• title card: white all caps text reading ‘FALSE WITNESS’ superimposed on a view up a London Street. Melville walks away upscreen and we can see Penman’s legs sticking out from behind a red telephone box
  • In a quiet suburban street, Steed sets up his own personal bus stop. His yellow Rolls-Royce and a soon-to-be-confused commuter in the background
  • Lord Edgefield smirks as he knows the witness will not testify
  • A view inside Mother’s ‘office’ on the top deck of a Routemaster bus
  • Tara is soscked to the skin and milk pours off her face as she fights Sloman in the vat of milk
  • The steel butter machine, with Tara trapped inside, pressed against one of the wedge-shaped windows
  • Tara stands in the background, surprised to find Steed trying to use up the left-over butter om a mountain of toast

Series 6 — Episode 6
False Witness

Teleplay by Jeremy Burnham
Directed by Charles Crichton

Production No E.67.9.12
Production completed: July 11 1968. First transmission: November 6 1968.

TV Times summary

Tara nearly drowns in a butter machine.

Plot summary

A ministry agent is rifling through a car glovebox, having left his mate on look-out duty. His mate calls when a chauffeur turns up, but then strangely tells him nothing’s wrong.
Steed is investigating Lord Edgefield, a society blackmailer, but his witness suddenly starts lying about the case, as in fact does everyone else! Tara discovers a plot to put a serum in the nation’s milk, which makes people compulsive liars, Edgefield paying the dairy manager handsomely for their continued help.
After a fight in a milk vat, Tara is locked in a butter churn, and only rescued when Steed put the serum in the villains’ drinks and puts them at cross purposes.
Tara arrives at Steed’s apartment as he butters a mountain of toast, and he tells her he dislikes her new outfit; but them she spots a half-finished glass of milk. (He was telling the truth though, it’s dreadful).

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Penman (Peter Jesson) enters a city garage and breaks into a Rolls-Royce; he dials the number of the phone box outside, where his colleague Melville (Barry Warren) is waiting. He confirms the information is there and asks him to keep a lookout while he photographs it. Melville sees a chauffeur, Brayshaw (John Atkinson), arrive and barks a warning but when Penman asks him if someone’s coming, he strangely says, “No, sorry, it was nothing, No-one coming”. Brayshaw spots Penman as he steps from the Rolls and shoots at him. Penman takes flight while Melville wanders off, apparently oblivious to the gunshots echoing from below. Penman slumps to the pavement, wondering why Melville didn’t warn him.

John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Tara King (Linda Thorson) are dicing with a cribbage board - she complains that he has won the last twenty games, “While it’s not that I don’t trust you, I think such good fortune should be shared”. Mother (Patrick Newell) summons Steed - it’s Mother’s Day - then Penman turns the corner just after he departs, slumping once more after depositing his camera in a dust bin. Steed parks in a suburban street and erects a bus stop sign, a little balding man (Jimmy Gardner) joining the impromptu queue. Steed flags down a double-decker and hops on, but the little man is told by the conductor, Gould (Larry Burns), the bus is full up. Upstairs, Steed finds Mother fuming about Melville’s cock-up of the Edgefield case, and he assigns it to Steed, who is given a drink by Rhonda (Rhonda Parker). Mother says since Melville was assigned to the blackmail case, the department has lost two agents, and he expects Melville will return from last night’s outing with Penman empty-handed and alone. Rhonda hands Steed the dossier but he peruses her rather than it.
Penman makes it to Steed’s door and collapses again, telling Tara, “Look outside, in the dust bin. Warn Steed, Mother .... Melville”. His dying words are, “Melville, traitor”.
Back on the bus, Mother tells Steed he’s to join Melville on the case keep an eye on him, he glances at Rhonda and adds, “Both eyes!” Melville hops on the bus and reports that they found nothing and Penman’s gone home. Mother orders them both on protection detail for the star witness, Plummer. They arrive just as Plummer (Michael Lees) discovers Lane (Rio Fanning) looking in his fridge. Lane escapes after a fight and Plummer tells Steed there’s nothing there that shouldn’t be - “Except this!”, exclaims Steed, taking a bottle of champagne out - he describes it as “Plucky, but from the wrong side of the hill”.

Tara tips out the bin on Steed’s carpet and starts sorting through it. Meanwhile, Steed makes coffee and is told that Plummer’s brother committed suicide because of Edgefield, having already paid him £10,000. He worked in a missile division, and they wonder what else he might have handed Edgefield. Steed presents the cheques to the presiding judge, Sir Joseph Tarlton (Tony Steedman) and reiterates the conversation. Tarlton is pleased, but when Lord Edgefield (William Job) joins them, Plummer is initially dumbfounded, then refutes his earlier claims completely. Edgefield smiles evilly and takes his leave. Steed returns home, quipping, “Spring cleaning?” when he sees the mess on his carpet. Tara says, “You have a visitor”, and indicates Penman’s body lying behind the rows of bins. She hands him Penman’s camera, the film already processed and passes on the warning. Steed observes that the film proves Melville’s guilt.

