Series 3 — Episode 9
The Medicine Men
by Malcolm Hulke
Designed by David Marshall
Directed by Kim Mills
Production No 3615, VTR/ABC/3135
Production completed: November 8 1963. First transmission: November 23 1963.
TV Times summary
Cathy takes a Turkish bath to help Steed prove the value of good soap
Imitation pharmaceutical products are causing Willis-Sopwith to lose money, but Cathy is unprepared for murder at the company. A new packaging design is prepared in secret, but the details have been leaked to a group that plan to poison future products and destabilise a foreign country. Steed, however, changes the Arabic cording into a poison warning and the cartons are useless.
A pretty young Asian woman, Tu Hsiu Yung (Lucille Soong), takes a steam cabinet treatment at a Turkish Bath house, the Baths attendant (Elizabeth Villiers) first wipes her brow with a towel, then folds it thickly and smothers her with it.
John Steed (Patrick Macnee) gives Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) a cup of tea then starts practicing his golf, without much success. When she asks what happened to polo, he complains that his polo ponies took a liking to each other and lost interest in the game.1
He asks her if she fancies a Turkish Bath and tells her about the death of Tu Hsiu Yung, suffocated in a steam bath.2 He knows Miss Tu was investigating imitations of Willis-Sopwith cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, following a lead from Hong Kong, but he doesn’t know who her contacts were. He annoys Cathy by telling her he’s made an appointment for her already.
Steed, posing as a bureaucrat from the Overseas Export Board, talks to Geoffrey Willis (Peter Barkworth) about their Lilt complexion cream, and their medicine range. While discussing the plans to stop the imitations, Willis’ father, John Willis (Newton Blick) comes in. They show Steed the new packaging for the overseas market — a hope to forestall the imitators — and tell him only they and their secretary know about it.
The noted kinetic artist Frank Leeson (Harold Innocent) is visited by a printer, Taylor (John Crocker). Leeson shows him a photograph of the brand new packaging that Steed just saw and tells him they want an exact copy this time, and damn the copyright laws. Leeson’s model, Fay (Monica Stevenson) leaves for the Turkish Baths — she’s been rolling in paint for an action piece Leeson’s working on and wants to get cleaned up.
Cathy meanwhile is asking the masseuse (Brenda Cowling) about Miss Tu and learns she wasn’t a regular customer.
MASSEUSE: No, I only saw her here once before. And, I’ll tell you a funny thing about her. Her pores literally oozed paint.
CATHY: You mean make-up?
MASSEUSE: No, no, no, paint — Like you’d paint a wall with. Or a picture. It was all over her body. She’d have a shower when she came here — and a filthy mess she made of it, too. Then she’d get the rest of it out of her with the steam. It’s a wonder what some people get up to.
Cathy then sees Fay enter the shower with paint all over her back, she takes the next cubicle and peers over the divider to get a better look…
Steed and Willis are told by Edwards (Peter Hughes) that he’s found a printer’s mark on an imitation carton and plans to investigate it. Steed leaves and Willis promptly takes the carton off Edwards, seemingly displeased with him. Outside, Steed tells Miss Dowell (Joy Wood) he’s forgotten his gloves, and steals a blank invoice while she’s looking for them.
A short time later, Leeson receives a phone call informing him about the printer’s mark; he says he’ll deal with his end then, surprised by what his caller has just said, comments that murder is rather drastic.
Cathy visits Willis on the pretext of being a buyer, but then purports to represent the Business Efficiency Bureau (well, almost…). She shows him a redesign of the Willis-Sopwith blank invoices, pointing at a 23% redundancy in information, requiring more typing. Geoffrey is impressed but Cathy says her company does the whole job or nothing, not just the invoice redesign — for a fee of 1000 guineas.3
GEOFFREY: Mrs. Gale do you know why I’m hiring you? Because I admire the way you got in to see me. When my grandfather started to make soap, that’s how he got in to see his first client — by pretending to be a buyer. He mentioned it in a book he wrote —
CATHY: “The Craft of Salesmanship”? I found it fascinating.
She’s given free reign of the building, and is shown to the stationery cupboard by Miss Dowell. While selecting some forms, she finds Edwards’ body hanging from the ceiling.4
The next morning, Cathy drops by Steed’s flat, and surprises him by chipping all of his golf balls into his upturned bowler. He wishes she had told him about Edwards the night before, he hates getting up in a hurry, but he then explains that Edwards had found the printer’s mark and had only told Geoffrey, John, and Miss Dowell. In return, she tells him about the paint on Miss Tu, and says another girl came in, also covered in paint — a model known for her advertisements for Lilt!
