Production Number: 3368 Tape Number: VTR/ABC/1098 (off-air)

PLOTLINE

Dr Keel receives an anxious telephone call from one of his patients, Faith Braintree, whose husband, an eminent scientist engaged in top-secret research, has mysteriously vanished without trace. Neither Keel nor Carol has seen him, but Keel offers to help in any way that he can. While the doctor is attending Faith, a man claiming to be an MI5 agent arrives, mistakes Keel for Professor Braintree, and tries to kidnap him.

Keel manages to evade his captor, but is injured during the struggle and needs to visit the local hospital for treatment. There he meets Steed, and the two men discuss the case. Steed persuades Keel to impersonate the professor in order to draw the enemy's attention away from the real Braintree, who is still missing. The ruse works, and a second attempt is made to abduct Keel. This time, however, the kidnappers are armed, and the doctor is shot in the chest while trying to escape...

Read the full story in Two Against the Underworld

PRODUCTION & ARCHIVE
The Avengers: Series 1, Episode 4
Production Completed:
Sat 28 Jan 1961 (Live)
Recording Format: 405 Line B/W Video
Archive Holding: DOES NOT EXIST
John Cura Tele-Snaps: Not Photographed
Reconstruction: Not currently possible
INTERNATIONAL PREMIERES
UNITED KINGDOM: Sat 28 Jan 1961
Never transmitted outside the UK

UK REGIONAL PREMIERES

ABC Midlands: Sat 28 Jan 1961, 10.00pm
ABC North: Sat 28 Jan 1961, 10.00pm
Anglia:
Not transmitted
ATV London: Not transmitted
Border:
Not transmitted
Grampian: Not transmitted
Scottish: Not transmitted
Southern: Not transmitted
TWW: Not transmitted
Tyne Tees:
Not transmitted
Ulster: Not transmitted
Westward: Not transmitted
CHARACTERS & CAST
Dr David Keel
John Steed
Carol Wilson
Williams
Faith Braintree
Commander Reece
Dr Brown
Dr Jones
Dr Miller
Other Kidnappers
Professor Braintree
Ian Hendry
Patrick Macnee
Ingrid Hafner
Gordon Boyd
Helen Lindsay
Michael Logan
Robert Bruce
Redmond Bailey
Robert Sansom
Uncredited
Uncredited
ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Not released.

DVD EXTRAS

None.

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Writer Terence Feely
Series Theme & Music
Johnny Dankworth
Designer
Robert Fuest
Story Editor
John Bryce
Producer
Leonard White
Director
Peter Hammond

Other credits not available

Studio Teddington 2
An ABC Network Production

NIGHTMARE DECLASSIFIED

  • Production Brief... This was the second of seven consecutive episodes of The Avengers to be performed and transmitted live, and it appears to have been the first in which Steed's character took a back seat. This is evidenced by surviving synopses and also a production document issued by producer Leonard White on 23rd December 1960, which describes Nightmare as "predominantly a Keel episode". However, one cannot take this information entirely for granted, since the same document describes The Radio-active Man (sic) as "a 'shared' episode", which is certainly not true of the surviving camera script for that story, which hardly features Steed at all. During the live episodes, the focus of the series alternated between Keel and Steed each week, possibly with the intention of taking some of the pressure off the two stars, who would effectively play a leading role only once every fortnight.

  • The production document mentioned above, dated 23rd December 1960, also revealed that Terence Feely was asked to perform two sets of rewrites on this script, the second of which was due to be delivered shortly after the date of the memo.

  • Designer Robert Fuest recalls director Peter Hammond having a "marvellous idea for a fight in a laboratory. The villain fires his gun and the other guy ducks. As the actor ducks, the prop man fires a marble with a catapult and a test tube explodes. We practised this and it worked like a dream in rehearsals. On the live show, the prop man is nervous, shit-scared, because he knows that it's the longest trajectory in the world. He's nervous and he blows it. He fires the marble and a glass tank shatters into smithereens." Though Fuest does not name the episode in question, it is very likely to be Nightmare. There seem to be no other episodes of The Avengers directed by Hammond and designed by Fuest that could have featured a laboratory. Fuest's reference to "the live show" may be taken as further confirmation that it was one of the live episodes, though the term might also refer to an "as live" recording. The scene described could be the one in which Keel suffers a gunshot wound, requiring him to undergo surgery.

