Series 3 — Episode 16
The Little Wonders
by Eric Paice
Designed by Richard Harrison
Directed by Laurence Bourne
Production No 3619, VTR/ABC/3254
Production completed: January 3 1964. First transmission: January 11 1964.
TV Times summary
In which Steed joins the clergy as a vicar; and Cathy follows a headless doll
Delegates from a crime syndicate called Bibliotek, disguised as clergymen, meet to appoint a new ‘Bishop’ to lead the syndicate. Steed has taken the place of the Vicar of Ndola, who was arrested at customs. Suddenly, the delegates are massacred by Sister Johnson and Beardmore launches his own take-over bid for the crime syndicate. Cathy meanwhile has searched the baggage of the clergy and found some secret microfilm, which Beardmore wants; she teams up with Steed and they round up the surviving ‘clergymen’.
Harley Street surgeon Beardmore (Tony Steedman), is visited by the Bishop of Winnipeg (David Bauer) and his travelling companion, Sister Johnson (Lois Maxwell) for an assessment of his heart condition. The doctor is surprised he was allowed to travel at all and asks to examine him before giving a prognosis. When the bishop disrobes for examination, he removes a revolver in a shoulder holster…
At the airport, John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) search the bags of Reverend Harbuttle, who’s been arrested.1 They find ammunition hidden in a box of clerical collars, a Luger pistol inside a hymn book, and a doll in his luggage; Cathy identifies the doll as a German doll from about 1890, but the head is loose. Steed asks Cathy to take care of the doll while he keeps an appointment in Harley Street.
Steed visits Beardmore, complaining of dizzy spells and a vague unrelated pain. Beardmore puts it down to overwork and, learning Steed’s exercise is restricted to going to the Casino, suggests a lack of fresh air may be to blame.2 As he gets ready to leave, Steed casually asks how the Bishop is, claiming to be a cousin.3 Beardmore is initially taken aback but when pressed confides that if the Bishop doesn’t rest and follow medical advice, he will be dead in a week.
Cathy takes the doll to be restrung at a Doll’s Hospital run by Gerda (Rosemarie Dunham) and Hasek (Frank Maher). Gerda initially says they can’t take any more work but when she sees the doll takes it to her husband and they whisper quietly in the workroom, Cathy trying to hear what they’re saying. When Gerda returns, she says they will fix it, but her husband wonders where she found the doll in such good condition as old fifty were made.
Gerda takes Mrs Gale’s name and number,4 and Cathy mentions the doll actually belongs to her friend, the Reverend Harbuttle. Gerda smiles at this and assures Cathy they’ll take good care of the doll, but as soon as she leaves Hasek smashes the head with a hammer.
Over at St. Timothy’s Primary School, Sister Johnson pays the porter (Alex Macdonald) off to take a short holiday while they use the school during the Easter holidays.
Johnson sets up the classroom, the Bishop arriving a moment later and telling her he’s decided on a strict order of business, leading up to the election on the last day. Sister Johnson gently suggests he retire on the last day, to give the delegates a chance to “settle any little differences”.
BISHOP, I shall be here right the way through to the end.
NURSE J: Just as you wish, Bishop, you’re in charge.
BISHOP: That’s right. And I’m not going to let anyone forget it.
Cathy comes home to find Hasek in her flat, going through the Reverend’s luggage. He dodges her and escapes just before Steed arrives. Cathy suspects Steed made her take the Reverend’s case to prove she did know Harbuttle but Steed claims he’s innocent.5
Steed explains that Bibliotek pretend to be clergymen as it makes travel easier, customs officials being unlikely to stop them. There seems to be a gathering of the clan with members arriving from all over the world, they’re keeping an eye on them but had to arrest Harbuttle as he was wanted for an armed robbery in Britain.
Just as he’s leaving Gerda rings, saying the doll is ready, but Cathy and Steed are astonished to learn it will cost £20,000!6
At the school, the delegates arrive and the convocation starts with the collection — of firearms, not donations — Harry, Archdeacon of Bangkok (Harry Landis), Big Sid, Dean of Rangoon (John Cowley), The Coalman (Mark Heath), Ricky (Rick Jones) and Mal (Christopher Robbie) all deposit their revolvers, but Sister Johnson has to coax both guns off Fingers the Frog, Vicar of Toowoomba (Kenneth J Warren). They are all shocked when Steed enters, the men all rising to their feet when faced with a stranger. Steed smiles and puts Harbuttle’s Luger on the collection tray, then introduces himself as the Vicar of Mabote.
Gerda visits Beardmore and insists he must operate by tomorrow morning, and is annoyed with him when says he’s busy and will need to take x-rays first. She tells him it must be done before the convocation finishes and the delegates go home. With a sigh, he relents and is astonished when she says he will need the patient — and takes the doll out of her handbag.
