Series 4 — Episode 13
Too Many Christmas Trees
by Tony Williamson
Directed by Roy Baker
Steed has a nightmare about a fellow agent dying and it comes true. Mrs Peel decides he needs a break and whisks him away to a Dickensian Christmas Party in the country but they discover they have both been hypnotised by some sort of telepathic control into coming to the party, and someone is after Steed’s secrets.
A mysterious psychic tries to break Steed’s resolve but Emma’s intervention, and some very loud Christmas carols, keep their minds clear. A shoot-out in a hall of mirrors ends in the villains defeated and their host, the collector Brandon Storey, revealed as the head of the spy ring.
Exit the Avengers on a surrey, under a sprig of mistletoe...
John Steed (Patrick Macnee) has a disturbing nightmare - he’s trudging through the snow in his pyjamas, in a weird cardboard cut-out landscape. He finds a hamper of presents and opens his - a large photograph of himself that becomes a mirror. A Santa figure appears in the mirror behind him and beckons him over to his sleigh. The christmas stocking hanging over the edge become real legs wearing pyjamas and socks. Steed sees it’s a dead man and the Santa laughs out loud.
Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) drops round the following morning and finds Steed apparently hung over but he declares he had a quiet dinner with a retired Rear Admiral. She’s concerned and he admits he hasn’t been sleeping well for the past week. He relates the dream and tells her an old friend and fellow agent - Freddy Marshall - who is linked to the leaking of government secrets ended up dead as a doornail in it. Mrs Peel blanches when she sees Freddy’s photo and shows him the morning paper. “Mystery death in hotel room” it screams, followed by the subheading “Screams... then man found dead” and a photograph of Marshall.
We see a seance table from above, a photo of Marshall at each place. The photos are removed, revealing photos of Steed, and the medium starts a metronome in motion. Steed falls into a sleep and is tormented by the sound of an enormous pendulum. He sees a large crenellated white house and is taunted by the Santa figure. Mrs Peel rouses him - she’s returned with some food and he tells her Freddy died of a brainstorm - an exaggerated nervous seizure. She picks up his Christmas cards and he opens them - one is from Mrs Gale. Mrs Peel asks him to join her for Christmas at a house party given by the publisher, Brandon Storey - she’s been invited by Jeremy Wade. Steed grins and asks if Jeremy is still after her “first editions”. He opens the next card and it has the gift hamper and cut-out trees from his nightmare on it - but is unsigned.
They drive down in Steed’s Bentley, and he uncannily seems to know the way to the house despite never having been there before. They arrive and he realises it’s the house from his nightmares. Jenkins (Robert James) escorts them to their rooms - and Steed sees the hamper in the middle of the great hall. They’re watched by Martin Trasker (Alex Scott), who goes and tells Jeremy Wade (Barry Warren) that they’ve arrived. Wade is amazed - she actually invited him! Martin smiles - that was the easy part, now they must continue the experiment to its conclusion and Janice Crane, a woman “whose powers make them look like fumbling beginners”, will be joining them soon. Trasker tells Wade to forget Mrs Peel and concentrate on Steed.
Mrs Peel, changed into ski pants and a jumper, enters Steed’s room and notes the Dickensian furnishings - Storey’s a Dickens enthusiast. Steed grumbles about getting the Old Curiosity Shop as Mrs Peel sits on the four-poster bed."I’ve always fancied myself in one of these", she enthuses and he replies, “So have I”. He tells her about the decorations and she’s concerned. They descend to the hall where Brandon Storey (Mervyn Johns) greets them enthusiastically, barely letting them get a word in edgewise. Wade approaches and kisses Emma then greets Steed. Trasker, sensing he may say too much, whisks him away to the library; Steed spots a blonde at the fireplace and goes to chat her up. Trasker meanwhile tells Wade they will proceed with phase 2 - Steed is a tough nut and can take it; he then lies to Wade, telling him Freddy died of natural causes, it was nothing to do with them.
Storey is telling Steed and Mrs Peel about his travels when they’re interrupted by Dr Felix Teasel (Edwin Richfield), who claims he met Storey long ago, then asks Steed if he’s tired. Storey pours Steed a drink and confides that he’s never met Teasel in his life. Teasel meanwhile asks Emma about Storey’s Dickens collection and she says Wade would know - they enter the library and she’s surprised to find no-one is there, but a statuette of Venus removing a thorn from her foot has been moved. Back at the seance table, three heads pore over Steed’s photo and Trasker’s voice intones how tired Steed is feeling. Steed starts repeating the words Trasker is saying and excuses himself to go and have a rest. Teasel notices Emma’s concern and reassures her sleep will refresh his mind.