  • Contrary to popular myth, despite going out live, this episode was recorded, presumably from transmission. This is evidenced by a production memo detailing a proposed 1962 repeat run of Series 1 episodes. Though the planned reruns did not ultimately take place, the document lists VTR (video tape recording) numbers for all of the live episodes, indicating that these recordings were in existence as at 30th March 1962. The VTR number for Nightmare was 1098.


  • On Location... In his 1988 autobiography Blind in One Ear (page 209), Patrick Macnee recalls location shooting during the earliest episodes of The Avengers: "Much of our early location work was done around the sleazier parts of London's West End. In those early days our wardrobe seemed to consist of one dirty mac apiece. As Ian and I jumped over the walls and hid in the alleyways of Soho, we surely resembled a couple of dirty old men on the run from police officers who'd just raided a strip joint. In fact, we were the ones chasing criminals." He then adds: "That day we were after some crooks disguised as MI5 men." Though aspects of Macnee's recollection could be deliberate generalisations, his mention of "crooks disguised as MI5 men" is clearly a reference to Nightmare. There is photographic evidence of Macnee and Ian Hendry running through streets and climbing over a wall in character as Steed and Keel. These images are believed to have been part of a special photo shoot that took place in late 1960 for publicity purposes and for use in the show's title sequence, but one cannot rule out the possibility that they relate to Nightmare. If such an elaborate film sequence really did take place during this episode, it may have been intended to allow studio personnel valuable time for scenery changes, such as erecting the hospital set for use in later scenes. Directions in the camera script for Square Root of Evil, in which the sets for the records department and most of '5's office were immediately struck (dismantled) after use, whilst a film sequence was being played in, demonstrate that scenery changes did sometimes take place during live episodes of The Avengers.


  • Trivia... Nightmare guest-starred not just one but two actors who had appeared alongside Ian Hendry in his previous ABC series Police Surgeon. Helen Lindsay (alias Faith Braintree) portrayed Hazel Perkins in the episode Man Overboard, while Michael Logan (Commander Reece) played the Landlord in Operation Mangle.

  • Because details are so lacking about this episode, it is not known what roles the characters of Williams (played by Gordon Boyd) and Commander Reece fulfil in the plot, nor which if any of the named hospital physicians is the corrupt anaesthetist allied with the kidnappers. However, judging by the TV Times cast list in order of appearance, one can presume that Williams is the first character to appear, possibly in a dramatic opening scene, and hazard a guess that Reece is the fake MI5 agent. Of course, Williams might simply be a patient at Dr Keel's surgery, but this being The Avengers, there would probably have been a more intriguing opening teaser than that.

  • Of the three hospital physicians, Dr Jones (played by Redmond Bailey) seems the most likely candidate to be the crooked anaesthetist and would-be kidnapper. Presumably he recognises Keel from the second kidnap attempt, though Keel does not recognise him, which suggests that the anaesthetist wears a mask. Some synopses indicate that the anaesthetist is subsequently unmasked by Steed. Dr Brown (Robert Bruce) appears earlier in the episode than Jones, so Brown might be the doctor who attends Keel during Keel's first visit to the hospital. Brown may therefore represent the hospital's "benevolent staff" referred to in the TV Times listing for this episode. Dr Miller is a less likely candidate for attempted kidnapper, as the actor who played him (Robert Sansom) would have been a bit too long in the tooth for that kind of caper.

  • No images from this episode are known to have survived. A photograph of Keel talking on the telephone in his surgery with his feet on his desk, commonly associated with Nightmare ever since it appeared beneath this episode's synopsis in Dave Rogers' 1983 book The Avengers, is in fact from a much later Series 1 episode, A Change of Bait. The image at the top of the page shows a less laid-back Keel on the telephone, sourced from the surviving Series 1 episode, The Frighteners.


  • And Finally... Because the villains of the piece are based in a hospital, it is possible that Professor Braintree's research has some kind of medical application, presumably a potentially lucrative one, hence the hospital doctors' interest in it. Given the title of the episode and the professor's memory loss, one wonders whether his research involves psychoactive medication, but that is sheer speculation.

Plotline by Richard McGinlay UK Transmissions by Simon Coward, Alan Hayes and John Tomlinson
Declassified by Richard McGinlay with Alan Hayes

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

 

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