Series 3 — Episode 11
The Golden Fleece
by Roger Marshall and Phyllis Norman
Designed by Anne Spavin
Directed by Peter Hammond
Production No 3603, VTR/ABC/2715
Production completed: May 24 1963. First transmission: December 7 1963.
TV Times summary
In which Steed hunts a modern Robin Hood; and Cathy joins the army
Disgruntled army officers are smuggling gold for Chinese gangsters in exchange for a cut of the loot. The gold of the Golden Fleece Fund is funneled to poor ex-soldiers. Steed discovers a connection between the sinister Mr Lo and Captain Jason and Cathy soon discovers that ammunition shipments are carrying gold bullets and the smuggling racket is finished.
Three British Army officers meet in a hut at Blore Camp, Hampshire late at night and convene a meeting of the Golden Fleece Fund. Sergeant-Major Wright (Barry Linehan) reads out the minutes of their last meeting, and wants to add the name of a new person in need, but is stopped by Major Ruse MC (Tenniel Evans), who wishes to hear from the treasurer first. He turns to the aptly-named Captain George Jason (Warren Mitchell) who happily tells them the kitty holds the astonishing balance of £56,000 19s. and 6d.!1
In London, Mr. Lo (Robert Lee) turns up at the Yam Sing Lounge, a Chinese restaurant run by Mrs Kwan (Yu Ling). She greets him as “brother” and he warns her not to mention his name. After a bit of small talk about finding America very resistible she leads him to a private dining room and they get down to business. He is expecting three guests who will be arriving at ten minute intervals2 and they are to be shown into his private room, as she leaves, she assures him her staff don’t know who he is and think he is her “poor brother”.
CATHY: I’ve learnt from experience that whenever you’ve wined and dined me as well as this, it’s always been the prelude to some hideous adventure.
STEED: Well, you know what they say — when it’s inevitable, sit back and enjoy it.
They finish their sake and discuss the merits of the Peking duck3 before laughing over their fortune cookies, one of which seem strangely specific to Steed.4 Steed deliberately asks the cloakroom attendant, Esther (Lisa Peake) to give him the wrong coat and when they get back to his flat he pretends to notice he has the wrong coat, then goes through the pockets when Cathy starts looking up the restaurant’s phone number.
It’s Captain Jason’s coat, and Steed finds a cheque for £5,000 drawn on the Tai Wan Bank. Cathy is instantly suspicious that Steed didn’t pick up the coat by accident but he swears innocence. When she starts wondering why such a large cheque5 is just in someone’s coat pocket Steed announces he won’t contact the bank either, for £5,000, Jason will contact him.
Back at the restaurant, Jason joins the party in Mr Lo’s room. Lo announces that they have a Judas in their operation, half of the last shipment was stolen. The thief works for one of them and he took £10,000 in Hong Kong then took the first flight back to the UK. It’s not the money, it’s the risk of others doing the same:
LO: Such silence. I should’ve brought a pin. The chain is broken. You have to convince me that it can be re-forged — even stronger than before.
JASON: How do we do that?
LO: This Judas. At the moment he is a hero. He goes unpunished — others will try to emulate him. This is so? Then the hero must be shrunk to size.
Jason realises it’s one of his soldiers and says he will deal with it.
The next morning, Cathy arrives at Steed’s; she has been trying to call him for four hours and he blithely replies he was in the bath. At that moment the doorbell rings and he ushers into the kitchen before answering. It’s Jason, who explains that Steed has his mackintosh. Cathy listens from the kitchen as they exchange coats and Steed carefully queries his association with the restaurant. When Jason goes, she suggests he’s not much of an arch-criminal but Steed warns that he’ll bear watching. He asks Cathy if she knows about Mr Lo. When she replies he’s an international gold smuggler that they can never lay their hands on, Steed smiles and tells her he’s staying at the Yam Sing.
CATHY: You can’t just tell me in a plain straightforward language that you’re after a gold smuggler. We have to go through this ridiculous rigmarole of candlelight and wine, and old Chinese proverbs, Well, here’s another old Chinese proverb, ‘He who does not tell truth, gets cushion in eye.’
Steed explains that £250,000 of gold was stolen in Europe over the last year and Mr Lo is involved, and so are they — he throws the cushion back and Cathy bursts out laughing. Steed then returns to the Yam Sing and tries to bribe the Barwoman (Yvette Herries) to tell him about Jason, but she summons Mrs Kwan instead. When she appears, Steed drops Lo’s name and hints he knows she’s lying before speaking to the cloakroom attendant again, and she happily tells him Captain Jason is in often but she hasn’t seen him that day. When Steed leaves, Mr Lo emerges from the shadows…
Jason calls an emergency meeting back at the camp, much to the Major’s annoyance, and tells them Corporal Jones stole the gold and vanished. Wright admits he was suspicious when Jones put off his demob, and Ruse doesn’t want to believe it, blaming foreigners looking to pass the buck when they make a mistake.6 Jason tells him Lo isn’t like that, and deals in facts — if they don’t find Jones in two days they’ll need a new source of income, as Lo won’t trust them with the gold smuggling route into Hong Kong anymore.
