Series 4 — Episode 21
A Touch of Brimstone
by Brian Clemens
Directed by James Hill
A wave of practical jokes is damaging Britain’s international standing and when a VIP is killed by one, the Avengers step up their hunt for the perpetrators.
Mrs Peel discovers that Cartney, the chief suspect, runs a recreation of a Regency Hellfire Club and she witnesses an angry member challenge Cartney over the killing; the next day, his body is fished from the river. Steed and Emma attend a debauched orgy at the Hellfire Club and notice a sedan chair filled with dynamite heading for the basement which is linked by tunnels to Parliament. Emma is drugged and dressed as a dominatrix, in corset and spiked collar, while Steed realises they have discovered a modern Guy Fawkes consipracy and duels with the club’s leading swordsman. Emma recovers and defeats the gang members in the basement, killing Cartney, while Steed imprisons the rest.
The Avengers depart in a four horse carriage.
The Hon. John Cleverly Cartney (Peter Wyngarde) pushes an armchair into his drawing room to watch a visiting diplomat, Boris Kartovski (Steve Plytas), give a speech on television. Kartovski lights a cigar and outlines the success he’s had in bringing East and West together and Cartney grins maliciously when the diplomat’s cigar explodes in his face.
Some time later, John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) attend the Opera where the next prospective victim of a practical joke - a visiting SSheik (Paul Beradi) who is negotiating an oil treaty - is the guest of honour. Steed tells her Kartovski climbed back over the wall and shut the door behind him, and the oil treaty is at risk - the jokes may be childish but they’re expensive for the country. Sure enough, the sheik’s seat collapses under him and he storms out - and Cartney is in the audience, grinning over Steed’s shoulder. Afterwards, Steed tells Emma Cartney is the prime suspect - he’ll tackle Cartney’s friends while she visits Cartney. He’s playing his harpsichord when she arrives and she tells him she’s come to appeal to him. “You certainly do that”, he replies and asks her out after offering a 1,000 guinea donation to her charity - “Your eyes have a remarkable depth”. She declines the offer and demands the cheque, which he writes out - she notices his diary has and entry for the day: “4.30 Friendship”.
Lord Darcy (Colin Jeavons) suddenly appears and Mrs Peel see herself out. Darcy tells Cartney he “went to the jolly old place and did everything he said”. The sullen Willy Frant (Jeremy Young) enters and confirms all went as planned and Darcy excitedly looks forward to the joke they’ve planned
Steed breaks into Darcy’s flat where his manservant, Horace (Robert Cawdron) is cleaning. He finds a Regency costume and some novelty scissors in the cupboard then beats a hasty retreat when Horace discovers him. Mrs Peel tells Steed about the diary entry and they realise the opening of the Hall of Friendship that day will be the next target. They race to the ceremony, watching the proceeding on Steed’s in-dash television set. Before they can reach the Hall, the VIP is killed when his scissors contact the electrified tape. Steed screeches to a halt and they sit, appalled by just happened. They’re not the only ones - Darcy returns home, shattered by the events and soaked to the skin, and is offered a cup of cocoa by Horace. He rings Cartney, who is lolling on a divan with Sara (Carol Cleveland) and refuses to see him - Cartney tells Darcy if he has a complaint to bring it up at the next meeting. Darcy shrugs off Horace’s cocoa and says he’s going to his club; “Not that club, my club in town”, he rejoins when Horace offers to fetch his costume.
Steed finds Darcy at his club and presumes upon a fictitious past acquaintance to join him then plies him with brandy. Mrs Peel meanwhile arrives at Cartney’s estate and is asked to stay on the see the fun of Cartney’s club, much to Sara’s annoyance. Darcy meanwhile tells Steed all he did was get Willy into the hall; he had to play the joke, it’s one of the rules of The Hellfire Club. Mrs Peel meanwhile is led down to The Hellfire Club, where Roger Winthrop (Michael Latimer) and Tubby Bunn (Bill Wallis) are leading the revels with Willy. She’s introduced to them as the Lords Lakeham, Ragsland and Cartigan and given the seat of the guest of honour, but is frankly appalled by the behaviour of those assembled. Steed meanwhile tells Darcy he was duped and is not responsible for the murder, he fixes him a hangover cure called “National Anthem” but finds Darcy has gone when he brings to him.
