Production Number: 3422 Tape Number: Unknown

PLOTLINE

Scientists at a government facility are experimenting with materials intended to protect astronauts from space radiation. However, all is not well at the centre. A technician has been attacked in the laboratory and deliberately exposed to a massive dose of radiation.

Consequently, Steed is dispatched by One-Fifteen to investigate, with the instruction that he should ensure that disruption to the centre's important work is kept to an absolute minimum.

At the facility, he finds a series of fractious and potentially compromising interpersonal relationships between high-ranking scientists but no firm leads to help track down the bad apple.

Steed meets with Saunders, the centre's unpopular security chief. He has intercepted coded communications from within the complex to an external group and he is convinced that someone wants to sabotage operations there. Steed is certain that the chief perpetrator is a member of the centre staff and in order to bring the saboteur out into the open, he decides to put himself forward as a test subject. He is assured that the experiment that he submits himself to is completely safe, but someone at the facility is intent on making sure that Steed's experience is a painful one...

 

Read the full story in Two Against the Underworld

PRODUCTION & ARCHIVE
The Avengers: Series 1, Episode 25
Production Completed:
Wed 27 Sep 1961
Recording Format: 405 Line B/W Video
Archive Holding: DOES NOT EXIST
John Cura Tele-Snaps: Photographed
Reconstruction: Made 2010
INTERNATIONAL PREMIERES
UNITED KINGDOM: Sat 30 Dec 1961
Never transmitted outside the UK

UK REGIONAL PREMIERES

ABC Midlands: Sat 30 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
ABC North: Sat 30 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
Anglia:
Sat 30 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
ATV London: Sat 30 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
Border:
Sat 30 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
Grampian: Sat 30 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
Scottish: Not transmitted
Southern: Sat 30 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
TWW: Sat 30 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
Tyne Tees:
Sat 30 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
Ulster: Sat 30 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
Westward: Sat 30 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
CHARACTERS & CAST
Dr David Keel
John Steed
Lisa Strauss
Saunders
Dr Redington
Susan Summers
Dr Jack Alford
Technician
Secretary
One-Fifteen
Boris
Landlord
Peters
First Technician
Second Technician
Boris' Henchman
Ian Hendry (*)
Patrick Macnee
Sylvia Langova
Alfred Burke
Ronald Leigh-Hunt
Barbara Shelley
Thomas Kyffin
Keith Barron
Amanda Reeves
Eric Dodson
Steven Scott
Michael Robbins
Herbert Nelson
Uncredited
Morris Perry
Uncredited

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

ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Not released.

DVD EXTRAS

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

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Writer Terence Feely
Series Theme & Music
Johnny Dankworth
Designer
Voytek
Story Editor
John Bryce / Reed de Rouen
Producer
Leonard White
Director
Peter Hammond

Other credits not available

Studio Teddington 2
An ABC Network Production

DRAGONSFIELD DECLASSIFIED

  • Production Brief... Neither Ian Hendry nor Ingrid Hafner feature at all or appear to have had their characters referenced in this episode. There are no scenes involving their characters or which are set at Keel's surgery. Though Hendry does not appear in the episode itself, a surviving Tele-Snap indicates that he was credited in the title sequence as usual, just as Patrick Macnee had been for the Keel-only episodes Girl on the Trapeze and The Far Distant Dead.

  • Although Dragonsfield was the 25th episode to be recorded, it was held over and broadcast as the 26th and final episode of Series 1.

  • Dragonsfield is the only Series 1 episode directed by Peter Hammond that was not designed by Robert Fuest. Hammond had struck up a superb working relationship with Fuest, and they worked together on eight 1961 episodes. When Fuest proved unavailable for Dragonsfield, Voytek Roman (or Voytek as he was commonly known and credited) was assigned to the role. The surviving production photographs reveal that Voytek made a significant impact in the episode, which represents his only work on The Avengers.


  • On Location... This episode appears to have been realised completely in the television studio, with no location footage being played in. It is of course possible that a number of establishing shots, from stock or otherwise, were included in the production. Until the script or better still, the episode is uncovered, it is impossible to tell.


  • Trivia... Sylvia Langova (1921-2010) was a Czech actress, who most often worked under the name Sylva Langova. Her other TV credits include Destination Downing Street (1957), The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre (1963), Secret Army (1977) and the Series 2 Avengers episode, The Mauritius Penny.

  • The character of security chief Saunders (the incomparable Alfred Burke) stands in to an extent as Steed's accomplice in the absence of Keel, carrying out some of the investigative work by himself.