JASON: He found us, didn’t he? The truth is — it’s us who need him. He provides the gold and pays us well. Darned well. This system’s been running like clockwork for three years, well it must not pack up now. Too many people depending on our… Nothing is as important as the ‘G.F. Fund’!
Ruse concedes, and suggests Jason finds Jones and tells him he has let them all down, let the whole Corps down. Meanwhile, Steed returns to his flat where Cathy is waiting. He tells her the Tai Wan Bank refused to give any information and is then annoyed when she has arranged a meeting between Steed and a bullion merchant — she can’t attend as she has taken a job. Steed feigns surprise and then laughs when she reveals she is to catalogue the military museum at Blore Camp.7 He cracks a few jokes about Army life but after she leaves he becomes serious.
Some time later, Captain Jason arrives at Jones’ mechanics garage and confronts Jimmy Jones (Michael Hawkins). about the theft, but Jones laughs at him and refuses to return the money, suggesting he go to the police to get it back. Jason tries to appeal to his better nature but it’s a waste of time:
JASON: I want that money Jones. You see, it doesn’t belong to us you know. There are families and men — old mates of yours, some of them — and they’re relying on us.
JONES: Oh, do leave off! What do you take me for? Look, I spent twenty years in your crummy army — waiting for a break like this, and I don’t intend to give it up — for you, or anybody else.
Cathy meanwhile has arrived at the Blore Camp museum, where she is shown around by Major Ruse, whom she impresses by knowing that Wellesley replaced Lt.-General Moore upon his death at the Battle of Corunna in 1809. He says he would have loved to have done the job himself, but the appointment was an outside one — the Imperial War Museum wants to properly catalogue the museum for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Dresden, where the Corps won its colours.8 She recognises a rifle that was in use when she lived in Kenya and Ruse tells her his friend George was stationed in Nairobi — she is somewhat shocked when he adds, “Captain George Jason”.
That evening, Cathy arrives at Steed’s flat and harangues him for setting her job up and to give her one good reason not to walk out. He explains he had to get her a convincing cover, and by sending her down unsuspecting she would be more convincing. She relents and asks what she should do.
STEED: Get on with your work. Keep your eyes open, and wait.
CATHY: It’s infinitely preferable to working in the dark.
Meantime, Steed has learnt that Lo is smuggling the gold into Hong Kong from Britain as it’s worth $50 an ounce there, compared to the fixed $35 per ounce it fetches in the West. Now, they just have to find out HOW it’s being smuggled.
That same night, Jimmy Jones has an unexpected visitor to his garage — Mr Lo is waiting for him, sitting in a car that is in for repairs. He demands the £10,000 be returned. When Jones tells him he spent it, along with all his savings, to buy the garage and he can’t do anything to him, Lo starts the car and crashes it into him, crushing Jimmy between the car and the wall.
Major Ruse drops in to see how Mrs Gale is going with the museum and is distracted by the headline of the Hampshire Times which is lying on her desk — LOCAL MAN MURDERED JIMMY JONES FOUND DEAD IN GARAGE !!, it screams. Cathy asks Ruse if he knew Jones and he distractedly replies they were out in Cyprus together, then Jones went out to Hong Kong. He excuses himself and hurries off.
In their hut, Jason throws down his copy of the paper in disgust and Wright remarks,“That Chinaman must be slipping.”6 Ruse arrives, ashen-faced and says he doesn’t think he can go along with it anymore. Jason reminds him of the importance of the Fund, which they had agreed to run as a military operation. Wright wonders if they should pause operations but Jason tells them Lo will trust them if they play it straight. Ruse says the fund mustn’t pack up, at the rate of demobs it needs to increase if anything, and he cites another worthy beneficiary, the doorman at a local cinema who used to be a Major before the Army downsized in 1959. Jason makes an impassioned speech about the dangers of civvy street and how ex-soldiers should be looked after, then leaves with a tear in his eye.
Steed meanwhile visits Jones’ garage and finds Esther packing boxes — she was Jimmy’s wife and she tells him she met Jimmy at a dance hall where she was a taxi girl — a dancer for hire. She shows Steed a framed lottery ticket which Jimmy claimed to have won just before they left, which enabled them to buy the garage.9
The next day, Cathy meets Private Holmes (Ronald Wilson) who has been ordered to repaint the fire buckets because Major Ruse noticed a scratch on one of them. He confesses that he finds Ruse too keen and sets pointless orders. When Cathy asks about Jason he brightens up — Jason is fair, and will give them a bit of time off tomorrow to make up for tonight.
