Steed is no longer unique. Emma sees too much of him.
6 x 15-minute episodes
based on the television episode
They Keep Killing Steed (1968),
written by Brian Clemens
Donald Monat as John Steed
Diane Appleby as Emma Peel
Colin Fish as Mother
Hugh Rouse as The Narrator
Adapted and directed by Dennis Folbigge
Produced by David Gooden
Transmission on Springbok Radio (7.15-7.30pm):
Episode 1 – Tuesday
Episode 2 – Wednesday
Episode 3 – Thursday
Episode 4 – Friday
Episode 5 – Monday
Episode 6 – Tuesday
Call that a Cybernaut, bud?
Steed and Mrs Peel are given an
assignment with a difference – they are to observe at a peace
conference, but for once it is not in Britain. In fact, it is
being held in Spain, in Tarragon a place near Zaragoza, and the
two agents look on the trip as something approaching a holiday.
However, what they don't know is that a man called Arcos is
waiting for them, or more precisely Steed. Arcos and his
co-conspirator Markin have developed a process to literally mould
a man's features into those of someone else, and Steed is the man
whose features they are copying.
Steed and Emma get to their
hotel in Spain and are settling in when Steed gets a call from
Captain José of the Spanish Secret Service. Steed gets a taxi to
go to José's address, but the telephone call was a hoax, and the
taxi is driven by Arcos who kidnaps Steed. Arcos and Markin need
Steed's face to make the face mould that they will use on one of
their agents. This man will infiltrate the peace conference posing
as Steed and plant a bomb in the chairman's gavel to destroy the
conference. Meanwhile, Steed will be held prisoner in a chamber
under a nearby bullring until the job is done, and then killed.
Back at the hotel Mrs Peel has made friends with another hotel
guest, Baron Von Curt, and is drinking some wine with him when the
real Captain José turns up and asks to see Steed. They realise
that the 'phone call was a hoax and that Steed is missing.
Back at the bullring, Steed
attempts to escape but doesn't succeed, so he spends some time
making up the identity kits for all five of the agents that Arcos
has chosen to impersonate him. Steed hopes that all five will
attempt infiltrate the conference, causing confusion and alerting
security that something is going on. Mrs Peel gets Von Curt to
take her to see Mother to tell him of Steed's disappearance, then
goes back to the hotel. At that same hotel one of Arcos' agents,
Nadine, gets his identity kit (as do the other four agents around
the town). Nadine uses the kit but something goes wrong and he
dies, with only a half formed face. Emma sees the body and thinks
it is Steed but Captain José confirms that it is not.
The conference begins and three
of the four disguised agents turn up as Steed. The first to arrive
quickly kills the other two thinking that at least one of them is
the real Steed. Mrs Peel and the Baron turn up at the conference
(the house hosting it actually belongs to the Baron, who has lent
it to the Spanish authorities) and meet up with Captain José, who
tells them that Steed is already there. Then they find the two
bodies – both seeming to be Steed – and realise they are
duplicates. José gives orders that anyone resembling Steed is to
be shot, reasoning that the real Steed is dead. However, the real
Steed is far from dead and has finally managed to escape, taking a
taxi to the conference. There he runs into the fourth agent and
manages to dispose of him. The surviving agent has managed to
place the bomb in the gavel and escapes, but the real Steed
manages to break into the conference and escapes with the
gavel-bomb. Mrs Peel finds Steed outside, and after establishing
that it is really him, agrees to find Arcos' H.Q. As she gets her
car the last fake Steed attacks her, but is despatched by Baron
Von Curt, enabling Steed to return to the bullring, with Emma and
the Baron in close pursuit, although Emma is still not convinced
that Steed is the genuine article.
At the bullring, Arcos' men try
to stop them and as the battle rages, Steed is in the underground
chamber. He confronts Arcos, who has become a clone of Steed
himself. Steed shoots Arcos in the struggle, but Arcos escapes –
only to be shot dead by Markin outside, who thinks Arcos is the
real Steed. Markin is then dealt with, and Steed is reunited with
Mrs Peel and the Baron.