Steed, however, has another nightmare, this time finding a Sydney Carlton costume in the hamper and being taken to the gallows. An attractive Madame Guillotine places the basket under the blade and Santa is the executioner, laughing heartily. Steed wakes when the blade crashes down, he emerges onto the landing and sees Janice Crane (Jeanette Sterke) arriving - she is the Madame Guillotine of his nightmare. He tells Mrs Peel, and rationalises the dream, noticing an engraving of Sydney Carlton on the wall. He tells her he felt “compelled” to sleep - she’s interested in his choice of words and asks which secrets Marshall was betraying. He thinks he’s already told her and says he told someone - she’s the only person he confides in. He pauses and says, “Ah well, maybe I dreamt it”. They both stop as the enormity of his words sink in.
Downstairs, Trasker tells Janice they will arrange a mind-reading parlour game and get Steed to join in willingly. Jenkins worries about doing it in front of the whole party and Wade wants to tell Steed what they’re doing but Trasker tells them it would give sceptics an opportunity to dismiss the experiment as a trick. He promises they will finish that night and Wade leaves; Janice asks if he’s indispensable and promises to watch him. Jenkins delivers Steed’s costume for the night’s ball - it’s Sydney Carlton, and Emma’s is Oliver Twist. When they descend, she asks Jenkins who chose the costumes and is told it was the luck of the draw - which she doesn’t believe for an instant. She asks Teasel about a hypothetical situation mirroring Steed’s and he tells her any patient like that would be on the verge of a mental breakdown. Janice enters the room and tells Steed, when he greets her, they’ve never met before. Trasker takes the opportunity to suggest she do her party piece and she agrees, so long as Steed helps her. She is to demonstrate her powers of ESP; Steed collects objects from the guests and she guesses them correctly. Storey had handed him a pack of cards and she forces him to hold one after another up for her to divine - but the face cards start morphing into the evil Santa. Mrs Peel senses there’s something wrong when he begins closing his eyes and she orders him to not resist and open his mind to her. Emma deliberately smashes a glass to break the connection. She stops Wade as he tries to leave the room and he confesses being part of a psychic experiment but can’t say who else is involved; he promises to see her upstairs later but Janice was watching...
When Mrs Peel keeps the rendezvous she finds Wade dead in Miss Haversham’s banquet room. She tells Steed but he is seemingly oblivious to her and wriggles his fingers inside his empty christmas stocking - Janice meanwhile can see nothing but toes wriggling in woolen socks. She seeks out Dr Teasel but he doesn’t believe her story, especially when they find Wade is no longer there. She sees Jenkins dropping pills in Steed’s nightcap and says she must stop him being drugged, but Teasel pulls a gun on her, saying Steed needs a good night’s sleep. He warns her not to think or talk about it - and we then see Steed lie down, the cup empty. Janice declares Steed is falling asleep and they start probing his mind. Mrs Peel then surprises Teasel and knocks him cold then rushes to rouse Steed. He “awakes” instantly and tells her he poured the drink down the sink. He then starts singing, to confuse the mediums, and tells her between verses that Teasel is from Security and Steed knew what was happening when he saw the trees downstairs. Furthermore, he knew Mrs Peel was being got at as well - why else did she invite him? - and they both start singing. Steed tells her he dreamt of Janice Crane, stark naked with a splinter in her foot; Mrs Peel remembers the statuette and realises where the villain are hidden. They visit the library and she turns the statuette, opening a hidden door. Inside is a hall of mirrors wherein they encounter Jenkins and Trasker. Mrs Peel defeats them then takes refuge amongst the mirrors when the Santa appears, brandishing a revolver. Steed saves her from ambush and shoots Santa, who’s revealed to be Brandon Storey.
Exit the Avengers on a surrey, Steed dangling a sprig of mistletoe from his crop. They lean towards each other as they drive away...
|Production dates:||18-Feb - 1/03/65||Drinks|
|Transmission dates:||Foreign title||
|France||21/09/73||(Faites de beaux rêves)|
|Italy||3/12/80||(Troppi alberi di Natale)|
|Spain||---||(Demasiados arboles de navidad)|