• title card: white all caps text reading ‘DIAL A DEADLY NUMBER’ outlined in black and superimposed on a closeup of a large, black, old-fashioned rotary dial telephone with a printed card insert behind the dial to remind the user of the letters associated with the numbers
  • Steed tips the waiter, dressed as the Mad Hatter, for pointing out Jago
  • An overhead view of the Boardman’s coffee table, showing that it’s designed to look like an old coin. Steed, Mrs Boardman, Mr Boardman, Mrs Peel, and Harvey sit around it
  • Steed is attacked in the basement carpark by two men on motorbikes who atempt to run him down
  • The wine duel begins in the cellar: Harvey faces us holding a tray with two glasses of red wine, he smiles at Boardman to his right. Boardman and Steed are both in profile, facing each other, Boardman on the left
  • Looking over the shoulder of Fitch, who points his silenced pistol at Emma as he undoes her zip and touches her soft white skin
  • Steed crouches behind a wine rack as he hunts down Harvey in the cellar
  • Steed and Emma, seated in the back of a cab, sample one of the bottles they liberated from Boardman’s cellar

Series 4 — Episode 10
Dial a Deadly Number

by Roger Marshall
Directed by Don Leaver

Production No E.64.10.4
Production completed: January 22 1965. First transmission: November 30 1965.

TV Times summary

In which Steed plays bulls and bears — and Emma has no option …

Plot summary

City gents are dropping dead of sudden heart attacks and someone’s making a killing on the market and of the market. Steed poses as a millionaire and Emma a new investor and they discover all the victims were using a paging device promoted by the banker, Boardman. Steed is attacked after they dine with the Boardmans but he’s innocent - his wife and business partner are the real villains.
A last desperate fight in the bank’s cellars leads to the defeat of the criminals and the Avengers emerge with some of the spoils, eagerly consumed in the taxi home.

show full synopsis

show plot summary

In a bustling City bar where the waiters dress like Bank couriers, complete with top hats, three businessmen gather to discuss equities. Henry Boardman (Clifford Evans) is last to arrive and Ben Jago (Anthony Newlands) calls over the waiter (Edward Cast). The ‘pen’ in Todhunter’s pocket beeps, and he announces he and Henry are late for a board meeting - Henry put him onto the company that makes the ‘portable secretary’. The shifty-looking Fitch (John Carson) watches them from the bar and takes an identical beeper from his pocket. He deliberately bumps into Todhunter (Michael Barrington) as they pass him and switches the beeper for Todhunter’s. A while later, Todhunter is delivering his report to the board when Fitch dials his beeper’s number, and the broker collapses mid-sentence, stone dead.

John Steed (Patrick Macnee) summons Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) to the scene of Todhunter’s demise. He tells her Todhunter was the latest of six indispensable chairmen, whose companies’ share price was slashed when they suddenly died - and Henry Boardman (Clifford Evans) was banker to every one. Steed visits Boardman, posing as the trustee of an Armed Forces trust fund, seeking a merchant bank with which to invest £2,000,000. He mentions Todhunter but Boardman is unmoved, and introduces him to his partner, John Harvey (Peter Bowles). Harvey asks if Steed knew Todhunter and is startled when Steed mentions they’ve lost six clients in a year. Boardman’s butler, Quinn (Alan Chuntz), returns with sherry and biscuits to break the ice, and Harvey laughs at their antiquated habits. Boardman recommends Steed visit their broker, Frederick Yuill, and invites him to dinner that Thursday.
Emma visits the funeral parlour that prepared Todhunter, passing Fitch on the way in. She speaks to the undertaker, Macombie (Norman Chappell), who tells her there was nothing odd about Todhunter, except maybe a small bruise below the heart. He fishes out Todhunter’s personal effects - and discovers the beeper which had been clipped to his breast pocket has gone missing, and Mrs Peel realises it would have been in line with the heart.

