• title card: white all caps text reading ‘SIX HANDS ACROSS A TABLE’ superimposed on ... well, on six hands across a table
  • Brian lies on the ground, struck by a falling pulley
  • Steed, in bowler hat, umbrella and suit, asks the receptionist to tell Sir Charles he called
  • Cathy, on the left, smiles at the stern Seabrook while Waldner looks on from the right
  • Sir Charles, in near foreground, announces he’s severing ties with the group as Waldner and Stanley stand behind him
  • Steed breaks the tension of Cathy’s heartbreak by asking for a lift home

Series 2 — Episode 25
Six Hands Across a Table

Teleplay by Reed R. de Rouen
Directed by Richmond Harding

Production No 3524, VTR/ABC/2508
Production completed: March 15 1963. First transmission: March 16 1963.

TV Times summary

Cathy moves in high society and Steed goes shipbuilding to find a murderer

Plot summary

Three shipbuilding magnates from the Reniston Group are determined to make sure their rival, Herbert Collier, doesn’ build a nuclear-powered liner, and the next day he dies in a car accident. Waldner, who is courting Cathy, unaware that she is working for Steed, tries to pressure the dead man’s son, Brian Collier, into following their Eurosceptic plans to restore British shipbuilding as a world leader. When Brian rejects the offer and decides instead to follow his father’s line, involving the French, he is met with a series of ‘accidents’. The group’s administrator, Seabrook, switches sides, teaming up with Collier to take over Reniston Group as Cathy retrieves a tape recording of Waldner ordering someone to take care of Collier. Sir Charles Reniston realises Waldner has committed murder and wants out, which Waldner cannot allow... he’s about to kill Sir Charles when Steed arrives with Seabrook to take him and the third magnate, Stanley, into custody.

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Julian Seabrook (Philip Madoc) presents a takeover bid to the board of a shipbuilding consortium. He departs and Sir Charles Reniston (John Wentworth) says that only leaves one item of unfinished business, what to do about Herbert Collier. George Stanley (Campbell Singer) says he won’t come to heel, so Oliver Waldner (Guy Doleman) says there’s no other option - he has to be killed.

Act 1

The next morning, the Glasgow Times reports the shipbuilder’s death and Waldner’s butler, Thomas (Ian Cunningham), announces that the dead man’s son, Brian Collier (Edward de Souza), is awaiting him in the study. Waldner enters and tells Collier that he is always welcome - especially to his daughter, Rosalind. He asks if they can discuss business later, hinting Brian might change his father’s plans, then leaves to fetch Rosalind, who is just coming back from an early morning cross country horse ride. The riders enter the saddle room, including Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman), who has impressed them all with her seat. 1 Stanley, on the other hand, is not a rider and is quite saddle-sore. Cathy thanks Waldner for inviting her and the conversation turns to his work.

CATHY: Why are you so against the French building a nuclear-powered liner with us?
WALDNER: I have nothing against the French, but I don’t see that we need any outside help from anyone.

The butler interrupts - Mr. Seabrook wishes to speak to him - giving Stanley the chance to pounce on Cathy. Lady Reniston (Freda Bamford) wonders if Stanley will take the plunge this time, then Miss Francis (Gillian Barclay) returns from fetching Stanley a hot cup of coffee and is furious to see him talking to another woman and angrily leads him away, giving Cathy a death stare. 2 Waldner passes through with his frosty administrator, Seabrook, who is instantly suspicious of Cathy’s presence.

Rosalind rushes back downstairs and tells Cathy about Collier’s death - she was dumbstruck and Brian simply walked out after telling her. Cathy looks concerned when Rosalind says the police are investigating the death.

Meanwhile the board convene in the study, Stanley wryly saying, “he’s saved us the trouble”. Seabrook tells them proposals for Collier’s yard are ready and is then dismissed. Reniston reads the paper and is digusted with his colleagues’ callousness at the death of another shipbuilder. Waldner is angry and tells him to make his position clear - for or against them. Sir Charles is appalled, saying the thought is one thing, but actual murder another; he doesn’t doubt their position but will not support crime.

