• title card: white all caps text reading ‘SILENT DUST’ with faint outline superimposed on a close-up of the head of a scarecrow wearing a bowler hat
  • A soldier wearing a hazardous material suit sprays the wheels and undercarriage of a Land-Rover to prevent the spread of contamination
  • Roy Baker does Peter Hammond : Emma peers through Quince’s broken spectacles
  • Steed’s surreal dream sequence: Mrs. Peel plays an Old West doctor, extracting an enormous bullet from his wound
  • A unenthusiastic protester waves anti blood sports placards outside the pub where the Hunt is mustering
  • Steed ducks under a horse to evade the murderous lunge of Croft’s sickle
  • Steed displays superb horsemanship as he pivots his steed, brandishing a discarded placard as a weapon
  • Steed and Emma depart in a hot air balloon; she wears Victorian-inspired clothing to match the conveyance

Series 4 — Episode 14
Silent Dust

by Roger Marshall
Directed by Roy Baker

Production No E.64.10.13
Production completed: July 2 1965. First transmission: December 28 1965.

Production

Production dates: 14/06 – 2/07/1965

In contrast with his problems with Philip Levene’s scripts, Roger Marshall’s script for Strictly for the Worms, as this episode was originally titled, was readily accepted by ABC Programme Controller Brian Tesler. It was received by Tesler’s office and approved pretty much straight away as filming started in mid June.

This was another episode that took advantage of the glorious 1965 Summer, with extensive location shooting around Tykes Water Lake, Well End, Deeves Hall and other location in easy reach of the Elstree studios where the interior sets were constructed. Roy Baker had assembled a brilliant guest cast who demonstrated some proficiency on horseback and delivered a beautifully bright episode that belied the dark undertones of the subject matter.

Filming proceeded without a hitch, Cliff Diggins and Ray Austin doing the difficult stunt work, although Patrick Macnee did all his own riding and some vaulting of walls. Roy Baker interspersed stock footage of a fox hunt with footage of his actors in a convincing manner and evokes a sequence from The List of Adrian Messenger (1963) in the climactic hunt. He also pay homage to Peter Hammond, using one of his trademark shots through glass at the end of Act I.

Three months after filming, Julian Wintle sent a memo on October 4th informing staff that the episode title had been changed to Silent Dust but some promotional material used both titles.

Regional broadcasts

BroadcasterDateTime
Rediffusion London31/12/19658:00pm
ABC Midlands1/01/19669:05pm
ABC North1/01/19669:05pm
Anglia Television30/12/19658:00pm
Border Television2/01/19669:35pm
Channel Television1/01/19669:05pm
Grampian Television31/12/19658:00pm
Southern Television1/01/19669:05pm
Scottish Television28/12/19658:00pm
Tyne Tees Television1/01/19669:05pm
Ulster Television31/12/19658:00pm
Westward Television1/01/19669:05pm
Television Wales & West1/01/19669:05pm

TV Times listing

TV Times listing for December 31 1965, 8pm (London edition)
Sydney Morning Herald listing for July 19 1966, 8pm
The Age listing for July 29 1966, 8pm

8.0 The Avengers
starring
Patrick Macnee

as John Steed
and
Diana Rigg
as Emma Peel
in
Silent Dust
By Roger Marshall

In which Steed watches birds — and Emma goes hunting …

Cast also includes

Omrod William Franklyn
Juggins Jack Watson
Mellors Conrad Phillips
Croft Norman Bird
Miss Snow Janna Wake
Clare Prendergast Isobel Black
Sir Manfred
Fellows
Charles Lloyd Pack
Quince Aubrey Morris

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

ABC Television Network Production

International broadcasts

BroadcasterDateTime
ABN2 Sydney, Australia19/07/19668:00pm
ABV2 Melbourne, Australia29/07/19668:00pm
ABC New York, USA---
ORTF2 France9/05/19678:03pm
Suisse Romande, Switzerland15/10/19669:35pm
French titleLa poussière qui tue
ZDF Germany8/11/19669:30pm
German titleTödlicher Staub
KRO Netherlands30/05/19679:00pm
Dutch titleDodelijke mest
Italy29/10/80 C51
Italian titleMorte silenziosa
Spain17/07/19674:05pm
Spanish titleEl polvo del silencioso

Italy did not show this episode in the 1960s, the Italian titles are from the Tele Torino International broadcast in the 1980s, and DVD releases.

