Production Code: BFPAVENGE003

PLOTLINE

Sir Wilberforce Lungi, Prime Minister of Tenebra, an African country on the verge of independence from Great Britain, is in London to sign a treaty with the British Government. However, Lungi has enemies back home who believe the politician has sold out to the British, and an attempt is made on his life as he strolls down the Embankment of the River Thames.

Lungi is an old friend of David Keel, whom he knows from the Chelsea GP's time working in a Tenebran hospital. Lungi is joined on his state visit by his personal secretary, Jacquetta Brown, who Steed suspects of complicity in the assassination attempt. 

Steed leaves Keel to keep an eye on Jacquetta while he takes a flight to Tenebra, thinking that if he can keep Sir Wilberforce's enemies busy, they can't mount another attack upon the Prime Minister's person. He arrives posing as James Sanderson, a Daily Globe reporter and is quickly accepted by the Leader of the Opposition, Chief Bai Shebro, a man with controversial opinions that Lungi fears may sway the populace at election.

Shebro has no time for Lungi and makes it clear that he sees no place for the Prime Minister in his country's future. And unfortunately for Steed, Shebro is also a friend of the real James Sanderson. You'd better watch out, Steed!

Click here to read about the original television episode

PRODUCTION
The Avengers - The Lost Episodes:
Volume 3, Episode 2
Recording Dates:
2, 3, 9, 10 April 2014
Recorded at: Moat Studios
Duration: 47 minutes 36 seconds

RELEASE

Released as a part of
The Avengers - The Lost Episodes,Volume 3
ISBN:
978-178178-266-8
Release Date:
Fri 9 Jan 2015
Physical Release: Audio CD
Download Release:
MP3 / M4B Formats
CHARACTERS & CAST
Dr David Keel
John Steed
Carol Wilson
Sir Wilberforce Lungi
Asiedu
Guard
Jacquetta Brown
Bai Shebro
Warrior
Inspector Antony
Ali
Judith
Jim
Operator
Sergeant
Scotland Yard Voice
Porter
Barman
Flunkey
Anthony Howell
Julian Wadham
Lucy Briggs-Owen
Geff Francis
Geff Francis
Geff Francis
Maggie Service
Derek Ezenagu
Derek Ezenagu
Robert Duncan
Robert Duncan
Jacqueline Boatswain
Geoffrey Breton
Jessica Martin
Nick Hendrix
Mark Goldthorp
Nicholas Briggs
Nicholas Briggs
Angus Wright
ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

At the present time, no original soundtrack has been released by Big Finish.

BONUS FEATURES

Production Notes Booklet (with CD only)

BUY NOW!

Purchase from Big Finish

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Writer Patrick Campbell, adapted for television by Reed de Rouen
Adapted for audio by -
John Dorney
Recording and Music
Toby Hrycek-Robinson
Sound Design and CD Mastering
Richard Fox and Lauren Yason
Series Theme -
Johnny Dankworth, rearranged by Toby Hrycek-Robinson
Interviews edited by -
(not credited)
BFP Administration -
Miles Haigh-Ellery, Cheryl Bly and Alison Taylor
Producers' Assistants - Ian Atkins, Sue Cowley, Hannah Peel, Joseph Smith, Paul Spragg and Frances Welsh
Cover Illustration -
Anthony Lamb
Booklet Design -
Mark Plastow
Booklet Notes -
Richard McGinlay
Web Services -
Hughes Media
Marketing Consultant -
Kris Griffin
Producer
David Richardson
Executive Producers -
Nicholas Briggs and Jason Haigh-Ellery
Director
Ken Bentley

Thanks to Massimo Moretti, Brian Clemens, Sam Clemens, Marcus Hearn, Richard McGinlay,
Jaz Wiseman and Toby Hrycek-Robinson

A Big Finish Production

MINISTRY VERDICT

Big Finish's Avengers ventures beyond Europe for the first time, with a globetrotting tale that switches between the contrasting locales of London and the fictional African nation of Tenebra. Steed travels to 'the dark continent', under yet another pseudonym, while Keel stays at home, getting a romantic sub-plot for a change. Both of our heroes encounter intriguing characters who are not all they appear to be. The part of Jacquetta Brown is carefully written so that much of what she says has very different implications in light of what is disclosed during the final act. Chief Bai Shebro is another character who often says one thing while meaning something else, while his accomplice Ali blurts out anti-British propaganda that seems paradoxically programmed yet passionate. Their lines can be read in a number of ways, and Maggie Service, Derek Ezenagu and Robert Duncan do a good job of interpreting these challenging parts. From a production point of view, and from the other end of the performance scale, it's good to hear some faint voices on the other ends of phones: the Scotland Yard voice, played by Mark Goldthorp, and Jim from the centre for tropical diseases, played by Geoffrey Breton. These are very welcome additions, following the awkward one-sided conversation of Mrs Marne in Dance with Death. The postcolonial theme of the story is of its time, but surprisingly forward-thinking for 1961, and relatively little of it has had to be tempered for the modern audience. The Yellow Needle offers some good points, well made.

