• title card: white all caps text with black dropshadow to the left reading ‘THE BIRD WHO KNEW TOO MUCH’ superimposed on Danvers lying on the floor of a fire-tower with bird seed spilling out of his jacket
  • subtitle card: white all caps text with black dropshadow to the left reading ‘STEED FANCIES PIGEONS -
			EMMA GETS THE BIRD’ superimposed on Danvers lying on the floor of a fire-tower with bird seed spilling out of his jacket
  • Youtube video — Emma opens her bay windows and a moment later an arrow shoots through it and lands in her bird sculpture. Attached to it is Steed’s signature summons, a card reading ‘Mrs. Peel WE’RE NEEDED!’
  • Sam and Steed enjoy a light lunch on board a punt in the river, their waiter is wearing waders
  • Sam and Steed pose for Tom Savage in his photographic studio, hands on hips and heroically posturing
  • Mrs. Peel wakes to find herself tied to a chair facing a pistol booby-trap
  • Emma leans forward over the desk, amazed by Jordan’s well-trained birds as he strikes a triangle to make one sing. He wears a mortar board with a yellow canary glued to the top
  • Emma interrogates Robin after dragging him from the swimming pool, keeping him captive by wrapping her ankles around his neck
  • Youtube video — Steed invites Emma to meet a bird — for lunch and they set off in a vintage Renault, which decides to go on reverse

Series 5 — Episode 5
The Bird Who Knew Too Much

by Brian Clemens
Directed by Roy Rossotti and Peter Graham Scott
based upon a story by Alan Pattillo

Steed fancies pigeons -
Emma gets the bird

Production No E.66.6.3
Production completed: November 10 1966. First transmission: February 8 1967.

Regional broadcasts

Rediffusion London10/02/19678:00pm
ABC Midlands11/02/19679:10pm
ABC North11/02/19679:10pm
Anglia Television10/02/19678:00pm
Border Television12/02/19678:10pm
Channel Television10/02/19678:00pm
Grampian Television27/12/19678:00pm
Southern Television8/02/19678:00pm
Scottish Television11/02/19679:10pm
Tyne Tees Television8/02/19678:00pm
Ulster Television28/12/19677:30pm
Westward Television10/02/19678:00pm
Television Wales & West10/02/19678:00pm

TV Times listing

TV Times listing for February 10 1967, 8pm (London edition)
Sydney Morning Herald listing for April 25 1967, 8pm

8.0 The Avengers
Patrick Macnee

as John Steed
Diana Rigg

as Emma Peel
The Bird Who Knew Too Much
By Brian Clemens

In which Steed fancies pigeons — and Emma gets the bird!

Cast also includes

Jordan Ron Moody
Samantha Slade Ilona Rodgers
Tom Savage Kenneth Cope
Verret Michael Coles
Twitter John Wood
Cunliffe Anthony Valentine
Robin Clive Colin-Bowler
Mark Pearson John Lee

Designed by Wilfrid Shingleton
Music by Laurie Johnson
Directed by Roy Rossotti
Produced by Albert Fennell
and Brian Clemens
Executive Producer
Julian Wintle

ABC Television Network Production

International broadcasts

ABN2 Sydney, Australia25/04/19678:00pm
ABV2 Melbourne, Australia24/04/19678:00pm
ABC New York, USA10/03/196710:00pm
ORTF2 France16/07/19688:30pm
Suisse Romande, Switzerland22/04/19689:15pm
French titleL’oiseau qui en savait trop
ZDF Germany29/08/19679:15pm
German titleEin Vogel, der zuveil wußte
KRO Netherlands
Dutch title
Svizzera Italiana18/01/19749:00pm
Italian titleil capitano crusoe
Spanish titleEl pajarraco que sabía demasiado

This episode was originally scheduled in the United States for February 10 1967, but was pre-empted by Escape in Time and shown exactly a month later, on March 10 1967, instead.

USA: New York Times week’s listing for February 10 1967, showing this episode before it was pre-empted
USA: Chicago Tribune week’s listing for February 10 1967, showing this episode before it was pre-empted
USA: New York Times listing for 10 March 1067, 10pm
USA: Chicago Tribune listing for March 10 1967, 9pm
Switzerland: L’Impartial listing for April 22 1968, 9.15pm
Switzerland: L’Impartial episode summary for April 22 1968
TV Svizzera Italiana: Radiocorriere listing for January 18 1974, 9pm
Spain: ABC Madrid listing for October 16 1967, 4.10pm
Germany: Hamburg Abendblatt listing for August 29 1967, 9.15pm

Episode Rating

Subject 0–5
4½ stars
Music 4 stars
4½ stars
4½ stars
Mastermind 3 stars
3½ stars
Emma 4 stars
Set Design
3½ stars
8½ stars

One of my favourites, even if it’s not quite in the top five. The characters are well played, the locations engaging and a fast-paced and thrilling storyline make for a great episode.

