Series 2 — Episode 24
A Chorus of Frogs
Teleplay by Martin Woodhouse
Directed by Raymond Menmuir
Production completed: 8 March 1963. First transmission: 9 March 1963
TV Times summary
Steed stows aboard a multi-millionaire’s yacht to learn about deep-sea diving!
Beneath Mason’s luxury yacht Pitt-Norton experiments with a new type of bathyscaphe. Venus is booked to sing on board, so Steed becomes a stowaway to investigate whether there is a connection with the death of a free-lance spy, a diver who is a member of “The Frogs”. Chinese agent Anna tells Pitt-Norton his bathyscaphe can be adapted for military purposes and takes over his work, leaving Steed to work with the remaining Frogs. They arrives in time to prevent Venus from becoming the next victim of their experiments.
A diver strapped with electrodes is ordered to switch his air supply to line 3. He does so but moments later he starts gasping for breath and the controller switches to emergency, despite another voice complaining that he won’t have the experiment interrupted. The diver collapses, his frog-shaped good luck charm swinging crazily.
John Steed (Patrick Macnee), on holiday in Greece, is called in by One-Six (Michael Gover) and shown the body of the diver, Andreas Stephanopoulus Makki Marseilles), a smuggler and part-time agent who was an excellent shallow diver.1
He learns that the cause of death was nitrogen embolism - the bends - but the levels indicate he must have gone to a depth of over 100 fathoms. Steed is amazed he could have gone that deep and is told the body was found by a friend called Jackson, another part-time agent, who says the body was dropped off the side of the huge yacht of ‘Archipelago’ Mason.
One-Six says they’ve known Mason to be working on something on his yacht for the past two years and Stephanopolous’ death suggest he found out what it was. Steed is given the dead man’s good luck charm and told to board the yacht and get in touch with the dead man’s friends, who call themselves ‘The Frogs’.
On board the yacht, Archipelago Mason (Eric Pohlmann) is celebrating his birthday party, greeting guests while a band plays. Anna Lee (Yvonne Shima), an elegant Chinese woman, laughs at him when he joins her and Venus Smith (Julie Stevens) and tells him off for pretending it’s his birthday. He tell Venus that most of the people on board are layabouts, not working their passage like her. Anna, sensing a diatribe, leaves the table.
When Mason takes his leave a moment later Ariston (John Carson) joins her table, his gold frog pendant dangling from his neck, and introduces himself. She excuses herself to sing a song, saying she’ll be right back.
Meanwhile, Dr Pitt-Norton (Frank Gatliff) is telling Mason he’s fixed the leak and it wasn’t his fault Stephanopoulus died. Pitt-Norton wants to make the next dive himself but Mason refuses to let him take the risk, saying Pitt-Norton killed Andreas - with the best intentions - whereas Mason disposed of him. “With the best intentions”, says Anna, who has just entered and Mason angrily tells her she shouldn’t be in this part of the ship. Pitt-Norton also asks her to leave.
ANNA: Ah, the scientist. You do not understand politics?
PITT-NORTON: Oh, yes I do. Politics are unreliable and imprecise.
Mason laughs at Pitt-Norton’s response and Anna storms out of the lab. Mason reminds Pitt-Norton he’s not diving tonight, only testing. Pitt-Norton says he’ll be stabbed in the back one day, and Mason reveals he made his millions by playing both sides off against the middle and he’s only been stabbed once.
PITT-NORTON: Who by? East or West?
MASON: I don’t know, it’s a long time ago. It was a woman...
(HE LAUGHS) unreliable and imprecise!
Back in the lounge, Venus finishes her song and is pounced upon by Ariston who chats her up. She leaves to practice her scales and Helena (Colette Wilde) and Jackson (Alan Haywood) rib him about his lack of success. When he says he has persistence for the girls, Helena grabs his frog charm and holds it near her own on her wrist, and says, “And for the job, nothing?”.