  • Three different types of protective suit are seen in use during this episode, all of which are donned by Susan Summers at some point. One of them is a standard hazmat (hazardous materials) suit, as worn by Dr Alford when he is attacked by the mechanical grab-arms. Another (more flattering!) outfit resembles a lightweight spacesuit not unlike that worn by astronaut Alan Shepard when he piloted the Freedom 7 mission on 5th May 1961 to become the first American in space, just a few months before this episode was recorded. A more forward-thinking design is that worn by Miss Summers at the very start and end of the story, which looks more like the bulky EVA (extra-vehicular activity) spacesuits that would become familiar from 1965 onwards. It is possible that these variations were intended to mislead the audience about the number of saboteurs at work in the research centre a neat twist on The Deadly Air, in which what initially appears to be one saboteur turns out to be two. In story terms, Susan Summers' two spacesuits may represent different stages in the development of the garment by the scientists at the facility, or they could be intended for different purposes, such as intra-vehicle and extra-vehicle use. What appears to be yet another design for a lightweight spacesuit can be seen on a poster on one wall of Dr Redington's office in several on-set photographs.

  • Despite its claim to be in order of appearance, the TV Times cast list for this episode appears to be nothing of the kind. It bills the characters in the following sequence: John Steed, Lisa Strauss, Saunders, Redington, Susan Summers, etc. Contradicting this, the Tele-Snaps show them being introduced in this order: the ill-fated technician, Steed, Redington, Susan Summers, etc. Despite this mix-up, it may be pertinent that directly above the credit for One-Fifteen is a character called Secretary, whose role in this episode is unknown. Given her position in the cast list, it is possible that she is One-Fifteen's secretary, and that she takes Steed's telephone call before putting him through to One-Fifteen.

  • To add to the technician-related confusion, Keith Barron is credited in TV Times as 'Technician', but he does not appear in any of the Tele-Snaps taken of this episode. However, he is pictured in a handful of production photographs shot during rehearsals, meaning it is almost certain that, by chance, his scenes were not captured by photographer John Cura. This is not without precedent, as the characters of Skewer (Charles Saynor) and Jessup (Tom Payne) were similarly not featured in the Tele-Snaps of The Springers, despite both taking part in the episode. Conversely, Morris Perry, who played 'Second Technician', is shown in Tele-Snaps (during Steed's ordeal in the isolation chamber), but is not clearly visible in production photographs, which has led to some confusion in terms of identifying who played whom. The actor portraying the unfortunate victim at the beginning of the episode was uncredited in TV Times.

  • There are a couple of plot details which have gone missing in the mists of time, which cannot be learned from the surviving materials the first and most important of these is the motivation behind the sabotage plot, which can be only guessed at until more definitive sources surface. The only one that appears to work logically within the parameters that are known is that the sabotage plot was engineered by a foreign power who were also involved in the space race. The other is the significance to the plot of its title, Dragonsfield. There is the possibility that it was the name assigned to the research establishment, the area in which the story took place, the experimental project, or a code word intercepted by Saunders. These questions are only likely to be answered if a script or the episode is recovered.

  • This episode has long been believed to have started off its life under the working title The Un-Dead or The Case of the Happy Camper. In fact, The Un-Dead was the working title of Dead of Winter, and appears on the surviving rehearsal script for that episode, while production documentation from 1962 reveals that the title The Happy Camper was actually ascribed to an unknown Series 2 episode.


  • Stop Press... The Manchester Evening News of 30th December 1961 featured a brief teaser for Dragonsfield which perhaps painted it as more fantastical than it actually was, implying that "The Avengers moves on ITV to-night to an atomic research establishment where Barbara Shelley and Sylvia Langova are involved in sinister goings-on in space suits". TV Times magazine went even further, indicating that Steed "samples outer space".

  • The 24th-30th December edition of Television Weekly (a periodical serving the TWW ITV region) covered the episode with a lavish photo feature. One of the two images used is the one shown at the top of this page, depicting Lisa Strauss (Sylvia Langova) being strangled by a figure in a radiation suit. The other picture was a group shot of Barbara Shelley as Susan Summers, Langova as Lisa and Ronald Leigh-Hunt as Dr Redington. In a sign of the times, Langova's character is referred to as "a woman scientist", though evidently there was deemed to be no need to specify that Leigh-Hunt played "a man scientist"!


  • And Finally... This episode performed very well to round off the show's first year, charting at No. 10 in the UK Top 20 television programmes for the week. Dragonsfield was watched by an audience of 4,956,000. On a more local basis, the episode reached No. 6 and No. 10 in the ABC Midlands and ABC North regions respectively.

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

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

 

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