• title card: white all caps text reading ‘TWO’S A CROWD’ outlined in black and superimposed on the wet message bomb
  • Webster (Steed) hams it up for the audience as a blond bikini model looks on behind him
  • Psev’s monitor screen shows Steed being greeted by two generals at the conference
  • Ivenko pins a riduclously large buttoniere to Webster’s lapel
  • Mrs. Peel leans against the fireplace, her wrists bound with cloth tape
  • Steed takes aim at the imcoming model aeroplane with his revolver
  • Steed frantically tries to find the frequency of the model bomber while Emma watches the incoming toy aircraft
  • Steed, dismounted next to his grey, meets Mrs. Peel riding a chestnut mare

Series 4 — Episode 12
Two’s a Crowd

by Philip Levene
Directed by Roy Baker

Production No E.64.10.11
Production completed: May 28 1965. First transmission: December 14 1965.

Production

Production dates: 12–28/05/1965

Another Philip Levene script, submitted on February 1st 1965, was again poorly received by ABC Programme Controller Brian Tesler, who disliked the use of lethal model planes and ships and dreaded that the references to Russians would create a diplomatic incident. He also thought the idea of Steed having an evil twin would confuse viewers, forgetting that they had already done the same thing two years earlier in Man with Two Shadows (and Dr. Keel had twice been a near-twin of a criminal in the first series). Backing Julian Wintle and Philip Levene up, ABC’s script supervisor Anthony John pointed this out, but rewrites were still required and this was assigned to Brian Clemens. Four rewrites later, Tesler though they had now made the first half of the script nonsensical and amendments were being made all way up to 21 May, halfway through filming.

Tesler also complained about the enormous cost of some of the models, coming in at £500 each (£8,000 in today’s terms). As there was ample product placement during the episode, perhaps they came to a commercial agreement to reduce the cost. One model turns up again in What the Butler Saw so perhaps the props department assumed ownership.

Roy Baker was assigned directorial duties and made extensive use of location work, both at The Boltons SW7 in London, as well as Watford Town Hall, Tyke’s Water Lake & Haberdashers’ Aske School in Hertfordshire near the studios. He assembled a stellar guest cast for the episode and hired an extraordinary number of extras and filming seems to have gone without any hitches as they wrapped in two weeks despite script rewrites coming in until halfway through.

Regional broadcasts

BroadcasterDateTime
Rediffusion London17/12/19658:00pm
ABC Midlands18/12/19659:05pm
ABC North18/12/19659:05pm
Anglia Television16/12/19658:00pm
Border Television19/12/19659:35pm
Channel Television18/12/19659:05pm
Grampian Television17/12/19658:00pm
Southern Television18/12/19659:05pm
Scottish Television14/12/19658:00pm
Tyne Tees Television18/12/19659:05pm
Ulster Television17/12/19658:00pm
Westward Television18/12/19659:05pm
Television Wales & West18/12/19659:05pm

TV Times listing

TV Times listing for December 17 1965, 8pm (London edition)
Sydney Morning Herald listing for May 3 1966, 8pm
The Age listing for May 10 1966, 7.30pm

8.25 The Avengers
starring
Patrick Macnee

as John Steed
and
Diana Rigg

as Emma Peel
in
Two’s a Crowd
By Philip Levene

In which Steed is single-minded — and Emma sees double …

Cast also includes

Brodny Warren Mitchell
Alicia Elena Maria Marchado
Shvedloff Alec Mango
Pudeshkin Wolfe Morris
Vogel Julian Glover
Ivenko John Bluthal
Major Carson Eric Lander

Music by Laurie Johnson
Directed by Roy Baker
Produced by Julian Wintle

ABC Weekend Network Production

International broadcasts

BroadcasterDateTime
ABN2 Sydney, Australia3/05/19668:00pm
ABV2 Melbourne, Australia10/05/19667:30pm
ABC New York, USA9/05/196610:00pm
ORTF2 France9/7/91 FR3
Suisse Romande, Switzerland
French titleUn Steed de trop
ZDF Germany22/11/19669:15pm
German title2:1=1
KRO Netherlands (N2)24/08/19678:30pm
Dutch titleDe dubbelganger
Italy
Italian title
Spain29/05/19674:10pm
Spanish titleDos son demasiado (Dos son demasiados)

Italy and Switzerland appear to have never broadcast this episode, France first saw in in the 1990s repeats on FR3.

In Spain, after firmly announcing that The Avengers was forbidden to children when the series first started, there seems to have been a change of heart. After eight episodes, the show was moved to the children’s timeslot of Monday afternoons starting with this episode.

