Series 3 — Episode 25
Esprit De Corps
by Eric Paice
Designed by David Marshall
Directed by Don Leaver
Thinking himself the rightful King of England by direct descent from the Stuarts, Brigadier General Bollinger plans to overthrow the Monarchy using his regiment, while supposedly on routine defence manoeuvres. Posing as a journalist, Steed investigates a recent court-martial, while Cathy rewrites her family tree to make Bollinger believe that she should be made Queen. The uprising fails and the General is disgraced.
A highland regiment squad is inspected by Captain Trench (Patrick Macnee) and Sergeant Marsh (Douglas Robinson); Private Jessop (Roy Kinnear) is put on report for dandruff then Trench, after a nod from Brigadier General Sir Ian Stuart-Bollinger (Duncan Macrae), orders the men to raise their rifles and shoot - a fellow soldier!
John Steed (John Thaw) intercepts Jessop at the launderette owned by Mrs Craig (Pearl Catlin), widow of the dead man. Jessop tells him that Craig’s death was an accident while cleaning his rifle. Meanwhile, Bollinger helps Trench plan an attack on London, as part of an exercise. Steed tells Catherine Gale (Honor Blackman) that a post mortem of Craig’s body found he’d been shot by three different rifles; he asks her to infiltrate the regiment via their self-defence classes. She excels at the class, and tells Trench her ancestors fought with Charles Stuart at Prestonpans, so he invites her to dinner with Bollinger. She finds Steed already talking to Bollinger and Lady Dorothy (Joyce Heron), claiming to be a demobbed Major writing a book. Steed slips out to search the camp, and is challenged by Private Asquith (Anthony Blackshaw) outside the kitchen. After comparing notes at Cathy’s apartment, Steed returns to barracks and overcomes Asquith; inside the mess he finds grenades, bullets, and a revolver-wielding Jessop...
Steed discusses the ordinance cache with Cathy (he bribed Jessop to let him go). He then tells Mrs Craig her husband was murdered, and she and Trench lovers; she rebuffs him, saying her husband was executed as a traitor. At the self-defence class, Trench tries to strangle Cathy but Bollinger arrives just as she fights him off. Steed talks to Lady Bollinger, who reveals that her husband believes their adoptive son to be the true heir to the Scottish and English thrones, and wants to restore him! A conference with an Admiral (Hugh Morton) confirms the treason plans; they toast the Royal House of Stuart. Steed sets off the fire alarm and breaks in but he’s caught photographing the plans by Trench. Bollinger meanwhile tells Cathy she will become Queen Anne II in 24 hours! Steed is subjected to a drum-led court martial, led by a drummer (Tony Lambden) and piper (George Alexander), found guilty by Bollinger and sentenced to death by firing squad.
Steed is served his last meal - pheasant and a ’58 champagne, a year he dislikes. Meanwhile, Cathy tries to get Lady Bollinger to stop her husband before he’s tried for treason. Steed meanwhile is shot by the firing squad, but he’s bribed the entire squad with his diamond tie pin. Bollinger arrives late for dinner, missing the Highland Dancer (George Macrae) and announces he’s spent the last few months uncovering a treasonous plot against Her Majesty, ordering Trench’s arrest. It’s all a trick to get War Office approval for an armed approach on London by Bollinger. Cathy tries to arrest Trench at the self-defence class, where he Trench and Marsh are training, and shoots March when he tries to stop her. Jessop quickly picks up the revolver, but turns it on Trench. Cathy then tricks the general into returning to the mess by telling the signaller (James Falkland) it’s a royal summons; she and Steed rig a bug to the War Office, so when the general reveals it was indeed he who planned the coup, he’s finally sunk.