Steed bids high. Emma ducks for cover.

6 x 15-minute episodes
based on the unaired television episode
Invitation To A Killing (1968),
written by Donald James
(see Production Notes)

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 - Tuesday 12th September 1972
Episode 2 - Wednesday 13th September 1972
Episode 3 - Thursday 14th September 1972
Episode 4 - Friday 15th September 1972
Episode 5 - Monday 18th September 1972
Episode 6 - Tuesday 19th September 1972
This is a best guess based on available data

 

Everything Has Its Price
Even revolution.

PLOTLINE

Lady Adriana Beardsley is at Stokely House, her country mansion set in large grounds with peacocks in the gardens. She is timing a curious demonstration given by her brother, Conrad – a gun expert and crack shot. The demonstration (of a new rifle) culminates in the shooting of a hapless opponent in the gardens of the house. Meanwhile, Steed's flat has been turned into a gun arsenal, ostensibly to help Steed keep up his knowledge of the subject. Mrs Peel is there and Steed tests her knowledge by questioning her on some of the equipment. She tires of this and ends the questioning by jokingly threatening him with a concussion grenade. So Steed takes a slightly different tack and shows Emma a used bullet found in a body, encased in concrete, in a Hampshire quarry. It seems to be from a new top secret rifle, and Mrs Peel goes to Shrivenham Ballistics Centre to see if she can find out more. Steed, on the other hand, goes to a London hotel to look up an old school friend from his days at Eton – Colonel Aristides – whom Steed suspects of being in the country on a mission to buy arms. He finds the Colonel's sixth floor suite, but has to side-step the dumb Greek bodyguard, Giles, to get inside. At Shrivenham, Emma has not found out a great deal, and is preparing to leave when she is attacked by two men, Jackson and Erickson, in the car park. She manages to throw them off and gets in her car, driving straight for the exit. However, Conrad, in another car, blocks the way so Emma tries to reverse towards the entrance.

As Emma is still frantically trying to get out of the car park, Erickson throws himself on her bonnet, but she breaks sharply and dislodges him. She manages to race out of the exit, hotly pursued by Conrad and Jackson in the other car. They draw up level and try to run her off the road but she evades this manoeuvre and Conrad's car ends up in a ditch just as they join the M1 motorway. Steed is at a government rifle range when Emma joins him. It has been established that the bullet is from the FF70 – a brand new rifle not yet off the secret list, and Steed thinks that this is what Aristides is in Britain to buy. Steed and Emma have a shooting competition at the range, which Emma wins, and her prize is dinner that evening at The Rainbow Room in the Westborough Hotel – the hotel where the Colonel is staying. Coincidently, Adriana and Conrad are at the hotel visiting Aristides to invite him to a demonstration at Stokely House. The Colonel intends to effect a coup d'ιtat in his own country and knows that Adriana has three thousand FF70 rifles, so is very pleased to accept the invitation. After their meeting, Conrad and Adriana leave the hotel, to be spotted by Emma who is sitting in the lobby with Steed. Emma follows the siblings outside as they get into their limousine, but Conrad spots her in a car mirror. Adriana tells him not to worry – Mrs Peel will find them later and they can deal with her then. Steed has gone upstairs to search the suite, but Emma sees the Colonel and Giles return, and realises Steed will be trapped.

Steed gets into the Colonel's suite and finds a safe behind a picture. He opens it and finds £200,000 in bank notes inside, which he leaves there. He is just about to leave when he hears a noise, and spots a pair of legs behind the window curtains! Steed attacks – only to find that the legs belong to a tailor's dummy, wearing a general's ornate uniform. Aristides and Giles open the door, but Steed has escaped through another door out of the suite. Over dinner, Steed and Mrs Peel realise that the Colonel wants to be president of his country – hence the new uniform, and his willingness to buy the FF70s. The next day Emma goes to the factory of Thrupp & Withenshaw, manufacturer of the FF70, under the pretext of organising a publicity shoot. She takes along a girl model and a photographer and sets up for the 'commercial' – only to be questioned by an employee called Paxton. Paxton appears to be mollified by her explanation, and goes around the corner to his 'guest' – Conrad. Paxton is the source of the FF70s for the Beardsleys and Conrad is there to pick up some more boxes of the rifles. He recognises Mrs Peel and goes after her, but Mrs Peel is quick enough to get away, only to run into two other men. She manages to overpower them but then Conrad appears and threatens her with an FF70. Meanwhile, Steed is back at the hotel visiting the Colonel. During the conversation Steed deliberately calls him 'General' – this alerts Aristides, but Steed claims he is merely anticipating events. He tells the Colonel that he is in competition with him – buying arms for the President, and is therefore Aristides' rival in business! During this time Emma is being taken back to Stokely House.

