Production Number: 3418 • Tape Number: Unknown


Returning from Chile, Keel stops off in Mexico to provide medical aid to the victims of a devastating cyclone that has hit the country's east coast. In Vera Cruz, he meets Dr Ampara Alverez Sandoval, an attractive and dedicated local doctor who is also offering her services for the relief effort. The pair hit it off and decide to travel together to the worst hit areas.

At a nearby village that has borne the brunt of the devastation, they set up a field hospital. They are surprised when a new patient is admitted not with injuries suffered as a result of the cyclone, but with food poisoning. It transpires that he had eaten food prepared using cooking oil donated to the relief effort by a local warehouseman. Keel and Sandoval discover that the cooking oil is in fact hydraulic fluid – quite deadly! 

The doctors follow up the trail, which they discover leads to Marseilles in France. They fly out, determined to track down and prosecute the purveyor of the lethal merchandise. However, when they arrive, they find the trail seems to have gone cold. They search through police files to no avail and are considering returning to their respective home countries when a bent Customs man – Caron – breaks into Sandoval's hotel room in an attempt to retrieve incriminating evidence.

Sandoval and Keel interrogate Caron at gunpoint and, with a little help from the Marseilles police, they learn the name of their quarry – Hercule Zeebrugge! Keel arranges with Inspector Gauvreau that they should confront Zeebrugge at his home, but Sandoval, scarred by the deaths of her compatriots, deceives the others and goes on ahead with one thought on her mind – an eye for an eye!

Read the full story in Two Against the Underworld

The Avengers: Series 1, Episode 21
Production Completed:
Mon 14 Aug 1961
Recording Format: 405 Line B/W Video
Archive Holding: DOES NOT EXIST
John Cura Tele-Snaps: Photographed
Reconstruction: Made 2010
UNITED KINGDOM: Sat 19 Aug 1961
Never transmitted outside the UK


ABC Midlands: Sat 19 Aug 1961, 8.50pm
ABC North: Sat 19 Aug 1961, 8.50pm
Sat 19 Aug 1961, 8.50pm
ATV London: Sat 19 Aug 1961, 8.50pm
Not transmitted
Grampian: Not transmitted
Scottish: Sat 19 Aug 1961, 8.50pm
Southern: Sat 19 Aug 1961, 8.50pm
TWW: Sat 19 Aug 1961, 8.50pm
Tyne Tees:
Sat 19 Aug 1961, 8.50pm
Ulster: Sat 19 Aug 1961, 8.50pm
Westward: Sat 19 Aug 1961, 8.50pm
Dr David Keel
John Steed
Dr Ampara Alverez Sandoval
Luis Garcia
Hercule Zeebrugge
Inspector Gauvreau
Vera Cruz Fisherman
Fisherman's Widow
15 Male Extras
1 Female Extra
Ian Hendry
Patrick Macnee (*)
Katharine Blake
Reed de Rouen
Francis de Wolff
Guy Deghy
Tom Adams
Andreas Malandrinos
Michael Mellinger

(*) Macnee credited in opening title sequence, but does not appear in the programme.


Not released.


StudioCanal, UK: 'Mission Brief' reconstruction by Alys and Alan Hayes, narrated by Alan Hayes, combining off-screen Tele-Snaps with a newly-written narration • Stills Gallery (many images are actually from Double Danger)


Writer – John Lucarotti
Series Theme & Music –
Johnny Dankworth
Designer –
Robert Fuest
Story Editor –
John Bryce / Reed de Rouen
Producer –
Leonard White
Director –
Peter Hammond

Other credits not available

Studio – Teddington 2
An ABC Network Production


  • Production Brief... The Far Distant Dead is one of only two stories in the 187 episode run of The Avengers and The New Avengers that does not feature the character of John Steed (the other is Girl on the Trapeze, also from Series 1). Patrick Macnee retained his credit in the opening title sequence but did not appear in the episode.

  • Camera rehearsals for this episode commenced at 10.30am in Studio 2 at ABC TV Studios, Broom Road, Teddington in Middlesex on Monday 13th August 1961. The session broke at 9.00pm and the actors and crew reconvened at 10.00am the next day, Tuesday 14th August 1961, working towards a dress rehearsal between 4.15 and 5.30pm with final recording between 6.00 and 7.00pm. The episode was transmitted from videotape four nights later on Saturday 19th August 1961 at 8.50pm.

  • ABC Head of Drama Sydney Newman was reportedly unhappy with this episode, claiming that he felt it was too tough for The Avengers.

  • On Location... The Far Distant Dead was a studio-bound episode with no specially shot exterior footage.

  • Stock footage of townships being battered by violent cyclones and areas devastated by natural disasters were utilised in the episode.