Steed visits Frederick Yuill (Gerald Sim), an aggressive broker and keen fisherman, who explains the concept of a put option to him - where you can make a profit when shares fall in value. Steed insinuates it would be very profitable if you could foresee or influence future events - and mentions his friend made a “killing” on Todhunter’s. Yuill stares at him and suggests he take up fishing, then his butler, Myers, appears with the obligatory sherry and biscuits. Yuill asks Suzanne to bring in some portfolio options for Steed and she tells him Ben Jago is on the line. Yuill excuses himself to take the call and Suzanne (Tina Packer) brings Steed the portfolios. He glances at them - and her more so - then takes a punt and asks about Jago’s luck with put options. Tina confesses it is uncanny, and mentions Jago had a put option on 100,000 shares of Todhunter & Co.
Steed visits the City bar and meets Jago, who is at a table with Mrs Boardman (Jan Holden) - who hurriedly leaves before Jago can introduce her. Steed says they have the same broker and Jago warns him off Gibson’s Electronics then tells him there are no good rules for investing and a lot of fiddling goes on - he warns Steed even Nero got his fingers burnt.

Mrs Peel visits Warner’s Answering Service where the owner, J.P. Warner (John Bailey), tells her they’re limited to the City of London at present, but have 5,000 “bleeps” in service. Fitch is repairing a fuse box and he and Mrs Peel recognise each other from earlier. She asks who Fitch is and is told he’s the resident mechanical genius, a back-room boffin during the war. Warner also reveals that they never retrieved Todhunter’s bleep.

On Thursday evening, Steed arrives at Boardman’s penthouse flat and politely greets Mrs Boardman without revealing they had previously met. Harvey wanders in with another new client of theirs, a Mrs Peel from Barbados. Steed is marvelling at her soft white skin when Mrs Boardman interrupts them, reminding Henry to make a phone call. Yuill meanwhile is dressing for dinner - he has just fastened his waistcoat when he realises there’s a bleep in the pocket. He frantically tries to undo the buttons but too late - someone rings his number and he collapses when it bleeps. Boardman indicates the empty seat at his coin-shaped dinner table and apologises, saying Yuill is a great broker but his social skills are terrible. Harvey invites them both to a wine-tasting in the bank cellars the following Tuesday, then Steed takes his leave. He offers Mrs Peel a lift but Boardman hopes to extend Mrs Peel’s company. In the basement car park, Steed is attacked by two men on motorbikes. He throws his cape over one, causing him to crash and the other flees when Steed opens fire with his revolver. Mrs Peel arrives just as Steed discovers the fallen rider is Myers, Yuill’s butler. Steed is suspicious of the attempt to keep them from leaving together, and they visit Yuill, finding him dead in his apartment with his waistcoat pocket torn out. Steed notes that Boardman made a phone call before dinner.

Steed meets a retired general (Michael Trubshawe) at the wine-tasting while Harvey is probing Mrs Peel, trying to find a chink in her Barbados cover. He’s called away and Steed approaches - “agreeable, well-rounded, a little on the flinty side” he says. She smiles as he hands her a glass of Pouilly Blanc Fumé. She sips it and to his consternation replies, “venerable, devious, a little ambivalent”. She means Boardman’s, not the wine, and says they’re not trusted. Boardman and Harvey are waiting for Steed with a glass on a silver tray - he accepts the challenge but counters it by placing another glass for Boardman to taste, and a duel begins. Both men retire ten paces then turn; it is Boardman who tastes first. He correctly guesses Latour ’59, leaving Steed with his altogether more difficult wine. At first sip, he suggests it’s either a 1965 Algerian red or a very old Premier Cru. Mulling it over, he declares it to be a pre-1914 Ch&âteau Lafitte-Rothschild; finally he astonishes Boardman by declaring it to be the 1909, from the northern end of the vineyard.

