Production Number: 3503 • Tape Number: VTR/ABC/1821

PLOTLINE

When Alan Baxter, a British diplomatic courier, is killed in Jamaica, One-Ten assigns Steed to take his place. The agent is to follow the same route that Baxter would have taken, from Jamaica to Santiago, with stopovers at Bogota and Lima, carrying the same dispatches from Washington. The curious thing is that though the documents (which Baxter's attacker failed to acquire) are confidential, they contain nothing that One-Ten considers worth killing for. His hope is that whoever is after the dispatches will try again. Then Steed can find out who wants them and why. Catherine Gale will be joining Steed, to act as his cover.

She comes in handy as soon as they reach Bogota, when Steed is held up by a couple of thugs at the airport. Cathy rescues Steed, though there isn't time to interrogate the thugs before the courier and his cover have to board their next flight.

Another attempt is made in Lima, where Steed deliberately leaves the dispatch case unattended in his hotel room while he indiscreetly visits Cathy's room. Spying through the keyhole, Steed sees Pasco (the man who killed Baxter) enter his room... but he doesn't come out again. When Steed and Cathy investigate, they find Pasco dead. The dispatches are still there, but Cathy notices a discarded flash bulb – the information has been photographed, by someone who came in through the window from the room above!

Meanwhile, in Santiago, Miguel Rosas is plotting a revolution. Zero hour is approaching. All he needs are those dispatches... but what for?

PRODUCTION & ARCHIVE
The Avengers: Series 2, Episode 4
Production Completed:
Sat 23 Jun 1962
Recording Format: 405 Line B/W Video
Archive Holding: 16mm B/W Film Recording

UK REGIONAL PREMIERES

ABC Midlands: Sat 22 Dec 1962, 10.05pm
ABC North: Sat 22 Dec 1962, 10.05pm
Anglia:
Sat 22 Dec 1962, 10.05pm
ATV London: Sat 22 Dec 1962, 10.05pm
Border:
Sat 22 Dec 1962, 10.05pm
Channel: Sat 22 Dec 1962, 10.05pm
Grampian: Not transmitted
Scottish: Thu 27 Jun 1963, 10.45pm
Southern: Sat 22 Dec 1962, 10.05pm
Teledu Cymru: Sat 22 Dec 1962, 10.05pm
TWW: Sat 22 Dec 1962, 10.05pm
Tyne Tees:
Sat 22 Dec 1962, 10.05pm
Ulster: Sat 22 Dec 1962, 10.05pm
Westward: Sat 22 Dec 1962, 10.05pm
INTERNATIONAL PREMIERES
ARGENTINA: Tue 4 Apr 2000
AUSTRALIA:
Mon 3 Feb 1964
CANADA:
Mon 7 Dec 1964
FRANCE:
Thu 19 Feb 1998
GERMANY:
Mon 27 Dec 2010
UNITED KINGDOM: Sat 22 Dec 1962
CHARACTERS & CAST
John Steed
Catherine Gale
One-Ten
Miguel Rosas
Monroe
Anna Rosas
Travers
Alan Baxter
Rico
Conchita (Singer)
1st Thug
2nd Thug
Pasco
Chambermaid
Customer
Tourist (Steed's Date)
 9 Male Extras
4 Female Extras
Patrick Macnee
Honor Blackman
Douglas Muir
Richard Warner
David Cargill
Valerie Sarruf
Gerald Harper
Hedger Wallace
Michael Forrest
Maria Andipa
Geoff L'Cise
Arthur Griffiths
Alan Mason
Bernice Rassin
Jerry Jardin
Caron Gardner
Uncredited
Uncredited
ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Not released.

