Production Number: 3421 Tape Number: VTR/ABC/1445

PLOTLINE

Carol Wilson's landlord, Archie Duncan, has invested in a shipment of bananas, which he intends to sell at a considerable profit. To purchase the consignment, he has borrowed heavily from a Mr Barker of the Finance Loan Corporation and invested 2,000 of his own capital in this risky venture.

Archie must engage an agent to sell the bananas to market and approaches Lemuel Potts, a shady businessman who has expressed an interest in acting as middleman. Potts has a buyer a firm called Fletcher and Calpes and has Archie sign a contract, entitling Potts to a 7% commission. Unbeknownst to Archie, Potts is in cahoots with Barker and the goods will never leave the port. Barker and Potts will cash in on the insurance and Archie will lose his capital outlay, even though the loan itself will be covered.

Steed is on the trail of Barker and Potts, as this is far from an isolated incident. He involves Keel, not least because Archie Duncan is known to him he is a patient at Keel's surgery and the pair embark on a dangerous mission that pits them against the fraudsters and their operatives Herb and Charlie two criminals who will resort to any measure to get results strikes, larceny, fire... even murder.

Read the full story in Two Against the Underworld

PRODUCTION & ARCHIVE
The Avengers: Series 1, Episode 24
Production Completed:
Wed 20 Sep 1961
Recording Format: 405 Line B/W Video
Archive Holding: DOES NOT EXIST
John Cura Tele-Snaps: Photographed
Reconstruction: Made 2009
INTERNATIONAL PREMIERES
UNITED KINGDOM: Sat 23 Dec 1961
Never transmitted outside the UK

UK REGIONAL PREMIERES

ABC Midlands: Sat 23 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
ABC North: Sat 23 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
Anglia:
Sat 23 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
ATV London: Sat 23 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
Border:
Sat 23 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
Grampian: Sat 23 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
Scottish: Not transmitted
Southern: Sat 23 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
TWW: Sat 23 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
Tyne Tees:
Sat 23 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
Ulster: Sat 23 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
Westward: Sat 23 Dec 1961, 10.00pm
CHARACTERS & CAST
Dr David Keel
John Steed
Carol Wilson
Lemuel Potts
Archie Duncan
Herb Thompson
Barker
Peter Sampson
Andre
Nat Fletcher
Bryan Stubbs
Charlie
Ivy
Steed's Helper
1 Male Extra
1 Female Extra
Ian Hendry
Patrick Macnee
Ingrid Hafner
John Bailey
Victor Platt
Robert Desmond
Gary Hope
Henry Soskin
Arthur 'Tim' Barrett
Graham Rigby
Norman Pitt
Harry Shacklock
Gillian McCutcheon
Michael Hunt
Uncredited
Uncredited
ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

Not released.

DVD EXTRAS

StudioCanal, UK: Reconstruction by Alan and Alys Hayes, narrated by Leonard White, based on original script combined with off-screen Tele-Snaps and on-set photographs Camera Script PDF Stills Gallery

PRODUCTION DETAILS

Writer Lewis Davidson
Series Theme & Music
Johnny Dankworth
Designer
James Goddard
Story Editor
John Bryce / Reed de Rouen
Producer
Leonard White
Director
Don Leaver

Production Assistant Barbara Forster
Floor Manager Patrick Kennedy
Stage Manager Barbara Sykes
Lighting Director Peter Kew

Technical Supervisor Peter Cazaly
Senior Cameraman Michael Baldock
Sound Supervisor Michael Roberts
Vision Mixer Gordon Hesketh

Studio Teddington 2
An ABC Network Production

A CHANGE OF BAIT DECLASSIFIED

  • Production Brief... Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1927 and raised in Canada, Lewis Davidson came to writing in a roundabout way after trying several jobs before settling on acting. He arrived in England in the mid 1950s and was soon making appearances in television drama. At the same time he began writing as a sideline, initially for Shadow Squad and Skyport for Granada Television. It was soon apparent where his real talents lay and, leaving acting behind, he became a regular contributor to British television drama in the late 1950s and throughout the Sixties and Seventies. He wrote for popular series such as The Saint, Top Secret, Danger Man, Ghost Squad and The Plane Makers. In later life, he moved to the USA, where he continued writing. He died in 1990 aged 63 in Squaw Valley, California.