Stanley says it was an accident but Sir Charles doesn’t believe him, adding that French know-how and patents could have taken months off the build time when Waldner suggests the country would be swamped with French-German cartels. They’re all startled when Brian enters from the garden. Sir Charles is sympathetic but Brian firmly says they’ll have to deal with him now.

Bert Barnes (Frank Siemen), the shop steward, is looking for Brian at the yard and a draughtsman, Ralph (Stephen Hancock), tells him he’s showing a Board of Trade party about the yard. Bert tells him strike action has been averted and to let Brian know he wants to see him.

Moments later, Brian comes in with John Steed (Patrick Macnee) who is posing as a bureaucrat. Steed off-handedly asks if Brian’s father was alone in the car, raising Brian’s suspicions, but he allays them by saying he’s doing routine liaison between Glasgow and Le Havre. Steed bemoans the red tape involved with large international projects and asks if his father came up against a lot of opposition; Brian tells him the Reniston Group was determined to keep the French out and build it themselves, but he sees no reason to change his father’s policies.

Waldner and Cathy dress to go out for the evening; he looks at her dress and says she’ll knock them dead at the Savoy, and announces they’re flying to London for the night. Rosalind won’t join them as she’s gone to bed early, depressed about Brian’s father. He sighs that there aren’t enough young people around for Rosalind then asks Cathy if she’d like to stay indefinitely 3 - on her terms.

Stanley phones Waldner from the office and tells him to get round to Collier’s yard straight away and talk sense into Brian, who is going ahead with the French project, adding that Sir Charles is already there. Waldner is annoyed but apologises to Cathy, saying they’ll have to stop at one of the yards on the way.

Stanley then summons Seabrook to the boardroom, telling him when he arrives he has a few reservations about the proposals. Seabrook is exasperated and Stanley tells him to lighten up a bit; he doesn’t like Seabrook’s methods, at which Seabrook says he’s not there to pander to the wishes of the directors but to do his job. He demands to know why Stanley is holding up his pay rise and is told he can have it, but Stanley queries whether he’s neutral.

STANLEY: The decline of the power and prestige of this country doesn’t concern you, does it? They’re merely national abstractions.
They may elect politicians but they don’t interfere with the normal routine of business.
SEABROOK: Not if it’s directed along the right lines, no. We could operate anywhere.

At Collier’s yard, Brian tells them the Americans are already building a similar vessel and if they’re to beat them they have to get a move on. He ignores the cajoling of the triumvirate and Stanley’s Francophobic rants - Waldner and Stanley leave angrily, leaving Sir Charles to apologise that it’s hard to change the habits of a lifetime, but he’s sure they can build the ship themselves. Brian shakes his head sadly and Sir Charles bids him goodnight.

Brian goes to his office and presses Seabrook on accepting an offer he made, saying time is limited. Seabrook leaves and passes Cathy, who is looking for Brian. She enters the office where Brian tells her that Waldner is in love with her, then warns her off him. She tells him to let her worry about that and he leads her outside. She screams when someone shouts “Look out!” and a block and tackle crash down upon Brian.

Act 2

Barnes tends to the injured Brian, thinking his arm broken. Cathy returns with Waldner, who says he’s called a doctor. Cathy asks Waldner if it could have been deliberate and he says, “Of course not, who’d want to hurt you?” Brian astutely observes he doesn’t think it was meant for Cathy, someone was trying to kill him.

Seabrook calls Waldner the next morning from Barnes’ office, telling him the shop stewards have ‘decided’ there’ll be a strike at the yard starting the next day because of unsafe working conditions - Barnes is sitting there, looking pleased with himself. Cathy overhears the conversation and she confronts Waldner with a strike being in his interest but he lies he would never use Brian’s ‘bad luck’ to further a strike.

Meanwhile, in the boardroom, Sir Charles refuses to believe it’s a coincidence and declares that Waldner’s up to something. Stanley tells him they’ll never make the country a great seafaring nation again with their piecemeal purchasing of small yards - they need to take risks to achieve their goal.

