Series 4 — Episode 3
by Philip Levene
Directed by Sidney Hayers
Production No E.64.10.7
Production completed: March 19 1965. First transmission: October 12 1965.
TV Times summary
In which Steed receives a deadly gift — and Emma pockets it…
Someone is killing the great industrialists of England, someone with extraordinary strength and determination. The Avengers investigate and discover they were all competing for a new electrical circuit from Japan so they turn their attention to the remaining bidders, one of whom is a karate champion. The villain turns out to be Dr Armstrong, a wheelchair-bound automation expert who has built robots to do his work — homing in on fountain pens like the one he just gave Steed! Steed suspects Armstrong and carelessly gives Emma the pen before returning to spy on Armstrong’s factory. Teaming up later on, they defeat the robots by putting the pen in one of their pockets.
A splintering of glass and a smashing of wood — Samuel Hammond (Gordon Whiting) rushes into his study and barricades the doors with a sofa. He draws a revolver from his pocket1 and empties it into the doors, but his adversary continues to batter the doors. He rushes to the phone and dials, then drops the receiver when a gloved hand smashes through a panel; it’s hopeless. He grabs a shotgun from the wall, loads it and fires both barrels at the figure who has just burst into the room. He gasps at the lack of effect and is struck down, the gun twisted out of shape. The receiver of the phone squawks “Emergency, which service do you require?”2 and we see Hammond’s desk has not been spared, his pen smashed to pieces…
Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) enters Hammond’s study where John Steed (Patrick Macnee) is examining the buckled shotgun — “whichever way you aim it you hit the chandelier!”3 — and Mrs Peel recaps the case file. Hammond wasn’t the first — Walter Carson, chairman of Convercial Imports, and Andrew Denham, head of Automatic Industries had suffered a similar fate. Hammond was on the board of Electrical Industries but they find no leads in his diary except an entry for Harachi which Hammond will never keep. Steed wonders if there’ll be a fourth death.
Sure enough, a man marches into Industrial Deployments and knocks the security guard flying when he tries to stop him. Bob Lambert (Ronald Leigh-Hunt) is discussing a deal with Jim when he’s alerted of the intruder; he dismisses it, then seconds later his secretary screams as the figure bursts in. He grabs a revolver from his desk drawer4 and fires several shots at his assailant who has smashed a hole in his office door but is, like the others, struck down. His killer stops to pick up his pen, then crushes it in his fist.
Mrs Peel lifts her stiletto heel daintily over the wreckage of the door and enters Lambert’s office. She gives Steed a run-down of the witness statements — a male between 6′2″ and 6′6″, in a dark coat, hat, gloves and spectacles, and a strange whip-like noise. Steed observes the attacker was also bullet-proof, holding up a flattened slug. They discover Lambert had also made an appointment with Harachi — recently in the news for developing a replacement for the transistor, which could revolutionise the electronics industry.
Mrs Peel suggests Lambert may have died from an expertly-applied karate blow, “inku”, and visits a karate dojo to spy on the men training there, her curiosity piqued by the whip-like noise of their arm motions. She is spotted by Oyuka (Katherine Schofield) and led in to meet the Sensai (John Hollis) whom she tells she’s interested in Karate. He sneers and says interest is for onlookers, he requires dedication — nightly attendance — Karate is not a sport like Judo, it is a science, an art, a discipline.
He tells her one of his students whom they call Oyama — the tall mountain — can splinter a door with a single stroke, it is difficult for a woman to perform these acts. He dismisses her but she questions why Oyuka — the immovable one — is allowed to stay. Sensei tells her there are few men who would be able to get past Oyuka; if Mrs Peel can defeat her, she is most welcome. Naturally, she does so with ease and bows to Sensei before leaving.
