Steed dallies with technology. Emma finds it's all relative.

7 x 15-minute episodes
based on the television episode
Whoever Shot Poor George
Oblique Stroke XR40?
(1968),
written by Tony Williamson

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 - Friday 28th July 1972
Episode 2 - Monday 31st July 1972
Episode 3 - Tuesday 1st August 1972
Episode 4 - Wednesday 2nd August 1972
Episode 5 - Thursday 3rd August 1972
Episode 6 - Friday 4th August 1972
Episode 7 - Monday 7th August 1972
This is a best guess based on available data

Retro Error Message
So much more reassuring than
the blue screen of death.

PLOTLINE

At the Heron Establishment, a well-guarded Ministry of Technology building set in rural grounds, an advanced human-shaped computer called George / XR40 is attacked and seriously damaged by someone using a shotgun. John Steed drags Emma Peel away from a party in order to investigate this incident. They meet Dr Ardmore, who is trying to repair George in an operation assisted by another scientist called Tobin, and find out that the last person to see George before the shooting was another member of staff called Charles Baines. He has gone back to his flat to recover from the stress of the incident, so Steed and Emma travel back to her home, and attempt to telephone Baines from there. Unfortunately, Baines can't hear the telephone ringing he is a hifi addict, and is listening to music on his headphones. This also means that he can't hear the man who comes into his room, either a fatal error as the man first deafens Baines by turning up the volume on his headset, then shoots him dead!

After failing to contact Baines, Emma goes to his flat in Tufnell Park Road (near her party) and discovers the body, surprising Baines' killer, who is obviously searching for something. He escapes, but Emma finds a computer tape labelled "XR40" presumably what the assassin was looking for. Steed returns to the Heron Establishment to observe the ongoing operation on George. Dr Ardmore manages some repairs but then George lapses into a coma state, after printing out messages such as "Help. Pelley". "Pelley" is Sir Wilfred Pelley George's creator, and is on leave at home. Steed tries to ring him, but Pelley is not answering his telephone either. Steed decides to visit him, whilst Mrs Peel (who has returned from Baines flat) waits, the tape at the ready, for George to regain consciousness.

Steed arrives at Pelley's home in the country, glancing at the gardener working outside the house. What he doesn't yet know is that the gardener is the gunman who attacked George and killed Baines. Inside, Steed is greeted by an officious butler called Jason, and is introduced to Sir Wilfred. After explaining the condition that George is in after the attack, Steed asks Pelley to come back to the Heron Establishment to help George. After all, Pelley is the man who created him and is by far the best person to treat George at this critical time. But Pelley refuses, claiming to be utterly worn out after working continuously on XR40 for the last three years, and at Harwell for five years before that all without a break. Steed decides to leave after this refusal, and returns to the Heron Establishment. Meanwhile, Pelley who is actually being kept prisoner in his own home is berated by Jason for talking too much to Steed. Back at the Heron Establishment, another operation on George is taking place, which is slightly more successful than the last, but Emma is still unable to play the tape she brought over. Steed tells Ardmore of Pelley's blunt refusal, citing his workload over the last few years, but Ardmore points out that Pelley has never worked at Harwell. Why did Pelley say that?

At Pelley's home, Jason and Loris (the captors' leader, masquerading as a maid) listen to an audio tape of Pelley's conversation with Steed. They, with Keller (the gardener / assassin) are actually there to interrogate Pelley (who has a perfect memory) about various government military projects he has worked on over the years, in order to sell the information. The questioning takes place in the cellar, so when Steed unexpectedly arrives back they have to send Pelley upstairs to affect an appearance of normality. Whilst Steed waits for Pelley to meet him, he finds listening bugs in the room, which he sabotages. Pelley, who appears to be exhausted, once again refuses to help George, so Steed pretends to leave the house in order to find out what is really going on. Thinking Steed has left, Jason and Loris attempt to play back the conversation tape, but find there is no recording. Realising that Steed has discovered the bugs, Loris commands that he must die!

