Series 5 — Episode 11
by Brian Clemens
Directed by James Hill
Steed catches a falling star
Emma makes a movie
Production No E.66.6.11
Production completed: February 27 1967. First transmission: March 29 1967.
TV Times summary
In which Steed catches a falling Star — and Emma makes a movie!
A man resembling Steed is auditioned for a non-speaking part - a corpse.
Mrs Peel is already needed before Steed can get in the door, summoned to a remote country lane by an anonymous telephone call. Steed tags along, fearing a trap, but only an old priest on a bicycle disrupts the blustery calm of the country. The priest is in fact an old actor, who has just filmed Mrs Peel for a screen test as the star of a film, “The Destruction of Emma Peel”. Mrs Peel is kidnapped by the villains, Von Schnerk, Syn and Kirby. Chased around the set, shot at and attacked with swords and tomahawks, then finally tied to a circular saw, Mrs Peel looks set to have her dying moments filmed... Steed makes himself the understudy for the actor playing his corpse and finishes Von Schnerk’s plans to make the epic of the century.
Emma decides she would rather not see an old Stuart Kirby film at the Plaza, and the Avengers decide to stay in for the night.
Two washed-up old matinee idols, Damita Syn (Isa Miranda)
and Stewart Kirby (Peter Wyngarde) audition an actor resembling Steed (Anthony Dawes) for their director,
Z.Z. von Schnerk (Kenneth J Warren); it’s a non-speaking
part - a corpse, as Kirby shoots him with a revolver.
John Steed (Patrick Macnee) rings Mrs Peel’s bell, but she tells him she is "already needed, elsewhere", summoned to a remote country lane by an anonymous telephone call. Steed tags along, fearing a trap, but only an old priest on a bicycle disrupts the blustery calm of the country. The priest is in fact Kirby in disguise and he’s just filmed Emma Peel (Diana Rigg). Steed and Emma return to her flat and listen to her recording of the phone call - Steed has a vague recollection of the voice but can’t quite place it; he arranges a dinner date with her that evening and leaves. Meanwhile, Schnerk likes her screen test and approves of Emma as the star of his new film.
von Schnerk sabotages Mrs Peel’s Lotus, then Kirby appears in the lane, disguised as a cabbie dropping off an old woman - Damita in disguise. Mrs Peel hops in and when she realises they’re going the wrong way, Kirby turn on a canister of knock-out gas and delivers her to Stage 4 of Schnerk Studios (actually Elstree Studios). Schnerk re-electrifies the fence and gate after they enter. Emma comes to later, apparently in her flat, but soon discovers it’s a film set, as is the Lotus and street ‘outside’. Kirby passes in the cab and she sets off in pursuit, arriving at a church set with a bridal Rolls Royce outside, a wedding invitation on its bonnet and wedding bells pealing. She sees a vicar on a hill beckoning - Kirby again - and he pushes her down the other side. She gets up to see the Rolls-Royce is now a hearse, a single tailor tolling for a funeral. Kirby drives off in the hearse saying, “we’re waiting for you, Mrs Peel” and all the gravestones are revealed to have her name on them.
Emma sees the dead actor, at first thinking he’s Steed,
then encounters Damita casually knitting a scarf, dressed
in a Grecian robe and sitting on a throne. She confronts her
about the actor when Kirby bursts in, dressed as Alexander
the Great, and attacks his ‘evil little sister’, Emma.
Emma gets the upper hand in the fight, but Damita hits her
on the head and knocks her out.
Emma comes to later, lying on a bed with a holster strapped to her thigh. She finds Kirby waiting for her, dressed as a bandit propping up a Wild West bar and he challenges her to a quick draw duel. She draws first and he falls melodramatically, she checks the ‘corpse’ and leaves, confused, without spotting Syn and Schnerk filming from a nearby platform. Schnerk is ecstatic about what will be his masterpiece - a compendium of all his previous works.
Steed arrives at Emma’s flat and is worried by her
absence - he plays back the recording again and again, trying
to jog his memory. Schnerk meanwhile tells his ‘puppets’
he wants to open up the film, and the stage door opens
onto the film lot. Mrs Peel emerges - to a hail of machine
gun fire from Kirby, dressed as a WWI German officer.