This episode was scheduled for May 2 1967 in the Netherlands, appearing in listings in Dagblad de Stem and Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant but is not in the listing for that date in Leidsh Dagblad — it seems the documentary about the Nazi Reichcommissar who install a reign of terror in Holland during World War II, Wie was Arthur Seyss-Inquart? took two hours, as “Dodelijke mest” reappears a couple weeks later, on May 30 1967 — although different papers give different times of broadcast! Dagblad de Stem incorrectly says 9.20pm, giving The Avengers only half an hour, but Leidsh Dagblad says 9pm.

Spain: ABC Madrid listing for July 16 1967, 4.05pm
France: L’Impartial listing for May 9 1967, 8pm
Switzerland: Journal de Genève listing for October 15 1966, 9.35pm
Switzerland: Journal de Jura episode summary
Germany: Hamburg Abendblatt listing for November 8 1966, 9.30pm
Netherlands: Dagblad de Stem listing for May 30 1967, with The Avengers incorrectly at 9.20pm
Netherlands: Leidsh Dagblad listing for May 30 1967, 9pm

Episode Rating

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

Marshall’s writing is superb, larding the script with literary references, but the central plot is unrewarding with the villains being run of the mill.

The Fashions

Emma’s Fashions Steed’s Fashions
  1. black t-shirt with a white ‘E’ on the left breast, straw boater with striped band and black hipster pants, bare feet
  2. (1) with hounds tooth jacket (5 leather buttons, starting below the breast, patch pockets on hips)
  3. black tam o’shanter, black long-sleeved t-shirt with grey vest, held by two buttons at breast and waist, and matching knee-length skirt, brown mary-jane shoes
  4. snakeskin print PVC jacket with silver buckles at waist and epaulettes, fastened by invisible buttons, black pants and black and white shoes
  5. (3) without the hat
  6. black sleeveless top with low neckline, fastened by black spherical buttons
  7. black cotton long-sleeved t-shirt and black trousers, the snakeskin jacket being carried, honeycomb print head scarf worn around neck
  8. (7), with the jacket being worn and the head scarf on the head
  9. Old West Frontier Doctor costume (dream sequence)
  10. (7) without the scarf
  11. bed sheet and riding crop
  12. tan overcoat over riding gear — jodhpurs, riding boots, black jacket and bowler, white nit gloves, white socks and shirt, white cravat, gold pin
  13. ruffled and pleated Victorianesque blouse with straw hat held on with light crepe scarf
  1. striped blazer, white trousers and open-neck collared shirt (rectangular cuff links), cravat, light deck shoes
  2. grey three-piece suit (cloth buttons, two at waist, covered pockets) with white shirt and dark silk tie, black bowler and umbrella
  3. dark suit of a similar cut, without pockets, with white shirt and dark silk tie
  4. (3) with black overcoat
  5. brown hunting jacket (2 vents, four buttons on chest) with monochrome plaid waistcoat and silk cravat with gold pin, white shirt, tan trousers, chelsea boots
  6. (5) with stovepipe hat and plaid cravat
  7. Old West Sheriff’s outfit (long johns and sheriff’s badge) (dream sequence)
  8. (6) without jacket, waistcoat and hat, using Mrs. Peel’s head scarf as a sling for the right arm
  9. (6) with rollneck skivvy, no waistcoat or cravat
  10. riding gear : tan riding jacket with silk black top hat, white shirt, white cravat with gold pin, tan jodhpurs, black riding boots with tan tops

The Cars

Marque/Model/Type Number Plate
punt -
Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III 1 CBK
Land Rover SWB softtop DYH 811C
Caravan -
hot-air balloon -
horses -

Who’s Killing Whom?