Steed visits Harachi in Lambert’s stead, and Benson (Frederick Jaeger) who has just emerged from Tusamo’s office, lingers suspiciously. Steed is shown in to meet Tusamo (Bert Kwouk) and Benson takes Steed’s name from Tusamo’s secretary, Miss Smith (Lucille Soong). Tusamo is excited about their new semiconductors:
TUSAMO: This heralds a new age, Mr Steed. Computers no bigger than a cigarette box — pocket television — and radios smaller than a wrist watch.
Tusamo is frank, they have a worldwide monopoly on the new components and will make a deal with the partner who offers them the largest profit share. Steed waves him umbrella at a large photograph of the Harachi factory and asks him to highlight its features and, while Tusamo is facing away, photographs his appointment list with a camera concealed in the umbrella handle. Tusamo’s next appointment is announced and Steed is shown out the far door, while a large shadow approaches the other…5
Steed visits Mrs Peel and asks about the karate dojo — she tells him everyone has Japanese pseudonyms, then wistfully contemplates meeting Oyama, the tall mountain.
STEED: What’s he got that I haven’t got?
EMMA: A hobby
STEED: Archaeology, philately, … knitting?
EMMA: Splitting doors.
He shows her that Tusamo’s appointment list is nearly identical to the killings, leaving just United Automation and Jephcott Products, and asks her to take her pick.
Mrs Peel visits Jephcott Products, claiming to be from Winnell and Fentle’s Chain Stores6 and meets Jephcott (Bernard Horsfall), a disarmingly friendly toy maker who aims to expand into other realms of electronics. He hands her a brochure and hurries off to a pressing engagement. Later, Mrs Peel is in the ranks at the dojo when Oyama arrives to perform a demonstration. He chops a wooden block in half with his bare hand then turns to bow to the audience — he is Jephcott!
Steed has a visit from Gilbert (John Franklyn-Robbins), a ministry boffin who straightens objects in his flat while filling him in on United Automation and its head, Dr Armstrong. Armstrong had been at odds with the Minister of Defence because he wanted to be constructive rather than destructive. He left the Ministry under a cloud after an experiment on an unauthorised project7 left him in a wheelchair. Gilbert promises to pull some strings — and absentmindedly unfastens the ropes of Steed’s Knole sofa and the arm falls to the ground.
Benson returns to his office and calls his boss on the videophone; he tells him there are two other bidders but, despite the secretary’s complicity, he does not yet know who they are.8
Steed returns home to change into ‘something more literary’ — he’s obtained an appointment at United Automation as a journalist, writing a feature on the future of automation. He tells Mrs Peel that United Automation is impregnable, admission by punch card only, and shows her the card he’s required to use for entry.9
At United Automation, Steed is faced with a sterile factory with no staff. He inserts the card in the automated slot, and enters the automated lift to go up to the executive floor. While in the lift, he can’t resist a childish urge to run his umbrella around the ridged walls of the cylindrical lift. Upstairs, he enters an empty office then an automatic door opens and he meets Dr Clement Armstrong (Michael Gough), a hard, clinical man in a wheelchair, who tells him it’s the age of the push-button and his factory is entirely automated.
ARMSTRONG: As a journalist, you’ll appreciate that we human beings are … fallible, temperamental and so often unreliable. The machine however, is obedient, and invariably more competent.
ARMSTRONG: Correctly programmed the machine could answer questions on finance, science, even military or political matters. It could supplant the human brain entirely!
Dr Armstrong concedes it is a problem of size, but new circuit elements mean it’s only a matter of time. He is interrupted by Benson calling Armstrong’s videophone — Benson has discovered the other appointment was a man from Industrial Deployments. Armstrong comments that Lambert is dead12 and Benson says he was replaced by a man called Steed — Armstrong moves his chair so Benson can see Steed on his monitor and Benson confirms he’s the man. Armstrong says he’ll deal with him and offers Steed a solid ink pen powered by the heat of the hand that will never leak. Steed leaves and Benson enters, wondering why he was allowed to leave. Armstrong silences him and says they have someone else to deal with first, and calls Roger.13
Jephcott finishes an order and puts his pen in his pocket and prepares to leave, then hears a crashing noise followed by a whip-like slash… outside, the Avengers tire of waiting for him to emerge and enter the building. They find Jephcott’s body in the office and a large, man-shaped hole in the wall — Steed raises his bowler hat into it to gauge its extraordinary height. Steed suggests this leaves the market clear for Armstrong but Emma protests he’s in a wheelchair. They argue over who could have done such a thing when a toy robot whirs into life, reminding them of Armstrong’s faith in the machine.
