Series 4 - Episode 167½ stars
Small Game for Big Hunters
by Philip Levene
Directed by Gerry O'Hara
A man (Peter Thomas) wades through a swamp then slashes through the deep undergrowth of a forest, pursued by native calls and the throb of jungle drums. His clothes torn and dirty, he scales a wire fence to escape but is shot with an arrow in the back. He collapses to the ground next to a milestone bearing the legend "London 23 miles".
Mrs Peel is summoned to the house of Dr Gibson, where Steed and Gibson (A.J. Brown) are examining the man. Steed tells her the victim is Gatt Kendrick, a local farmhand who disappeared four days ago and was discovered by Gibson alongside the Great South Road in a coma, sporting a deep tan and wearing tropical kit, with a native arrow in his back. Gibson found no trace of poison on the arrow. Kendrick stirs but slumps back into coma without answering any questions. They hear the beat of distant drums and go outside but the sound is gone - however, a strange mark has been chalked on Gibson's door.
Professor Swain (Liam Redmond), an entymologist with an interest in primitive cultures after lecturing at the Kalayan University, is called in and shows Mrs Peel an illustration of the cult of Shirenzai - bearing the same strange symbol. He tells her he could detect a victim of the African voodoo easily. Steed meanwhile visits the tropical outfitter (Tom Gill) who made the shirt Kendrick was wearing - it had been made for a Colonel Rawlings in 1929 and sent to him in Kalaya. Swain goes to examine Kendrick, much to Gibson's disgust - who storms out when faced with the "mumbo jumbo quackery" and goes outside for a quiet smoke. Gibson hears drums and goes to investigate... while inside Swain declares that Kendrick is gripped by Shirenzai and "will walk the dark forests of hell for eternity".
Swain leaves and Mrs Peel calls the Kalayan Embassy. She then goes outside and finds Dr Gibson comatose in the hedge with a Shirenzai symbol in his pocket. Steed arrives to examine Gibson. He tells her Kendrick and the other missing locals had served in Kalaya. She tells him that several Kalayan nationals work at the Kalayan Ex-Servicemens' Club, owned by Rawlings and he realises it's the same man - he goes to fetch the file from his car and encounters Razafi (Paul Danquah), a war-painted native who steals Rawlings' file and tries to stab Steed. Steed fends him off and returns inside - he'd already read he file twice so infiltration of the clib will not be a problem. Emma shows him where the Club is, "The Willows" is the house they can see at the end of the garden. "Now isn't that a coincidence?"
Steed enters Rawlings' garden armed with a stout sword stick and is ready for Razafi when he appears. He orders Razafi to take him to his leader but is lead into a Malayan tiger trap, and knocked out when it swings up to the boughs above. Steed awakes in the club house to the sight of mounted tiger heads, and the attractive native servant Lala (Esther Anderson). He sits up and is faced by the rifle of the game hunter Simon Trent (James Villiers), who has picked Steed's pocket to learn his identity - Major Steed. Steed asks to see the Colonel and Trent asks what for; Steed stares at him and suggests he join them and eavesdrop. Trent sneers at him and says he's not really dressed for where he's going.
They change into tropical gear and Trent leads Steed into an enormous artificial jungle - with under-soil heating and spraying equipment to maintain the humidity, and huge windows to filter the sunlight. The jungle even has dangerous wildlife such as huge snakes. Colonel Rawlings (Bill Fraser) rises grumbling from his netted hammock to greet Steed. He is a bluff old soldier with an eye patch who notices Steed is wearing his old regimental colours. Steed tells him they met some years ago at a regimental dinner. Rawlings thinks himself still in Colonial-era Kalaya and won't countenance Steed's cover story - that he lost his rubber plantation when the new government took over - he considers Kalaya to still be British. Trent quietly explains the Colonel couldn't handle the winds of change and they play along his fantasy of still being in the jungle. Mrs Peel meanwhile hears a noise and checks the patients, but finds nothing wrong. Rawlings asks Steed if he's been home recently and wishes he were back in England - he'd quite like a house in Hertfordshire - then sets off to order the natives about. He passes Fleming (Peter Burton) at the door, who goes to Trent and tells him, "I've just been out to the cottage, both of them are still there". Trent cuts him off and introduces him to Steed as their rubber expert. Trent then leads Fleming outside and Steed tries to eavesdrop on their conversation but all he hears in Fleming apologise for being careless. Rawlings shows a polite Steed his photo album while Steed despairingly watches Fleming and Trent disappear into the jungle.