Later, Steed and Emma grab some
time to sunbathe – back in Steed's flat in London!
Recently reminded of The
Avengers, one of the first I managed to watch was They Keep
Killing Steed. Listening to Too many Olés, I didn't
expect such short episodes or the mixture of narrative and action.
I noticed the name Emma Peel was used, presumably as it would be
better known than Tara King. Diane Appleby speaks so clearly and
from the outset is so more assertive than her TV counterpart that
I liked her right away. However, I wasn't initially used to Donald
Monat, being a little different from Patrick Macnee.
In my opinion, a setting in
Spain lends itself well to the radio adaptation. Ye Olde Sun Hotel
is now the more exotic Miranda Hotel in Tarragon. The villains'
bunker is now beneath a bullring, rather than in a quarry. As well
as Arcos and his accomplices, both the apparently domiciled Baron
and the Captain have Spanish accents, and this helps the listener
follow the plot, and also makes them more serious rivals to Steed
for Mrs Peel's attention somehow.
In the TV version, there are a
couple of superbly surreal scenes at a lake with Mother in an
underwater retreat. Here, he only has a brief appearance in a
rather more prosaic caravan. I certainly missed the eccentric
humour and must find out what was in the original script.
Likewise, the fact that the visual scene of Arcos sculpting a face
and taunting Steed wasn't portrayed on radio is understandable,
but the game of chess with its war of words could have worked.
Instead, these bad guys play cards, and throw glasses of wine at
Steed and are altogether tougher adversaries.
I began to appreciate this
Steed's more pragmatic interpretation as the episodes progressed,
not to mention his drier humour. An overpowered Arcos is told,
"That'll teach you to click your castanets at me!" It does however
give the impression he's slightly less concerned about Mrs Peel.
She, on the other hand, is positively enthusiastic when taking a
shot, unknowingly, at the real Steed. It is quite alarming! At
such times, Diane Appleby balances Steed more by portraying a more
independent character than the debutante Linda Thorson.
The two main characters very
entertainingly take centre stage in this Avengers radio
story. It's mission accomplished - but will they unwind on a real
beach this time?
TO THE TELEVISION EPISODE
Television's Captain Smythe becomes Captain José in the radio
Arcos' assistant becomes
Markin, rather than Zerson as in the TV version.
The name of the hotel where
Steed and Emma are based for the duration of the story also
changed, from The Sun Hotel on TV, to The Hotel Miranda, Tarragon,
near Zaragoza, Spain.
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.
Many characters are Spanish in
the radio serial, whereas they are mostly British in the
Storyline Changes: This
radio version transposes the action to sunny Spain – hence the
title. They Keep Killing Steed was originally to have been
set in Spain (a budget concerns caused the fall back to a British
setting), so it is likely that the script that Sonovision received
from EMI was an early draft version. This has many knock-on
One is that Steed is imprisoned
in a room under a bullring; the TV episode has Arcos' headquarters
in a chamber under a quarry, with the entrance disguised as an
abandoned taxi cab.
Another is that Mother is based
in a caravan outside Tarragon, whereas in the televised version,
he has his base submerged under a river (partly so that his
sensitive hearing is not disturbed by outside noise).
This adaptation hints at a much
closer relationship between Steed and Emma than the television
series ever did. In the television episode, Tara King identifies
Steed when he mentions their great secret... strawberry shortcake.
Here, Steed convinces Emma of his identity by reminding her of the
night when he'd got her rather too drunk, not to mention the
The tag scene is much the same
in both versions, with the Avengers sunning themselves under lamps
back in London – the only obvious difference being that the scene
in the TV episode is set in Tara's flat rather than Steed's.
Bloopers: In the heat of
the moment in Episode Six, the actor playing Arcos gets his own
character's name wrong, proclaiming "I am not Arcost!" as he shows
Steed his newly re-moulded face.
The performance of Episode One
under-ran, leaving the producer to scramble for his recording of
Laurie Johnson's Symphony (Synthesis), tacking a minute of
it on the end of the episode as an extended playout.
This serial is known to have
been the next one broadcast after A Case of Interrogation.
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