Steed cuts a set of punch cards for the United Automation office, leaving Emma the original, and writes down Tusamo’s number. She notices the pen and he hands it to her, saying it was a gift from Armstrong.
Steed re-enters Armstrong office and finds a metal man in a chair, then hides in the air conditioning duct when Armstrong and Benson arrive. Armstrong tells Benson only he can stop the figure — Roger — once it’s programmed, but one day it will have a brain of its own and be powered by solar energy.
The robot is directed by a radio transmitter concealed in the pen, and he feeds in Steed’s frequency14 — Mrs Peel is using the pen as she speaks to Tusamo while Steed nervously feels in his pockets for the pen. Roger stalks off in search of his quarry and Armstrong grimly observes, “The concession is ours”. Steed desperately crawls off through the ducts in search of an exit…15
The blips on Armstrong’s radar converge, while Mrs Peel does a crossword with the pen… Steed meanwhile comes across a wire grille in the ducting that he’s unable to prise open and he shakes it futilely, concerned for Mrs Peel’s safety, before trying a different path through the ducts.
Emma casts aside the crossword, worried about Steed and slips the pen into her jacket pocket. Steed finally finds a trap door in the duct and emerges in the boiler room. The door is locked so he raises the thermostat — causing Armstrong to ring maintenance to check the boiler. A robot enters and restores the setting of the valve and Steed slips out the door, but it reports back to Armstrong, via punch card, that the thermostat was altered manually and they realise there’s an intruder in the building.
Steed finds a telephone just as the blips converge but there’s no answer as Roger smashes in Mrs Peel’s French doors. He drops the phone when the cybernaut sent to find the intruder enters but when he tries to slip out behind it, it knocks him out with a blow.
Mrs Peel meanwhile is driving through the night towards the factory, unaware of her timely escape. Steed comes to and Dr Armstrong tells him he’s lucky, the cybernaut was programmed to capture rather than kill.
He explains his diabolical masterplan for an electronic brain to Steed, and envisions a small, complex computer built with the new components which would be incapable of a wrong decision.
STEED: And what’s the end product? The perfect politician?
ARMSTRONG: Exactly, (slowly) Government by automation.
STEED: Sounds to me like an electronic dictatorship.
ARMSTRONG: (firmly) It’s the only solution.16
STEED: I’d say that was up to the voters. They might disagree.
Armstrong gloats that once delivery is received from Harachi an army of cybernauts is only a matter of time. Benson suddenly notices the blips are moving again with Mrs Peel’s arrival, which Armstrong considers an opportunity to demonstrate his radio-controlled cybernaut. They see Mrs Peel in the lift on the monitor. “What a charming young woman”, drawls Armstrong, “I’m sorry she won’t be joining us” — and he presses a button, changing the lift’s direction.
ARMSTRONG: I think you’ll agree the automated assassin was a stroke of genius. Loyal, obedient … and extremely efficient. Just how efficient you’ll be seeing any moment.
Mrs Peel’s lift delivers her to a warehouse, where she finds cybernaut parts stacked on the shelves. Benson waves his revolver warningly as Steed stands up, dismayed at the dot closing in on Emma. Steed sits back down and declares his distaste for a cybernetic police state.
STEED: A cybernetic police state? Push-button bobbies? (slowly) Automated martinis… remote-controlled olives… No! I think I’ll stick to good, old-fashioned flesh and blood.
