Series 4 — Episode 20
The Danger Makers
by Roger Marshall
Directed by Charles Crichton
Production No E.64.10.20
Production completed: December 10 1965. First transmission: February 8 1966.
TV Times summary
In which Steed joins a Secret Society — and Emma walks the plank …
A General is the latest officer to die by deliberately putting himself at risk so the Avengers investigate. Groves was well-regarded by his troops but his Major is cagey, so Steed tells Emma to show him her bumps - the Major is interested in phrenology. They discover Major Robertson is a member of a secret society which allows Army men to experience the adrenalin rush of being in battle again, by performing crimes and taking risks. The leader is revealed to be the psychologist Dr Long, who want the society to steal the Crown Jewels. Steed and Emma are of course more than a match for well-trained killers and round up the gang before departing on mini-karts.
A masked motorcyclist prowls a country crossroads, ‘chicken running’ the vehicles passing through. He misjudges the speed of a lorry and collides with it; when the driver and his mate check him, they discover he’s wearing an Army uniform under his leather jacket. The driver’s mate finds a black rose tucked into his belt.
John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) visit Dr Long, a ministry psychiatrist. Steed tells her the rider was General ‘Woody’ Groves, a 60 year old general next in line for Chief of the General Staff, and mentions Admiral Jackson, who decided to cross the Atlantic in a Force 8 gale in a canoe. Dr Long (Douglas Wilmer) enters and tells her there have been seven others - the latest is Gordon Lamble, head of the Chemical Warfare Establishment, who fell while trying to climb the outside of St. Paul’s. They visit Lamble (John Gatrell), who is bruised and unconscious, and Steed decides he will visit Groves’ regiment while Emma stay at the hospital. Lieutenant Stanhope (Adrian Ropes) tells Steed that Groves was a good officer who knew all his men. Steed is introduced to Major Robertson (Nigel Davenport) as being from the War Office; Robertson grimaces and tells him he won’t have a good man’s name dragged through the dirt. He’d know Groves since he was a cadet at Sandhurst and considers him the best general he even served under. Robertson likens him to Caesar, Wellington and Napoleon - and, touching Napoleon’s head, admits he’s an amateur phrenologist. Robertson tells Steed that Groves never adjusted to admin and may have done chicken running to alleviate the boredom. Steed leaves, promising to pour oil on the War Office waters and Robertson marches to his desk, his hands shaking. He pulls a service revolver out of his desk, loads one bullet and spins the chamber. He puts the barrel to his temple and pulls the trigger - and he is calm, his hands steady.
Back at the hospital, Lamble climbs out the window when an orderly opens them and staggers back inside, watched by Emma and Dr Long, who then sedate him. Stanhope, practicing with grenades, tells Steed that Groves borrowed the motorbike from a junior officer but often did odd things - one morning he swam Kenton reservoir in full battle kit. Robertson interrupts them and sends Stanhope away; he tells Steed not to pay much attention to Stanhope, the general was a father-figure and the men hung on every word. Steed departs and another officer, Colonel Peters (Moray Watson), approaches the grenade bay and is greeted as “Jupiter”; he calls Robertson “Mercury” in return and tells him “Apollo” has a mission for him - Lamble has turned chicken and must be eliminated. Robertson proves his own resolve by pulling the pin from a grenade and hurling it away at the last possible second. That night, he abseils down the side of the hospital and enters Lamble’s room. He hears Steed talking to Mrs Peel in the next room and raises the risk to himself by opening the door, then he smothers Lamble with a pillow. He slams the door shut and Steed and Emma enter to find Lamble dead, an envelope containing four white feathers lying on his bed.
Steed breaks into Groves’ office, the Major appearing shortly afterwards and he seeks refuge at the top of a ladder. He watches Robertson bugle The Last Post and deposit a black rose in a box of medals. Descending, he discovers the box was presented to Groves by Wing Commander Watson. Steed visits Watson’s base and watches in horror as the Wing Commander laughs as his jet fighter plunges into the woods when he overshoots the runway. Steed notices an RAF officer (Richard Coleman) is holding Watson’s jacket, which has a black rose on the lapel. He confers with Emma - two roses, three corpses and four feathers - and tells her to infiltrate Robertson’s regiment as his explanation of an ankle injury was suspiciously false. She poses as the valuer from an auction house and lets slip a passion for phrenology. She correctly rates Napoleon an “alpha alpha minus” and confesses a fascination for all things military - the life, excitement, adventure and danger - he tells her he tasted the real army life before it disappeared. He sends her off to the museum before she can read a paper on the desk and then sets fire to it. Stanhope enters as Robertson rings “Apollo” and he hears him say that Groves’ connection to “the organisation” is being destroyed - Stanhope examines the desk after he leaves and finds a scorched photograph. He calls Steed, who is talking to Long, and asks to see him at 2130 in the grenade bay but Robertson gets there first and mows down Stanhope with a machine-gun. Steed rushes to the bay and finds the photograph in the dead man’s hand - it’s of Manton House.