She runs from him, only to encounter Damita coming the other
way, dressed as a hussar. Next, it’s a red indian Kirby
with a tomahawk that she defeats, after discovering the gun she
has contains blanks. “You’re supposed to win, Kirby!”, screams
Schnerk, hastily writing ‘pink pages’ for a script revision.
He watches the rushes in disgust and orders a re-shoot and plans
the climax - the real death of Emma Peel.
Emma meanwhile encounters a policeman (David Lodge) on a bicycle and shows him the dead actor - a confused Schnerk sees them and says he didn’t cast a policeman. “I’ll write him in, and then I’ll write him out again!” Sadly, the policeman is a former film extra reliving his glory days and can’t believe Emma’s there in deadly earnest. He refuses to heed Emma’s warnings, not wanting to miss his chance of a scene with Stewart Kirby, and is killed.
Steed finally remembers the voice - a recollection of Hamlet’s soliloquy by Kirby - when Emma encounters a US Civil War remake of the Alexander scene, with Kirby playing a returned Southerner. This time, Emma anticipates Damita’s strike, but is knocked out by Kirby instead. Schnerk decides the film has reached its climax, “where the diabolical arch fiend reveals his terrifying purpose” - and promptly does just that, telling Mrs Peel they’re making a movie with her the star, but it’s a downbeat piece in which the heroine dies. A tragedy, a drama, that will place him forever among the ranks of the immortal movie makers - “Confusion, desperation, fear, horror... death, and all of authentic.” He chose Mrs Peel because of her unique combination of courage and beauty for his magnum opus, “The Destruction of Emma Peel”, a Z.Z. von Schnerk pro-DUCTION! (Emma does an impression of the MGM lion).
Steed arrives at the studio and finds a way over the
fence, using a cinematography ladder, while inside
Mrs Peel has been strapped to the bench of a band saw
in true silent movie villain style. A swinging pendulum
and gruesome decor set the scene for Kirby and Syn,
dressed as frankensteinian ghouls, to menace her.
"I think I’m in danger of becoming a split personality",
she quips, looking at the saw. Schnerk stops Damita from
turning on the saw - “we only have one chance at that!” -
and films a closeup of them gloating over her. “Gloat all
you like,” says Emma, “but just remember I’m the star of
Schnerk sends Kirby and Syn to fetch the dead actor from the other set, but Steed has found a shooting script and replaces the body while they find a wheelchair with which to transport it. Schnerk starts the saw, and starts filming to a piano accompaniment just before they return but Steed causes chaos when he calmly stands up and turns it off again. He defeats Damita and Kirby, then Schnerk fires his revolver at him. Steed flings his trusty brolly into the lid of Schnerk’s piano, trapping his gun arm and he frees Mrs Peel in the nick of time. He struggles with Schnerk, whose gun goes off, killing the director, who makes one last cry of “CUT! PRINT!” before collapsing.
Mrs Peel tells Steed her favourite bit was where Kirby hit Syn with a chair, and demonstrates - except she’s used a real chair by mistake, and Steed drops to the floor.
Steed and Emma sit in her armchairs, deciding which
film to see that night: “I was Napoleon’s Nanny? (maybe not)”,
“Lasagne 6½?” (“I walked out 3/8 of the way through”),
“an old Stewart Kirby film at the Plaza?” (Emma frowns),
“Nights of Abandon - unbridled passion, critics raved, won
many awards... closed yesterday.” “Oh dear”, says Steed,
“...unbridled passions - why don’t we just spend the evening
“Why not?” concurs Emma, “Let’s get back to my apartment.” She kicks at the wall and it collapses - they’re still at Schnerk’s studio!
|Transmission dates:||Foreign title||
champagne (Bollinger Maison Speçial Cuvée Brut)
|Germany||9/04/1968||(Filmstar Emma Peel)|
|Italy||24/05/1974||(una straordinaria avventura)|
|The Netherlands||17/10/1967||(De gevallen sterren)|