Steed discovers the afterlife. Emma digs deep to save him.

6 x 15-minute episodes
based on the television episode
Bizarre (1969),
written by Brian Clemens

Principal Cast:
Donald Monat as John Steed
Diane Appleby as Emma Peel
Colin Fish as Mother
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 - Tuesday 8th August 1972
Episode 2 - Wednesday 9th August 1972
Episode 3 - Thursday 10th August 1972
Episode 4 - Friday 11th August 1972
Episode 5 - Monday 14th August 1972
Episode 6 - Tuesday 15th August 1972
This is a best guess based on available data

The Happy Undertaker
Are his charges as dead as they seem?

PLOTLINE

A distraught woman collapses in the middle of nowhere and is taken to hospital. Mother tells Steed and Mrs Peel that he wants find out what's happened merely to "establish superiority" over the newly-created and rival department of Strange and Inexplicable Happenings. Steed enlists the assistance of a man named Cordell. The woman, who it is discovered is called Helen, awakens in a confused state and talks about a dead man and a coffin. Cordell has discovered that a coffin was being transported on a train to the Happy Meadows burial plots shortly before she was found, so Steed pays a visit.

At Happy Meadows, Steed discovers the coffin contains the remains of a Mr Jupp and returns to the hospital with photos. Helen at first recognises one of the photographs as the dead man and then remembers that he threw her from the train! Steed goes back and exhumes Jupp who appears to be dead. Attending to Helen at the hospital, Mrs Peel saves her from a murder attempt by a man who subsequently dies.

Steed returns and learns the attacker's identity is Morton who, like Jupp, is known to have been a shady financier. He was repored to have died six months previously and was buried at Happy Meadows. Steed goes back. Meanwhile another man wants to assassinate Helen but can only take note of her minders. Morton's coffin is empty and contacting Mother with the names from some other gravestones, they recognise those of four more financiers. They decide to exhume the bodies, only to find all the coffins are empty when they are dug up.

Cordell visits Jupp's widow and she tells him her husband had been arranging a trip with Mystic Tours. The men there arrange for him to get to Happy Meadows. Mother is just suggesting some night surveillance when Cordell tells them where he's going and Steed follows him. There he is told that Cordell died in a road accident and after examining his grave confirms this to Mother. The night vigil falls to Mrs Peel. In fact, Cordell is not really dead and is quite close by, discovering what's going on at Happy Meadows he has found out that the financiers are hidden away below the burial plots, secretly living in style. However, he is recognised by Helen's would-be assassin and is shot. After an uneventful night, Mrs Peel insists that she too examines Cordell's grave.

The fact that Cordell's corpse has a gunshot wound to the forehead baffles both Mother and Steed. Courageously wanting to take the same route as him to solve the mystery, Steed visits Mrs Jupp and finds Mystic Tours. On producing enough money, he is accepted for Happy Meadows but is told he must go there immediately and isn't even allowed to call his 'mother'.Paying it a visit to Happy Meadows, Mrs Peel is told that Steed is dead! Refusing to believe it, she examines his grave and finds it empty. Digging further, she stumbles upon Steed, just in time. They round up the Mystic Tours men, Jupp and the other financiers. With much groundbreaking effort, Mother's superiority has been established.

GUEST REVIEW

This is surely, indeed as Mother himself says, one of the most intriguing cases that ever needed to be solved; that of dead men that aren't dead! One thing added in the radio version is a new Department Of Strange and Inexplicable Happenings. Mother doesn't like it. This competing department annoys him so much that he's particularly determined to solve the case and the adaptation does make him noticeably more irritable. I have to admire Brian Clemens writing a story about supposedly dead men and burial plots that's amusing and is yet never really offensive (I don't think he avoided black humour in quite all of his episodes). The characters' behaviour here also sounds very natural, so the writing and the acting create a great result.

One interesting part is when the woman who saw a dead man, Helen, is recovering. The differences to the TV version are interesting. Here, after Steed hands her photos, her reactions to the photos she doesn't recognise are skipped. I could listen to such serials any number of times, find something new like this, and enjoy thinking about the choices made. But it's not only thinking about the choices made, the new language in the radio serials can be a joy too. The expression of the burial plot manager, Happychap, is described as suggesting a "spaniel-like plea". The plot and original humour, like having a "Paradise Plot" is all still there too of course. I spotted a small difference when Cordell visits Mrs Jupp. She's slightly more upset and nervous here, which seems to make sense because a widow would normally be missing her husband. Cordell's subsequent visiting of the travel agent is then, as I recall it on TV, pretty unaltered.

Mother seems more forceful than I remember when he suddenly suggests that they hand the case over after all, and I so liked his competitive spirit at the start!. Happychap is very good when getting a word in early as Steed revisits, saying "they are all staying where they are!" I love bits like this where we sympathise with the predicament and yet know it's a lost cause. So it's a great story, the way the scenes change back and forth, and is one of my favourites. It is fitting that it ended up as the final one on TV (as Bizarre). The gravediggers aren't forgotten about either, and they get a great line of dialogue: "We're as expert now at bringing them up as putting them down". What a contrast between their carefree workaday approach and that of the despairing Happychap. There's comic potential in any drama when your boss is almost driven to a nervous breakdown. As I listen to the great final episode and consider reviewing in general, I feel compelled to say that it's almost impossible to write a review, by definition, with any sort of modesty. This serial really warrants no criticism or needs any acclaim from me; it speaks for itself.

Ron Geddes

DIFFERENCES COMPARED TO THE TELEVISION EPISODE

Name Changes: Helen's dog now has a name Peter.

William Cordell's first name is changed to Peter (presumably to allow the amnesiac Helen to almost remember her dog Peter).

Not a name change as such, but the two gravediggers, Tom and Bob are frequently mentioned by name here, where in the television version they were only referred as such in the end credits.

Character Changes: This is one of a number of episodes adapted for the Sonovision Avengers which replaces the television character of Tara King with that of Emma Peel.

Mr Happychap is to be imagined as a slim young man. In the television version, he was a short and rotund fellow (played by comedy actor Roy Kinnear).

Steed and Mrs Peel assist with Mother's wheelchair instead of Rhonda.

Another character, Croaker Waysgoose, and his new department of Strange and Inexplicable Happenings are added and are a continuing annoyance to Mother.

Storyline Changes: In the radio version, Steed accompanies Cordell to the scene where Helen is found.

Whereas in the TV version the missing Steed is located simply when the phone rings, in the radio version Mrs Jupp needs to be traced via a telephone directory and queried first.

Cordell is not shot in the chest, but the head, quite possibly a concession to the family timeslot.

After reading a newspaper, Mother apparently doesn't think much about the (by then topical) 'Common Market'.

Steed tells Mr Happychap that he's lucky his father didn't like synthesisers (instead of sousaphones in the TV version).

The Master is understandably made to respond to the sound of Steed's coins instead of banknotes.

Instead of the 'out of this world' ending of the TV episode (and series), Mother toasts the resurrected Steed.

In Episode 4, Paradise Plot is referred to as Paradise Place.

PRODUCTION NOTES

At the start of Episode 5, there is a long recap presumably as it was transmitted on a Monday.

In Episode 1, Steed remarks that "circumstances are bizarre," perhaps hinting at the TV episode title.

This serial is known to have been the next one broadcast after Who Shot Poor George / XR40?

Ron Geddes

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