  • In a memo dated 27th July 1961, producer Leonard White suggested that the episodes to be transmitted on December 23rd and 30th 1961 should "give some recognition to Christmas and the end of the year respectively. So far as the Christmas story is concerned, we might consider incorporating something a little more sentimental than usual and it might concern young people. (For example, wayward boys, or girls, who are rescued and turned into decent citizens.) I am quite open to suggestions for these stories, so please turn them over in your mind and we will talk about them. However, I don't particularly wish to make these episodes so different that if the series should be played elsewhere and at another time of the year they would not readily be acceptable." The production team appear not to have followed this suggestion through for the other episode in question, Dragonsfield, but A Change of Bait has a lighter tone and more comedy than most Series 1 stories.

  • It is unclear whether the character 'Bryan Stubbs' was called that or 'Bryan Wallace', as the camera script credits the character as Stubbs in its cast list, but as Wallace in the actual script pages.

  • A call sheet survives for A Change of Bait which gives a good idea of the schedule for the rehearsing and recording of an episode during Series 1. Work on the episode began on Saturday 9th September 1961 and continued, with sessions in the morning and afternoon, until Wednesday 20th September 1961, the day of recording. Two full Saturday and Sunday sessions were included. Most actors were required to attend all sessions, the exceptions being Patrick Macnee (who was not needed on Tuesday 12th or Wednesday 13th), Henry Soskin (not called for the Thursday 14th morning or Friday 15th afternoon sessions), Arthur (Tim) Barrett (not required for the afternoon of Wednesday 13th), Harry Shacklock (who didn't start work on the episode until Monday 11th) and Graham Rigby (who was only required to attend from Sunday 17th until the recording on Wednesday 20th).

  • Camera rehearsals for this episode began at 11.00am on Tuesday 19th September 1961 in Studio 2 at ABC Studios, Broom Road, Teddington Lock, Middlesex. They continued with two one-hour breaks, for lunch at 12.30pm and supper at 6.00pm until 9.00pm that evening. The cast and crew reconvened at 10.00am the next day, Wednesday 20th September 1961, for further camera rehearsals, ending at 3.00pm after a one-hour break for lunch at 12.30pm. After a 45 minute break for tea, camera line-up and make-up, the dress rehearsal commenced at 3.45pm and lasted until 5.00pm. The director, Don Leaver, gave notes on the dress rehearsal between 5.00 and 5.30pm. Following another half-hour of camera line-up, the episode was recorded between 6.00 and 7.00pm. A Change of Bait was transmitted from videotape on Saturday 23rd December 1961, with a planned start and end time of 10.00-11.00pm.

  • The running time of this episode was 52 minutes and 55 seconds 25 seconds over its target duration of 52 minutes and 30 seconds. The full breakdown of timings is as follows: Act 1 18 minutes 39 seconds; first commercial break 2 minutes 5 seconds; Act 2 15 minutes 45 seconds; second commercial break 2 minutes 35 seconds; Act 3 18 minutes 31 seconds. The full programme duration including commercials was 57 minutes and 35 seconds.


  • On Location... This episode was almost entirely studio bound. There was a 35mm mute film insert of 1 minute and 20 seconds duration, which showed the bananas being unloaded at Fletcher and Calpes. The filming location is unknown, but was most likely a central London fruit market such as Covent Garden.

  • The script also mentions film of Keel leaving his house "if available" (10 seconds) and footage of a police car. The latter insert was a late addition and is marked in the script in pencil.


  • Trivia... Unusually for The Avengers (of any era), no one dies in A Change of Bait, another concession perhaps to Leonard White's request for material appropriate to the festive period. In a stark illustration of the changing times and public tastes, Christmas editions of today's popular British soap operas often have a higher mortality rate than horror films as they chase high ratings. 

