Series 3 — Episode 24
by Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke
Designed by Robert Macgowan
Directed by Kim Mills
Production No 3601, VTR/ABC/2644
Production completed: April 26 1963. First transmission: March 7 1964.
TV Times summary
In which Steed spars with an old opponent; and Cathy protects a young concert pianist
Important East-West trade talks are jeopardised by a young Russian pianist becoming embroiled in several compromising incidents, culminating in the musician being blackmailed into shooting the Trade Minister. At the last minute, he refuses to do it and Cathy has to disarm another gunman while Steed and his opposite number apprehend the blackmailer.
Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) and Peterson (Bernard Brown), the general secretary of the British Cultural Council, leave the hotel suite of a Russian pianist, Stefan Veliko (Sandor Elès), who is practicing for his first concert in London. When Peterson opens the front door, Polly White (Valerie Bell) is standing there, brandishing a magazine. She claims to be from Empress magazine, sent to interview Mr Veliko. They leave her there to meet Stefan, and after they’re gone she tears her blouse, messes her hair and smudges her lipstick, then calls reception, claiming she’s been attacked in suite 39. Burns (Geoffrey Colville) arrives, claiming to be the hotel manager and when she exclaims “Please do something!”, he strangles Polly!
Cathy drops round to see John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and tells him about Veliko’s concert tour, but is a bit disconcerted to discover Steed already knows about it, including that Veliko is having a private piano recital for the Trade Minister that evening. He warns her that Veliko’s government wants a trade deal that will cost some individuals a lot of money and they’ve sent a security man called Zalenko – who knows about as much as Steed does about classical music, but probably plays chess better. Cathy is suspicious that he knows so much.1
CATHY: You had something to do with it, didn’t you?
STEED: What, getting the Minister to go along?
CATHY: I’ve been a member of the British Cultural Council ever since I came back from Africa, and this is the first time they’ve ever asked me to do anything on this scale.
STEED: At last they’ve recognised your potential, my dear.
The phone rings – a call for Steed and when he hangs up he tells Cathy a young woman was found in Veliko’s hotel suite, dead.
Veliko’s security adviser, Zalenko (Nigel Stock) is questioning Veliko, who tells him he discovered the girl’s body when he took a toilet break but heard nothing as he was practising and was entirely focused on what he was playing. Zalenko tells him the girl must have been planted to incriminate him.
Cathy and Steed arrive, momentarily confusing Zalenko until Steed introduces himself – and then needles Zalenko about his not very clandestine tour of US bases in Turkey over the last few months. Steed takes another call and then informs Zaleko that Veliko’s evidence is supported – the dead woman was Polly White, who had a long criminal record for blackmail and extortion. Steed surmises that her employer killed her to take the extortion to its natural conclusion and they tacitly agree to co-operate – the East-West trade talks will be scuttled if the plan works, and the Avengers must stop them.2
Steed goes in search of Polly’s flatmate and visits “Le Stud”, a seedy strip club run by Burns and quizzes Darleen (Dorinda Stevens) over Polly’s movements, but she knows nothing. She is shocked to learn that Polly is dead – she was supposed to meet her that night. Steed gives her his card and tells her to ring him when she doesn’t show up. Becoming concerned, she asks Burns what happened to Polly. He claims he told Polly over the phone where to go, but never met her. Darleen is worried when he adds that she won’t be back that night.
At the British Cultural Council, Peterson is concerned that Veliko might be arrested and suggests they postpone the recital so as to not involve the minister in any hint of scandal. Cathy brushes aside his concerns and he wonders if Veliko might actually be guilty, which Cathy also dismisses.
PETERSON: I can’t stop thinking about that poor girl. I feel as though I were somehow responsible myself.3
Zalenko summons Steed to the suite and shows him the phone had been altered so calls from it could be intercepted in the next suite. They then settle in for a heavy drinking session as they consider the case and decide the British Cultural Council bears looking in to.4 Steed takes his leave and gets a call from Darleen, asking him to come to her flat. When she hangs up, Burns congratulates her and says they just want him out of the way for the evening. When Steed gets to Darleen’s flat, he is set upon by Burn’s hired goons, and held at gunpoint.
Darleen rings Stefan, and tells him she has information about the murdered girl, and instructs him to come to the Stud club. He asks Cathy to fix them both a drink and sneaks out of the suite while she’s busy. Steed meanwhile regains consciousness and finds himself tied up, lying on the floor of Darleen’s flat in front of a lit gas heater. He escapes his bonds by breaking the flame guard and burning the ropes – and his hands – on the gas heater. Cathy and Zalenko discover Stefan has gone just before Steed arrives at the suite and Cathy is shocked at the state of his bandaged wrists. Zalenko tells them Stefan has been lured away and, removing a bug from the phone, they listen to the call, Steed immediately recognising Darleen’s voice. When Zalenko asks if they know of this club, Steed smiles grimly and tells them he’s a member of the Stud Club.
Stefan arrives at Le Stud and is photographed entering. When he goes inside, Burns points him in Darleen’s direction with an oily grin. Steed and Zalenko arrive in the nick of time, interrupting an attempt to photograph Stefan in a compromising position – but the photographer outside captures his escape.