Mrs Peel by now has fallen asleep and is startled awake by the front door slamming. She imagines she sees the face of an old tribesman (John Harrison), that resolves into a photo in one of the books on Kalaya. She goes to check the patients and finds them missing - Fleming and some natives are transporting them through the jungle, in netting slung from long poles. Steed meanwhile is playing cards with the Colonel - snap, of course - and they hear a commotion outside. They see the men being borne through the bushes and Rawlings tells Steed they've had an outbreak of sleeping sickness. Trent enters and tells Steed it's all a charade to please the old man. Swain meanwhile has returned to the cottage and declares the missing men are "walking the dark forests" as he predicted. Mrs Peel is sceptical and asks him if he's heard of glossina trypanosoma; he acts baffled and she chides him - he is an entomologist and ought to recognise the tse tse fly. He irately dismisses the suggestion that the men had sleeping sickness and leaves in a huff. She follows him out and finds he has disappeared, his broken spectacles lying in the gravel and a Shirenzai symbol painted on his car.
Steed, unable to leave the previous night, wakes early and creeps back to the house, watched by Razafi. Steed phones Mrs Peel and tells her the missing men are at Rawlings' but has to hang up before he can explain more. Trent enters and Steed explains he has a habit of a morning constitutional. Trent sneers that if he sees something moving at this time of day, it's all he can do to stop himself from shooting it - and cocks his rifle. They head back to the clubhouse, watched by Razafi, and Trent probes Steed's disaffection with the Kalayan government. Steed joins the Colonel for breakfast and Razafi collides with their table in passing. He whispers to Steed to meet him at the juniper tree at midnight - and Lala overhears.
Steed keeps the rendezvous and discovers Razafi is a Lieutenant of the Kalayan Intelligence Service and has an impeccable Oxford accent. He tells Steed Trent and Fleming are planning something against his government and leads him to a hut in the jungle - and Lala stalks them silently. Emma meanwhile crosses the garden and enters "The Willows", discovering herself overdressed when she enters the artificial jungle. Razafi tells Steed that Gibson, Kendrick and the other locals are guinea pigs for the plot. Lala stabs him before he can say more then runs off crying "Abu sla-tama!" - and Emma takes off after her. Razafi gasps that Steed should escape while he can, then dies in his arms. Emerging from the hut, Steed runs into Trent who misapprehends the situation and is impressed that Steed spotted and dealt with the "dirty spy" quickly and quietly. Trent decides Steed has proven his mettle and reveals their plot - they are going to return to Kalaya, and bring a new strain of tse tse fly, immune to all insecticides, with them. A simple inoculation will ensure the conspirators are not affected and 1,000 flies is all they need. "They breed like flies", enjoins Steed. Swain enters and happily adds, "The whole country will be paralysed within a week". Trent reveals that Swain is the mastermind of the operation and Swain tells him it's been easy to cover their traces by being in England and using a bit of mumbo jumbo.
Steed is openly startled at their ruthlessness, both to the Kalayans and the guinea pigs. Lala enters and Trent tells her to fetch Fleming. She ignores him so he grabs her shoulder - she turns and is revealed to be Emma. Steed and Mrs Peel quickly knock down the conspirators and steal the canister of flies then are chased through the jungle, Rawlings chuckling at the commotion. Steed defeats Trent in unarmed combat after the hunter empties the magazine of his rifle trying to kill him. Elsewhere, Emma is cornered by some of the natives who she fights off but is then caught by Fleming at gunpoint. Swain catches up and tells her, "You almost ruined everything, which arouses me to violence". Steed swings to her rescue, Tarzan-style, and they depart with the flies to "the old country".
They return to the house and the cold, wet English autumn weather. Steed opens the canister and places it out in the rain and notes that if the temperature falls below sub-tropical &emdash; "They die like flies!" Emma interjects.
Exit the Avengers downstream, in a canoe. Steed orders, "full speed ahead" and Emma says they'll have to start the other engine. Steed looks at her blankly for a second then grabs his oar and starts paddling.
|Production dates:||16-Sep - 1-Oct-65||Drinks|
|Transmission dates:||Foreign title||
brandy and soda
|France||24-Apr-67||(Petit gibier pour gros chasseurs)|
|Italy||26-Nov-80||(Piccolo gioco per grandi cacciatori)|
|Spain||---||(Un juego simple para grandes cazadores)|