DVD EXTRAS

StudioCanal, UK: Camera Script PDF •
Stills Gallery

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Writer – Leonard Fincham
Series Theme & Music –
Johnny Dankworth
Designer –
Anne Spavin
Story Editor –
John Bryce
Producer –
Leonard White
Director –
Jonathan Alwyn

Production Assistant – Jill Horwood
Production Assistant (Timing) - Uncredited
Floor Manager –Robert Reed
Stage Manager – John Wayne
Call Boy – Uncredited
Wardrobe Supervisor - Uncredited
Make-up Supervisor - Uncredited

Technical Supervisor – Peter Cazaly
Lighting Supervisor –
H.W. Richards (*)
Senior Cameraman – Michael Baldock
Sound Supervisor – Michael Roberts
Grams Operator - Uncredited
Racks Supervisor - Uncredited
Vision Mixer - Del Randall

(*) H.W. Richards was billed on the script at H.W. Richie

Studio – Teddington 2
An ABC Network Production

MINISTRY VERDICT

Giving lie to the popular assertion that Cathy Gale's earliest episodes were hastily adapted from leftover Dr Keel scripts, her role in Death Dispatch was clearly written for a woman rather than for a man. Steed openly flirts with her, Conchita (Maria Andipa) is jealous of her, and she is rather more tolerant of Steed's schemes and antics than she would become in subsequent episodes. That said, Cathy is no shrinking violet here, and though she is briefly threatened by Monroe (David Cargill), she proves adept with a firearm, coming to Steed's rescue during the scene at Bogota airport and helping him to turn the tables on the villains at the (rather perfunctory) resolution of the narrative. The character is not yet fully formed – her talent for unarmed combat would not exhibit itself until later episodes. Nevertheless, this is an entertaining story, with a darkly humorous death at the start of the episode, witty repartee between the two leads, and visits to a number of exotic locations, albeit by means of studio sets and stock footage. 

DEATH DISPATCH • DECLASSIFIED

  • Production Brief... Death Dispatch was the first episode (in production terms) to feature Catherine Gale, a character devised by producer Leonard White around February 1962. On Thursday 1st February, White issued to memo to story editor John Bryce and directors Jonathan Alwyn, Peter Hammond and Don Leaver, detailing his plans for a new series format for The Avengers featuring John Steed, Cathy and another new character, Venus Smith. On Tuesday 6th February, a character profile for Catherine Gale was drawn up. This document was issued as part of new series guidelines to writers on Thursday 8th February 1962, with the addition of a character profile for Venus Smith and revised notes on Steed and One-Ten.

  • On the same date, 8th February 1962, White wrote a confidential memo to ABC's head of drama Sydney Newman, stressing the need to record episodes on a fortnightly basis, as had been the usual pattern during most of Series 1. There was concern over Patrick Macnee's ability to cope with a schedule any heavier than that. "Scripting for the new character format is on the basis of dual leads in each episode, and I don't think it will be wise to introduce 'Cathy only' scripts into the series too soon," wrote White. "The Steed character is bound to carry a great weight for some while, and I, frankly, don't think that Patrick Macnee will stand up to the pressures of a turn-round less than fortnightly."

  • Four months elapsed before the first Cathy Gale script began to reach fruition. On Friday 8th June 1962, ABC's script supervisor Anthony John gave his assessment of the content of Death Dispatch to managing director Howard Thomas: "Attached herewith synopsis of the above play, which has nothing objectionable in the writing. There are one or two killings, and I will watch these for undue violence." However, John expressed some concern that the plot bore comparison to the style and setting of another ITV spy series, Associated-Rediffusion's Top Secret, which was then in the middle of its second season: "It should be quite an exciting episode for this series, but I was left with the feeling that we were 'encroaching' on the locale and type of story seen in AR's Top Secret." Running to 26 episodes between 1961 and 1962, Top Secret starred William Franklyn as Peter Dallas, a British Intelligence operative who returns to Argentina, the country in which he was raised, and becomes an independent crime-buster. Honor Blackman appeared in a couple of 1961 episodes, Destination Buenos Aires (playing Rauch) and The Men from Yesterday (playing a different character, Diana). Sadly, no episodes of this popular series remain to be viewed today, the series having fallen victim – along with the vast majority of the Associated-Rediffusion archive – to destruction following the company's franchise loss in 1968.