He visits Emma and tells her Manton House is a military museum run by a Colonel Adams, he intends to chat to the “old boy” about his military recollections. Emma reveals she made progress with Robertson, who has sent her chocolates. Steed is startled and takes the box off her and orders her to stand back. He pries the box open carefully and mutters, “Ah, I thought so.. I’ve seen them before”. Emma asks him what it is and her tells her not to touch the wrapped ones. When she asks why, he unwraps one and declares, “Because I like them” before popping it in his mouth. Steed visits Manton, stopping to put a black rose in his lapel, and discovers Colonel Adams (Fabia Drake) is a military woman proud to uphold the glory of her forebears. Steed notices the family crest is black roses and white feathers - the black rose of courage rampant and the feathers couchant, she tells him. She tells him young officers are welcome to use the library, in fact they use the house as a sort of club - and Groves spent many hours at Manton with the younger officers.
Peters interrupts them to call Adams to the phone and notices Steed’s rose. He assumes Steed is from the Northern chapter and reveals that Adams knows nothing of the society; she’s in a dream world, recreating the Indian Mutiny in the potting shed. Peters asks if he were in on the Liverpool job and shows him the “inner temple”, the Black Rose Room. There are six photographs of courage on the wall - Watson and Groves among them. Peters asks Steed for his society name and is slightly taken aback when Steed says it’s “Bacchus”.
Robertson meanwhile asks Mrs Peel if she’s busy that night then checks she was serious about the spice having gone out of life. When she launches into a diatribe against modern safety standard he announces they’ll leave immediately - for Manton. He tears through the countryside at high speed, not slowing for crossroads or when passing trucks, and introduces her when they arrive to Peters and some other officers (Terry Plummer, Joe Dunne & Romo Gorrara) as a possible Diana or Athena. Robertson is surprised to find Steed in the Black Rose Room but Steed convinces him by saying to took some wangling to get the Groves assignment. Robertson tells Mrs Peel about “The Danger Makers” - a society designed to put some of the spice back into life. Members earn their black rose by undertaking the “Labours of Hercules” - physical and psychological tests which become increasingly difficult. She accepts the challenge and Robertson departs to prepare her initiation. “A bunch of schizoid, paranoiac psychopaths”, Emma opines after he leaves. Steed wonders who Apollo is and plans to search the premises while Emma undergoes her initiation. She’s chained to two metal loops which circle twisted metal rails - a current is passed through them, alternating from safe to very high voltage, if she touches a loop to a rail while the voltage is high, she will be killed, and she’s balancing herself on a series of see-saws. She makes it, ringing the danger bell once, then Apollo enters - it’s Dr Long, who points a pistol at Steed and bids them welcome to The Danger Makers.
Dr Long tells Steed he discovered while treating soldiers during the war that one in a hundred suffered mental regression when they weren’t exposed to danger - they missed the shock of war, having been conditioned to it. He devised a plan to harness this destructive energy and conditioned the men to crave danger, like drug addicts. Chicken runs are nothing - the real test, the theft of the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London, is their goal and it is set for the morrow. Long gloats at his plan for the crime of the century - the danger that had deterred others will only spur on his gang. Robertson enters to kill Steed, who acts nonchalant, reading a newspaper he’s picked off the ground. Steed observes that the Major’s hand is steady as a rock - “there’s more danger in stamp collecting!” he exclaims and tricks him into unchaining him and putting the revolver in the middle of the table, with one of them on either side. Steed cheats, of course, and knocks the Major out before cuffing him. Emma has also escaped and they re-enter the Black Rose Room as Long goes over the plans and attack, disarming the men one by one in a sword fight. Steed declares he will take on their leader in single combat and takes off after the escaping Long, followed by the other Danger Makers. Peters is aghast when Long pulls a pistol on the unarmed Steed and is gunned down by his own leader when he tries to interfere. Long turns on Steed but Peters has fallen against the generator for the electrified rails and Mrs Peel, thinking fast, send Long onto the rail by jumping on the other end of the see-saw. The mortified Danger Makers deposit their black roses on Long’s corpse before departing the room.
Steed describes the torturous sequence of connections that led him to Manton and then they depart on mini karts.
|Production dates:||15-Nov - 10/12/1965||Drinks|
|Transmission dates:||Foreign title||
|Germany||18/07/1967||(Der Club der Schwarzen Rose)|
|France||1/07/91||(Les chevaliers de la mort)|
|Italy||26/11/80||(La fabbrica del brivido)|
|Spain||---||(Los amantes del peligro)|