Steed eschews the telephone for more primitive communications means, and Emma gets an arrow in her wall.
Steed and Mrs. Peel investigate the deaths of two agents, killed by Robin and Verret. Strange photographs taken in a no-flying exclusion zone of sensitive government installations lead them to Sam, a pretty model and the photographer she works for. First Steed, then Emma pose for the camera, before Mrs. Peel is captured and placed in a lethal booby trap. Steed’s continued preference for entering by the window saves her, and they’re back on the trail. The key clue rests in the mind of Captain Crusoe, a prize parrot that has disappeared. Twitter is dispatched but Cunliffe proves to be the real culprit.
With the gang trussed up, Steed proposes they meet a bird, basted in red wine. but he has to shoot it first.

The Cars

Marque/Model Colour Number Plate
Bentley Speed Six 1926 British racing green RX 6180
punt varnished oak -
Austin 1800 maroon,white interior JYT 518D
Austin 12/4 saloon blue ... 1483
Lotus Elan S3 glacier blue SJH 499D
Vauxhall 1905
Owned by Lord Montagu and on display at Beaulieu — National Motor Museum.
yellow MV 9942

Who’s Killing Whom?

Victim Killer Method
Percy Danvers Robin V* Machine-gun
Frank Elrick Robin & Verret V* Pushed off scaffold into wet cement
Mark Pearson Verret V* Pistol
Click a name to see the face

The Fashions

Emma’s Fashions Steed’s Fashions
  1. navy and purple art nouveau shift over navy bermuda shorts
  2. tan skirt & jacket with high collar, scooped waist
  3. tan long-sleeved dress (mid-thigh length) with white shoes (maybe dress of above?)
  4. (1)
  5. union jack and hat!
  6. lilac sundress with blue & white patterned jacket
  7. blue zippered catsuit with orange trim, ring at neck & waist, mid-dark blue boots
  8. white dress, ankle length, six or seven small buttons, cloth covered, at the cleavage. Over layers of diaphanous cloth — there has been the suggestion that this is a housecoat or dressing gown or robe, with the implication that very little is being worn underneath.
  9. purple short catsuit thing with white trim, white garter boots and hood/hat windscreen thing — an indescribable outfit!
  1. mid brown single-breasted 3-piece suit with felt collar, 1 button at waist, matching bowler, white shirt, dark brown tie
  2. grey double-breasted overcoat & bowler, white shirt, purple tie, charcoal suit
  3. pale grey double-breasted suit, felt collar, flap pockets, 2 very long vents, wide skirt, grey chelsea boots, umbrella and bowler, white shirt, grey tie with white spot
  4. grey double-breasted overcoat on top of above
  5. grey single-breasted 3-piece suit with triangular flap pockets. bronze tie, beige shirt
  6. grey single-breasted 3-piece suit with 4 buttons, slanted flap pockets and 2 very long vents [continuity error]
  7. above with black bowler & umbrella
  8. dark grey double-breasted overcoat over below
  9. grey single-breasted suit with flap breast, dbl flap right w, sgl fl left, 2 button waist 2 vent, pale grey tie & bowler hat & umbrella, white shirt

Continuity and trivia

  1. Roy Rossotti was sacked as director of this episode and replaced by Peter Graham Scott, with Alan Hume directing photography in place of Wilkie Cooper.

  2. 1:44 — Danvers has a wet knee, but his knee is dry again at 2:00 as he runs down the tow path. It’s nearly dry when he leaps the barbed wire a bit later.
  3. 3:38, 7:29, 18:30–24:35 — The bird sculpture which receives Steed’s arrow in the intro winds up in Tom Savage’s studio (18:30–24:35) — a much sought-after piece! You might remember it turning up in the offices of Art Incorporated in The Girl from Auntie.

    The sculpture appears in the first six episodes on this season, turning up for the last time in The Winged Avenger (there are no scenes in Emma’s flat in The Living Dead, and she’s redecorating it in The Hidden Tiger).