Leeson visits Taylor and intimidates him for making the mistake, warning him not to let it happen again. He checks the proofs and is happy with Taylor’s work on them. Taylor asks what’ll happen if the real stuff gets there first and Leeson tells him it won’t, Willis-Sopwith will have printer trouble.5
Cathy is showing Geoffrey how to improve some of their forms when Miss Dowell enters, informing him that the printer in Leeds hasn’t started printing yet. Cathy watches carefully as Geoffrey makes a half-hearted effort at being annoyed about before resignedly saying a memo must have gone astray.
Cathy then meets Fay in John Willis’ office and is shown a Leeson painting of her body impressions.6 Steed meanwhile has been to the Printers’ Association, and breaks in through the skylight of Taylor’s print shop, and runs a print from the composited press,7 finding it to be the new Stomach Powders box.
After looking at the illicit copy Steed printed, Cathy tells Steed the Lilt Girl is John Willis’ girlfriend, who models for an action painter. She gives Steed Leeson’s name and address and he sets off immediately.
CATHY: Aren’t you going to eat first?
STEED: Breaking and entering is better on an empty stomach!
CATHY: Well, you’re the expert.
Before he goes, Steed tells her to get an Arabic speaker round to the flat that night. He breaks into Leeson’s studio, but has to hide when Lesson returns with Taylor and Fay.8 Leeson is drunk and overbearing, and Steed overhears him explain that the fake stomach powders will be used to destabilise a tiny oil-rich country called Karim — the populace is pro-British, but a neighbouring country wants the oil concessions and plans to turn the people against Britain, and their pro-British government, by substituting the powder and other British medicines with poison.
LEESON: Result — a few thousand Karimites bite the dust — and those that are left … pull down the Union Jack.
FAY: But some of those people who die might be children!
Fay is disgusted with him and goes home.
LEESON: I thought you wanted to go to a night club?
FAY: Not on your kind of money.
LEESON: But my money’s as pure as driven snow. The blood money doesn’t arrive until tomorrow.
The next day at Willis-Sopwith, Cathy is just going off to the dispatch office in the basement when Fay arrives, worried and demanding to see John immediately. Steed arrives and sees Miss Dowell using an earphone to eavesdrop on Fay, who is telling John about the poison plot. Recovering quickly, Miss Dowell shows him in to Geoffrey then complains of a headache and asks to get some fresh air. Left alone, Steed tells Geoffrey he thinks Edwards was murdered.
Miss Dowell rushes to Leeson’s studio, and tells him off for telling Fay about the plot, and suggests they should never have employed him. She then tells him to find a new girlfriend for John Willis because he’s going to need one…
Steed and Cathy break in to Taylor’s, Steed pinching the petty cash to allay suspicion, and they replace the printing block for the forgery with a new one they’ve had made. Hearing a noise, Steed goes to investigate and they’re attacked by two thugs, Cathy suffering a black eye in the fight, and they find Fay bound and gagged behind some boxes after defeating them.
Cathy turns up at Geoffrey’s office, surprising him and Miss Dowell by wearing an eyepatch.9 She says she’s off to write her report, having finished her study of the business, so they won’t see her for a while. John Willis enters, asking how to get in touch with Steed as he couldn’t find the Overseas Export Board in the phone book and inadvertently blowing Steed’s cover.10. Steed meanwhile visits Leeson, posing as an Icelandic mogul and art collector.
STEED: What Lord Beaverbrook is to New Brunswick, I am to Reykjavik. A work of dedication.11
When Leeson says he no longer has a model working for him, he offers him Cathy as a new model, but Leeson already seems to know exactly who he and Cathy are… A short time later, Steed arrives at Willis-Sopwith and is cornered by John Willis who wants to talk to him about Fay. Once again, Miss Dowell listens to their conversation via her bug.
Leeson has just learned of Fay’s escape from the printery when Cathy arrives, saying Steed sent her but confesses she hasn’t modelled in a long time.
LEESON: Enjoyable work is hard to come by these days. There are so few good artists now. Well, I’ll get you a drink, and then I’ll put you in the picture.12
John meanwhile is still telling Steed about what Fay told him; Steed warns him they are both in danger, and it may already be too late for Fay.13 — he wants to know who had been passing information out of their offices.
Geoffrey returns to the office and Miss Dowell warns him that Steed is talking to John — then says she has another headache coming on; Geoffrey suggests she get some fresh air.14 A short time later, Miss Dowell arrives at Leeson’s and interrupts them, suggesting Cathy won’t learn any business efficiency there.