At Stokely House, Emma is dumped in the cellar whilst Adriana entertains her guests – including Aristides. The Colonel mentions to Adriana that he has another rival and prospective buyer – Steed. Adriana is interested and asks Conrad to contact Steed – the more the merrier. Later, Steed arrives at the house whilst Aristides is playing golf with Giles. The Colonel decides to rid himself of his rival and sends Giles off to shoot Steed, who has just presented his credentials – a case full of money – to Adriana. Giles tries to kill Steed as the agent walks back from parking his car, but instead the henchman is shot by Conrad – Adriana doesn't want any bidders hurt. She does however want Emma Peel dead and aims to achieve this by putting Mrs Peel in one of the demonstrations – competing against Conrad. Steed is wandering around the grounds, before the show begins, and finds a pet's gravestone from 1915 for a dog called Scamp, owned by Hector Beardsley. He realises who Adriana and Conrad are – the grandchildren of Hector, who had built up a thriving armaments business but whose son lost the lot. Adriana and Conrad obviously want to revive the family's lost business. Back at the house, Steed and Aristides watch the demonstrations start, with Jackson and Erickson as the first contestants.

Jackson is the victor in the first demonstration, shooting Erickson having got to a hidden FF70 first. Adriana explains that the men are mercenaries who have been promised a huge cash prize if they win their competitions, hence why they are willing to risk all. She then announces the start of the next demonstration, featuring Emma and Conrad. Mrs Peel is given an unloaded FF70 – the magazine is in the garden and she finds it quickly, then hides in a bush... But just as Conrad is about to give chase Steed halts the proceedings by demanding that the auction begin now. Adriana agrees and says that the winning bidder will not only get the rifles but also decide whether the demonstration is to carry on. Steed bids up to £300,000 and thinks he has won – all the other bidders have dropped out. But Adriana reveals that the Colonel had lodged some money with her some months before, which taken with the money he has brought with him, comes to a total of £300,000. The Colonel also produces another £10,000 and Steed has no more cash on him – so the Colonel's bid is successful and he wants the demonstration to continue! Emma and Conrad, both with FF70s, vanish into the grounds and start to hunt each other. Several shots are fired and Emma appears to be hit by Conrad... She has ducked and feigns death. Clever girl that Emma Peel!

Steed grabs the victorious Conrad's rifle and stares down the sights at Mrs Peel's body – she winks at him! So, feigning disinterest, Steed says his goodbyes and leaves. Later that evening, Conrad and the Colonel tour the grounds – but find that Mrs Peel's body has disappeared! She has been given a lift by Steed and gone off for dinner. Adriana is counting the money when Conrad informs her about the vanishing body, so they agree to move the rifles next morning and double security in the meantime. At midnight, Steed and Emma return to the grounds, finding the hut where the rifles are housed. They quickly overpower the guard, Jackson, and go inside – finding that the hut contains plastic explosive and detonators as well as the rifles. Deciding to put all this to good use, they set up the explosives inside and light the fuse, just as Conrad finds Jackson's unconscious body. Conrad spots the two agents and shoots, but Emma – also armed with an FF70 – goes after him. Steed runs across the grounds and captures Adriana just as Conrad, nursing a bullet wound, escapes into the hut. The whole building goes up taking the rifles and Conrad with it! With the case closed, Steed and Mrs Peel decide to raid the Stokely House cellar. Surely she has some champagne stored there?

GUEST REVIEW

Stokely is a strange sort of firearms testing country house. I think Conrad (Lady Beardsley's brother) should have said that he's a one-shot man; early nerves? From the outset, there are obviously strange goings on when tea is taken after an opponent is shot. Steed encounters Giles on his way to seeing his arms-buying rival colonel. I remember a certain Gozo didn't say a great deal either, so maybe all characters whose first names start with a G simply grunt. A military force that's at odds with the President of its country is an all-too topical subject today. The case has a real-life background feel about it. Mrs Peel avoids Conrad's car chasing her, only to be spotted again. We're told that she's aware of it but doesn't worry for herself, as she says that Steed must get a move on. She felt very relaxed at this point. I like what Steed comes up with for a plan so Mrs. Peel can visit the rifle factory. A dolly model (Steed's adjective not mine) photo shoot is far more exciting than using a security pass as in the TV version. It is interesting for me now to hear that Conrad indeed never misses; he must indeed be a one-shot man.

Things move quickly now for Mrs Peel, who was last heard cornered, when the narrator tells us that she is now at Stokely House. This conjures up a whole sequence of imagined events in her journey there. These are enjoyable moments. Listen out for the call of the peacock as found in the grounds of Stokely; a nice bird call!