STANLEY: That is what you want though, isn’t it? Britain for Britain. The Commonwealth and the Empire expanding instead of shrinking?
RENISTON: (RESIGNEDLY) Yes. That’s what we want.

Cathy is annoyed that evening when Steed climbs in her window. He tells her it was no accident the night before and he wonders if they were using one stone to kill two birds - the chain holding the block and tacklle had been tampered with. He warns her Waldner may be up to his neck in it and when she looks crestfallen, says that’s what she’s there to find out. 4

She says she has nothing concrete but confirms that Waldner has an alibi for the car accident: he was with Cathy. She then tells him that Sir Charles is sitting on the fence, but Stanley is backing Waldner. Steed departs, saying it’ll all come out in the wash and Cathy sneaks downstairs to search the study but Waldner has heard Steed coming down from the roof and is prowling around with a shotgun, preventing her.

Steed visits the Reniston Group and plants a tape recorder under the boardroom table. He passes the receptionist (Ilona Rodgers) on the way out and asks her to tell Sir Charles he called - without giving her his name! 5 Brian meanwhile catches up with Rosalind and asks her if he’ll still be welcome, no matter what passes between her father and himself and she assures him he will, and they kiss.

Back at the boardroom, Sir Charles is nervous at Waldner’s absence, and even more nervous at Seabrook’s presence. Waldner finally arrives with Brian and the board meeting commences with Seabrook announcing the Reniston Group holds 45% of Collier’s shares, the outstanding 6% to be transferred to Sir Charles’ private holding, which count towards the group’s capital. Sir Charles and Brian are shocked and Sir Charles refuses to take up the shares, but Seabrook reminds him he’s contractually bound to. Brian storms out, declaring that Waldner hasn’t won yet.

Steed hops into Cathy’s car outside and asks her to retrieve his tape recorder as his contact there has let him down. 5 She’s shown into the boardroom by Waldner, just as the receptionist departs. Seabrook tells Waldner that Sir Charles acquired the outstanding 6% - in Brian’s name! Waldner realises this means they don’t have a controlling shareholding and goes to discuss this with Stanley.

Seabrook then reveals his suspicions of Cathy’s sudden re-acquaintance with the Waldners. 4 She icily tells him coincidences do happen and he then suggests he knows about the tape recorder as he notes “there’s so much here to interest you”, looking at the table before departing. After he’s gone, she take the recorder and the receptionist phones Seabrook when she leaves.

Cathy is attacked by a thug 6 waiting in the dark in Collier’s draughting room but she fights him off and then finds Brian lying on the floor his office.

Act 3

Cathy plays the tape recording to Brian - on it, Waldner is heard saying Brian is in his office and this time he wants the job done properly this time. Back at the Reniston Group boardroom, Seabrook is announcing his resignation in favour of a post at Collier’s yard. After he goes, Stanley tells Waldner that Tyneside backs them and Belfast will follow - Waldner wonders if Collier will go to the police.

Sir Charles arrives and announces he’s severing ties with the group. They chide him for changing his mind again and Stanley makes an empassioned speech to sway him:

STANLEY: Look at this, Charles. There’s nothing like it afloat, - a dream, only a poet on a drawing board could have imagined her. And every rivet of her born right here on the Clyde ... Remember the General Strike?, Remember Jarrow? They said we were finished then, didn’t they; Britain was spent, they said ... a century behind the times. Then they launched the Queens. Not bad for a pack of has-been, eh, Charles? Aye, we’re going to build her, you know. And she’ll be launched from our slipway ... 7

Sir Charles’ mind is unchanged.

WALDNER: Charles... you’ve got it all out of proportion again.
RENISTON: I know what I am, I know what I’ve done, and I’m not making excuses for myself ... but now; now I know what to do... !

Cathy meanwhile catches up with Rosalind and learns she’d marry Brian even if he were broke, despite her father’s opposition. Ros has a brief moment of jealous doubt 8 and Cathy says she’s not interested in Brian; in fact, she’s not sure about Oliver anymore either. Cathy goes upstairs and finds Sir Charles searching Waldner’s desk. He warns her to leave the house while there’s still time. He tells her Waldner plays on peoples’ weaknesses; his own greed has landed him in trouble but he refuses to elaborate.