Gerda tells him Hasek is worried they’re being watched so they can’t do it at the doll hospital, and gives him a replacement head when he comments on the doll’s “nasty compound fracture”. He grimaces when she says it will be collected in the morning.
Steed infiltrates the convocation of Bibliotek by telling the Bishop he has taken over Harbuttle’s parish after Harbuttle collapsed, suggesting he always had a touch of malaria. He offers Harbuttle’s gun as proof of his bona fides.
BISHOP: And how are we to know it was malaria Harbuttle died of, Steed?
STEED: I don’t think it really much matters, I’ve taken over the parish, so I imagine I’m entitled to be here.
BISHOP: Yes, I suppose you are. In any case, it shouldn’t take us long to check your credentials with our organisation in Rhodesia.
The Bishop of Winnipeg introduces Steed to the other ‘clergymen’ then announces he is not long for this world and will step down, the others will choose his successor by majority vote, but this prompts Sid, who was just nominated by Harry, to asks what happens if they can’t agree.
BISHOP: Then your personal property (he picks up a gun) will be returned to you and you’ll settle the matter in the traditional way.
Cathy breaks into the shop but is immediately discovered by Gerda, at which she casually says she thought she would pay her a return visit, and complains about the mess Hasek made in her flat. She takes the doll without paying, saying Harbuttle thinks the price is too high and wants to check the merchandise first.
Hasek is surprised she let Cathy leave with the doll, and Gerda tells him she didn’t want the doll on the premises in case it’s a trap. She then tells him to visit Sister Johnson and see what’s going on at the school.
The delegates split into two factions behind Sid and Fingers, with Fingers trying to convince the Bishop to cede some of Big Sid’s parish7 to him. Harry gets Steed to side with Sid but the Bishop decides his successor can make the final decision. He adjourns proceedings for the day and tells them to go in peace — then forcefully reiterates that point when Sid grabs Fingers and warns him to stay on his side of the pond.
Steed slips out to see Cathy and finds that she has the doll. Cathy points out that the head has changed so she’ll take it apart when she gets home. She also tells him she had a call from Rhodesia; Bibliotek have already started checking on him.
She startles Steed by saying she didn’t pay the £20,000 and he worries about being in a room with seven gunmen who might not like someone who doesn’t pay their debts. He asks her to visit Beardmore and get another bottle of the medicine he prescribed.
CATHY: Oh yes, how are your dizzy spells?
STEED: A good deal worse!
Winnipeg and Johnson have become suspicious of Steed because he disappeared to see Cathy and when he returns he’s enlisted by Sid and Harry to help swing the election. Sid offers him £100,000 a year8, and a few of Finger’s clip joints in Singapore. Sister Johnson comes in and finds them talking, and warns Steed they are not allowed to leave the premises until the election has been declared. Steed wonders where they will all sleep and is slightly apprehensive when he learns they will all be sleeping on the floor of the classroom.
Beardmore tells Cathy he knows Harbuttle didn’t have malaria; he’s concerned that Steed has been lying, isn’t paying his debts, and is not well briefed on why he’s in London. Thinking maybe Steed hasn’t confided in her, he takes the chance and write a prescription for bromoacetone — tear gas!
The vicars are playing a tiny roulette wheel, with Fingers getting increasingly irritated by Sid winning all the time. He suggests they’re working the wheel and insists on spinning the next ball, but Steed wins that time. The Bishop cuts in, telling them all to get some sleep, giving Fingers a chance to try to win Steed over and they come to an agreement.9
Cathy’s spotted by Harry and Sid when she creeps into the school to see Steed, so Steed kisses her to prove she’s ‘his bird’. Once Harry and Sid are gone, Cathy hands over the gas and Steed realises he’s supposed to be taking over. Cathy then reveals that the doll concealed a microfilm of top secret information which she’s having checked.
Steed hurries back to the classroom and just as he lies down Sister Johnson opens a secret panel in the blackboard and mows the delegates down with a tommy gun…
Steed has survived and is treated by Beardmore for the bullet in his shin. Steed tells him he never got a chance to use the ‘medicine’ as Sister Johnson beat him to it with a weapon far more lethal. After he hobbles out, Sister Johnson emerges and asks why he let him go, he might not know about Harbuttle’s double game and he has the microfilm which they have to keep out of the hands of Bibliotek.
BEARDMORE: As it is, they’re likely to be pretty upset about the way you took the law into your own hands with that machine gun.
SISTER J: What difference does it make. It’s achieved the same object.
