• 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

by Roger Marshall
Directed by Gerry O’Hara

Production No E.64.10.14
Production completed: July 20 1965. First transmission: November 23 1965.

TV Times summary

In which Steed has to face the music — and Emma disappears …

Plot summary

Steed takes Emma to a farewell party at RAF Hamelin, where he was stationed in the War. The camp is closing down and the officers being posted all over the world. Steed swerves to miss a dog on the road and crashes the car. They proceed on foot but when they get there the airfield is deserted, like the Marie Celeste. After seeing a milkman shot on a runway, a loud noise drives them to seek shelter and they are both knocked out.
Steed wakes, back in his Bentley. Has he dreamt it all? It certainly seems that way when he reaches the airfield to find the part in full swing and no time seems to have passed. If only he could find Mrs Peel... he finds her watch, which leads him to rescue her from the dentist’s chair. They defeat the villains and end the plot to put sleeper agents in every British base around the world. Another case solved, they depart on the back of a milk float.

show full synopsis

show plot summary

A tranquil country idyll is disturbed by a dog, yelping as it runs headlong through the bushes. It worries some horses and cows then the dog the hurtles across the road, causing John Steed (Patrick Macnee) to crash his beloved Bentley into a tree. The clock stops at 10:59.

Steed and Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) groan a bit as they collect themselves after the crash, then head off on foot for the camp, Steed showing her the gap in the fence they used after lights-out and reminisces, his wartime memories more to do with the local pub than flying any missions. She thinks the camp is bleak. Steed says there used to be thousands of men at the station, now there are thirty. “Sic friat crustulum”, Emma enjoins - “that’s how the cookie crumbles” - and Steed tells her the men will go to Aden, Singapore and Germany, anywhere around the world where there are British air bases. They enter the eerily deserted camp, almost Marie Celeste like - bicycles abandoned, drinks on the table, cigars smouldering, music playing, petrol gushing from a car, the decoration on a cake incomplete. They hear a milk float driving away and follow the sound, finding a stack of milk crates on the runway. Steed finds the hut number of the CO, Geoffrey Ridsdale, in the milkman’s order book and they visit it, finding an electric razor still on but no sign of him. Steed finds the brandy balloons he given Geoffrey as a wedding present are all shattered and fears the worst. He suggests they go to the control tower to get a clear view of the camp and there they see a milkman (Ray Austin) running for his life across the runway. A shot rings out and he falls, and Emma and Steed rush to the body. They learn nothing, so investigate where the shot came from, finding an unconscious rabbit but nothing else. They hear the milk float again and give chase, only to find the dead milkman has been removed. They split up, Mrs Peel finding the float and the dead milkman a short time later. Suddenly, an ear-splitting noise permeates the entire camp. Steed escapes into the Fallout Shelter until the din subsides. When he emerges he finds Mrs Peel’s watch lying in a puddle where the float had been parked.

Steed returns to the mess and pours himself a large brandy, then notices the fish dead in the bowl on the bar. He sees the clock still reading 11 o’clock and smashes his glass against the wall in frustration. There’s a clatter outside and he rushes out to find a tramp, Hickey (Roy Kinnear), scrounging around the dust bins. Hickey says he hasn’t seen anything unusual, and has been at the camp for eight months. Steed takes him inside for a drink so he can learn more. Hickey rambles madly, but manages to impart that he saw them run up the flag for the last time, then his ears felt odd, and he felt drunk. He remembers the clock starting to chime, but never finishing - at 11 o’clock. The dog returns and scratches at the door, Hickey delighted to see his pal Rosie again. He ties a piece of string to her collar and tells Steed she suddenly took off earlier that morning, and really belongs to the guard on the main gate. Steed rushes to the gate but finds nothing except a set of keys lying on the ground. When he stoops to pick them up, he’s clobbered by the boom gate and is knocked out.