  • Perhaps due to the perceived similarities to Top Secret, the setting of Death Dispatch was altered during the scripting process. Miguel Rosas was originally to have been based in Buenos Aires, capital city of Argentina, rather than in the Chilean capital Santiago, as revealed by synopses published in reference works such as Dave Rogers' The Complete Avengers (1989). Steed's journey as a courier was originally to have taken him to Buenos Aires with stopovers at the Colombian capital Bogota and Santiago, rather than to Santiago with stopovers at Bogota and Lima, the capital city of Peru. The name of Rosas' henchman was also changed from the German-sounding Muller to the American Monroe, probably because of the smaller population of German speakers in Chile than in Argentina.

  • On 13th June 1962, Honor Blackman was contracted to appear in her first four episodes of The Avengers, which were to be recorded on 23rd June, 7th July, 21st July and 4th August 1962 respectively. These dates tally with recordings of Death Dispatch, Warlock, Propellant 23 and Mr Teddy Bear. Each episode would earn the actress £183 and 15 shillings, compared with Patrick Macnee's fee of £341 and 5 shillings for his first star billing. These amounts were based on performance fees of £45, 18 shillings and nine pence (for Blackman) and £85, six shillings and three pence (for Macnee) within a single region of the ITV network, ABC Midlands. The performance fees were multiplied by four to cover additional areas of the network: ABC North, ATV London, and all other regions. Blackman's contract included options for a further six to nine episodes at various fees, up to a network fee of £236 and 5 shillings, depending upon when the options were exercised.

  • Camera rehearsals for Death Dispatch commenced at 10.00am in Studio 2 at ABC TV Studios, Broom Road, Teddington, Middlesex on Friday 22nd June 1962 and continued until 9.00pm. The cast and crew reconvened at 10.00am the following day, Saturday 23rd June 1962, working towards a dress rehearsal between 4.15 and 5.30pm, and the final recording between 6.30 and 7.30pm. The episode was transmitted from videotape on Saturday 22nd December 1962 at 10.05pm, across all ITV regions except for Scottish, which aired the episode at 10.45pm, and Grampian, which did not broadcast it at all.


  • On Location... Though no special location filming was carried out for this episode, stock footage of various foreign locales was used to establish the globe-trotting nature of the plot. In story order, the five film sequences are as follows:

    • 16mm footage of Jamaica, showing the coast and streets (seen at 20 seconds into the episode). The camera script indicates that the full duration of this sequence was 36 seconds, though only about 20 seconds of it is present in the finished episode.

    • 16mm establishing shots of a Jamaican swimming pool (seen at 4 minutes and 20 seconds). The full duration of this material is noted in the script as 22 seconds, though only about 13 seconds of it can be seen in the completed programme. It is possible that the overhead shot of a Jamaican hotel, which opens this section, was actually intended for the previous sequence, suggesting the hotel in which Baxter (Hedger Wallace) is staying.

    • 35mm film of an airliner in flight and coming in to land at Bogota airport (seen at 12 minutes and 5 seconds). The camera script states that the full duration of this footage was 24 seconds. Give or take a second or two, the entirety of the film made it into the transmitted episode.

    • 35mm footage of an airliner touching down at Lima (seen at 18 minutes and 20 seconds). The script gives the full duration of this material as 10 seconds, and give or take a second or two, the whole of it is used.

    • 35mm establishing shots of Santiago (seen at 30 minutes and 20 seconds). The script indicates that the full duration of this sequence was 21 seconds, and it appears that all of it made it into the finished programme.


  • Trivia... After three episodes featuring Patrick Macnee alone in the opening titles, Death Dispatch kicks off the trend of announcing his co-star of the week in a caption slide of her own. The legend "Also Starring HONOR BLACKMAN" is accompanied by an image of the actress with rather strange-looking eyes.

  • Sydney Newman reportedly did not approve of Blackman's casting. All too familiar with the "English rose" type of film roles she had performed while working as a contract player for the Rank Organisation, Newman was convinced that she was not right for Cathy Gale. He favoured Nyree Dawn Porter, who had already appeared in The Avengers as Liz Wells in Death on the Slipway. Leonard White's feelings were the exact opposite – he preferred Blackman. Newman went off on holiday, expecting White to cast Porter in his absence, but returned to find that the producer had gone with his gut instinct and had cast Blackman. This probably explains the marked shift in Cathy's character between Death Dispatch and her second recorded episode, Warlock. In the former she is generally easy-going and smiles frequently. Newman warned that her tenure would be short-lived if she ever smiled like that again, and so her performance became noticeably colder and harder.

