Production Number: 3377 Tape Number: VTR/ABC/1263


Steed meets a contact, Wilson, to hand over some top-secret microfilm. This contains the chemical formula for a new drug called Morgantol, which Wilson must take to Geneva. Suddenly, they are set upon by a mysterious, bowler-hatted assailant, who fatally stabs Wilson and injures Steed. He does not get away with the formula, however, which is destroyed by Wilson in his final moments of life.

Steed retreats to a health club, where he meets Keel and explains the situation to him. Another batch of microfilm is being prepared, and Steed asks Keel to secretly transport it to Geneva. The doctor is due to fly out there to a World Health Organisation conference in any case, so his journey should not arouse suspicion. Well aware of the potential benefits and also the possible dangers of the new drug, Keel agrees.

The replacement microfilm is delivered to Keel's surgery by Scott, a fellow agent of Steed. The microdots are concealed in an admission card for the WHO conference. However, before he has a chance to brief Keel about arrangements for its delivery, Scott is surprised by Benson, the man in the bowler hat. Benson is unable to locate the microfilm, but he succeeds into deceiving Keel. The doctor flies out to Geneva completely unaware that his invitation contains the valuable secret formula.

When Keel arrives and checks in at his hotel, he is attacked by Benson and rendered unconscious. He awakes to find himself in the company of the Swiss police, who suspect him of murder a murder carried out with the very gun that they found in Keel's hand...

Read the full story in Two Against the Underworld

The Avengers: Series 1, Episode 13
Production Completed:
Thu 27 Apr 1961
Recording Format: 405 Line B/W Video
Archive Holding: DOES NOT EXIST
John Cura Tele-Snaps: Photographed
Reconstruction: Made 2010
Audio Adaptation: Big Finish, 2014
UNITED KINGDOM: Sat 29 Apr 1961
Never transmitted outside the UK


ABC Midlands: Sat 29 Apr 1961, 10.00pm
ABC North: Sat 29 Apr 1961, 10.00pm
Sat 29 Apr 1961, 10.00pm
ATV London: Sat 29 Apr 1961, 10.00pm
Not transmitted
Grampian: Not transmitted
Scottish: Not transmitted
Southern: Sat 29 Apr 1961, 10.00pm
TWW: Sat 29 Apr 1961, 10.00pm
Tyne Tees:
Sat 29 Apr 1961, 10.00pm
Ulster: Sat 29 Apr 1961, 10.00pm
Westward: Sat 29 Apr 1961, 10.00pm
Dr David Keel
John Steed
Carol Wilson
Yvette Declair
Borsh (Concierge)
Bernard Bourg
1st Thug
2nd Thug
Aircraft Passengers
1st Ambulance Man
2nd Ambulance Man
2nd Detective
3rd Detective
Ian Hendry
Patrick Macnee
Ingrid Hafner
Peter Madden
Ronald Wilson
Dennis Edwards
Malou Pantera
Steven Scott
Frank Gatliff
Irene Bradshaw
Toke Townley

Not released.


StudioCanal, UK: 'Mission Brief' reconstruction by Alys and Alan Hayes, narrated by Nick Goodman, combining off-screen Tele-Snaps with a newly-written narration.


Writer Brian Clemens
Series Theme & Music
Johnny Dankworth
Robert Fuest
Story Editor
Patrick Brawn
Leonard White
Peter Hammond

Production Assistant Paddy Dewey
Floor Manager Patrick Kennedy
Stage Manager Barbara Sykes

Other credits not available

Studio Teddington 2
An ABC Network Production


  • Production Brief... The first series of The Avengers was written by a large pool of writers. Undoubtedly the most significant writing 'find' of the series' first year was Brian Clemens, who contributed two scripts for 1961 including this one. Clemens would ultimately become the most influential contributor to the series, writing more than a quarter of all episodes of The Avengers and The New Avengers, as well as story editing and eventually producing the series.

