaks in an office.

The professor shows her his tattoo, saying everyone has one. He suggests Terry wasn’t trying to hide it, but it was sore as the first few days can be very painful. Cathy realises Terry got a tattoo as camouflage, to help him blend in with the circus folk.

Rickie slips through the animal tent, followed by Terry. She’s startled to see him and he departs after she assures him she doesn’t need his protection. She enters Leggo’s tent and as the make-up comes off we see that it’s actually Carlo, who embraces Rickie when he sees her. She tells him Leggo is recovering well in hospital and wants to know when Carlo will stop impersonating him. Carlo says he’s scared as the Mafia knows no bounds.

Rickie declares she hates Steed despite not knowing him - either he dies or they do. Carlo says he can’t kill a man in cold blood but she gives him two tickets for the final show, telling him to send them to Steed and if he won’t kill him, she will!

Act 3

Cathy visits a tattooist called Rant (Ian Wilson) who, after being bribed with a fiver, tells her he did Terry’s tattoo three days ago.

Steed arrives at the circus and realises things are ‘hotting up a bit’ when he learns Cathy didn’t send him the tickets. She tells him Terry is almost certainly a phoney, tattoos are like a passport in circuses.

STEED: How come you know so much about tattoos?
CATHY: I took it at school instead of needlework.
STEED LAUGHS.

Steed in turns reveals that her photos prove that Carlo is posing as Leggo, wearing contact lenses. He plans to put the frighteners on him to discover who his employers are and Cathy has a row with him, thinking he’s taking the wrong tack.

STEED: May I remind you, Mrs Gale, we’re dealing with the Mafia and not the Boy Scouts?
CATHY: You offer him a satisfactory alternative to the Mafia and he’ll help you!
STEED: Huh! You’re an idealist.
CATHY: And you’re a cynic.

Meanwhile, Sica enters the tent where Carlo is putting on his makeup and greets him by name. He orders Carlo to carry out his mission. Later, Carlo tells Rickie ‘he is already here’ and he plans to sneak up behind and fire a shot as the clowns leave and asks her to wait in the trailer with Terry to be safe. Sica meanwhile has gone to give Terry his orders.

The clowns enter the ring - Arturo in Leggo’s makeup and Carlo now dressed as Arturo - and play around with some cap guns while Sica slips into the box next to Steed’s. The clowns challenge each other to a pantomime duel and Arturo approaches Steed with a joke gun in his hand. He looks disturbed when Steed points his own revolver at him, and turns and to complete the pantomine.

Sica meanwhile returns to the Bennetts’ caravan and holds Rickie and Cathy at gunpoint, saying they’ll wait until Carlo does his job. Steed confronts ‘Leggo’ in the dressing room and discovers it’s Arturo, who laughs and tells him Carlo is waiting for him in the ring. Sica tells Rickie that once Carlo has succeeded he will be killed, Terry will see to it.

Cathy jumps him and pulls a gun, telling Rickie that Steed knows all about Terry. Steed is in the ring, and shoots out the spotlight Carlo trains on him. A second spot floods the ring and Steed tries to reason with Carlo, who tells him he joined the Mafia as a kid and it’s too late now. “Much too late, Mr Steed”, grunts Terry as he disarms Steed. Carlo joins them down on the floor and Terry says they control Carlo like a puppet and Carlo will do the job, as Sica is guarding Rickie. Carlo looks blankly at them and fires...

Rickie bursts into tears when she hears two shots and Sica laughs when Cathy says he’ll face justice. They braces themselves when footsteps approach, then Steed enters and diffuses the atmosphere - Carlo is waiting in another caravan with the police.

Steed rejoins Cathy in the ring and finds her shaking, having thought him dead and she rushes off angrily, tears in her eyes, when he makes light of it.


  1. Prior to Cathy revealing the purpose of her visit, James is laughing to himself as he tries to work out what sort of circus act Cathy could possibly be.
  2. Steed says, “The conspiracy of silence: talk and you die; keep quiet, we look after you. That’s the general tred of it.”
  3. There’s a horrific juxtaposition of a whistling kettle as she says this, evoking the sound of falling bombs.
  4. The script has Steed reveal they’re investigating dope peddling but those lines are cut from the scene.

Support this site via Paypal Join us on Facebook Become a Patreon! Fan forum