After the tasting, Fitch reviews film of Steed in the vaults and makes a deadly replica of his pocket watch. Mrs Peel meanwhile discusses investments with Harvey; they’re interrupted when Warner delivers a box of bleeps, which Harvey shows to the intrigued Mrs Peel. Boardman asks them to join him for tea and after they leave Mrs Boardman enters and removes the watch from its hiding place in the box. She visits Steed to thank him for his tact, and he allows her to switch the watches by disappearing briefly into his bedroom. Mrs Peel, meanwhile, enters Fitch’s workshop and finds the photos of her and Steed but is discovered by Fitch and held at gunpoint. Fitch tells her he will stop a clock at the exact time of Steed’s death - when he next opens his watch. He indicates other clocks he stopped for Yuill and Todhunter and Emma asks about the other five chairmen. Fitch grins and says he doesn’t have much opportunity in peace-time, the war was much more exciting. He unzips part of her catsuit and touches her milky breast, declaring he’s never killed a woman and would hate to perforate that skin, his gift to her is a death by scientific tenderness. Steed is waiting for her in the bar and becoming impatient, he takes his watch from his pocket, but Billy tells him the time as he scurries by. Steed rises from his seat when a tall woman enters, but he realises it’s not Emma and sinks back down, tapping his watch.

Mrs Boardman returns home to find Steed in her sitting room, dangling his watch from its chain. He asks when Henry will return and she lunges at him when he goes to open the watch; Steed grins evilly. Later, he goes to Fitch’s workshop and asks Fitch to fix the watch, then terrorises the man by tapping it on the table. The watch opens and plays a tune, but Steed grabs Fitch’s pistol and frees Mrs Peel from the cupboard she’s been crammed into. Fitch grabs a bicycle-pump gun he invented during the war and tells Steed to drop the pistol; Steed notices a cuckoo clock is about to chime and fools Fitch into thinking help has come then knocks him flying into an armchair when he turns around. Fitch is killed when his gun goes off and the Avengers depart for the bank.

Across the city, the suspects find bleeps in their breast pockets - Warner is unconcerned, Boardman confused, Harvey startled and Jago alarmed. Jago goes to Boardman’s bank with a gun, intending to kill Harvey but finds Boardman at Harvey’s desk, finally aware of the illegal activities. Boardman reveals that Ruth has confessed and tells him to put away his “pea-shooter”, he will call the police. Jago shoots him and runs away; Mrs Peel runs is moments later. Boardman is only wounded and tells tells her Harvey is in the cellar. Downstairs, Jago waves his gun at Harvey then discovers they were both given bleeps. Jago tells Harvey’s what’s happened then Steed appears. Harvey offers Steed a bribe but he smiles that it’s too late, Mrs Peel will have already gone to the authorities. Harvey laughs that she’s been taken care of; Steed wonders if Fitch will buy a new cock to commemorate the event and the villains are perturbed. Mrs Peel then drops a crate on Jago and Steed escapes into the dusty rows of bottles. Harvey stalks them through the racks, finally finding Mrs Peel and attempting to throttle her. Steed comes to her rescue, smashing a wine bottle over his head - then they see Quinn approaching, carrying a barrel over his head. Steed rushes for Jago’s dropped revolver but is too late, the men collide and Quinn’s barrel crashes through a crate behind Steed. Steed gains the upper hand and Quinn is defeated, so the Avengers look around for a drink to celebrate... a Grand Cru champagne seems to fit the bill. Harvey meanwhile has dragged himself across the floor to the gun and shoots at them, Steed counters by firing the cork of the champagne bottle at him, finally knocking him out for good.

Steed and Emma depart the bank in a cab with several crates of liberated spoils, and conduct an impromptu wine tasting contest. Steed is astonished when Mrs Peel accurately identifies an obscure vintage. “Fantastic, Mrs Peel”, he enthuses, “nose or palate?”. "Uh uh", she replies, “eyes, I read the label!”


Production dates: 11 — 22/01/1965 Drinks
Transmission dates: Foreign title whisky, beer
white wine, tea
port, tea, sherry
brandy and soda, sherry
sherry, brandy
red wine
Blanc Fumé de Pouilly
Ch&âteau Latour ’59
Ch&âteau Lafitte-Rothschild ’09
Mérignac Sainte-Claire ’31
UK 4/12/1965
Sydney 8/03/1966
Melbourne 26/04/1966
USA 21/07/1966
Germany 6/12/1966 (Vorsicht bei Anruf)
France 4/04/1967 (Meutre par téléphone)
Italy 3/10/1969 (Doppio gioco)
Spain --- (Discar un numero mortal)
The Netherlands 18/10/1966 (De dood telefoneert)

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