Steed puts out a light...
Emma takes fright

Production Number: E.66.6.1

PLOTLINE

Agoraphobic businessman Richard Meadows awakes to find himself in a huge empty stadium. He collapses, sobbing like a child and is taken to hospital.  He is the third such victim, and is soon joined by a fourth, Fox, an athlete who has gone berserk in a gymnasium - at the sight of a mouse.

The Avengers discover that all four men were leading industrialists - directors of ceramics concerns. Steed visits Fox's partners, White and Crawley. But the busy Crawley can only spare a few minutes before he is driven away for an appointment. However, the journey ends with Crawley, frightened of fast cars, fainting with fear, his mind shattered.

Steed and Emma search Crawley's car and find a letter from Jeremy Raven, director of a rival company British Porcelain suggesting a merger between himself and Fox, White and Crawley.

Investigations lead to a rather strange market research organisation, the Business Efficiency Bureau. It is headed by Pemberton, who is assisted by Dr Voss and Gilbert, Pemberton's strong right arm. It is obvious their interests are far more deadly than market research...

Raven tells Steed that his rivals have refused to merge their concerns with his - so he has found "methods to eliminate their competition", having sought advice from the BEB. The methods seem to work, for White falls to his death from his office window, frightened by a huge bird which has been placed in his office.

Pemberton decides it is time to deal with Raven, who they have discovered is an arachnophobe. One hairy-legged spider later, Raven is left demented, made sick with shock.

Gilbert follows Steed from the hospital, where he has been visiting Raven, and tricks him into stopping near a deserted quarry. Investigating what looks like a body in a gravel pit, Steed is nearly killed by a bulldozer which tips earth over him as he fights Gilbert, who has been lying in wait for him. Steed escapes and Gilbert himself is crushed beneath the huge machine.

When Gilbert does not return to the BEB, Pemberton decides to question Emma, and Dr Voss visits her, taking along a questionnaire - and a gun. Steed returns to her empty apartment to find the BEB card with the message "Help!" scrawled on the back...

PRODUCTION & ARCHIVE
The Avengers: Series 5, Episode 1
Production Completed:
Nov 1966
Recording Format: 35mm Colour Film
Archive Holding: 35mm Colour Film

UK REGIONAL PREMIERES

ABC Midlands: Sat 21 Jan 1967, 9.10pm
ABC North: Sat 21 Jan 1967, 9.10pm
Anglia: Fri 20 Jan 1967, 8.00pm
Border: Sun 22 Jan 1967, 8.10pm
Channel: Fri 20 Jan 1967, 8.00pm
Grampian: Wed 6 Dec 1967, 8.00pm
Rediffusion London: Fri 20 Jan 1967, 8.00pm
Scottish: Sat 21 Jan 1967, 9.10pm
Southern: Mon 16 Jan 1967, 8.00pm
Teledu Cymru: Wed 18 Jan 1967, 8.00pm
TWW: Wed 18 Jan 1967, 8.00pm
Tyne Tees: Sat 21 Jan 1967, 9.10pm
Ulster: Thu 7 Dec 1967, 7.30pm
Westward: Fri 20 Jan 1967, 8.00pm
INTERNATIONAL PREMIERES
ARGENTINA: Tue 2 Apr 1968
AUSTRALIA: Mon 8 May 1967
AUSTRIA: Mon 24 Jun 1968
BELGIUM: Mon 29th Apr 1968
CANADA: Tue 24 Jan 1967
FRANCE: Tue 9 Jul 1968
GERMANY: Tue 19 Dec 1967
GREECE: Fri 5th Sep 1969
ICELAND: Fri 14 Aug 1970
IRELAND: Transmission unconfirmed
ITALY: Thu 23 Nov 1973
JAMAICA: Mon 9 Sep 1968
JAPAN: 1971
MALAYSIA: Sat 22 Aug 1970
MALTA: Sat 6 Jan 1968
MEXICO: Transmission unconfirmed
NETHERLANDS:
Sat 9 Aug 1969
NEW ZEALAND: Tue 7 Mar 1967
SINGAPORE: Sun 10 Dec 1967
SPAIN: Mon 2 Oct 1967
SWITZERLAND: Mon 4 Mar 1968
TURKEY: Sun 27 Jun 1976
UNITED KINGDOM: Mon 16 Jan 1967
USA: Fri 27 Jan 1967
CHARACTERS & CAST
John Steed
Emma Peel
Pemberton
Jeremy Raven
Dr Voss
Gilbert
Crawley
Gordon White
Richard Meadows
Martin Fox
Dr Hill
Saunders
Hospital Attendant
John Tyler
Steed's Double
Patrick Macnee
Diana Rigg
Patrick Cargill
Brian Wilde
Annette Carell
Garfield Morgan
Andrew Keir
Jeremy Burnham
Edward Burnham
Bernard Horsfall
Ruth Trouncer
Declan Mulholland
Philip Ross
Patrick Macnee
Rocky Taylor
ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK

None.

DVD EXTRAS

StudioCanal, UK: Episode Trims Dialogue Sheet PDF Granada Plus Points Image Gallery.