  • In an internal memo issued to directors Don Leaver, Peter Hammond and Robert Tronson and story editor John Bryce on Monday 6th February 1961, producer Leonard White complained that "far too much 'drink' (in the form of hard liquor) is being consumed in these episodes and especially by our 'Doctor Keel'. At first, when used with subtlety, it had some value, but now it has become an excuse to 'pad' and is giving an unsympathetic and nauseating slant to the characters. We should all use our ingenuity to overcome this immediately." One for the Mortuary appears to have been the first script in which this directive took effect. In the previous episode, Dance with Death, Keel and Steed had been downing whisky and cocktails in a bar, but here they do not touch a drop. Instead, Keel has a tonic water.

  • The cast convened for a first reading of the One for the Mortuary rehearsal script at 2.30pm on Friday 14th April 1961 at the Tower, RCA Building, Brook Green Road, Hammersmith, London. Directly after this, rehearsals commenced at the same venue. Camera rehearsals took place on Wednesday 26th April 1961 from 10.30am in Studio 2 at ABC Studios, Broom Road, Teddington Lock, Middlesex. The cast and crew reconvened in Studio 2 the next day, Thursday 27th April 1961, with the final recording taking place between 6.00 and 7.00pm. The episode was transmitted from videotape two days later on Saturday 29th April 1961, with a planned start and end time of 10.00pm to 11.00pm.

  • On Location... Although the episode is partially set in Geneva, the production never left the London area, with the great majority of the foreign locales being achieved in studio. However, the Tele-Snaps reveal that at least one sequence was filmed on location, an airport scene featuring Ian Hendry (as David Keel) and Malou Pantera (as Yvette Declair).

  • Location work for this episode was shot on high resolution 35mm black-and-white film.

  • The rehearsal script also mentions the use of stock footage of a busy airport terminal and of an aircraft taking off, representing Keel's departure from London, though it notes that these scenes could be deleted if necessary. It also calls for stock footage of a plane in flight and touching down to land, as well as a subsequent establishing shot of Bernard Bourg's building with Keel (played by a double) approaching the door. However, it is not known whether these shots were included in the final programme.

  • Trivia... This is the first episode to have been photographed off-screen by commercial photographer, John Cura. Under the company name 'Tele-Snaps', Cura ran a unique service from 1947 until his death in 1969, whereby he could provide actors and production staff with a visual record of how their television productions appeared on screen. Avengers producer Leonard White became aware of this service and used it extensively throughout the 1960s. Fortunately, White had the foresight to preserve these photographs and consequently, Avengers fans now have some visual record of thirteen of the missing episodes of Series 1. The Tele-Snaps have been reproduced in a superb booklet that accompanies the Series 1 & 2 Avengers release from StudioCanal UK and these images have also been utilised to create reconstructions of these episodes, which also appear on the StudioCanal DVD range.

  • The rehearsal script for One for the Mortuary has the dubious distinction of being the first script for a missing episode to be discovered after that episode's reconstruction had been produced. At the time, the reconstruction, by Alys and Alan Hayes, was forced to rely on just the Tele-Snaps and existing synopses. The discovery of the script has clarified a number of matters about the story:

    • In the opening scene, Steed meets his contact (who is named as Wilson) in order to hand over the secret medical formula, not merely to discuss it as previously assumed. It is Wilson who is supposed to deliver the formula to Geneva, rather than Steed.

    • The injured man seen in the third Tele-Snap after the opening titles appears to be Benson's fellow thug, who is fought off by Steed, rather than a colleague of Steed acting as a lookout.

    • Steed leaves Keel under no illusion about the seriousness of his mission. It is Benson who indirectly causes Keel to be unaware that he is carrying the top-secret microfilm. Keel is due to fly out to the World Health Organisation conference in Geneva anyway, rather than taking Steed's place.