  • One might be forgiven for thinking that this episode's title was Jamaica, as a caption slide reading "JAMAICA" appears over an establishing shot of the island country a few seconds into the programme. The caption uses the same font (Bureau Grotesque One Three) as that used for the show's opening titles, episode titles and end credits. The camera script calls for additional caption slides, "LIMA" and "SANTIAGO", to be superimposed over the establishing shots of the relevant locations, but for some reason these captions do not appear in the completed episode.

  • Death Dispatch was the first episode of Series 2 to be recorded by Douglas Muir as Steed's superior, One-Ten (though in terms of transmission, he would be seen beforehand in Mr Teddy Bear and The Removal Men). Leonard White's revised character profile for One-Ten, issued on Thursday 8th February 1962, noted that: "If and when he has to make physical contact with Steed or Cathy, it will probably be in the most unlikely places – say a launderette, a barber's shop, an auction, etc, etc." In Death Dispatch, One-Ten briefs Steed by the swimming pool in Jamaica, appearing somewhat out of place in his suit and tie, surrounded by scantily dressed holidaymakers. He would enter more into the vacation spirit in The Removal Men, dressing down for the occasion, sipping a cocktail on the beach, and even getting the girl in a manner almost worthy of Steed himself! A barber's shop setting was used with one of One-Ten's colleagues, One-Twelve, in The Sell-Out.

  • Viewed in production order, Death Dispatch works fairly well as Cathy's introductory episode. One-Ten mentions her by name during Steed's briefing. Steed evidently already knows of her, at least by reputation, and appears to be looking forward to working with her. Therefore the episode also works if viewed in transmission order, or indeed in any other sequence.

  • Leonard White's continuing drive to boost the programme's sex appeal is evidenced by the presence of the bathers in the swimming pool sequence and a scene in which Cathy appears in her brassiere. One of the bikini-clad holidaymakers, who is chatted up by Steed, is played by Caron Gardner, who also posed for a number of publicity photographs on board a yacht at an unknown location, sporting what appears to be the same bikini as she wore in the episode.

  • Anna's name is mistyped as Anne in the camera script's cast list.

  • In the script, Steed asks the chambermaid (Bernice Rassin) at the Lima hotel to charge the cost of two whiskies and soda to his room, "Room three-one". However, this is actually Cathy's room number. In the recorded episode, Macnee corrects this to "Room thirty". When ordering the drinks over the phone, he extracts maximum comedy potential from the language barrier, making each repetition of "uno" (one more than is in the script) sound more like "you know".

  • Travers' (Gerald Harper) enquiry as to whether Steed is the same Steed who used to play for Worcestershire is an unscripted addition to the dialogue.

  • The music directions in the script distinguish between "Old tape" and "New tape". The old tape contains cues that have been in use since Series 1 (including the "sneaking around" theme from Hot Snow), though it is unclear just how recently recorded the compositions on the so-called new tape were.


  • Bloopers... At 2 minutes and 47 seconds into the episode, the incidental music is barely audible as Pasco (Alan Mason) peers through the blinds and enters the room.

  • At 4 minutes, Hedger Wallace (as Baxter) misjudges the length of the telephone wire.

  • At 4 minutes and 4 seconds, we hear the knife that is supposed to have struck Baxter in the back clattering to the floor.

  • At 4 minutes and 33 seconds, the two extras playing the holidaymaking couple are rather obviously waiting for their cue before they start passing the beach ball between them. Mind you, the male extra drops the ball so quickly that it is perhaps not surprising that they did not begin their game in advance!

  • At 9 minutes and 44 seconds, Honor Blackman seems to have a bit of trouble opening the secret compartment in Cathy's travel case.