  • It is most likely that establishing shots of Mexico City, Veracruz and Marseilles were also used, but there is no hard evidence to this effect.

  • Trivia... Unlike many television locales of the 1960s, Veracruz and, of course, Mexico City are real places. Veracruz is a port city in the Mexican State of the same name. It is Mexico's oldest and most significant port, for Hernαn Cortιs entered Mexico by it in 1519 and founded the city, which he called Villa Rica de Vera Cruz – a reference to the area's gold and his landing on Good Friday. The town's name appears to have been spelt 'Vera Cruz' in the episode, either through intent or error.

  • There are some narrative similarities between this episode and The Yellow Needle. Both episodes take place in foreign lands (though only partially in the case of The Yellow Needle) and both depict a usually caring woman (Jacquetta Brown in The Yellow Needle and Dr Ampara Alverez Sandoval here) who is driven to take a life.

  • In One for the Mortuary, Keel initially mistakes a place name for a character's surname – that of the taxidermist Bourg. In The Far Distant Dead, the opposite situation arises. When Caron discloses the name Zeebrugge as the source of the deadly hydraulic fluid, Keel and Ampara naturally assume that he is referring to the Belgian port, rather than the unscrupulous merchant Hercule Zeebrugge.

  • The opening sequence, in which a man is seen cooking, tasting the food and then collapsing in pain, is shown in John Cura's Tele-Snaps but had previously not been mentioned in synopses. It can be deduced that the character is a fisherman as the first Tele-Snap shows a lobster pot in the foreground. Also, assuming the widow we see later is his, the netting seen in that scene serves as a further confirmation of this suggestion. However, this is not the only question to be asked of this sequence, as its placing in the timeline of the episode is also unclear. Later we learn that the first death as a result of someone cooking with the hydraulic fluid was two years prior to the contemporary events of the episode (so, we assume, in 1959). It is fair to suggest that the opening scene depicts this event and not another incident as otherwise it appears not to be followed up in the episode and would therefore not have served a genuine dramatic purpose. It is possible therefore that the episode may have opened with an on-screen caption reading "Vera Cruz, Mexico – 1959".

  • No indication is given of Caron's actual function in existing synopses. It seems likely that he was in on Zeebrugge's scam, perhaps as a bribed official of French Customs. It would be expedient for Zeebrugge to have an inside man in Customs and Excise, who would see that the mislabelled goods went out of Marseilles without attracting undue attention. Additionally, the synopses gloss over Caron's fate. Considering Rayner's armed surveillance from the doorway of Sandoval's hotel room (as seen in the Tele-Snaps) and a production still which appears to show Caron dead, we suggest that Rayner shoots him so as to avoid Zeebrugge's identity being further compromised.

  • It is tempting to speculate that Steed makes the acquaintance of Dr Martin King, who appears in three Series 2 episodes, at around this time. Requiring the services of a doctor, but with Keel overseas, Steed may have sought out another general practitioner...

  • Reed de Rouen (1921-1986), here seen playing Mexican police chief Luis Garcia, was also one of the script editors employed on Series 1 of The Avengers – and was responsible for the final screenplay of The Yellow Needle (adapting Patrick Campbell's script). He would later appear before the cameras once more in the Series 2 episode, The Removal Men and, as a scriptwriter, contributed one credited Avengers episode – Six Hands Across A Table – under his own name.

  • Rouen's character in The Far Distant Dead, the police chief, Garcia, appears to have been given the forename 'Luis' according to the episode's listing in TV Times magazine. This conflicts with information given by Dave Rogers in his series of guide books to The Avengers. He attributes the forename 'Zun' to the character and it is quite possible that this was gleaned from an early production synopsis. It appears that the name was changed during the production process.

  • Andreas Malandrinos (1888-1970) who portrayed the Mexican warehouse owner, Godoy, was actually Greek, not Mexican.

  • Stop Press... TV Times magazine, cover dated 11th August 1961, noted as part of its gossip column, that Katherine Blake would be appearing in The Avengers episode airing on Saturday 19th, and that she had been picked as Canada's best television actress on three occasions.

  • If the 19th August 1961 edition of The Manchester Evening News is to be believed, The Far Distant Dead was based on a true story. Max North's Telereview column on page 5 on the day of transmission stated that: "The Avengers, on ITV to-night, tells of the hunt for the makers of a poisoned cooking oil, which kills those who use it, and is an idea based on a true story." It is unclear which aspect of the story was based upon reality, though the wording of the piece suggests that it might have been the lethal cooking oil.

  • And Finally... This episode was long thought to have had a hyphenated title (i.e. The Far-Distant Dead), but Leonard White's Tele-Snaps show that the episode was transmitted as The Far Distant Dead...

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

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


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