THE YELLOW NEEDLE DECLASSIFIED

  • Production Brief... This audio play is based on the television episode The Yellow Needle, originally broadcast on Saturday 10th June 1961 at 10.00pm in the ABC Midlands, ABC North, Anglia, ATV London, Scottish, Southern, Television Wales and West, Tyne Tees, Ulster and Westward ITV regions.

  • The television version of this episode does not survive today. However, a camera script has been located, along with series of 80 off-screen Tele-Snaps.

  • The audio adaptation of this episode was recorded over four days in studio on two consecutive Wednesdays and Thursdays, 2nd, 3rd, 9th and 10th April 2014, at Moat Studios. Four episodes were recorded during these sessions: The Springers, The Yellow Needle, Double Danger and Toy Trap.


  • Brought to Audiobook... Sir Wilberforce Lungi appears to have been alone in the opening scene of the television version of this episode. In the audio adaptation, he is accompanied by Jacquetta Brown, in order to give him someone to talk to. In the camera script, this location scene is described simply and unhelpfully as "FILM: OPENING SEQUENCE", though Tele-Snaps and subsequent dialogue offer valuable clues as to what happened on screen.

  • The Big Finish version of this episode contains a few lines that ITV viewers never got to hear in 1961. One of several scenes that were removed or shortened for timing reasons (see Trivia... for the others), the first surgery scene ended with Keel saying to Sir Wilberforce, "Let's get on with it," when it was committed to videotape in the television studio. The rest of this scene is struck through in pencil on the camera script. The inclusion of this scene on audio may be an oversight, given Big Finish's usual emphasis on authenticity to the source material and the fact that the other deleted scenes have not been similarly restored.

  • At the beginning of the next surgery scene, in which Keel and Carol read a newspaper report about the attack upon Sir Wilberforce, another line is reinstated, this time for entirely practical reasons. Keel's line, "Carol... take a look at this", is scribbled out on the camera script - but, in tandem with the sound of rustling pages of newsprint, it comes in very useful for explaining the action in the audio adaptation.

  • In the television version of The Yellow Needle, the police sergeant guarding the hotel lift was unnamed. Here the diligent and dependable chap is afforded the surname Hayes. We wonder who he might have been named after...

  • On audio, the hotel porter is portrayed as an elderly white man by Nicholas Briggs. On screen, he had been a black man (played by Harold Holness). 

  • A potentially inflammatory description of African people has been removed from the scene in which Jacquetta explains to Inspector Anthony about the fanatics who want to assassinate Sir Wilberforce. "Killing isn't all that rare where they come from," she was originally scripted to say. "Human life isn't the precious commodity it is here. If it helps to kill - then they kill. Friend or enemy, it's all the same to them." It may be lines such as this to which adaptor John Dorney was referring when interviewed in Vortex Issue 71 (see Stop Press...)

  • Dorney also improves the diction of the Tenebran characters Judith and Asiedu, whose lines as scripted, especially those of the latter character, were replete with pidgin English. Asiedu's greeting to Steed changes from "Massah wait here small time. Shebro massah come quick, quick," to "Please, wait here on the veranda for a short time. Master Shebro will be with you shortly." His subsequent line "Massah done kill 'um!" becomes "Master! You have killed him!"

  • "Look out, here comes the Eiffel Tower." So said Keel in the original script as he and Jacquetta prepared to leave the restaurant. The line has been omitted from the audio adaptation, for the very good reason that it makes no sense unless we know what the doctor is referring to. Possibly it was a tall tray of glasses or a tiered cake being carried to a table. Frustratingly, a Tele-Snap seems to show Keel and Jacquetta looking with amusement at the object, but the images do not show what they are looking at!

  • A brief exchange is absent from the scene in which Steed and Shebro discuss Jacquetta's book. "I'd have thought from reading this she could have come out on either side," said Steed. "Indeed?" Shebro replied, "There's not much doubt which side she is on, is there?" Perhaps this material was removed because it gave the game away too soon.


  • Trivia... In addition to the surgery scene described in Brought to Audiobook..., one complete scene was dropped and two others were truncated prior to the recording of the television version. These are struck through on the camera script and have not been included in the audio adaptation. The first of these was a short and inconsequential scene in the surgery hallway, in which Carol greeted Sir Wilberforce and Jacquetta.

