Series 3 — Episode 8
by Martin Woodhouse
Designed by Terry Green
Directed by Peter Hammond
Production No 3612, VTR/ABC/3033
Production completed: October 11 1963. First transmission: November 16 1963.
TV Times summary
In which Steed fights in the dark, and Cathy exposes a millionaire’s precious light
Steed is suspicious of a plan to use a live donor to provide Halvarssen with two eye corneas, so that the millionaire may regain his sight. Cathy attends the surgery and returns with the corneas but they’ve discovered it’s an elaborate scheme to smuggle diamonds - the millionaire had been blinded in the war and new corneas wouldn’t help. Steed reveals that the millionaire has been double-crossed, the diamonds are fake, and the crooks are rounded up as they turn on each other.
Dr Vilner (Steven Scott) of the Mondblick Clinic demonstrates his live tissue transport cylinder to Neil Anstice (Peter Bowles), Dr Eve Hawn (Judy Bruce) and John Steed (Patrick Macnee) - the citrated blood medium will keep the tissue alive for transport to England. Anstice explains that when the tissue arrives - it is corneas - they will be grafted onto damaged eyes, restoring sight. Steed doubts the success of such a procedure but Anstice assures him that with the right resources, nothing is impossible.
Steed is suspicious, and asks Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) what she thinks of the plan, which is being sponsored by the millionaire Halvarssen. She doesn’t think corneal grafting unusual but find the business of flying the corneas from Switzerland odd, so he suggests she holiday in Switzerland, all expenses paid and more than just a courier… Sufficiently intrigued, Cathy smiles at the prospect.
A worried Dr Vilner arrives before Cathy, asking to see Halvarssen and wanting to pull out as Steed has told him Cathy is a doctor he has engaged for the operation. Anstice tells him Halvarssen won’t see anyone3 but they’re paying him very well, even if just for his name, and not to worry. Anstice is however slightly worried himself as he did not know of this development.
Cathy arrives and is also told Halvarssen won’t see her.3 She finds them all cagey and unreceptive but she picks up the transport capsule and learns that they intend to take the corneas from a live donor, which is what makes their procedure unique.
Meeting Steed later, Cathy tells Steed she’s reasonably sure the operation is fake but he insists she attend the operation in person to be sure.
CATHY: Look Steed, I said I’d go and talk to these people, that’s all. How on earth do you think I can go on pretending to be a budding eye surgeon?
STEED: I don’t know what you’re worried about. At least two of those are phoney surgeons.
CATHY: You can’t be sure of that.
STEED: I’ve got to be sure. Now look, if I interfere and it turns out to be a perfectly genuine operation there’ll be such a scream from the Royal College of Surgeons, they’d… spill all their early morning coffee over their Lancets.
Cathy suggests he get help from a surgeon, or go and see Halvarssen himself, and is surprised when he leaps up and does just that, despite the late hour. A short time later, Steed enters Halvarssen’s ornate, Modernist apartment and encounters the reclusive millionaire, discovering he is blind and the graft is for Halvarssen himself.
Halvarssen explains he has made his apartment for himself, every surface tactile, to compensate for his lost sight, then demonstrates formidable shooting skills, assisted by a sort of sonar machine.4
Halvarssen says he lost his sight in Norway during the war, and is receiving the corneas from his old friend, Hilda Brauer, who is dying.
Steed calls on the eye specialist Dr Spender (Ronald Adam) and is a bit startled when Spender tells him off for being a “Whitehall man” and then insists on travelling to Switzerland to observe Vilner’s “half-baked operation”, rather than just give his opinion it’s a load of rot. Spender eyes Cathy with disapproval and marvels at a woman doing research.5
When Anstice learns of this new development, he is livid at both Cathy and Dr Spender attending the Mondblick Clinic, but Halvarssen tries to calm him down.
HALVARSSEN: We do rely on Mr Steed’s co-operation, you know.
ANSTICE: Perhaps we should sell tickets!
Halvarssen reminds him they expected a certain amount of publicity; if they refuse all observers they run the risk of more publicity than they want. Eve chimes in and tells Anstice to calm down. In reply, Anstice ominously suggests that Spender and Mrs Gale won’t prove too difficult to deal with.
Once in Switzerland, Dr Spender disapproves of everything, including Cathy’s research background.6 He and Cathy are constantly put off and prevented from seeing the donor, Hilda Brauer. Cathy goes in search of her herself, discovering an empty room with a half-finished portrait, a wheel-chair and some flowers. She takes some photos then Anstice discovers her there, and asks her to come with him.
Dr Spender meanwhile is querying Dr Hawn’s credentials5 when Anstice and Cathy return. In the face of their restiveness, Anstice goes to arrange an audience with the patient, but Spender and Cathy are suspicious.
SPENDER : Operation on a patient who doesn’t seem to exist. Live grafts? There’s not an atom of sense in it, no theoretical background, nothing.
CATHY: Dr. Spender, will you listen to me?
SPENDER: You know what I think? I think we’re the victims of some sort of academic hoax.
CATHY: It might be something more then that.
SPENDER: Eh? What do you mean?
CATHY: I can’t explain the whole story to you. But I would be grateful if you’d help me. Without making a fuss.
