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
Donald Monat as John Steed
Diane Appleby as Emma Peel
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 - 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
So much more reassuring than
the blue screen of death.
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
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!
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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".
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