At the yard, Seabrook gets Barnes to spread his engineered strike to all yards run by the Reniston Group while Waldner discovers Cathy trying to open his safe; he tells her the combination then to help herself. Seabrook informs Brian that Waldner and Stanley are back to a 45% holding, and shares have fallen to 29s 2d. Brian declares that if they fall below £1 he won’t be able to hold out any longer and they will take him over.

Steed arrives at the yard and asks Barnes the reason for the strike and when it will end, then is shown in to see Collier. He approaches Seabrook and asks him point-blank if he’s decided when the strike will end.

Back at the house, Waldner tells Cathy that he and Stanley pooled their resources five years ago to buy a small yard on Tyneside, enabling them to build an oil tanker that would have been built in Germany otherwise. They bought more yards, devaluing them by staging lightning strikes. Cathy archly observes that as the stakes got bigger their methods became more ruthless - Collier was murdered.

Barnes arranges to end the strike while Seabrook tells Steed that Sir Charles was going to see Waldner. Sir Charles arrives and Waldner sees him alone after telling Thomas not to let anyone leave the state, put away the cars and lock the garage. Meanwhile Cathy is telling Stanley she’s phoned the police about Collier’s murder. Stanley is shocked she informed on them and rushes off in search of Waldner, entering just as Waldner pulls a pistol on Sir Charles.

STANLEY: Don’t be a fool, Oliver. We won’t get away with it.
WALDNER: Oh yes we will!
STEED: (ON THE STAIRS) I’m afraid not.

Steed has appeared on the stairs from the loft with Seabrook, and Cathy kicks away Waldner’s gun. Steed informs Stanley that accessory to murder is an indictable offence and when Stanley claims it was an accident he adds the steering column was half sawn through. Steed then tells the villains that Seabrook and Collier have bought them out, lock, stock, and barrel.

WALDNER: I told you we hadn’t seen the last of that little worm.
STANLEY: Aye, an’ we stood around with our heads in the clouds beating a patriotic drum!

They’re led away to the awaiting police, Steed telling Sir Charles the inspector would like to take a statement.

Steed guardedly tells Cathy Waldner was a powerful man and it’s a pity they resorted to murder; he then breaks the tension of her distress by asking if she’d mind giving him a lift, there doesn’t seem to be a horse in sight!

  1. Riding that is, this isn’t Benny Hill.
  2. See footnote 8, below.
  3. Waldner is asking her if she’d like to live with him, and Guy Doleman accidentally says, ‘I need you, Ros’ by mistake. No wonder Cathy looks so astonished!
  4. This is the first time that it’s revealed that Steed planted Cathy back into Ros and Oliver’s lives. The point is raised by Seabrook later on.
  5. This suggests that the receptionist had let Steed in, then decided she wanted no part in it. As she later informs Seabrook about Cathy, it would seem that Seabrook paid her to work for him instead.
  6. Some synopses suggest that the thug is supposed to be Julian Seabrook, and Valentino Musetti is often listed as a stand-in for Philip Madoc, but that doesn’t make sense in terms of the overall plot, where Seabrook is siding with Brian Collier.
    However, the scene breakdown lists the Pre-VTR insert as being Cathy and Seabrook, so either the breakdown is wrong or Seabrook changed sides when he failed to recover the tape and truly is Machiavellian.
  7. Stanley references the General Strike of 1926; the Jarrow March of 1936; and the launches of the RMS Queen Mary in 1936, and RMS Queen Elizabeth in 1938. Interestingly, Cunard orderd the Queen Elizabeth II in 1964, not long after this episode. She was laid down in July 1965 and completed in 1968.
  8. The same thing happens in Immortal Clay when Cathy is talking to Anne Marling in the pub. The jealous angle was also apparent in Miss Francis’s reaction to seeing Stanley talking to Cathy.

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