Venus is furious to find Steed in her cabin and contemplates turning him in for stowing away until curiosity and his promise that he didn’t fix her gig get the better of her. He asks her if she’s met anyone aboard called Jackson but she hurries off to sing another number.
Helena and Jackson meanwhile confront Ariston over his lack of zeal and he promises he is still focused on revenge. Jackson reveals that someone slipped Andreas’ charm beside his plate during the evening, with a note to meet him on the starboard promenade at 12:30. Jackson plans to make the rendezvous, hoping it’s Steed, sent to tell them how Andreas died. Ariston tells him to say nothing unless he pays you, they’re not there to keep British Intelligence happy. Helena asks to keep the charm and says they have to dive tonight. Ariston says he’ll go - and tells them he suspects there’s an underwater lab halfway along the ship. Jackson and he toss a coin to see who’ll dive and Jackson wins.
Jackson meets Steed on deck and declares it’s impossible for Andreas to have died of the bends, especially at 100 fathoms, as he was the ‘best of us’. Steed asks who the other Frogs are but Jackson refuses to tell him and leaves. Meanwhile, Mason and Pitt-Norton are in the lab, preparing for a dive test to 30 fathoms.
Steed is roaming the deck when Jackson returns in a wetsuit, accompanied by Helena, and they fight briefly. Steed’s told not to get in their way and Helena leads him away at gunpoint to the bar, where she tells him to buy a drink and stay put for half an hour. He smiles and says if she puts away her gun he’ll buy her a drink too. Back on deck, Anna sneaks out of a cabin while Jackson is suiting up and shoots him with his harpoon gun.
The next day in the bar, Venus sings a comic song and then Mason dampens the mood by announcing to all his guests that Jackson drowned while scuba diving alone last night and asks his guests to be careful.
Helena is convinced both their friends were murdered but agrees to find out what Steed knows before she resorts to her pistol. Steed meanwhile is being taunted by Venus about his sleeping arrangements, and she supplies him with a rather blunt cut-throat razor to shave with. Venus naïvely tells him she has seen the whole ship except the lab, as Mason claims he keeps delicate fish in there.
In the lab, Mason tells Anna off for killing Jackson and suggests he could have been confined to the sick bay instead. She is short with him, and informs him that Jackson’s friends intend to kill him. She then tells him that Steed is on board...
Steed enters the darkened bar and is surprised by Helena and Ariston, but Steed reminds then he had been escorted below desk last night and knows nothing about Jackson’s death. Ariston holds out his frog pendant and tells Steed the four of them grew up together; they have no country, just each other. Ariston then challenges Steed’s spy skills and is easily defeated.
STEED: Alright! Now, I don’t care a damn for your vendetta. If you can’t do any better than that you’ll probably both trip over each other a nd fall overboard. Now, I can’t stop you playing Ducks and Drakes, and Red Indians up and down the companionways but if you get in my way I’ll tan your hides. Both of you.
Venus meanwhile is struggling with a Learn Cantonese record when Steed arrives. Mason follows on his heels and confronts Steed, who Venus introduces as her agent. Steed admits being a stowaway and Mason replies that he had only just learnt of him and hopes he hasn’t been too uncomfortable.
STEED: It’s the most comfortable ship I ever stowed away in. Also the most interesting.
MASON: What interests you most?
STEED: Well, I’m fascinated in delicate tropical fish. I’m even more fascinated in deep-sea diving.
Mason invites them to join him in his stateroom in ten minutes, there are some people he’d like them to meet.
Ariston and Helena break into the lab while Steed and Venus are being introduced to Anna and Pitt-Norton - Steed recognising Anna from a photograph - and Mason is keen to turn it into a bidding war.
Helena and Ariston discover the lab is a diving station with a bathyscaphe and Ariston wants to see what it is that cost their friends’ lives, and whether it’s worth money to someone like Steed.
Mason offers to show Steed the lab, ignoring the complaints of Anna and Pitt-Norton, and says if he doesn’t, Steed’ll find his own way there later anyway.