Steed regains consciousness back in the Bentley, the clock still at 11 o’clock, but finds no trace of Mrs Peel. He rushes back to the camp and enters the officers’ mess, now the scene of a vibrant party. Ridsdale (Gerald Harper) sees Steed arrive and welcomes him in, and he’s joined by two jovial officers, ‘Porky’ Purser & Wiggins (Roger Booth and David Morrell) who declare Steed is never late when there’s a drink to be had. Ridsdale mixes Steed a drink just as he used to have it, and startles him by asking how his memory is. Steed taps a woman on the shoulder, thinking she is Mrs Peel but is quickly disabused - and he sees she’s feeding the fish, now very much alive. Steed rubs his head and Ridsdale asks him if he’s all right - at that moment, the camp dentist, Philip Leas (Dudley Foster) appears at his shoulder and says, “That’s a cue for me”. He’s standing in as the Medical Officer and checks Steed’s head, declaring him okay but might have giddiness or an hallucination. He then departs, saying it’s a shame about Mrs Peel. Steed shouts after him, wanting to know what he means and Ridsdale calms him down, saying Mrs Peel phoned through an apology an hour ago, leaving Steed unsure and suspicious. He questions Ridsdale about his morning, but the CO is blithely unaware of anything odd happening, saying he arrived at the mess just before Steed. He and his Corporal (Daniel Moynihan) don’t even know about Hickey being on the camp. Steed takes Emma’s watch from his pocket and listens to it, then is roused from his brown study by Leas.

Steed steps outside and looks at Emma’s watch, which is showing the time as five past twelve - an hour later than every other timepiece on the station. The little dog, still with a bit of Hickey’s string around his collar, barks then leads him to where Hickey’s body lies, strangled with his string. He hears the milk float departing and turns to see it driving away, with an apparently dead man lying on the back. He follows cautiously and sees the milkman (Fred Haggerty) take the man to the cook house. When he peers in the window, he’s astonished to see the man is the camp cook, now very much alive and finishing off his cake decoration. The milkman drives to the medical centre where another man (Cliff Diggins) tells him to hurry, they have “another two to put back before they wake up”. Steed checks one of the officers after he’s carried out, then hides until they depart. He enters the hut and summarily takes care of a sentry who’s wearing ear muffs. He finds Mrs Peel strapped to the dentist’s chair and frees her - she recalls feeling dizzy and then waking up there, and finds ampules of CLM, a highly potent derivative of the truth drug used in brain-washing. They deduce a plot to plant sleepers in stations across the globe, all brain-washed during the missing hour. Steed plays with the dentist’s drill as they ponder the mechanism for inducing the coma. Across the camp, a deafening cacophony pours out of the klaxons, and the party-goers cover their ears. Mrs Peel notices an ultrasonic frequency generator attached to the drill and explains to Steed how the high frequencies could cause the human brain to shut down. Leas appears, holding a gun and accompanied by one of his men, and tells her it’s a creditable explanation. He confesses it was an accident - raising the drill’s speed, he was able to induce himself into an hypnotic state, and he took it from there. He now plans to auction off the thirty pre-conditioned brains to the highest bidder. Leas wonders how to dispose of them and Steed attacks him while Emma takes on the other man. Leas turns the valve on the nitrous oxide during the struggle and Steed scalds him with hot water to disarm him. Emma meanwhile spills out into the hallway and dispatches the thug with a combination of sand from a fire bucket and karate. The milkman appears and attacks her as well, but is quickly dealt with. When she returns, Steed and Leas are fighting over the drill, laughing uncontrollably. Leas is knocked unconscious against the sink and she asks Steed what’s so funny - the succumbs to laughter herself.

Steed and Emma ride down the runway on the sides of the milk float - until they both realise no-one’s driving and leap off, trying to get into the cabin to stop it.


Production dates: 5 — 20/07/1965 Drinks
Transmission dates: Foreign title punch, brandy
beer, white wine
sherry, beer
port, punch
UK 27/11/1965
Sydney 24/05/1966
Melbourne 17/05/1966
USA 25/04/1966
Germany 10/12/98 (Die Fehlende Stunde)
France 11/07/1967 (L’heure perdue)
Italy 30/11/80 (Il tempo si è fermato)
Spain --- (La hora que nunca existió)
The Netherlands 7/03/1967 (Het verdwenen uur)

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