Darcy has gone to the club, where Cartney has detected a note of disapproval in Mrs Peel’s response to his misogynistic view of his club. Darcy storms into the club, angry at having been used and shouting the rubber scissors were just an excuse. Cartney orders him silent but he demands to talk abd Cartney is forced to call a special meeting of the superior members; himself, Roger Winthrop, Tubby Bunn and Willy Frant. They descend to the cellar where the “superiors” don hooded robes and masks, and Darcy is made to stand in the Circle of Justice. Darcy demands to know why they plotted a murder and, when they fail to answer, says he’ll go to the authorities. Cartney nods to Willy, who pull a torch, opening the circle and sending Darcy plunging into the cold river below.
Steed and Mrs Peel pay their last respect to Darcy body and Cartney appears; Steed takes to opportunity to ask about the club, which he claims Darcy had told him about. Later that day, Steed is presented for initiation. First, he has to drain a massive tankard - then asks for a small top-up. Cartney insists he then undertake “the ultimate test” - Roger is fast and accurate with a battle axe and Steed has to remove a dried pea from a board before he can chop it in twain. Willy once lost two fingers trying and Cartney considers Roger unbeatable. Steed wins of course, by cheating - blowing the pea off the board - which delights the club members, except Cartney, who is suspicious. Steed is congratulated and told to attend the following night, the “Night of All Sins”. He departs but, hearing Cartney bring up the last item on the agenda, returns to eavesdrop. Cartney announces they have embarrassed the government and cause unrest within its ranks. The next step is to be a coup so outrageous it will have the country up in arms - the next night, their revels hiding the real activity. He hears a noise and silences the members - then there’s a tapping at the door, Steed enters and returns Cartney’s snuffbox before departing.
Steed and Emma attend the revels in Regency costume and discover a debauched orgy. They notice a sedan chair, apparently loaded with fireworks and Emma follows it to the cellars. She sees Cartney supervising the removal of TNT from the chair and returns to warn Steed but Cartney whisks her away to be dressed by some “ladies in waiting”. A drunken Sara grabs Steed and tells him John said the club is an exact replica of the original Hellfire Club, in more ways than one. She then reveals the original had great political sway and briefly ran the entire country. john plans to topple the government, and she tells him one of the catacombs leads to Culverstone House, where a cabinet meeting is taking place that night. Cartney stops the revels to introduce the Queen of Sin, the epitome of all that is evil - Mrs Peel, drugged and dressed as a dominatrix: black corset and underwear, laced boots, spiked collar, chain and snake - Cartney offers her to the members as a plaything and they carry her off down some stairs...
A short time later, she’s ringside as Horace bare-knuckle fights a big man (Alf Joint). Horace recognises Steed, who is ordered to duel Willy. Mrs Peel slips out, pursued by Cartney with a whip. Steed takes on Willy, driving him out of the fighting hall and locking the door behind him - trapping the other club members. They fight through the banquet hall and Willy is disarmed, but reveals barbed knives in his prosthetic fingers. Steed defends himself and removes Willy’s artificial hand. Willy regains his sword and they fight on, with Steed finally prevailing.
Emma meanwhile has descended to the catacombs where she defeats the huge man (Bill Reed) and spry little Pierre (Art Thomas) who had been fighting in the arena earlier. Cartney enters and applauds her skill then asks how she is with the big boys. He whips her several times but is killed when his whip wraps around the trap-door torch and he plunges to the river below.
The case closed, Steed and Emma depart, driving a coach and four.
|Transmission dates:||Foreign title||
‘National Anthem’ (hangover cure)
|Germany||5/11/98||(Die Nacht der Sünder)|
|France||1/07/91||(Le club de l’Enfer)|
|Italy||3/12/80||(Un pizzico di zolfo)|
|Spain||---||(Un toque Diabólico)|