Steed hangs about outside, appearing to have trouble starting his car. Keller offers to help but, magically, it starts and Steed takes his leave. Inside, Loris questions Pelley about his conversations with Steed, and listens to the tape of the earlier conversation. She spots the reference to Harwell knowing that Pelley never worked there and instructs Jason to send Keller after Steed, to kill him. Steed meets Emma at his flat where they realise that George's message was not a plea for help to Pelley, but Pelley asking for help himself. They decide that Emma will impersonate Sir Wilfred's niece, Prunella, and infiltrate the house to discover exactly what is going on. Emma is a little miffed by having to impersonate someone else she's just finished pretending to be Pandora! She leaves Steed's flat a few minutes before Keller enters with his shot-gun. A desperate fight ensues between Steed and Keller, which ends with Steed spearing the assassin with his sword-stick.

Emma arrives at Pelley's home, and gets Jason to let her in saying that she is Prunella Wentworth Pelley's niece. Loris decides to call her bluff and brings Pelley in to meet her, without warning. Luckily, Pelley realises what is happening and goes along with Emma's story. Loris and Jason are reasonably convinced, and decide to carry on their task. Meanwhile, a third operation takes place on George. Dr Ardmore, once again assisted by Tobin, is successful and George starts to become his normal self again. A mysteriously telephone call to Pelley's house from "The Boss" informs Jason of this development. The Boss orders Jason and Loris to finish their interrogation that night he will arrive himself at midnight to finish things, before George's recovery causes problems.

In the Pelley house, Emma overhears Jason and Loris discussing The Boss' instructions. She goes off on an investigative trip into the cellar area, and finds the real butler locked up in a cell there. He tells her about the fake servants, and she promises to release him once everything is sorted out. In the main cellar area, Loris is conducting the last interrogation of Sir Wilfred, and Emma listens in. Once she is sure of what is going on she attempts to ring Steed from the telephone upstairs, but disappears mid-sentence. Back at the Heron Establishment, Dr Ardmore is able to get George to process the tape that Emma found in Baines' flat. It turns out to be a message from Pelley, informing them that he is being held captive and interrogated at his home. Steed races to Sir Wilfred's house, and meanwhile, an unconscious Emma knocked out by The Boss, Tobin is given to Jason to be disposed of. Tobin suggests that Jason leave her body in the summer house, which will then mysteriously catch fire and get rid of their problem. Unfortunately for Jason, before he can carry out his instructions, Steed arrives in the nick of time and knocks him out cold in the grounds. A groggy Emma fills Steed in on the latest developments, then recovers sufficiently to go back into the house, where they surprise the villains and deal with them all Emma flies down the stair bannisters and flattens Tobin! Later, in Steed's flat, the duo look forward to sampling a cocktail recipe created for Steed by George / XR40. Unfortunately, it turns out to be explosive literally so they have to revert to champagne!

GUEST REVIEW

This Mrs Peel sounds like a very young Mrs Peel when she's asking Steed why she has to leave a party. The dialogue is of course intended for the character Tara King. Perhaps Diane Appleby was cleverly giving her Mrs Peel a slightly younger image in order to accommodate both characters roles? The shooting of poor George, just for once, doesn't result in anyone being killed; he's a supercomputer! He's amusingly called by any combination of his individual names as things progress, and we hear that "he's not one of those digital types," which suggests he might almost have senses. The operations to repair him go ever more into analogies of surgery and the jokes work time and again. Amongst all the genuinely concerned technologists, Steed and Mrs Peel's remarks are often tongue-in-cheek. We know that the laid back approach will have things solved all in good time! The approach in the radio serial feels a little less serious than on TV. Steed then visits George's inventor, Pelley, who appears a bit jaded. This lackadaisical attitude towards his creation however causes someone with Steed's experience to suspect foul play.