    As Pat models... and as Emma does ...but wasn’t it here?
    ©1961–9 CANAL+IMAGE UK Ltd All Rights Reserved
  4. 9:50 — back-projection studio shot of Steed & Emma arriving outside Pearson’s flat, there’s a thread caught in the camera at top right.
  5. 12:20 — Patrick Macnee slightly fluffs one of his lines — he’s on the phone to HQ, and saying goodbye to Mrs. Peel as she leaves Pearson’s flat at the same time, and realises halfway through saying “you have to arrange the discreet removal of Pearson’s body” that he’s meant to be saying that into the phone, rather than to Emma.
  6. 12:30 — When Steed and Mrs. Peel arrive to see Pearson (9:48), they drive down a wide street with no side streets, and all the buildings plastered white, yet Verret and Robin are keeping watch across the street, parked in a side street alongside a red brick building (notice their wing mirror in the last shot of the sequence).
  7. 14:33 — It’s those doors again! This time at Heathcliff Hall.
  8. 15:40 — Twitter mentions a few of the bird owners — the Duke of Duffup and Lady Cynthia Cashwash — the Duke of Duffup was also one of Steed’s fake references in What the Butler Saw.
  9. 15:46 & 44:56 and throughout — Diana Rigg keeps saying “Captain Caruso” instead of “Captain Crusoe” ... I think she only gets it right once in the whole episode.

  10. 16:10 — Ever noticed that Sam and Steed have lunch at the same tow path that Danvers was chased and killed?
  11. 17:27 — Tom Savage’s studio must be near Mackiedockie Court (Escape in Time), as they’re both near the same Stone Street. And they must both be near Purbright & Co. (Quick-Quick Slow Death) which is on Mackiedockie Street.
  12. 25:24 — One pigeon refuses to leave the basket and Verret has to shake it out.
  13. 26:50 — Why doesn’t Robin kill Steed? He knows Verret has already been given orders to kill him and failed.
  14. 30:05 — Steed rings Mrs. Peel on 269 2644 in this episode, her number changes so often...
  15. 30:19 — Mrs. Peel has an answering machine, back in 1967 ... a big reel-to-reel tape job (it’s an Ansafone). She was keeping up with Steed, who had one in The Fear Merchants.
  16. 34:45–40:15 — A major continuity error at Jordan’s house — Emma parks her car at an angle across the driveway in front of an old Austin 12, in front of the front door of the house (34:47), but the Lotus has mysteriously vanished when Robin turns up in his Austin 1800 — only Jordan’s Austin 12 is visible is the long panning shot across the front of the house (35:17). Furthermore, the Lotus reappears in its previous position when Mrs. Peel runs for the cover of the brick wall, Jordan covering her as she approaches Robin (40:11).
    Emma casually parks her car But where is it now? Now it’s back!
    ©1961–9 CANAL+IMAGE UK Ltd All Rights Reserved
  17. 41:25 — Mrs. Peel might dive off that diving board, but Diana Rigg didn’t! That’s stuntman Peter J. Elliott diving off the board — Cyd Child gets the diving duties in the next episode, here (40:26–41:10) she just runs behind a car, over the fence and across the concrete — you can see a pigtail very briefly fly out from under her wig.
  18. 43:34 — There’s a thread stuck in the lens for this back-projection scene as well, it was probably filmed at the same time as the scene at 9:50.
  19. 43:34(43:17) — There’s colour shift in a driving scene because of the backdrop projection — making Mrs. Peel’s blue catsuit a deep green and muting Steed’s tie.
  20. 46:50 — There’s a stand-in for Anthony Valentine but not Patrick Macnee in the fight scene.
  21. 48:28 — You can tell they’ve reversed the film of the car driving backwards — all the smoke from the exhaust is going into the exhaust pipe.
  22. This episode is riddled with Hitchcock references -
    1. The title is a clear reference to The Man Who Knew Too Much.
    2. Professor Jordan was the villain in The 39 Steps.
    3. Everyone believes Captain Crusoe to be a person, which is similar to a plot twist in The Man Who Knew Too Much, involving Ambrose Chapel.
    4. Villains using birds in their schemes appear in Sabotage.
    5. A pair of killers (one more prominent than the other) appears in North By Northwest.
    6. Mistaken identity is prominent and also occurs in North By Northwest, and many others.
  23. John Wood and Patrick Macnee are the only actors to appear in the original series and the 1999 The Avengers film.
  24. Running time: 49′19″

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.

fan forum Donate Become a Patron!