Steed receives a deadly gift. Emma pockets it!

6 x 15-minute episodes
based on the television episode
The Cybernauts (1965),
written by Philip Levene

Principal Cast:
Donald Monat as John Steed
Diane Appleby as Emma Peel
Hugh Rouse as The Narrator

Production:
Adapted and directed by Dennis Folbigge
Produced by David Gooden

Transmission on Springbok Radio (7.15-7.30pm):
Episode 1 - Wednesday 14th June 1972
Episode 2 - Thursday 15th June 1972
Episode 3 - Friday 16th June 1972
Episode 4 - Monday 19th June 1972
Episode 5 - Tuesday 20th June 1972
Episode 6 - Wednesday 21st June 1972
This is a best guess based on available data

It's Dark and He's Wearing Sunglasses
He may be a Pabulum Robot
but he's as cool as a cucumber.

PLOTLINE

Steed and Mrs Peel are instructed by Mother to investigate the violent deaths of several high-powered executives. The only apparent link between the dead men is that they worked for various engineering or electronic companies, and all have had dealings with the Harachi Corporation a Japanese electronics firm. It seems that whoever killed these men is incredibly strong, immune to bullets, and an expert in Karate.

Suspecting that there is a plot by one company to eliminate rivals for Harachi's European concession, Mrs Peel visits a Karate school where one of the star pupils is Uyama ("The Tall Mountain"). Uyama's real name is Jephcott, head of Jephcott Products another company in competition for Harachi's contract and he is a prime suspect in the case, until he too, is killed by the mystery assassin.

Meanwhile, Steed learns about another company, United Automation led by the wheelchair-bound Dr Armstrong. He is an ex-Ministry scientist who left under a cloud, and set up his own company to pursue his dream of building machines strong enough and intelligent enough to do the work of humans. Steed infiltrates the company posing as a journalist and interviews Armstrong. However, unknown to Steed, his cover has been blown and Armstrong lets him go after giving him a distinctive fountain pen in truth a tracking device.

Steed later goes back to United Automation at night and breaks in. He discovers that Armstrong has been building machines called Pabulum Robots seven foot-tall metal men that are incredibly strong and have programmable brains. They have been used to dispose of Armstrong's rivals by following the trace signals emanating from the special pens that Armstrong has given his victims. A Pabulum Robot is despatched to kill Steed, but as Steed (hiding in United Automation's air conditioning tunnel) realises, Mrs Peel now has the pen. Luckily, Mrs Peel unknowingly avoids the robot at her flat, and goes to the United Automation building to find Steed. Steed is captured but manages to overpower Armstrong's assistant. He reaches Mrs Peel and they set the robots against each other by planting a tracker pen on one of the machines. Armstrong, in a moment of madness, tries to stop the robots destroying each other but is killed in the process.

GUEST REVIEW

The menace causing so much destruction in this story led to a total of three stories on TV so it has to be an interesting topic. Businessmen are confronted by something monstrously strong and paying with their lives. It's good to hear this Mrs Peel already speculating on the results of her research into the deaths. She is often like this after reporting back to Steed or Mother and is just as pro-active as the better-known Mrs Peel as portrayed by Diana Rigg. And it's a recognisable Steed, too, who wonders why the assailant "Didn't just use the door handle"; he's every bit as witty as his television equivalent. Another mention of the boss, Mother, is squeezed in nicely without much ado. There will be quite enough speaking characters to remember without the introduction of Mother too. As she follows one lead relating to the deaths, Mrs Peel's visit to a karate school is so full of the unexpected; all the more so for there being so much exciting action which progresses her investigation precious little! Well, a negative result is still a result, she would no doubt claim. It is a delightfully clever part of the serial. The separate investigations of Steed and Mrs Peel then seem equally viable, with neither of them in very much danger. However, as the only suspense is to discover which of them is on the right trail, it gets a bit uneventful for a while.

Some very futuristic things can be heard at the United Automation Company and Armstrong really gives quite a lot away to Steed for a while. It's very interesting to consider a man being obsessed with the possibilities of Automats with computer minds, but for a while in the middle, the plot doesn't do the idea justice. Things pick up, however, when Steed tells Mrs Peel that he suspects the company he's just visited and that the competition for business "is not just for profit". It sounds, then, like Armstrong is a diabolical mastermind! I liked how the hidden Steed then overhears Armstrong's plans; it's ideal for radio. Mrs Peel is unaware that she's in danger with the homing device pen and in the radio version Mrs Peel doesn't get much to say. It's the narrator that explains her situation, which makes her seem particularly vulnerable, and even more so than on television. If this was happening in a pantomime, we'd all be shouting, "Get rid of that pen!"

There's nothing wrong, after the episode number announcement, in telling the listener what certain characters are going to discover (after all, Shakespeare's plays are just as good with some downright spoilers). They are just one more part of the serial to enjoy. The final one here comes as rather a surprise. "The modern advance in automation can be a deadly gift," we hear. It's also true, but it won't replace the tracking device pens that I first thought of as "the deadly gift". Those zippy lift doors do sound more than a bit deadly too though - a great sound effect. I like the conviction with which Steed reminds Armstrong that his creations are all just machines. The finale is a particularly exciting one and Steed then suggests leaving in something with only one horsepower!

Ron Geddes

DIFFERENCES COMPARED TO THE TELEVISION EPISODE

Name Changes: The only major change in this adaptation is that the robots are called Pabulum Robots rather than the TV name Cybernauts.

Character Changes: None.

Storyline Changes: As in some other radio adaptations, Steed and Mrs Peel receive a telephone call from Mother, sending them in to investigate. Mother, however, is only referred to by other characters, and does not actually appear at any point in the serial.

PRODUCTION NOTES

If you're wondering, "why call them 'Pabulum Robots'?", well a cursory look in the dictionary will tell you that 'pabulum' means 'bland' clearly a comment in this instance on the featureless metal faces of the robots. You learn something every day, you know...

This serial was animated in 2012 to 2013 as The Cybernauts, a non-commercial fan-produced project by Paul Farrer of Fazz68 Productions. Read about it here.

This serial is known to have been the next one broadcast after Get-A-Way.

Alys Hayes

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