• title card: white all caps text reading 'THE HOUR THAT NEVER WAS' with faint outline superimposed on a smashed face of a clock on an oak dashboard
  • In the cook house, the cake has been left with the decoration unfinished
  • Steed and Mrs Peel examine the dead milkman lying on the runway
  • Steed talks to the scrounger, Hickey, as the latter digs through the bins
  • Steed crouches behind the milk float as another inert RAF officer is loaded onto it by the crooks
  • Steed unties Emma from the dentist's chair
  • Emma fights one of the plotters (stuntman cliff Diggins)
  • Steed and Mrs Peel suddenly realise no-one is driving the milk float

Series 4 - Episode 9
The Hour that Never Was

8 stars

by Roger Marshall
Directed by Gerry O'Hara

Episode Rating

Subject 0-5
Direction 4 stars
Music 4 stars
3½ stars
3½ stars
Villains 4 stars
Plot 4 stars
Emma 3 stars
Sets/Props 3 stars
8 stars

Ripping stuff, with the foreign agents (Dudley Foster, villainous as ever) planting sleepers in every British base in the world. A fine performance from Roy Kinnear and a lovely noir feel to the episode.

The Fashions

Emma's Fashions Steed's Fashions
  1. pink jacket with thick black bands at the cuffs and across the breast, behind pink patch pockets, hard black buttons, with pink hipster pants with a thick black belt and a black sleeveless top; initially worn with low white heels, then worn with Edward Rayne's black and white boots
  1. Dark three-piece suit, cloth buttons (one at waist, one on each cuff, two vents), with white shirt, dark tie and black bowler and umbrella, black chelsea boots

The Cars

Marque/Model/Type Number Plate
Bentley XR 6056
Commer QX Signal Truck 78 AE 73
Hillman Super Minx Mark II convertible 1962 3850 VC
Hillman Minx PCJ 374C?
Ford Consul 315 1961-3 -
bicycles -
Landrover Rescue Vehicle -
Scammell Fire Tender 31 AD 59
Austin A55 Cambridge 489 ALY
Scammell Fire Tender 25 AG 08
Alvis Mk.VIb Fire Tender 03 AG 38
Austin A99 Westminster -
RAF truck -
Mosquito -
Bedford S Type truck 99 AF 35
Tip truck -
AEC truck .1 AG 48
Wales & Edwards Milk Float 594 EMX

Who's Killing Whom?

Victim Killer Method
Milkman ? V* shot
Hickey ? V* shot? strangled? (off camera)
Click a name to see the face