A while later, Peterson is looking at a photo of Stefan leaving the club when he receives a call. He hurriedly hides it in his desk when Cathy arrives with her notes on Stefan’s tour. She asks to type them up when he says he’s late for an appointment and, with a worried glance as the desk drawer, he agrees – but sinisterly asks his receptionist, Miss Walters, (Carole Ward) to take care of her.5 After typing a sentence, Cathy checks the door then searches Peterson’s desk, finding the photograph, and manages to hide it just as Miss Walters brings in a cup of tea.
Meanwhile, Zalenko is treating Stefan’s wounds and he and Steed exchange some banter:
ZALENKO: I must congratulate you on the use of your umbrella.
STEED: That’s very kind of you. May I return the compliment and ask what you were trying to do to your friend?
ZALENKO: Disjoint his left arm from its socket over my right shoulder.
STEED: And where did you learn that particular piece of nastiness?
ZALENKO: Saturday afternoons – British television – the last time I was here. You should watch.
Zalenko decides that the recital and tour are cancelled, they are packing up and going home. Steed and Stefan protest, Stefan will be thought a murderer protected by diplomatic immunity if they leave and the trade talks will definitely be scuttled. Zalenko agrees – on condition that he gets to review the security of the recital room, and Stefan remains in the suite, talking to no-one.
Peterson is reprimanding Burns for only having a damaged camera to show for all they’ve been paying him. Burns blusters that they weren’t expecting anything so rough, Steed is tougher than he looks. Darleen overhears Peterson say Steed must have high connections to have hushed up “our Polly’s unfortunate accident” and turns back to eavesdrop their conversation. A while later, Darleen meets Cathy at the British Cultural Committee’s office when she comes to sell information to Steed.
DARLEEN: I want money for my information.
CATHY: I can arrange that too, what exactly have you got to sell?
DARLEEN: Somebody’s going to be murdered at this recital tonight, and for £500 I could tell you who.
CATHY: Why should you want to sell out your friends?
DARLEEN: Maybe they’re not my friends anymore. They murdered someone I knew. Look – I’d tell you for nothing except I need the money to get away!
Darleen doesn’t trust her not to bring the police when she returns with the money so they arrange to meet later at the club. Peterson meanwhile arrives at the hotel suite and convinces him to let him in. He then shows Stefan a copy of the photograph, insinuating that Stefan’s security people wouldn’t like to find out about Stefan being at a strip club in the company of a British agent. Stefan orders him out and goes to call the police but Peterson then suggests that if another girl had been killed in the fight … which could be arranged if necessary. Aghast, Stefan relents and asks what he must do – and is shocked when Peterson orders him to shoot the Trade Minister.
A short time later Cathy gets to the club and finds Darleen is dead. Before she can do anything further, she’s captured by Burns.
Zalenko returns to the hotel, complaining about the security arrangements, and realises Stefan has had a visitor by the ash in the ashtray. Peterson meanwhile has returned to the Council offices and learns that Burns has called him several times. Miss Walters tells him Mrs Gale left a while ago, leaving a letter for a Mr Steed, who was also asked for by a young woman earlier. Peterson is about to open the letter to “find out who Mr Steed is” when Steed appears at his shoulder and introduces himself.
STEED: Perhaps I can save you the trouble. My name is Steed.
PETERSON: Oh. Then this is for you.
STEED: I suppose it is. I love opening other people’s letters myself.
Peterson receives another call from Burns and excuses himself to take it in his office. He then tells Burns to keep Cathy there until after the recital, and maybe he can learn something from her…
Cathy is strapped to a chair and Burns menaces her with pistol, playing Russian Roulette to get her to talk. Steed rescues her in the nick of time and sets her free.
STEED: I got your note. What did Darleen have to say?
CATHY: Nothing. I was too late. She was dead. Burns was waiting for me. We’ve been playing one-sided Russian Roulette.
STEED: Ah, I’ve told you gambling would be the death of you.6
They head off to secure the recital – Steed arrives some time later and is reprimanded by Zalenko for being late. He assures Steed that no-one has got in who wasn’t invited, and is somewhat startled when Steed tells him that the man they’re after was already there. Stefan finishes his first piece to polite applause. During the interval Peterson hands Stefan a gun, ordering him to kill the Minister when Peterson steps away after showing the Minister some manuscript scores. Cathy arrives just as a photographer, Robbins, (Leslie Glazer) shows a letter of introduction from Mr Peterson, raising Cathy’s suspicions.
Stefan refuses to go through with it when given the signal, and fights with Peterson. Steed and Zalenko apprehend Peterson and lead Stefan to safety, while Cathy spots Robbins fumbling with a gun and stops him using it with a karate blow.
The case closed, Zalenko joins Steed for another mammoth vodka and brandy drinking session while playing chess. Cathy arrive in the morning to discover they’ve only managed a single game, then watches Zalenko and Steed drunkenly decide to exchange hats.
- This is reminiscent of Steed’s manipulative behaviour in series 2, especially with Venus ⭮
- Sound familiar? A similar plot was used much later in Death’s Door. ⭮
- A bit of obvious foreshadowing. ⭮
- Nigel Stock famously “dried” in this scene and had to be prompted by Patrick Macnee ad-libbing and a cast member to get his line out. See the details page for more information. ⭮
- A nice little red herring - the receptionist is completely innocent. ⭮
- This quip is not in the script and is a lovely bit of ab-lib by Patrick Macnee, which makes Honor Blackman smile. ⭮