  • Considering that A Change of Bait was the lightest in tone of all Series 1 episodes, it is ironic that it was this episode that was at the centre of a controversy in June 1962. According to an ABC Television memorandum sent to ABC Managing Director Howard Thomas, Maurice Edelman, then the Member of Parliament for the Coventry North constituency, had submitted a complaint to the Independent Television Authority after watching the episode. Such was the level of concern that ABC Television arranged for the recording to be replayed to members of the ITA on the morning of 20th June 1962. Also present at the screening was a small deputation from the Home Office, the ministerial department of the British Government responsible for domestic affairs, notably overseeing security and law and order. The presence of the government officials suggests that the complaint was of some gravity, although its content has unfortunately not been recorded. However, given the role of Home Office, it can only be assumed that the accusation concerned the portrayal of criminal activity that could be copied in particular the detailed depiction of Herb's act of intended arson. Happily for the Avengers production team, those present "found nothing to substantiate the complaint" and reportedly greatly enjoyed the episode.The memo, distributed to the likes of Sydney Newman, Brian Tesler and Leonard White, made a point of stressing "that no leaks [must] occur to the press over the viewing, or indeed about the complaint itself". It also reveals that a video recording of A Change of Bait was in existence as late as 20th June 1962.

  • In the age of the mobile phone, it has become more commonplace for telephone conversations to account for a relatively large proportion of the narrative delivery in films and television, including thriller series such as The X-Files, 24 and Sherlock. The mobile phone allows for far more movement during conversation, which can take place "in the field", compared with the decidedly static nature of A Change of Bait.

  • The actor Arthur Barrett (Andre) is better known as Tim Barrett the name which he acted under from the mid-Sixties onwards. Barrett carved out a prolific career in British television, particularly in light drama and comedy. He made regular appearances in Terry and June with Terry Scott and June Whitfield, and was a regular player in the comedies of David Croft and Jimmy Perry, such as Dad's Army and It Ain't Half Hot Mum. He made a further appearance in The Avengers as Salt in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station. Tim Barrett died in 1990.

  • Actor John Bailey, a familiar face on British television from the 1940s to the 1980s, would go on to be involved in another antiques shop scam in the 1967 Doctor Who serial, The Evil of the Daleks.

  • This episode was one of the first two Series 1 episodes to be reconstructed for home video, the other being Double Danger. Original producer Leonard White recorded the narration for the production in a London sound studio at the ripe old age of ninety-two!


  • Bloopers... Keel initially diagnoses Archie as having suffered a mild stroke, but later refers to the patient's ailment as a heart attack. A stroke involves an interruption or restriction of the blood flow to the brain, whereas a heart attack occurs when the blood supply to the heart is severely reduced not the same thing at all. The doctor has evidently spent too much time avenging and needs to brush up on his medical knowledge!

  • Steed's bowler hat appears not to fit him very well in this episode. In several surviving stills it can be seen pressing down on Patrick Macnee's ears. There is the possibility that this was intentional and intended humorously considering the nature of the episode.


  • Stop Press... In TV Times magazine cover dated 1st December 1961, Ingrid Hafner recalled Ian Hendry clowning around on set, presumably during rehearsals for A Change of Bait: "Things were held up for something or other. The set was an old furniture shop and the place was cluttered with ancient furniture. Suddenly, there was a great rumpus among the props. And there was Ian crashing through a huge picture frame with a ridiculous Victorian fireman's helmet on his head, and a false moustache."


  • And Finally... Though it is not an obviously festive episode, and certainly not a knockabout farce, this appears to have been an appropriately light-hearted episode for the time of year. Quite apart from Steed's usual witty banter, the agent repeatedly used the word "brother" in his scene with Sampson, alluding to union, guild or even masonic membership. Herb's dialect and enthusiasm for arson contrasts with the much more serious arsonist character of Johnny Mendelssohn in Ashes of Roses. At the end of Act 1, a passer-by, misled by Steed's "OUT OF ORDER" sign, helpfully informs Keel that the public telephone isn't working, taking Keel to be a fool. The act ends with a close-up of Keel presumably depicting some comical reaction of irritation. In the final act, Andre seems to crash into something in the dark, crying out, "Ow!" Further comedy may have been drawn out by the actors' performances and by the music cues than is apparent on the page.

Plotline by Alan Hayes UK Transmissions by Simon Coward, Alan Hayes and John Tomlinson
Declassified by Alan Hayes with Richard McGinlay

With thanks to Dave Rogers, Piers Johnson, Andrew Pixley, Jaz Wiseman
and StudioCanal for their kind assistance

 

Back to Top