  • The mountains in the background at Rosas' hacienda, first seen at 10 minutes and 7 seconds, are clearly a painted flat. This may not have been quite as obvious on a small 405-line television screen in 1962 as it is today on our unforgiving large screens.

  • At 11 minutes and 5 seconds, the close-up of Rosas (Richard Warner) is out of focus and badly framed, with the top of his head out of shot for several seconds.

  • At 11 minutes and 25 seconds, Warner stumbles on his line, "We want no violence in the, uh, in the initial phases."

  • At 12 minutes and 20 seconds, the plane that lands at Bogota is not the same one as was just seen in the air.

  • At 17 minutes and 36 seconds, a boom microphone briefly casts a shadow upon the head of David Cargill (as Monroe). The shadow returns at 17 minutes and 45 seconds, this time lingering for longer. Perhaps Rosas is referring to the boom operator when he says, "I was always afraid he might prove to be incompetent."

  • At 28 minutes and 37 seconds, when attempting to decipher what Monroe has written on the detached sheet of his telephone pad, Steed seems to have forgotten the pencil graphite trick he used to good effect in Ashes of Roses.

  • At 34 minutes and 39 seconds, Macnee stumbles on his line when he says, "Sir Henry will be awfully se– angry, you know..."

  • At 40 minutes and 54 seconds, a boom microphone descends into the top right of frame.

  • At 45 minutes and 15 seconds, the camera momentarily loses focus as Rosas grabs Monroe's fallen pistol during the climactic struggle.


  • Stop Press... "WHAT A NIGHT FOR SPIES" was the headline of Max North's Telereview item on page 5 of Manchester Evening News on Saturday 22nd December 1962. The writer commented on the excess of espionage shows on screen that night: "Through a mishap in programme planning – or maybe because of a sheer lack of it – the spies are out in force tonight and roaming through a huge section of the ITV viewing time. Man of the World, Hawaiian Eye, blah blah blah. And with only a commercial break to separate the stories, along come ABC's regular spy-hunters, Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman, as agent Steed and his gun-toting, judo expert helpmeet Cathy in The Avengers. They take a trip to the Caribbean sunshine to investigate the death of a government courier, and their mysterious chief One-Ten goes with them, more to keep an eye on the local bathing beauties." Man of the World (1962–3) was an ATV drama series, distributed by ITC Entertainment, featuring a world-renowned photographer (played by Craig Stevens) whose assignments led him to investigate mysterious goings-on among the rich and glamorous in various far-flung locations. Hawaiian Eye (1959–63) was an American series, produced by Warner Bros for the American Broadcasting Company network, concerning a detective agency located in Honolulu, Hawaii.


  • And Finally... Gerald Harper (Travers) would go on to play the lead in what has often been cited as the BBC's answer to The Avengers, the light-hearted adventure series Adam Adamant Lives! Co-created by Sydney Newman, the show teamed the eponymous Edwardian gent with a modern 1960s woman, Georgina Jones (Juliet Harmer). The programme ran for two series, spanning 29 episodes, between 1966 and 1967. By the time that Adam Adamant Lives! was launched, The Avengers had reached its fourth series and the character of Steed had been reinvented as a man somewhat out of time, bestowed with values, dress code and manners increasingly at odds with the modern era. With the character of Adam Adamant having been frozen in 1902 and revived in 1966 into a very different world, the parallels are obvious. However, the BBC series quickly developed a flavour of its own and managed to be both lighter and at times darker than The Avengers, with humour to be found in Adamant's confusion and dismay at the mores of the swinging Sixties, while his vicious, cold dispatch of any number of his enemies remains quite shocking even today. The perceived rivalry between the two shows adds a layer of enjoyment to the humorous sparring between Steed and Travers in Death Dispatch!

Plotline by Richard McGinlay • UK Transmissions by Simon Coward, Alan Hayes and John Tomlinson
International Premieres by Denis Kirsanov • Ministry Verdict by Richard McGinlay

Declassified by Richard McGinlay and Alan Hayes

With thanks to Dave Matthews, Dave Rogers, Piers Johnson, Jaz Wiseman
and StudioCanal for their kind assistance

 

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