BEARDMORE: No, not quite. There’s still your boyfriend, the Bishop.
SISTER J: Wait. I’ll get him.
Back at the school, Steed congratulates the Bishop on solving the election conundrum. Winnipeg assures him he wasn’t responsible for the prelates’ deaths and says that while they are all diminished by their passing,10 Bibliotek will survive, as it has for the last 300 years. He has suspected Sister Johnson is working for a rival gang for some time — he had his drugs tested and found they were not designed to improve his health.
Steed wonders why he kept her around, knowing her treachery, and the Bishop confesses they used to be quite close, and swears “Messalina!”.11 He orders Steed to track Johnson down then warns him to keep an eye out for Fingers, who also escaped the massacre.
Sister Johnson is at the doll hospital, trying to convince Gerda and Hasek to get the doll back off Mrs Gale. The shop bell rings and Johnson ducks out of sight when Steed enters with the doll, saying he accidentally stepped on the head and asks for them to fix it again. The villains retrieve the microfilm after he leaves — Gerda is pleased and says they needn’t bother with Mrs Gale after all, but Sister Johnson is unconvinced.
Fingers turns up at Cathy’s flat looking for “Johnny the Horse” and she wonders how he knew where to find her.
FINGERS: I followed you home from school last night.
CATHY: You didn’t carry my books for me!
Steed arrives and Fingers offers to split the entire organisation with Steed if he helps rub out Winnipeg. Steed is noncommittal so Finger departs, saying he’ll be helping him anyway. After he’s gone, Cathy fishes out a list of Beardmore patients, Steed identifying at least three who have access to top secret information. It’s being sent out East and Harbuttle had come to collect, using the convocation as cover without the Bishop’s knowledge.
It suddenly occurs to Steed that Fingers shouldn’t know he’s alive, or that the others are dead, as he left before the shooting. Cathy suggest maybe he went back, but Steed says the Bishop hasn’t left the classroom, so then she suggests Sister Johnson…
Sister Johnson meanwhile is with Beardmore, looking at an enlargement of the microfilm and they find Steed’s laundry list on it! Johnson is worried he has evidence against them and Beardmore considers leaving the country but Johnson insists they get control of Bibliotek first. She calls Cathy, imitating Gerda’s voice and telling her the doll is ready for collection.
Cathy revisits the shop and beats up Hasek when he tries to take the money. She tells them they can keep it and go free if they tell her everything. Hasek and Gerda agree and reveal that Harbuttle was to take over, assisted by Johnson & Fingers; she goes to leave but Fingers holds her at gunpoint.
FINGERS: You’ve come a gutzer this time Mrs Gale.12
He takes her to the school where he tries to gun down Winnipeg, but Cathy grabs his gun and the Bishops guns him down as he tries to get it back. A frantic shoot-out breaks out when Beardmore and Sister Johnson both burst in. The Bishop applauds their shooting and is startled when Steed grabs his gun and tells him Bibliotek is finished. The Avengers take the survivors into custody, preferring the ‘quiet life’ to a life of riches.
- Steed tells Cathy that Harbuttle, aka Sachs, the Vicar of Ndola, runs the biggest protection & extortionist racket in White Africa and is reputed to be a member of Bibliotek, a Commonwealth mafia. ⭮
- Steed lists his exercise as “Chemmy [Chemin de Fer], Bezique and a bit of Baccarat” as the Polo season is over. These are all Casino games. ⭮
- “He’s my aunt’s cousin, once removed.” ⭮
- It was a different age — Gerda asks, “You have a phone number, Mrs. Gale?” ⭮
- He isn’t, of course, and she gets angry with him for the deception and throws the suitcase at him. ⭮
- You’d think £20,000 is a shocking price for the repair of a doll (and it was, being more that 20 years’ wages for a manual worker) but it’s worse than that — if you account for inflation, £20,000 in 1963 is £420,300 in 2023! ⭮
- Hong Kong to Madagascar, Sid complains that Fingers is already pulling in £2 million a year running girls to the region. ⭮
- £100,000 then, £840,500 today, while Sid would be making £3.5 million (£73.5 million today) per year. ⭮
- Fingers holds up two fingers, and Steed counters with four… or maybe five. In reply, Fingers holds up three and Steed agrees. ⭮
- Eric Paice peppers his script with these lovely quasi-religious phrases, especially in the Bishop’s lines. ⭮
- Messalina was the third wife of the Emperor Claudius and had a reputation for promiscuity and murder; she was executed for plotting the overthrow of Claudius with Gaius Silius. ⭮
- Kenneth J. Warren has relished playing the Vicar of Toowoomba, laying on his thickest Australian accent and dropping a lot of Australian slang into his lines. ⭮