Ariston meanwhile enters the bathyscaphe and tells Helena to find the winch controls, but the hatch closes automatically behind him. Pitt-Norton sees his ‘mouse trap’ has gone off and goes to see who’s in the lab, closely followed by Steed, Anna and Mason. Helena pulls her gun when they burst in but Steed stops her as Pitt-Norton tries to free Ariston, who’s in the bathyscaphe with the wrong air mixture. Pitt-Norton opens the hatch and Steed then pulls Ariston unconscious from the submarine.
Ariston recovers and tells Steed, for a price, that the bathyscaphe’s hull is too thin to withstand deep-sea pressures. Steed suggest the pressure inside will be higher instead but Ariston says then the diver wouldn’t survive. He wonders why he ran out of oxygen and recalls a theory about different gas mixtures preventing pressure sickness. Ariston tells Helena it’s how Andreas must have died but she protests that doesn’t explain Jacko’s death.
Steed rushes to Venus’ cabin and asks her to send a cable to ‘his aunt in Rottingdean’.
VENUS. Why don’t you send it yourself?
STEED: Because you look just the sort of person to have an aunt in Rottingdean.
VENUS: Ah! There’s something funny going on here, isn’t there? (SHE READS)
VENUS: Malaga three weeks stop, Hector much worse stop2 ... Hey, who’s Hector?
STEED: The dog. Now, alright.
VENUS: You’re going bonkers...
Pitt-Norton is fuming around his lab meanwhile and tells Anna he trusts no-one anymore. She tells him only she can give him his last shot at completing his experiments now, not even Mason can help, and he agrees when she tells him Mason only wants the technology to build midget submarines that can dive deep to evade detection, and surface faster to attack; not his gas mixture research.
Venus finds the steward (Steve Cory) and is pointed towards the first officer (Norman Johns), who promises to send the cable for her - but instead relays it to Anna and she tells him to bring Venus to the lab. Pitt-Norton is against it but she warns him he’ll be shot unless he does as he’s told.
After a while, Steed becomes worried and goes looking for Venus and learns the First Officer came to get her. Anna meanwhile is asking Venus if the telegram is in code and she protests her innocence and claims it’s about her dog, but the First Officer says she doesn’t have a dog.
Steed confronts Mason over Venus’ disappearance but he denies all knowledge, adding that the last time he tried to enter the lab he was invited to leave at gunpoint. Steed laughs when he hears that Anna has taken control, telling Mason to stay out of political games but Mason says he intends to let them finish what they came for - he’s already been paid handsomely - and reveals that Pitt-Norton is conducting his final experiment.
Steed summons Helena to Mason’s stateroom while Anna continues to interrogate Venus, finally deciding she is just a singer, but they won’t let her go free as Pitt-Norton needs a guinea pig. Mason meanwhile tells Steed that Andreas died in an accident, but he now thinks it was an accident Anna arranged.
Steed forces Mason’s hand when Helena burst in, intending to kill him and Mason swears he didn’t kill her friends, the murderers are in the lab. She rushes off, pursued by Steed, and arrives just as Venus is being led to the bathyscaphe. A gun fight breaks out and Helena kills the officer, allowing Venus to take cover under the control desk. Steed burst in and disarms Helena while Pitt-Norton turn on Anna and disarms her.
Steed and Mason agree on the sale of the research, but Steed says he’ll never be allowed to land in England to collect. Mason says they’ll work something out during the voyage and meanwhile the party can go on, and Miss Smith will sing. Venus rushes to the phone to book Steed a cabin of his own.
- One-Six, showing his dislike of amateur agents, also describes him as “A smuggler ... Also an agent. Part-time, incompetent, inefficient, mercenary...”
Steed is more complimentary, and says, “He’s a beachcomber... A stealer of harmless if technically interesting postcards. He lived around here ... Plans of the latest battleship for a fiver. Too bad.”
- Steed’s coded telegram reads: MALAGA THREE WEEKS STOP HECTOR MUCH WORSE STOP SEASICK STOP RUN OUT PINK PILLS