USA: New York Times listing for May 9 1966, 10pm
Germany: Hamburg Abendblatt, November 22 1966, summary for The Avengers episode at 9.15pm
Spain: ABC Madrid listing for May 29 1967, 4.10pm
Netherlands: Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant listing for August 24 1967, 8.30pm

Episode Rating

Subject 0–5
Direction
3½ stars
Music 3 stars
Humour
4½ stars
Intros/tags 3 stars
Villains 4 stars
Plot 4 stars
Emma 2 stars
Sets/Props
3½ stars
Overall
(0–10)
6½ stars

The lady vanishes — was La Rigg on holidays for this one? She seems completely superfluous. Otherwise, I find this a very funny episode, but humour alone cannot carry it.

The Fashions

Emma’s Fashions Steed’s (Webster’s) Fashions
  1. fluoro orange surplice with central pocket, the breast above the pocket diagonally quilted, over black long-sleeved skin-tight stretch nylon catsuit, high neck, black boots
  2. black rimmed round spectacles, white collared blouse with puffed sleeves and cloth buttons (four on each cuff, about twelve down torso), black knee-length skirt
  3. (2) without the spectacles
  4. (2) with a black and white spatter patterned overcoat, a pleated skirt in place of the plain one, with black court shoes
  5. (3)
  6. black velvet sleeveless top with metal buttons, black trousers, briefly with the coat from (4)
  7. wide brimmed black Bolero hat, black crew neck blouse, short black jacket with four buttons, tan riding pants, ankle boots
  1. black pullover and dark trousers, black shoes
  2. grey three-piece suit — flap pockets — with white shirt and dark rectangular patterned tie
  3. (2) with light tie and black bowler, umbrella
  4. hawaiian shirt — white ground with large red flower design, short sleeves, with panama hat with matching band, light shorts, false moustache
  5. deerstalker cap, Victorian hunting tweeds including plus fours, false moustache
  6. navy chalk striped three-piece suit with white city shirt, metal links, dark rectangular patterned tie, initially without the jacket
  7. (6) with black bowler and umbrella
  8. Hounds tooth jacket, white shirt, trilby hat, red white and blue diagonally striped tie with gold crown in centre, dark trousers, false moustache
  9. ugly furry cardigan with black skivvy and brown trousers
  10. (7)
  11. dark three-piece suit with white shirt, dark solid tie, red carnation, briefly with a black bowler and umbrella
  12. (11) with turned back cuffs, briefly with a large buttonhole with foil and ferns, later with a single red carnation
  13. brown suede fronted cardigan with wide lapels, black skivvy
  14. grey three-piece suit — single button at waist, two vents — with matching bowler, umbrella, white shirt, pale silk tie
  15. (14) with camera tiepin
  16. brown cardigan with black polo shirt, tan trousers, brown chelsea boots

The Cars

Marque/Model/Type Number Plate
(model aeroplane — Cessna) -
Humber Imperial finished by Thrupp & Maberly, and sporting a black Everflex roof AWK 948B
Lotus Elan S2 HNK 999C
Porsche 356 -
Austin A110 Westminster -
MGB (taillights) -
Peugeot 404 (maybe an Oxford/Cambridge…) -
(model submarine) -
(model aeroplane — Hurricane) -
(model aeroplane — Lancaster) -
horses -

Who’s Killing Whom?

Victim Killer Method
Sergei Ivenko V* Vogel V* shot by model submarine
Pudeshkin V* Steed redirects model bomber
Shvedloff V* Steed redirects model bomber
Elena V* Steed redirects model bomber
Vogel V* Steed redirects model bomber
Click a name to see the face