There now starts an interesting aspect of the serial. Loris, one of the enemy agents confining Pelley against his will, has perhaps one of the biggest parts of any minor character in an Avengers serial. This varies the formula nicely, although one does start to miss the regular duo. However, in amongst this novelty, some playbacks are made of conversations between Pelley and Steed. With the playback deliberately made to sound dreary, its easy for the listener to get lost, let alone anyone just tuning in then (not quite a Mercury Theatre The War of the Worlds problem, I'll admit). Also, Steed's later escape from a shot from the enemy agent Keller, and without any warning, could maybe have been done more plausibly. I just don't believe that bhe would escape as we hear it happen. Diane Appleby pretending to be a young relative of Pelley's is done slightly better than on TV, I would say, and it's easy to believe that Loris and company are taken in. The next good scene for me was that of the recovering XR (I'll nab that unused variation of the name). Hilariously making ever more noises like an overactive waking baby, it's also funny for me in that his recovery seems at this point irrelevant to solving the question.

There are some very pleasant music clips in the interludes to the quest which lighten up a basically pretty geeky story too. Then suddenly XR gets better, his old hyperactive self and, proving my earlier doubts wrong, able to offer information. His help is not really needed though, which I found quite funny. The computer imagined here, created in the world of sound, really suits this none-too-serious version.

Ron Geddes

DIFFERENCES COMPARED TO THE TELEVISION EPISODE

Name Changes: The television original has Keller as the man impersonating Pelley's chauffeur, and the gardener / assassin is a separate character named Jacobs.

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.

Whereas the Jason character in the radio series is somewhat subordinate and weak-willed, he is actually the TV version's main villian. In the TV series, Tobin is merely one of the conspirators.

Baines is not a hi-fi freak in the TV series. Instead, he is someone who loves right angles and straight lines, and has designed his flat to reflect this passion.

The TV Pelley has a stutter, and resorts to excessive drinking to cope with the stress of his situation.

Pelley's niece, whom Emma impersonates, is stated as being American in the TV show. Linda Thorson affects an American accent in the television episode not difficult, as she hails from Canada!

Loris is posing as Pelley's general factotum, rather than housekeeper / maid in the television episode.

Storyline Changes: The TV version of George is not a human-shaped computer, but an upright box, who throws a fit before being shot due to being fed Pelley's plea for help message.

In the television episode, Baines goes home to his flat with Tara, to find Pelley's equations (on paper not on a tape) and they surprise Jacobs there, who shoots Baines dead as he escapes.

George's early messages intimate that Pelley is the traitor this is not so in the radio series.

Tobin in the TV programme is shown early on to be one of the villians, and twice attempts to sabotage George. He pours acid into the computer at one point, and then tries to cut his wires during the next operation, only to be stopped by Steed.

There is a second computer in the TV series, called Fred MkIII, who is George's ancestor. Fred's brain is transplanted into George to replace George's own, which was damaged in the acid attack.

Jacobs attacks Steed at Baines' flat, rather than Steed's own apartment, and is killed by his own bullet being bounced off the inside of Steed's metal-lined bowler in the TV version of this scene.

In the TV version, it is Keller who is instructed to take the unconscious Tara to the summerhouse. Here, it is the "butler", Jason, who performs this task (with Emma, of course).

Pelley's interrogations take place in the drawing room of the house in the TV version. The cellar is being used purely to hold the real servants, who are hostages if Pelley does not tell all, they will be killed.

The TV version of Jason is much more believeable as a butler, and both Steed and Tara think he is genuine. Tara only discovers her mistake when she takes him into her confidence whilst trying to break into the cellar. Jason reveals his true self at this point and knocks her out with her own gun. Her earlier call to Steed is not interrupted, as it is in the radio version.

In the radio version, Steed's conversation with Pelley is tape-recorded and later replayed by Loris and Jason. This is not apparent in the television programme. Consequently, the section in Episode Four regarding bugs is not included in the television version.

PRODUCTION NOTES

A line in this serial proves that the previous story was the non-extant Pandora. Emma Peel complains that she has "only just finished impersonating Pandora".

Alys Hayes

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