A thought had occurred to him at ‘push-button’ and he surreptitiously opened the control panel of the chair while talking, now he slams his hand down on every button, shorting out the circuitry and plunging the room into darkness and opening the door. He dives under the table as Benson blindly shoots in his direction. Steed comes up the other side of the table and disarms him, hurls him across the tables, then rushes out the door, Armstrong shouting after him, “There’s no escape, Steed”.
Roger arrives at the warehouse and begins smashing his way through the crates and boxes; Steed arrives just as Mrs Peel starts shooting at the impervious Roger. He shouts, “throw the pen away”, and she throws it to him; he turns to dispose of it but Armstrong has arrived with the advanced model, that does not need the pen. Steed slips the pen inside the new cybernaut’s overalls and the two cybernauts start battering each other.
Armstrong is dismayed and orders them to stop but is killed by Roger when he gets too close. Roger then finishes the demolition job on the other robot, stopping only after crushing the pen. The Avengers converge cautiously on the inactive cybernaut and then Mrs Peel pushes it over with a single finger.
Mrs Peel drives up to Steed, who’s doing a crossword in his veteran car. He’s puzzling over a clue — “It moves in the dark, it leaves no mark, it’s as hard as steel”. She suggests “cybernaut” and offers him one of Armstrong’s pens when he breaks his pencil. He looks at it and declares that he “doesn’t hold with those new-fangled things” then doffs his bowler at her as she drives away.
- This must be for American audiences, Britain does have such ready access to firearms. The original script doesn’t mention a revolver, just the shotgun. ⭮
- I have a feeling it’s Diana Rigg doing the telephone voiceover but I can’t prove it. ⭮
- This line is in the script but the previous two quips are not: ⭮
EMMA: For the man who has everything?
(STEED put the gun over his shoulder.)
STEED: For delivering the parting shot!
- Again with a handgun, but Britain has had gun control since 1933 and rightly so. In 1968 the Pistols Act 1903, Firearms Act 1920 (which repealed the 1181 right to bear arms which had been reaffirmed in 1689 and then diluted in the Disarming Acts of 1716 and 1725, the Act of Proscription 1746 and the Vagrancy Act 1824), Firearms and Imitation Firearms (Criminal Use) Bill 1933, and Firearms Act 1937 were combined and strengthened in the Firearms Act 1968, requiring certificates and police approval for most guns, although it wasn’t until 1997 that handguns were almost completely banned. ⭮
- Additional commercial break at this point for the USA. ⭮
- A reference to the producers, Julian Wintle and Albert Fennel, not in the original script which mentions “Gorringes stores” instead. ⭮
- Which used robots to clear radioactive areas — a foreshadowing of the climax of the episode? ⭮
- Miss Smith appears to have already given Steed’s name to Benson, so this is a mistake in the script unless Miss Smith wrote something else on the scrap of paper. ⭮
- This scene was completely rejigged in final filming and editing, with the order of the lines inverted, the scene moved to Steed’s flat instead of Emma’s, and Steed being less sexist. ⭮
- Armstrong presses a button that causes a waltz to be piped through speakers in the room, which leads Steed to make an observation, and Armstrong predicts the rise of AI: ⭮
STEED: Well, that kind of music wasn’t written by a computer.
ARMSTRONG: It will be … in time. Today we’ve machines that not only work but think.
- It may seem obvious to us now in the era of the graphical user interface but back in the Sixties the idea of a computer actually putting words and letters onto a screen seemed an impossibility. ⭮
- How did Steed not hear this decidedly suspicious phrase? He was in the same room as Armstrong and the man wasn’t whispering at all. ⭮
- Additional commercial break at this point for the USA. ⭮
- Armstrong says Steed’s frequency is .113, I assume he means megahertz. ⭮
- This seems to be an homage to Dr No and is repeated in Game. The script had the shot ending with him trying and failing to open a grille but that is moved until after the commercial break. ⭮
- This line is deliberately used to underline Armstrong’s fascism. ⭮