Victim Killer Method
Quince Juggins V* strangled
Click a name to see the face

Continuity and trivia

  1. Roger Marshall’s script was somewhat inspired by Rachel Carson’s book "Silent Spring" (Houghton Mifflin, 1962), about the environmental dangers of pesticides, particularly to birds. The book was a sensation and lead to the banning of DDT.
  2. 1:36 — the first few birds to fall are thankfully obviously stuffed, the rest seem to be thrown in the air and let fall. The very first one we see fall lands as a different bird!
  3. 2:10 onwards — the punting scene on the river or lake was filmed at Tyke’s Water Lake.
  4. 3:06 — Mrs. Peel comments on the wine, saying “Let’s hope it may give me the strength to make the return journey”, and Steed replies, “Well, I hope it gives me the strength to pull the cork!”.
    In the original script, Mrs. Peel simply sarcastically asks, “Good for blisters?”
  5. 3:15 — Steed quotes Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 6 — “the temple-haunting martlet”.
  6. 5:00 onwards — The information about the black-capped petrel is correct, this rare Caribbean bird was found, “exhausted and disoriented in the middle of Norfolk in 1850” (https://www.bto.org/understanding-birds/birdfacts/black-capped-petrel) It’s no longer correct though as long after this episode was made, a dead petrel was found on the tide-line of a Yorkshire beach in 1984.
  7. 5:24 and throughout — Quince’s spectacles have holes in the middle of the lenses so the actor can see normally, just as Harold Kasket’s do in Stay Tuned.
  8. 6:07 — You can see a flare guard in view at the top right of the screen.
  9. throughout — it’s the same old barn buildings used in the location shooting as in Man-eater of Surrey Green — the interior shots confirm it beyond doubt (now Deeves Hall Cottage, near Ridge).
  10. 7:45 — Scenes 10-18, where Steed is with the Minister, were written to be straight after Quince asking Mrs. Peel where all the marlets have gone but the episode has been reordered so scenes 19, 19A & 20 (Mellors stopping them in the field to Omrod talking to Juggins in the barn) come first. This moves the scripted USA commercial break to after when Juggins says “Lucky for you I am, isn’t it?”
  11. 10:16 — Silent Dust is described as an organo-chlorine fertilizer that went wrong, killing first the earthworms, then the birds. The minister says it has it’s own built-in early warning system — the birds disappear.
  12. 14:17 and 14:48 — Clare says her father died in the cold snap at the end of March, then tells Omrod he has been six months dead, putting the events in late September, but filming took place in June/July, so the clothes and exterior shots don’t fit the storyline.

  13. 15:20 onwards — The outside of the Stirrup Cup Inn is Well End Lodge, Well End, but it’s the same pub interior set as in Man-eater of Surrey Green, with the exterior door moved to a different wall.
  14. 15:27 — Croft, showing one of his roses to Mrs. Peel, quotes Francis Thompson’s “Daisy” (1893) stanza 10, and Mrs. Peel chimes in with the concluding line :
    The fairest things have fleetest end,
    Their scent survives their close:
    But the rose’s scent is bitterness
    To him that loved the rose.

    In reply, she misquotes Robert Herrick’s 1648 poem “The Rose”, which Croft readily identifies. Why do I say misquotes? She says “ne’er a rose without a thorn” but, as printed in the script but in Hesperides, the poem is:

    The Rose.