  • Later, when Keel telephoned Jacquetta to arrange a dinner date, the scene was originally going to continue with Jacquetta expressing delight at Keel's offer. The doctor then wondered what day of the week would suit her best Wednesday... Thursday? They finally settled on Thursday. As Keel replaced the receiver, Steed complimented him on his fast work. "You're an eloquent persuader," replied Keel. "Such dedication," said Steed. "Just my cup of tea, you said." "That was careless of me," admitted Steed, "Well, give her a slap-up dinner caviar, lobster, magnums of champagne." As Steed left the surgery, the scene ended with Keel calling after him: "Yes, I'll send you the bill!"

  • The final excision was to the end of the first act, after Ali has declared that Sir Wilberforce's death will be on his own head. "Elegantly expressed, Ali," smiled Shebro, "I commend you." Steed, in his guise as reporter James Sanderson, wondered, "Aren't you taking a bit of a risk, telling me all this, sir? After all, I am a journalist." Shebro considered the risk to be negligible: "We've nothing to hide our sentiments are well known." "You want Lungi out of the way?" "Of course." At this point, Ali blurted out more propaganda: "The yoke is about to be lifted. The days of the Imperialists are numbered and the people of the entire continent will rise in their anger." Then he abruptly exited, leaving Steed and Shebro on the veranda. Shebro asked, "But what can we do? Some of our ardent followers are demanding his head. These are troubled times, Mr Sanderson." "But murder...?" "A good point, my friend," replied Sir Wilberforce's sworn enemy, "But if that happens, their weapons would be subtler than that. They would strike silently suddenly and in the dark!" The act was then originally due to end with a shot of two fearsome Tenebran warriors standing nearby. 

  • Writer Patrick Campbell became far better known than he ever did for writing as a regular panellist on the popular BBC Television game show, Call My Bluff, which made the likeable, stuttering celebrity an unlikely star. He died in November 1980, aged 67.

  • The naming of Patrick Campbell's fictitious African country Tenebra was obviously a none-too-subtle in-joke. In Italian, the word 'tenebra' translates into English as 'darkness', a reference to the oft-coined term 'darkest Africa'?

  • There are numerous similarities between The Yellow Needle and the later Series 1 episode Kill the King:

    • In the opening scene, a visiting foreign leader (Sir Wilberforce and King Tenuphon respectively) survives an assassination attempt;

    • The foreign leader is in London to sign an important treaty (for national independence and an oil concession respectively);

    • The foreign leader has some rather ineffectual official protection (Inspector Anthony and Crichton-Bull respectively);

    • The foreign leader gets some rather more effectual protection from Steed (who cares about the dignitaries' wellbeing only for very selfish reasons his own career prospects if he fails);

    However, the personalities of the humble and honourable Sir Wilberforce and the callous and pleasure-seeking King Tenuphon could hardly be more different.

  • There are also some narrative similarities between this episode and The Far Distant Dead. Both take place in foreign lands (though only partially in the case of The Yellow Needle) and both concern a usually caring woman (Jacquetta Brown and Dr Ampara Alverez Sandoval respectively) who is driven to take a life.


  • Stop Press... In addition to the Warm Reception interview featuring actress Lucy Briggs-Owen, Vortex Issue 71 (January 2015) also included a brief interview with John Dorney who adapted this script for audio. In the piece, he outlined his approach to adapting scripts of The Avengers' vintage: "Each new script brings new challenges, and these four were no exception. All of them were represented by Tele-Snaps which were incredibly useful at filling in the gaps of film sequences absent from the camera script. Sometimes they weren't much help at all. Other issues were of tone, with The Yellow Needle veering perilously close to offensive in its portrayal of Africa which required careful handling."

    Read the rest of the interview by downloading Vortex Issue 71 from Big Finish

 


  • And Finally... Big Finish's Avengers ventures beyond Europe for the first time, with a globetrotting tale that switches between the contrasting locales of London and the fictional African nation of Tenebra. Steed travels to 'the dark continent', under yet another pseudonym, while Keel stays at home, getting a romantic sub-plot for a change. Both of our heroes encounter intriguing characters who are not all they appear to be. The part of Jacquetta Brown is carefully written so that much of what she says has very different implications in light of what is disclosed during the final act. Chief Bai Shebro is another character who often says one thing while meaning something else, while his accomplice Ali blurts out anti-British propaganda that seems paradoxically programmed yet passionate. The postcolonial theme of the story is of its time, but surprisingly forward-thinking for 1961, and relatively little of it has had to be tempered for the modern audience. The Yellow Needle offers some good points, well made.

Plotline by Alan Hayes Declassified by Richard McGinlay and Alan Hayes
Images
Big Finish Productions Reproduced with permission

With thanks to David Richardson, John Dorney, Mark Plastow
and Big Finish Productions for their kind assistance

 

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