Spender is irate about making “fuss” and tells her she’s only a woman and to leave it to him.5 Dr Hawn then comes to get them, but all they see is a heavily bandaged person in a bed, with tinted glasses over the eyes. They aren’t even allowed to examine the “neophasia”7 of Hilda’s leg. Cathy questions them taking both corneas and they are surprised when Anstice says it’s a personal debt between her and Halvarssen, as he saved her life. As soon as Cathy and Spender have left, Anstice bursts out laughing and hugs Eve.
Cathy goes to the village to ring Steed, and he tells her he’s discovered that a corneal graft won’t fix Halvarssen’s sight anyway - he was blinded during a patrol skirmish the War.
She returns to the clinic and attends the ill-lit and secretive operation, but Spender never arrives - he’s lured to the patient’s room by a phone call, and the bandaged person pushes him over the balcony, 800 feet to his death.8 The bandages are pulled off and the person is revealed to be Steiner (Terry Brewer), Anstice’s right-hand man.
Back in Britain, Steed passes the container through customs even though he is sure it doesn’t have corneas in it. Cathy tells him she will go and see Halvarssen immediately, she has to know if he’s responsible for Spender’s death, and she hands Steed her miniature camera.
Meanwhile, Anstice is discovering that Eve is having doubts after Spender’s death, she thought he would just be drugged or locked up. Anstice chides her for becoming more like the “amateur” Halvarssen and reminds her she wasn’t so sensitive about Hilda.9 He tells her they needn’t even tell Halvarssen about Spender’s death, they’ll be long gone before he finds out. He then goes and does just that, telling Halvarssen that Steed is still getting the case through Customs; and that the two observers were no problem.
However, Cathy arrives just after they chat, and tells Halvarssen about Spender’s death, which shocks Halvarssen, unwittingly exonerating himself from the murder plot and making Cathy realise he’s being used. Halvarssen asks to be left to straighten things out and Dr Hawn shows Cathy out.
CATHY: By the way, when are you going to get married?
EVE: We have not decided this yet. Why?
CATHY: I just wanted to offer you both my best wishes, that’s all.
EVE: Mrs Gale, I must make this quite clear to you. This affair’s been most unfortunate for us all I know, but it’s over now. Don’t come back to this house again.
Meanwhile, Halvarssen berates Anstice and Steiner for Spender’s death and orders Anstice to go and collect the case from Steed.
Later, Steed tells Cathy that Anstice is a spy broker10 always in need of money, and ‘Hilda Brauer’ was Henrietta Miller, an English artist who had befriended Halvarssen during the War. She was fished out of the Rhine four days ago, dead long before the operation. Steed says he has to find out what’s so valuable in the case.
The case arrives and Anstice turns over the contents - Halvarssen opens the capsule and tips out two large diamonds worth £250,000!11 Halvarssen, however, is suspicious of Anstice who is chuckling quietly at him.HALVARSSEN: They’re a token to me. A symbol. That I’ve won again, in a world full of men who can see what’s going on in front of them. An achievement, but now I find I’ve made a mistake.
HAL. CONT’D: The amateur - even the talented amateur should never mix with the professional. And you’re a professional, aren’t you?12
He drags the diamonds across a mirror and finds no scratches, revealing Anstice’s double-cross. Anstice pulls a gun, but Cathy comes back up in the lift and prevent Halvarssen’s death. While the villains apprehend her, Steed emerges from his hiding place in the ceiling of the lift and confronts them. He gives Halvarssen the choice between giving up or siding with him and Cathy. When he mentions that Hilda is dead as well, Halvarssen’s choice is made - he makes a pistol gesture with his hand and Steed switches of the lights.
They dive for cover in the darkness and Halvarssen’s blind shooting skills come to the fore as he shoot Anstice. Cathy overcomes Brewer after a fight and Steed stops Eve from getting Anstice’s gun.
Steed then turns to Halvarssen and says, “Perhaps we can have a little light!"
- The scenes with Anstice and Hawn throughout the episode are strangely like scenes from a soap opera, melodramatic and staged towards the camera. ⭮
- The scene suggests the lovers are taking an enormous risk as we have not yet had the denouement regarding Halvarssen. ⭮
- A lot of the dialogue refers to Halvarssen not being able to see anyone, meaning he’s busy, but as we find out later, also being literal. ⭮
- Halvarssen is also impressed with Steed’s ability, which Steed dismisses as a left over from his Army days. ⭮
- Dr Spender spends much of the script being dismissive of Cathy and Dr Hawn for being professional women, and Steed for being a “Whitehall man” and a bit too well dressed. ⭮
- And Steed, but the crucial line is cut:SPENDER: And your friend Steed- Nice enough fella. But dresses like a bookie’s runner. Always thought he’d end up a Whitehall man. Don’t tell me! I know.⭮
- Neophasia is a genus of butterflies, perhaps he meant necrosis? ⭮
- There’s a stunning Peter Hammond trademark shot of the body tumbling through the void reflected in the dark goggles of his assailant. The script reveals it was achieved through mixing in a spinning caption on camera 2, superimposed on the tight shot of the goggles from camera 4. ⭮
- This is our first definite indication that they have already killed Hilda. ⭮
- Steed actually says he’s a sort of broker, dealing in agents and undercover finance. He later suggests Anstice will need money for a spy exchange in Yugoslavia. ⭮
- £5,240,000 or so in 2023 terms. ⭮
- Halvarssen paraphrases Anstice’s earlier words, does it mean he overheard them earlier?
Interestingly, the phrase “talented amateur” was used to describe Emma Peel in the American pre-credits intro. ⭮