    • The identity of Benson's employer is not revealed to the viewer until the third act. Prior to that point, he has a different tone of voice when he speaks to Benson and his face is not shown all the viewer sees is a hand moving chess pieces.

    • Scott calls at the surgery for Keel, not for Steed as previously assumed.

    • Scott is seriously injured but not killed. He manages to inform Steed that Keel has not been briefed about the secret formula he is unwittingly carrying.

    • Rather than Keel arranging for Yvette to stay at his hotel, so that he can tend to her, the doctor takes Yvette to her own apartment, which is close by.

    • Pallaine is motivated by a burning resentment, because he initially worked on the development of the new drug, and he feels that he is due some financial reward for this. His bitterness appears to have driven him insane.

  • Before we get too caught up with the idea that the script holds all the answers, there are certain respects in which the transmitted episode differed from the rehearsal script, as evidenced by the Tele-Snaps and other sources. It would appear that the story underwent some revisions before it went before the cameras. In these respects, the reconstruction is a more accurate representation than the script:

    • In the script, Benson is described as wearing an eye patch and carries a sword stick concealed in an umbrella. The Tele-Snaps show him wearing glasses with one darkened lens, while the umbrella appears to have been changed to a walking cane.

    • Steed gets dressed sooner in the Tele-Snaps than he does in the script. The images show Steed dressing during his meeting with Scott, whereas at this point in the script he is still clad in towels.

    • In the script, Carol attends to some filing while Scott is waiting for Keel, whereas she is clearly sewing in the Tele-Snaps.

    • The senior police officer is not named in the script, he is simply referred to as SWISS DETECTIVE or SWISS TEC. Contemporary TV listings indicate that the character was subsequently given the name Dubois.

    • Brian Clemens had scripted an amusing scene in which Steed rescues Keel from the police by pretending to be a member of the hotel staff, carrying an enormous basket of laundry and speaking in an outrageous French accent. Steed overwhelms Dubois with laundry, allowing him and Keel to escape through a window and down a fire escape. One of the Tele-Snaps shows that Steed actually arrives in his regular clothes, while Keel appears to exit calmly through the door, which tallies with the account in Dave Rogers' The Complete Avengers that Keel is released into Steed's custody. Another Tele-Snap shows Dubois making a telephone call that does not take place in the script, so perhaps in the transmitted episode he contacts a higher authority for verification of Steed's credentials.

    • When Pallaine arrives at Bourg's shop in the script, he is backed up only by Benson. In the Tele-Snaps he has at least two more henchmen with him.

    • The images show that Pallaine gets his hands on the admission card, which is more than he does in the script.

    • Keel appears to exchange dialogue with Dubois in a Tele-Snap towards the end of the episode. This does not occur in the script. The detective is possibly giving Keel some assurance that he is no longer a murder suspect, a fact that is reported by Steed in the script.

    • Bourg is simply forgotten about at the end of the script, but he is shown bound and gagged in the Tele-Snaps. He appears to have some dialogue after he has been released by Steed and Yvette. We can only guess at what he says, but given his own predilections and a recurring theme of the script, it is probably something to do with life and death.

  • A Matter of Life and Death would have been a most suitable title for this episode, so much so that one wonders whether it actually was the working title at some point. Quite apart from the customary levels of physical threat that one finds in an Avengers episode, and the dual nature of the wonder drug Morgantol (which can kill or cure), the phrase itself and variations on it ("a matter of life and death", "could be life or death") are uttered on a number of occasions by various characters throughout the script.

  • Bloopers... The front page of the rehearsal script claims that One for the Mortuary was written by a certain Brian Clements!

  • And Finally... This was the first Avengers episode to be transmitted by Westward Television. This ITV region launched on Saturday 29th April 1961, and One for the Mortuary formed a part of their opening night's schedule. The episode was the ninth highest rated programme in the region (including BBC programmes) for the week.

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

With thanks to Piers Johnson, Tim Trounce, Jaz Wiseman and StudioCanal for their kind assistance


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