Steed is sent off on another assignment with Melville while Tara is sent to find out why Plummer changed his testimony. When Tara arrives, she’s startled by Plummer’s dog Suzy and breaks the milk jug. The dog laps up the milk then barks at the door when nobody’s there. Steed breaks into Edgefield’s apartments, asking Melville to keep him posted. Melville watches Edgefield arrive and when Steed checks in, tells him - in a strained voice - that the coast is clear. Steed hears the lift coming up and covers his tracks then escapes, knocking Brayshaw down and taking some documents from him. Brayshaw gives chase, firing a few pot shots, but is unable to prevent them leaving. Steed drives to a secluded wood and punches Melville. Melville is astonished and claims he had warned Steed - he even thinks his three partners aren’t dead. Steed takes him to Mother where Dr. Grant (Arthur Pentelow) subjects him to a lie detector test. Melville denies all the accusations and the machine exonerates him but when he denies that he had worked with Steed that morning, and the machine detects no lie, Mother realises Steed was right - Melville can’t tell the truth.

Tara hears a bottle clink in the kitchen at Plummer’s and sees Lane, the milkman, leaving. He gets into a Dreemykreem Dairies float and drives off and she gives chase. Edgefield meanwhile has arrived at the dairy and paid the proprietor, Sykes (John Bennett), £5,000, telling him it worked like a charm. Edgefield is concerned they’ll find another person to testify, and suggests they “attack the head, not the body” - Sir Joseph. Sykes is wary and asks for another £10,000 given the risk involved. Sykes radios Lane, asking him to deliver two pints to Sir Joseph.
Steed gives Sir Joseph Edgefield’s records of payments received; he asks his secretary, Amanda (Terry Eliot), to compile the telephone numbers of all the victims. Tarlton works through the lists, finally finding someone willing to testify. Tara meanwhile watches Lane deliver the milk then return to the dairy.
Nesbitt (Simon Lack) arrives and proves willing so Sir Joseph suggests they discuss the matter while they await Edgefield. He asks Amanda for coffee for three. Back at the dairy, Tara watches Sloman (Dan Meaden) pour a clear liquid into a vat of milk. She’s collecting a bottle of it when surprised by Sloman and Sykes, who asks her if she’s “worried about a lack of vitamins”. She fights them, falling into the vat with Sloman, and finally escapes but Sloman is unconcerned - she must have swallowed at least half a pint. Tara drives to a phone booth and calls Sir Joseph, but only manages to confuse him by saying she didn’t want to warn him. Steed is perturbed when he hears this, as Sir Joseph pours the coffee.
Edgefield answers the summons but Steed and Nesbitt are astounded when Sir Joseph, upon hearing the evidence, declares that Edgefield is not guilty and the evidence is inconclusive. He stands and sneers, “Lord Edgefield is the most incorrupt, irreproachable man in the country, an idealist, a philanthropist. A paragon of virtue! ”.

Steed returns home and fins Tara there. He asks her where she’s been when she denies phoning Sir Joseph. Lane, in the street below, is ordered to deliver two pints to Steed. Tara hears the bottles and leaps up, but is unable to catch the float. she rushes back in and dashes a glass of milk from Steed hard, and tells him nothing’s the matter. Frustrated at being unable to convey her message, she tries writing it down, then smashes the milk bottles, leaving a note, “The milk is harmless”. Melville arrives, having just discovered that Penman is dead. Steed asks him if he takes milk in his coffee, and advises him to take it black in future. Tara arrives at the dairy and starts smashing every bottle she can see, until she’s apprehended at gunpoint by Sykes. Steed takes a bottle of the milk to Mother to be analysed. Sykes decides to confine Tara to the butter machine while Mother receives a report stating that the milk contains a hallucinatory drug. Steed decides it’s time to visit the dairy, where Sykes is telling Tara about his lie drug while he turns on the machine and floods the interior with milk. Steed arrives just before Lord Edgefield and puts the drug in their celebratory champagne. Sykes takes Edgefield to see what he’s doing with Tara. Steed saunters in while they gloat at her distress and a fight ensues, Steed finally gaining the upper hand as the crooks become confused by each others’ lies. He ejects Tara from the machine, stuck in the middle of a massive pat of butter.

Tara arrives at Steed’s flat where he’s buttering a mountain of sliced bread - it seemed a pity to waste all that butter. He pretends to be unable to tell the truth, then says he can’t tell a lie, the table is booked and she looks ravishing.

New York:25/11/1968

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