Series 5 - Episode 27½ stars
The Fear Merchants
by Philip Levene
Directed by Gordon Flemyng
Steed puts out a light
Emma takes fright
Middle-aged businessman Richard Meadows (Edward Burnham) wakes up, dressed
in pyjamas and a dressing gown, in the middle of Wembley stadium and the shock
of his agoraphobia drives him insane, a menacing figure wearing kid gloves
watching from the stands.
Steed summons Mrs Peel to help him investigate with a box of chocolates - the chocolates replaced with one of his Mrs Peel - we're needed! cards. At the hospital, she's shown Meadows and told he went to bed in Birmingham, 113 miles away, and ran English Earthenware plc - which won't run without him. He's not the first either, and Steed shows her John Tyler, found on a mountain in his pyjamas and dressing gown, and David Wallace, found on a raft in the Channel in a dinner jacket and cummerbund.
Meanwhile, fit young industrialist Martin Fox (Bernard Horsfall) is working out at a London gym while hefty Saunders (Declan Mulholland) flings his barbell about in the background. He goes to change, and is incapacitated by the shock of finding a mouse in his clothes... The Avengers investigate and realise all the businessmen were in the ceramics trade - Fox heading Fox, White and Crawley. Steed visits Crawley, who is rattled by Fox's attack, and a 'pointless' visit by a market research firm, the "Business Efficiency Bureau". He dashes off to try to find a replacement for Fox and the sinister White, the third director, enters - there's trouble at the kiln and nobody has Fox's knowledge of it. Steed sees Crawley off then notices his chauffeur, knocked out in the garage. He gives chase but the Rolls has already disappeared, the kid glove wearing driver ignoring Crawley's fear of speed and accelerating until the man passes out from shock...
Steed and Emma investigate and find an offer to merge the companies of all
the victims from a Jeremy Raven. Mrs Peel goes to search Crawley's office for
his response, and overhears White filling in a survey for a kid glove wearing
market researcher, who disappears abruptly after Mrs Peel makes a noise.
He returns to the BEB with White's questionnaire and is revealed as Gilbert
(Garfield Morgan) when he gives the form to Pemberton (Patrick Cargill), president
of the BEB. Pemberton congratulates Gilbert and Dr Voss (Annette Carell) on their
'treatment' for Crawley.
Mrs Peel tells Steed there was no response at all, so Steed visits Raven (Brian Wilde) under the guise of the Monopolies Commission. Raven proves to be a young eccentric with new economics in his head, who tells him his merger proposal was rejected by every party and what matters it if his competitors have fallen by the wayside?
Dr Voss finds White's weakness - a fear of birds - and Gilbert is dispatched with a hawk in a cage. White is scared out of his top storey window by it just before Mrs Peel arrives and Gilbert makes his getaway by tipping a display case on her. Steed revisits Raven and learns he called in the BEB to improve his results and eliminate his competitors. Steed tells him they've done that alright - 6 are insane and the other dead. Raven angrily visits the BEB but is blackmailed into continuing to pay them part of his profits. The lie detector in his chair has revealed he means to spill the beans though, so they plot to drive Raven insane as well - Dr Voss has already run the computer analysis and Gilber puts a thick wooden box containing a large spider on the table... Raven calls Steed to meet him, but when they arrive he's already been driven witless, a BEB brochure on the floor.
Steed arranges an appointment, claiming to be in the executive travel
business, Mrs Peel his only competitor - who is visiting Raven at the
hospital, where Dr Hill (Ruth Trouncer) says he's improving, but only for
short periods. The BEB discover Steed lied to every question and Gilbert,
following him to the hospital, is told to eliminate him. Steed discovers
Raven's arachnophobia but on the way home is waylaid by Gilbert, who tries
to bury him with a bulldozer. They fight and Gilbert is killed when the
bulldozer rolls into the pit they're in.
Dr Voss brings Mrs Peel in at gun point and they interrogate her - to no avail, as she refuses to crack. Steed finds a BEB card with help! scrawled across the back in her apartment and arrives just before they start to use medical instruments on her, as she'd proved beyond their fear detection techniques.
Steed realises Pemberton is afraid of the dark and disables the lights, while the chair-bound Mrs Peel disarms Pemberton and Voss in turn.
At her flat later, Steed carefully searches for any bugbears and Mrs Peel fears the chocolate box - might be empty! She then discovers Steed is afraid she might not have any champagne.
|Transmission dates:||Foreign title||
tea and coffee (from a thermos)
champagne (Moët et Chandon [?])
|Germany||19-Dec-67||(Schock frei Haus)|
|France||9-Jul-68||(Les marchands de peur)|
|Italy||23-Nov-73||(i mercanti di paura)|
|Spain||---||(Los mercaderes del terror)|
|Holland||17-May-69||(Handel in angst)|