CATHY: Working tonight as well then?
HOLMES: Special guard duty. Dear o’ lor, just my luck.
CATHY: What’s on?
HOLMES: Consignment of small arms ammunition and K rations. Going to Lyneham10 tomorrow, so we have to keep an eye on it. Mustn’t lose the lads’ toffee.
Thinking quickly, Cathy asks Holmes to run an errand to the NAAFI canteen for her and as soon as he’s gone she rings Steed, who is laughing over a Tintin comic.11 He stops laughing as he listens to her then ends the call.
At the camp that night, Sgt-Major Wright orders Holmes to keep a look out and enters the hut, where Ruse and Jason are removing rounds from belts of ammunition. A call from the main gate tells Jason that the delivery has arrived so he goes to the door and orders Holmes to take a break at the NAAFI and to return at 2100 sharp. The truck arrives and two privates deliver two bags before being briskly ordered out of the hut. Opening one of the ammunition bags, Jason pours out a stream of golden bullets, and Major Ruse and Sgt-Major Wright start inserting them into ammunition belts while making jokes about being shot with one of the rounds:
JASON: Yeah, but they wouldn’t fire, too soft.
WRIGHT: Imagine what the medics’d say. Cause of death — Gold poisoning.
Wright goes to make sure the picket isn’t hanging around outside, and behind him Cathy creeps up to the hut. He returns quicker than she expected but she quickly surprises him with a judo throw. Ruse and Jason hears some crashes from outside and go to investigate, but Steed is at the door, gun in hand, and he orders them back while Cathy continues to fight Wright outside. Ruse blusters and demands to know who he is.
STEED: I’m making a small gold collection on behalf of the ‘waifs & whippets’ fund...
RUSE: Are you from the police?
STEED: Near enough. (PEERING THROUGH CURTAIN AT CATHY OUTSIDE) She’s doing very well.
Jason tries to overpower Steed and is shot in the arm just before Cathy marches the defeated Wright into the hut. She tells him Mrs Kwan was picked up by the police at the gate and the Yam Sing has been raided. Mr Lo flew out yesterday but will be intercepted in Karachi.
The vanquished appeal to Steed and Cathy to arrest them but let the others go — not the contacts in Hong Kong, but the beneficiaries of their scheme. They explain they didn’t smuggle for their own benefit, they’re supporting the victims of the Army purge in 1959, kicked out without any training or prospects. They beg Steed and Cathy not to reveal the names of the men who have been benefiting from their well-meant crime.
Cathy asks how much they have and Jason says they have £56,000 19s. and 7d, split between blue chips and building societies, and bringing in £9,000 a year12 Cathy is astonished and asks, with that skill, why they were still in the Army. The officers pour out tales of woe, being unable to get jobs in civvy street, but the Army had taken them back, fed them and clothed them. They thought the smuggling worthwhile if it could help their friends.
As Steed leads them away, Cathy burns the fund’s account book, then idly picks up some gold bullets and lets them fall from her hands.
- To put that in context, £56,000 19s. 6d. in 1963 would be worth £1,528,670 in 2023. ⭮
- The original script has dialogue about the guests being made to wear masks and under no circumstances see each other unmasked, but that is all dropped from the episode as filmed. ⭮
- Were Chinese restaurants in England in the Sixties really this confused, or did the designer and director have no idea about the difference between Chinese and Japanese cultures? ⭮
- The fortune in the cookie reads: “A steed is not praised for its might, but for its thoroughbred quality.”⭮
- £5,000 in 1963 would be the equivalent of about £102,000 in 2023. ⭮
- There are a few examples of racist, out-dated language in this episode from Ruse and Wright, it’s like listening to the odious Nigel Farrage. Fortunately we have Jason, Steed and Mrs Gale to set up on an even, modern keel and prove that Britain was better before Brexit. ⭮
- This might be a new record for Steed, hoodwinking Cathy into a situation twice in one episode. ⭮
- The Battle of Dresden was on 26–7 August 1813 but did not involve any British troops. ⭮
- Given his confrontation with Jason earlier, this passage implies that Jimmy lied to Esther about the source of their wealth. ⭮
- The original script references Blackbushe (without the e) but that airfield closed in 1960 and reopened in private hands in late 1962 so it appears the script was revised to mention RAF Lyneham instead. ⭮
- A minor recurring theme of the season, Steed is seen reading a French-language copy of “Tintin au Pays de l’or noir” (Tintin in the land of black gold). He answers the phone by saying “Allô allô, ici ci”, in reference to a panel on page 26 which he's just flipped over to (you can see identifying panels in the bottom corner of the right-hand page). ⭮
- The figure has gone up by a penny since the beginning of the episode, and Steed is impressed by the annual return, the equivalent, in 2023 terms, of £184,254.23 in a year. ⭮