Series 5 - Episode 248 stars
Mission... Highly Improbable
by Philip Levene
Directed by Robert Day
Steed falls into enemy hands
Emma is cut down to size
|Set Design||4 stars|
Overall, this is a damn fine episode. A welcome return to the sci-fi escapism and referential postmodernism that The Avengers is famous for. A clever blend of reality and sheer impossibility, as well as a dig at Mission : Highly Impossible. What more could you want?
Professor Rushton has invented a miniaturising ray, but his
assistant Chivers uses it for unpatriotic activities. First he
shrinks the minister who had come to examine their finances,
then a snooping Captain, and finally to steal the new Saracen
FV603 armoured car. The buyer - Shaffer - is unaware that
Steed was inside the armoured car when it was shrunk, and has
come along for the ride!. Rescued by Mrs Peel, they escape and
Steed is returned to normal size, only for Emma to be shrunk.
Emma then frees Steed, the Professor and his daughter, and is
in turn returned to normal - "Everything? Everything!" Shaffer
and Chivers are then shrunk and collected in Steed's
With rain expected, Steed offers Emma his still shrunken umbrella...
|Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III (miniature is a Dinky Toys Silver Cloud III 2-door coupé by Mulliner Park Ward)||white||GB 1|
|Triumph 600cc bike, saddlebags||white||532 PPL|
|Triumph 600cc bike, saddlebags||white||452 YMF|
|Triumph 600cc bike, saddlebags||white||779 ALH|
|Bentley 4.5 litre 1927||British racing green||YT 3942|
|Landrover MT4 Military truck||blue/white top||-|
|Landrover MT4 Military truck||blue/white top||368 BLP (MT4 594)|
|Triumph TR4||powder blue, black roof||NGN 444D|
|Saracen Armoured Car (later shrunk)||tan||FV603|
|Landrover SWB||dark green,green top||-|
|Landrover LWB hardtop||pale blue/grey, tan roof||-|
|Landrover LWB hardtop||pale blue/grey, tan roof||RY 913|
|Mercedes 230 SL Roadster 1966||white||LGK 75D|
|Lotus Elan S3||glacier blue||SJH 499D|
|Austin Westminster||black||244 VFK|
|Sir Gerald Bancroft||Chivers V*||Thrown into garbage bin|
|Captain Gifford||Chivers V*||Hosed down the drain|
|* Strange ways to kill people, but they were miniaturised first.|
Continuity and trivia
- 3:30 - Gifford gets off his bike at the junction after the short curve and walks back to look around, but the shot of him walking back has him in the middle a straight piece of road with no turning - unless he and the other riders have arbitrarily gone onto the road in front of them instead of doubling back in their search.
- By the way, Gifford's medals are: Korea Medal, United Nations Service Medal for Korea, General Service Medal, Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal
- 3:38 - the titles are staggered, first with "Mission..." appearing and then "Highly Improbable" is added.
- 8:30 - Professor Rushton has the same vintage car prints in his office as Sir George had in Dead Man's Treasure and maybe Dr Haymes had in Murdersville.
- 11:50 - Captain Gifford smashes the window and a small piece of glass falls outside but at 12:10 Chivers discovers him by stepping on the broken glass outside, and there much more glass than there should be.
- 11:55 - Music from From Venus With Love is used here, and throughout the episode. Laurie Johnson must have thought it suited the science fiction plot.
- 4:21-4:33, 12:25-12:35, & 22:20 - The miniaturised Rolls Royce is a coupe, not a saloon like that shrunk, and it's been quickly painted white.
- 21:36-21:53 - stock footage of artillery.
- Colonel Drew's medals are: GBE, DSO, Military Cross, 1939-45 Star, Africa Star, Burma Star, France and Germany Star Defence Medal, War Medal 1939–1945, Korea Medal, United Nations Service Medal for Korea
Death's Door Mission...
©1961-9 CANAL+IMAGE UK Ltd All Rights Reserved
- 32:13 - When he uses Shaffer's telephone, Steed reveals that Mrs Peel's telephone number is 629-6291, and must be in the Greater London 01 area (0171 these days, I guess). Shaffer's number is 01-325-471, according to the label on the dial. Why Mrs Peel has a seven-digit number in 1968 is anyone's guess, and is 629 the right prefix for Primrose Hill? Surely she's moved from NW1 to W1 with that number. (If you look closely, you can see that Patrick only dialled four numbers, but they took two different angles of it and cut it together).
- 36:38 - When Emma is released by a shrunken Steed, she smiles impishly at him and asks, "Tell me Steed, is everything to scale?"
- 38:00 - Corporal Johnson should never have let the truck out the gate, Rushton hands him Gerald Bancroft's gate pass.
- 43:17 - Shaffer calls to his men (off camera), shouting, "Sergei! Ivan!" - but the characters are credited as Hendrick and Karl; a mistake or were they just giving the illusion of more characters?
- 46:22-46:33 - When Emma is restored to full size, she asks Steed worriedly, "Is everything back to normal?"
Steed looks her up and down and replies, "Everything."
Emma turns around to show him her posterior and queries, "Everything?"
Steed glances down and confirms, "Everything!"
©1961-9 CANAL+IMAGE UK Ltd All Rights Reserved
- 47:10 - Product placement for Herbert Johnson & Sons as the bowler hat descends on Scaeffer and Chivers.
- 48:13 - Steed hands Emma his shrunken umbrella, but it was returned to full size with him when he was restored in the summer house at 42:38, he's holding it when he emerges from the sack, and again when he walks outside and is captured by Josef and Chivers. 42:38 (seen on-screen from 43:00 onwards).
The cat's out of the bag...
and emerges from the hut
...but it shrank again!
©1961-9 CANAL+IMAGE UK Ltd All Rights Reserved ©1961-9 CANAL+IMAGE UK Ltd All Rights Reserved
- Running time: 49'07"
Cast and Production notes
- This first draft of this episode had the title The Disappearance of Admiral Nelson and was rejected by the producers as too outlandish (it had been submitted for the previous, black and white, series). Philip must have rewitten it heavily to get it approved.
- Jane Merrow was a popular choice of Casting directors of the time - she appeared in lots of different television and film productions, and was reportedly one of Patrick McGoohan's favourite supporting players, great praise indeed from such a noted perfectionist. She was also screen tested for Diana Rigg's replacement, but lost out to Linda Thorson. Todd Mills has created a wonderful in-depth look at Jane and all her work at http://www.regiments.org/merrow/ - check it out now! (It's actually been online nearly as long as this site has.)
- All the scenes featuring Nicole Shelby as 'Brunette' ended up on the cutting room floor, but she still appears in the cast list. Here she is as Miranda, the brunette pursuer of Baron von Curt (Ian Ogilvie) in the Tara King episode, "They Keep Killing Steed".
- The Powell brothers, Nosher and Dinny, play the goons Karl and Henrik. George 'Nosher' Powell and his brothers (including Dinny, credited as Denny in this episode, and elsewhere as Dinney) were some of Britian's leading stuntmen; Nosher has also had two sons, both of whom are stuntmen as well.
- Some of the footage of the testing of the FV 603 appears in the series Department S in an episode called "Who Plays the Dummy?".
Department S was directed at times by Ray Austin, Stunt Coordinator for The Avengers, and starred Peter Wyngarde as Jason King (he appeared in Epic as Stewart Kirby). It was an ITC production, but obviously shared a great many resources with ABC productions - the guest cast is almost identical to the Avengers. There's a rumour that the footage also appeared in an episode of The Saint, as yet unconfirmed.