    Before Mans fall, the Rose was born
    (S. Ambrose sayes) without the Thorn:
    But, for Mans fault, then was the Thorn,
    Without the fragrant Rose-bud, born;
    But ne’er the Rose without the Thorn.
  15. 17:41-50 — Juggins’ identifying tattoo looks very fake.
  16. 18:07 — Roy Baker ends Act I with an homage to Peter Hammond, Mrs. Peel’s face distorted and reflected through Quince’s broken spectacles. Ray Austin did a similar thing in All Done with Mirrors.
  17. 18:21 — when Mrs. Peel tells Steed about Quince being frightened by Omrod’s gamekeeper Mellors, he chortles and, referring to “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”, says, “Mellors? not the gamekeeper?”
    Oliver Mellors was the gamekeeper central to the plot of D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and the character here has the same name and occupation.
    Privately published in 1928 but banned in unexpurgated commercial editions in the UK until Penguin Books published it in paperback in 1960 and was prosecuted by the government in the trial Regina v Penguin Books Ltd. “Penguin Books was prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act, 1959 at the Old Bailey in London from 20 October to 2 November 1960.” (dedication in the 1961 second edition, which went on to thank the jurors for returning a not guilty verdict).
  18. 20:00 — Emma looks on as Steed chats up Beryl, playing shove ha’penny.
  19. 24:45 & 26:59 etc. — Cliff Diggins is doing Patrick Macnee’s stunts again.
  20. 26:05 onwards — after scooping some unknown powder into an envelope with his bare hands, Steed then takes an apple from a crate and bites into it. Was he paying no attention at Manderley?
  21. 27:17 — This episode is unusual in that it shows one of our normally invincible heroes wounded. Steed is shot by a shotgun and caught in a gin-trap. However, while Steed briefly limps and has him arm in a sling, he’s right as rain the next day for the Hunt. There’s only so much realism you can have in The Avengers.
  22. 28:21 — product placement for Smith’s Crisps.
  23. 31:00 — the bat that flaps away in annoyance when Mrs. Peel lights the lamp is clearly not flying, but being waved about on a set of wires from a stick (even if you don’t actually see the wires except for a single frame at 31:01 as it crosses Mrs. Peel’s face, and several from 31:03 onwards).
  24. 31:53–33:24 — a surreal dream sequence where Emma is a moustachioed, red eye whiskey guzzling, sawbones removing an impossibly large bullet from the wounded sheriff Steed. She uses a bowie knife and pliers to remove the enormous bullet.
  25. 32:51 — the flame starts a millisecond before Emma starts blowing her whiskey breath onto it.
  26. 32:36/33:56 — there was a corrupt frame on the DVD at 32:36, it’s not there on the blu-ray at the corresponding time.
  27. 34:48 — Isobel Black had dropped the American accent she used earlier.
  28. 38:37 — Juggins’ horrific lines about young Willy Gans going on a hunt as solo treble for the choir and coming back an alto are cut, the edit disguised by a sudden close-up of a stuffed fox’s head.
  29. 41:47 — Cliff Diggins does Steed’s vault over the five-bar gate.
  30. 42:23 — when the horse is scared by Croft’s hand raised with the sickle in it, Norman Bird quickly grabs the halter to prevent her running away.
  31. 42:43 onwards — stunt doubles for the fight — it’s Cliff Diggins again for Steed and Ray Austin wearing a false moustache for Norman Bird.
  32. 42:45 onwards — nice intercutting of Macnee & Bird in CU with the stunt doubles in MS.
  33. 42:57 — you can just see that Macnee’s hat has already been sawn through before it’s shorn off by the sickle.
  34. 43:20 — the horse has had enough once Croft ends up in the trough and she skitters away.
  35. 44:54 onwards — Beryl Snow & Mrs. Peel have morphed into two large stuntmen for the sequence where Mrs. Peel leaps from her horse to Beryl’s, taking her to the ground — Billy Westley Jr for Diana, I think, but the other man I can’t identify.
  36. 45:12 — why is Steed’s grey outside the barn?
  37. 46:27 — Jack Watson is replaced by a double, possibly a member of the hunt used as an extra, as he leaps onto the horse as they take off after Mrs. Peel at 46:36. William Franklyn is an excellent rider and does all his own stunts.
  38. 46:50 — there’s a wavy hair caught in the top of the camera lens at the top.
  39. 47:07 — there’s a thread caught in the top of the camera lens at the top in the mid shot.
  40. 48:05 — stuntman Billy Westley Jr leaps over the barbed wire fence for Diana Rigg.
  41. 48:55 — Billy Westley Jr replaces Dian Rigg again in the long shots, moving around the tree trying to avoid Juggin’s whip.
  42. Steed’s grey horse in this episode was previously ridden by Laurence Olivier in Henry V. I wonder if Larry showed such expertise on horseback.
  43. The often-told story about this episode is that prior to filming, Diana Rigg had never ridden a horse, and was reportedly terrified the first day of filming. After a few bruises, and some swift lessons, she was back in the saddle and they completed filming. I used to think this wasn’t true as she seemed perfectly at home on horseback in the tag scene of Two’s a Crowd, filmed two months earlier — but the blu-ray release reveals that she had a stunt double for that scene. At 44:25 it looks like Diana has been replaced by a female stunt double in this episode as well but at 44:42 she seems well in control of her Steed (ha ha).
  44. Billy Westley Jr does some of Diana Rigg’s stunts, crammed into her clothes with an ill-fitting wig, as usual. Patrick Macnee seems to do most of his own stunts, replaced a few times by Cliff Diggins. Macnee was an excellent horseman after all, even the scene where he and Croft fight around and over (!) a skittish horse. Macnee also performs the entire scene where he chases after Juggins on horseback, treating him like a polo ball and using a protester’s placard as his mallet.
  45. Running time 51′47″

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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