Steed does take a bit of a risk pulling Conrad's gun from his pocket, while the hypocritical colonel remains polite (considering he had just tried to have him killed). This is a good example of an underlying mood in this story. We're told that the atmosphere is tense as Mrs Peel and Conrad resume their duel after Steed's intervention. It's only really tense for the combatants and Steed. Mrs Beardsley and all the other bidders sound like a bunch of old boys chatting to one another amidst all the firearm demonstrations. The underlying mood in the background is one of everyone being ridiculously polite. The colonel makes reference to everything being like the games they used to play at school; public school, of course. Steed mentions foul play in the scrum at rugby. The others could all be the oldest members at a cricket club, wheeled out for some light entertainment. The appeal of this story to me is the humour of how Steed and Mrs Peel go along with the games being played in this polite society.

Ron Geddes

DIFFERENCES COMPARED TO THE TELEVISION EPISODE

Name Changes: The factory is known as the State Ordinance Depot in the TV version, not Trupp & Withenshaw.

The factory/depot employee in league with the Beardsleys is called Crayford in the TV episode, not Paxton. Paxton seems a popular name in the radio shows... It also turns up in Escape in Time (Remake). The characters are, however, clearly different.

The TV episode does not give the Ballistics Centre a location – the radio version locates it at Shrivenham.

The FF70 rifle's full moniker was employed only in the television episode. The full code number was FF70/9074-XXV Mk.10 and the characters delighted in shortening it!

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.

The TV episode features a Colonel Nsonga (from an un-named African state) instead of Colonel Aristides, a Greek. Nsonga knows Steed from the last coup in his country – they did not meet at Eton. There is the possibility that this character was replaced to avoid trouble with the censors – Nsonga being a black, high-ranking African revolutionary.

In the TV version, a character called Spencer (played by Timothy Bateson) is featured as a scientist at the Ballistics centre. The character is not present in the radio adaptation.

Giles retains the same name from the television version, but is now Greek instead of African. Although he does not say anything in the television episode, it is never stated there that he is a mute.

Storyline Changes: The TV version starts with the staged theft of the three thousand rifles from the State Ordinance Depot, whereas the radio version implies that the Paxton character has been allowing Conrad to collect the rifles without recourse to such subterfuge. The Crayford character (TV) lets the thieves in and is deliberately beaten unconscious to keep up the pretence. When Conrad goes back to the depot in the TV episode, to collect more ammunition, he shoots Crayford dead in order make it seem like more theft.

Tara does not stage a photo shoot at the depot in order to get in, since she has a red pass and is able to access all areas. She is followed back to her flat by Conrad, who breaks in and kidnaps her at gunpoint.

There is no collection of rifles at Steed's flat in the TV episode, nor do he and Tara engage in a shooting contest. Thus they do not need to have dinner at Nsonga's hotel – indeed Tara never visits the hotel.

Steed's first visit to the hotel in the TV episode is when he breaks into the Colonel's room and finds the money and uniform. He does not meet Nsonga at this point.

No mention is made in the TV episode of the Beardsley's history, their grandfather Hector, or the family business in arms sales and gun running.

Steed's maximum TV auction bid is £250,000 and another £24 from his own wallet. Nsonga bids £250,000 but has an extra £53 in his wallet. In the radio series, just five years later, the bids reach £300,000 before Nsonga tops them by £10,000. That's inflation for you!

The TV version of the second demonstration does not end with Tara feigning death; instead she runs after Conrad, knocking him unconscious before then hiding in the woods surrounding the house. Steed, having prevented her being shot by one of Adriana's men, follows her into the trees.

It is Steed, on his own, who sets up the explosive in the hut (in the TV episode). After he has got out and sets the fuse alight, Tara unknowingly goes into the hut and is trapped there by Conrad, who handcuffs her to a box of FF70s. Conrad then goes back outside and runs into Steed, drawing a knife on the agent during their fight. Conrad falls on this knife in the course of the fight, so Steed has just enough time to go back in the hut and get Tara out before the place explodes.

In the TV version, Colonel Nsonga does not get away – he just happens to be walking near the hut with Lady Beardsley when the explosion occurs, and is killed by a bullet set off in the blast.

The radio adaption ends with Steed and Mrs Peel going off to search the Beardsley's cellar for champagne. In the TV episode, Steed gets a special gift from the president of Nsonga's country – we never see it, but it sounds suspiciously like a lion!

PRODUCTION NOTES

The genesis of Straight from the Shoulder is undoubtedly the most complex of the existing radio serials. It is sourced from Invitation to a Killing, a ninety-minute introductory episode for the final series of The Avengers that was ultimately rewritten, partially re-shot and eventually broadcast in 1968 as Have Guns – Will Haggle – a standard length episode.

Invitation to a Killing was one of four episodes at least partially completed by a new production team who were themselves replaced when the production was clearly running badly behind time. The original television script was written by Donald James, and was redrafted (uncredited) by Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell as Have Guns – Will Haggle.

This serial is known to have been the next one broadcast after The Joker.

Alys Hayes

Back to Top