Continuity and trivia

  1. 1:00 - the opening scene of river is Tyke's Water Lake, the same location as the punting scene at the beginning of Silent Dust.
  2. 2:00 - to make the Bentley look like it's crashed, they just pulled the bonnet off the engine and propped it up, loosened the spare tyre, pumped some smoke through the engine bay and spun the wheels. Much better than damaging a vintage car! It looks like the broken glass is achieved with cellophane.
  3. 4:05 - location filming for the road towards the camp was at Tyke's Water Lake and bridge.
  4. 4:47 - Steed speaks of "returning to camp, hunched over the controls, eyes red and rimmed with fatigue, the men groaning in the back". Emma asks if he'd been to the Ruhr and he replies, "No, the local pub".
  5. 5:35 - RAF Station 472 Hamelin was a launch-pad for agents during the war and was HQ for 472 Squadron.
  6. 6:05 - Emma quips, "Sic friat crustulum" as Steed talks about the base closing down. Steed looks at her quizzically and she translates, "That's the way the cookie crumbles". "The Latin cookie", he replies. This exchange is something that would have been more likely in the higher-brow Cathy Gale days, but we get the occassional smattering of (sometimes tortured) Latin in the Emma Peel years.
  7. 9:23 - a guide wire for the cameraman is hastily pulled out of view in the bottom left corner of the screen.
  8. 10:44 - the cook has been reposted to RAF Airbase 69 Aden.
  9. 13:40 - Squadron Leader Geoffrey Risdale has been reposted to RAF Airbase 931 Singapore.
  10. 14:28 - Geoffrey Risdale is played by Gerald Harper, who became the star of the BBC's attempt to copy "The Avengers", "Adam Adamant Lives!" in 1966.
  11. 16:00 - vehicle Continuity: when Emma and Steed walk past the rescue vehicles, they pass an Alvis tender, Scammell tender and then turn to go alongside the Landrover. In the longshot from the top of the control tower, the Scammell has moved to the near side of the Alvis, so they would have had to pass that first.
  12. 16:37 - that's not a rifle shot, the FX is a pistol bullet ricochet, and one of the most over-used FX in the business.
  13. 16:57 - the punk band "The Dead Milkmen" supposedly take their name from Ray Austin's performance as the milkman killed in this episode.
  14. 18:58 (19:26) - an obvious over-dub of Mrs Peel saying "Steed" as they run across the taxiway - but it's not Diana Rigg's voice!
  15. 20:55 - wardrobe Continuity: Steed has been wearing a suit with a single vent in the the jacket but here, as they are bombarded by the sonic weapon, he's suddenly wearing a jacket with a double vent, despite this being a 'self-contained' episode where they're supposed never to leave the scene. The single vent jacket reappears a few moments later, then switches back to the double vent again at 29:40, just before he's knocked out by the boom gate. By 31:00, when he's getting out of the car, it's back to the single vent jacket.
  16. 32:35 - David Morrell, who has a brief appearance as an RAF officer - his film career was mostly rôles like this - (he's watching his friend play pinball and greets Steed enthusiastically) went on to be a best-selling author of thriller novels.
  17. 33:00 - Geoffrey tells Steed that they're all being scattered to different parts of the world - Porky is going to Aden, (along with the cook vide supra) and Wiggins is going to Berlin.
  18. The transcript of the episode reveals that Cliff Diggin's character is called Glover.
  19. 41:47 - more bondage for Mrs Peel, this time she's been strapped to the dentist's chair.
  20. 42:19 - Mrs Peel declares that she's found ampules of "C11, a derivitive of the truth drug used in brainwashing".
  21. 42:35 - Mrs Peel incorrectly refers to "nitreous oxide" for the laughing gas, N2O, which is of course nitrous oxide.
  22. 41:45 - there's a hair on the camera lens near top left, it remains until 42:58 when the vision switches to Emma at the window.
  23. 46:22 - Billy Westley Jr does the backwards leap as Emma is thrown by Cliff Diggins but up till then Cliff has been grappling with Diana Rigg, the lucky man.
  24. 48:29 - the footage is sped up as Emma and Steed chase after the milk float, à la The Beatles or The Dave Clarke Five in their films of the same year.
  25. Running time: 49'40"
  26. Roger Marshallwanted Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again" playing over the RAF sequences but the rights were too expensive.
A note on the timecodes
Where I have listed two sets of timecodes, the first is from the 2009-11 Optimum Releasing/Studio Canal DVD sets, any other timecodes are from the A&E and Contender DVD sets from a decade beforehand.
The new releases have been remastered and their frame rate has been changed, resulting in a shorter running time. However, the picture quality has increased markedly. I assume this is because they used a simple 2:2 pulldown (24 @ 25) when converting from the original film masters (film runs at 24 frames per second, while PAL runs at 25fps, the new DVDs are in PAL format).
This pulldown was also the cause of audio errors on many episodes, especially for Series 5, as the audio sped up to match the new rate (4% faster), rather than being properly pitch-shifted. Checking the dialogue sheets, which list the feet and frames of the reels, it looks like the speed change is around 5.04%, so there may be some cuts as well - probably from around the commercial breaks and ends of reels, as they amount to about 25 seconds. All my assumptions are based on the episodes having been filmed on standard 35mm film, which has 16 frames per foot and runs at 24 frames per second, so a minute of footage uses 90 feet of film (1,440 frames).
These audio errors have been corrected in the currently available DVDs, but the 2:2 pulldown remains. There is also the addition of a Studio Canal lead-in, converted to black and white to match the episode for Series Four, but colour for Series Five, adding an extra 18 or 19 seconds to the runnning time and making it harder to match timecodes with previous releases. It's annoying that it has been slapped on every single episode, Series 1-3 didn't suffer this indignity.
The previous Contender and A&E DVD releases didn't seem to suffer from these problems, so I assume they either used soft telecine and preserved the original 24fps rate of the film (my preferred option in DVDs) or they used 24 @ 25 pulldown (2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:3 Euro pull-down).
Thankfully, the new blu ray releases for series 4-6 appear to use native 24fps with soft telecine so the running times and pitch all seem to be correct again along with a much grreatly improved picture quality, most notably in the Tara King episodes which are finally back to their original glory.

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