CATHY: Have you come to roll in the oils as well, Miss Dowell?
MISS DOWELL: I’m here on business.
CATHY: In that case I’ll leave you to talk.
Leeson grabs Cathy as she tries to leave and when she twists his arm behind his back, Miss Dowell pulls a gun on her.
Steed searches John’s office and finds a cable which leads to a microphone, but is held at gunpoint by Geoffrey, who coolly tells him he’s turned off the microphone so no-one will hear them. Taking advantage of the cover of a pillar, Steed takes a gun out surreptitiously and shoots him first:
STEED: Hear us?
M.C.U. Geoffrey See gun
GEOFFREY: (WAGGLING GUN) I couldn’t get one with a silencer.
STEED: Yes, what a pity. I could!
Cathy has been bound and gagged and Miss Dowell is telling Leeson off for drinking again when Taylor arrives at Leeson’s. He’s a bit startled to see Cathy but asks for his money and hands over a sample exact replica carton.
MISS DOWELL: An exact replica? Do you know what this Arabic means?!
TAYLOR: No, of course not.
MISS DOWELL: Well, I do. (TAYLOR RAISES HIS EYEBROWS)
MISS DOWELL: (Cont’d) Poison. This is an imitation. Danger of instant death.
Taylor says 20,000 false cartons have already been shipped out and he discusses with Leeson about just taking their money, betting that the boss doesn’t understand Arabic either. Miss Dowell has a better idea and plans to double cross Willis and kill him, taking all the money, framing Cathy for the murder.
Steed arrives instead, once more in his art collector guise, and Taylor lets him in, thinking he’s the boss. Cathy kicks over the screen they’re hidden by and Miss Dowell shoots Taylor when Steed ducks behind him. When she tries to take another shot, Cathy kicks her, making her drop her gun; Steed rushes to secure it and the gang is rounded up.
Fay leaves for a new modelling career in Paris, giving Steed a kiss goodbye; he and Cathy then head off for a round of golf — Steed is proud that he’s reduced his handicap to 24, until he learns that Cathy’s is 12,15, but she has the additional handicap of a patch over her black eye, so they’re on par.
- You might remember that back in Death of a Batman Steed was in competition with Prince Philip when trying to buy two polo ponies. ⭮
- Which Cathy says is impossible. ⭮
- A guinea was 21 shillings and a pound 20 shillings, so 1000 guineas is £1000 and 1000 shillings, or £1050 pounds — that amount in 1963 would be £22,055 in 2023, but I suspect efficiency bureaus ask for more than that nowadays. ⭮
- We don't actually find out it was Edwards until the next Act. She needs to stop doing jobs for Steed, in the very next episode (production wise), The White Elephant, she finds a man hanged inside a meat safe, also at the end of Act One. Fortunately they were broadcast six weeks apart. ⭮
- In the background of this scene is a calendar on the wall and it just might be Nadia Regin on it, finally getting her Avengers appearance after being replaced in Girl on the Trapeze. There’s also a large poster for LILT so Taylor must have done work for Willis-Sopwith in the past. ⭮
- The painting is signed “Lesson” rather than “Leeson”. ⭮
- Were printers in the Sixties actually still using manual presses like that one, even if just for proofs? ⭮
- Leeson appears to stop and stare in Steed’s direction, but then continues to pontificate over his co-conspirators as if nothing is wrong. ⭮
- She looks as though she’s on her way to audition for a New Wave band with that jaunty piratical eye patch. ⭮
- Geoffrey is instantly suspicious and gives Cathy a brief, insincere smile before returning to a poker face. ⭮
- Max Atkin, 1st Lord Beaverbrook, was a Canadian businessman who made a fortune as a newspaper tycoon in Britain, and became Minister of Aircraft under Winston Churchill. He used some of his enormous wealth to support the University of New Brunswick and supported the Arts and charities in the province. He died on 9th June 1964, about a year after this episode was made, at the age of 85. ⭮
- Leeson eyes her suspiciously and seems to reinforce that he already knows who Cathy really is. ⭮
- Steed is using leverage to get John to open up, Steed and Cathy had already rescues Fay by this stage and, as we learn later, she’s been in hiding at Steed’s flat. ⭮
- It seemed like a code phrase the previous time and this repetition cements it; she’s warning him something bad has happened and she’s off to deal with it. ⭮
- Meaning Cathy is quite a good golfer, scoring about 89 or 90 over 18 holes, while Steed gets around in 100 or 101. ⭮