Continuity and trivia

  1. 1:30 etc. — it wouldn’t have been obvious back in the Sixties but you can see the wires holding up the model plane.
  2. 2:32 — The caption scanner was dirty so when the titles are superimposed dust and hairs appear all over the screen.
  3. 3:56 —
    The War Department file on Colonel Psev is labelled COL. PZEV P/56079 — we must assume the department guessed at the spelling as the bomb for Brodny has it as “Psev” and the name is later revealed (43:43) to be an acronym derived from the lead antagonists’ initials : Pudeshkin Shvedloff Elena Vogel.
    One of the files turns up again, for no apparent reason, in Small Game for Big Hunters
  4. 5:18 etc. — there’s a lot of product placement for AIRKRAFT and AIRFIX models in the episode. As there are memos discussing going over budget due to buying the expensive large radio controlled kits, I suspect they came to an advertising arrangement with the suppliers.
  5. 5:27 & 32:29 — The phone in the Embassy is labelled Leadenhall 7141 — have they stolen it from the stockbroker’s bar in Dial a Deadly Number which had an identical phone?
  6. 5.31 — casual Sixties sexism — the director zooms out as Elena answers the phone, but the shot zooms out to just frame her legs.
  7. 7:59 — there’s a thread caught on the edge of the camera at the bottom.
  8. 9:26 — and product placement for P. Garnier with a bottle of Crème de Violettes.
  9. 10:40 and throughout — Some of the extras in the back row of the reverse shots are also sitting to the left of the catwalk.
  10. 11:00 — overt Sixties sexism, as Webster pinches the model’s bottom when the commentator says “adds that tiny pinch”.
  11. 12:37 — more overt Sixties sexism, Steed keeps his “eye on the target”, as the commentator says, by pointing his telescope at the model’s bottom, which she wiggles.
  12. 14:52 — Social realism in The Avengers: Steed asks Major Carson if he’s always squeezed the toothpaste from the middle and Caron replies he never did until after he was married. It seems to be an obsession of British script writers as a similar bone of contention occurred in As Time Goes By (it’s true too, I also didn’t squeeze the tube until after I was married, and regularly resqueeze the tube to fix it).
  13. 18:45 — Ivenko has just been sent to order a replacement model but the close-up shows that Steed has already put it back together.
  14. 21:37 — Ivenko calls the chauffeur who answers the Embassy door to Emma, “Grischa” — Гриша is a familiar contraction of Grigorij or Georgi used in Slavic countries. The background outside the door is somewhat obviously a painted backdrop.
  15. 22:00 onwards — you can see Ivenko’s shadow coming from out of shot as Mrs. Peel pokes about the Embassy.
  16. 25:22 — you can see the shadow of the camera crew as Steed approaches the sofa.
  17. 31:59 — Ivenko’s file is labelled IVENKO, SERGEI TRANSFERRED on the outside; the paper inside is headed 56076, IVENKO, SERGEI and has been stamped FOR ELIMINATION. The rest of the writing seems to be a type-written letter from Ernie Granja warning about the threat of Communist rising from the British Labour Party.
  18. 33:29 onwards — The shots of Vogel at the controls and watching through the binoculars are all marred by a hair, curled into a crescent and stuck to the bottom left corner of the camera lens.
  19. 34:08 onwards — The perennial location scout’s favourite, Tyke’s Water Lake, is used for the location of the Embassy gardens where Ivenko is shot by the model submarine.
  20. 36:14 — the Lancaster bomber is in the marking of AJ-G ED 932, which was Wing Commander Guy Gibson’s Avro Lancaster B Mk III Bomber used in the Dambuster Raids on 17 May 1943.
  21. 36:22 — Vogel takes out a map and points out the location of Steed’s flat, close to Charing Cross station.
  22. 36:40 — Brodny says, “Yes, yes, my mother always used to say to me… ‘Sergei душенька’, she said, ‘you are slow witted’ … and as for tact, initiative -” but in The See-Through Man he says his name is Vladimir Jaroslav Brodny rather than Sergei Brodny. (душенька means “Darling, sweetheart, dear” in Russian.)
  23. 40:04 — the white phone that Pudeshkin answers is labelled ROYAL 90715.
  24. 42:00 — the white phone is now labelled Maida Vale 2659.
  25. 45:35 — Pudeskin is a cypher expert, Shvedloff handles sabotage and elimination, Elena handles finance and administration and Vogel handles planning and operations. (Julian Glover correectly pronounces Vogel in the German manner, with the V closer to an English F)
  26. 46:39 etc. — once again, you can see the wires for the model planes.
  27. 47:19 — Macnee says “So Plessey and I set out to prove it” — but the character’s name is Major Carson! Diana Rigg repeats the name at 49:16, so I’ve listed him in the credits as Major Plessey Carson.

  28. 49:06 — you can see the wires on the bomber as it takes off.
  29. 48:32 — there’s an oft-repeated story about Diana Rigg having never ridden a horse before they filmed Silent Dust, but here, two months earlier, she is apparently at Tyke’s Water Bridge on horseback and cantering with ease. The blu-ray tells us the truth, it’s a stunt double for Diana Rigg is the long shots of the riding.
    Patrick Macnee meanwhile is rising the same grey horse he rose in that episode, which had previously been ridden by Laurence Olivier in Henry V.
  30. Running time: 52′01″

A note on the timecodes

Timecodes for episodes are problematic as each release has its own quirks so the 2009–11 Optimum Releasing/Studio Canal DVD sets have different run times compared to the A&E and Contender DVD sets from a decade beforehand. The newer Studio Canal & Via Vision blu rays seems to be back in line with the earlier releases, except they often have StudioCanal idents lasting 20 to 22 seconds added to the beginning.

The Optimum Releasing/Studio Canal DVD releases were 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).

The 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 running 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 greatly improved picture quality, most notably in the Tara King episodes which are finally (mostly) back to their original glory.


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