PRODUCTION CREDITS

Writer Philip Levene
Series Theme & Music
Laurie Johnson
Production Designer
Wilfred Shingleton
Director of Photography
Wilkie Cooper
Producers
Albert Fennell and Brian Clemens
Executive Producer
Julian Wintle
Director
Gordon Flemyng

Music Editor Karen Heward
Supervising Editor
Peter Tanner
Recording Director A.W. Lumkin
Sound Recordist Bill Rowe
Dubbing Mixer Len Abbott
Sound Editor Jack T. Knight
Casting Director G.B. Walker
Production Manager Ted Lloyd
Construction Manager Charles Hammerton
Mr Macnee's Costume Design Pierre Cardin

Miss Rigg's Costume Design Alun Hughes
Stunt Arranger Ray Austin
Assistant Director Malcolm Johnson
Camera Operator
Frank Drake
Art Director Fred Carter
Set Dresser Ted Tester
Continuity Peggy Spirito
Hairdressing Bill Griffiths
Make-up Bill Partleton
Wardrobe Jean Fairlie

Made at Pinewood Studios, Associated British Elstree Studios and on location

An ABC Television Films Ltd Production

MINISTRY VERDICT

An entertaining adventure for Steed and Mrs Peel, but not without its flaws. Steed guess in the heat of the moment that Pemberton is afraid of the dark is incredibly fortuitous in its accuracy, particularly considering Pemberton's use of dark glasses if he were afraid of the dark, surely the last fashion accessory he'd go for is something that makes everything darker? Patrick Cargill and Brian Wilde are good value in this one, and Annette Carrell makes for an effective (if underused) female villain. Production values are high, with plenty of location filming, even eschewing process shots for the scenes with Andrew Keir in the back of his chauffeur-driven car, shooting instead in real locales. The set-piece of the episode, where Steed faces Gilbert and a bulldozer, is very well realised, the only drawback of the sequence is the way in which stunt personnel are integrated into the footage rather obviously in place of the principal actors. A strong start for the series in colour, but the episode - in retrospect - marks the start of a rather formulaic season, the weakest of its entire run. Fortunately, there are highpoints along the way.

THE FEAR MERCHANTS DECLASSIFIED

  • Teaser... Entering her apartment, Emma notices a golden box of chocolates tied with a pink ribbon has been left for her. As she opens the gift, Steed sticks his head around her front door and smiles. The box does not contain chocolates. All that is in there is a note that reads, 'Mrs Peel We're Needed'.

  • Tag... Steed and Emma return to her apartment. Steed warns Emma not to move and insists on searching the property. All seems secure. No intruders, no spies, not even a spider in the vase. Emma notices the box of chocolates once more. This time it does actually contain chocolates. Steed suggests that they are for services rendered, and that they go terribly well with Champagne. Emma tells him she has none in the flat. Steed is shocked. However, Emma reveals a bottle she has hidden. She just wanted to see Steed really frightened! 


  • Production Brief... This was the first Avengers episode to be filmed on colour 35mm stock, though it was generally shown second in regional ITV runs, after From Venus with Love, the fourth colour episode filmed. The episode aired in colour (or color!) in the USA, but its original UK transmission was steadfastly monochrome since ITV did not transmit The Avengers in colour until 1969.

  • Unusually, due to a lack of available studio space at the series' Elstree base owing to the production there of feature films Mr Ten Per Cent, The Double Man and Stanley Kubrick's sprawling science fiction epic 2001: A Space Odyssey, in addition to television film series The Saint and The Baron, The Avengers was forced to relocate to Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire. This affected the production of both The Fear Merchants and Escape in Time. A small amount of footage for both episodes was filmed at Elstree from mid-October 1966 from which time the production was able to return to ABPC Elstree.

  • This episode was almost certainly adapted for South African radio but the recording no longer survives.


  • On Location... The first Avengers location seen in glorious colour is the impressive Wembley Stadium, home of the England football team who had been triumphant in the 1966 FIFA World Cup mere months before filming. Construction on the stadium, originally called the Empire Stadium, was completed in time for the 1923 FA Cup Final between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United, but the official opening by King George V was delayed until 23rd April 1924, just five days short of a year later. The current stadium is a new construction, opened in 2007, some five years after the demolition of the original. Sadly, the two distinctive towers that formed a part of the old Wembley Stadium and were recognised the world over were not preserved in the new design.  

  • The relocation of studio interiors to Pinewood led to most exteriors also being filmed in Buckinghamshire and West London rather than "Avengerland Central" - Hertfordshire. For instance, the dramatic scene in the quarry involving the bulldozer was filmed at Springwell Chalk Pit on Springwell Lane in Harefield, a parish in the Greater London Borough of Hillingdon. This had first been used as a filming location for The Baron in April 1966 and would later be revisited by The Avengers team for the filming of three Series 6 episodes, The Interrogators, They Keep Killing Steed and Thingumajig. It is also to be seen in the New Avengers episode Obsession as well as episodes of Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), Man in a Suitcase and Strange Report.

  • Several roads in the vicinity of Pinewood Studios were also used for exterior filming: Crawley's high speed journey took in both Iver Lane and Love Green Lane, while Steed loses sight of Crawley's chauffeur-driven car at the crossroads of Pinewood Road, Fulmer Common Road and Seven Hills Road at Langley Common, Iver Heath.


  • Quite, Quite Eccentric... Market research bigwig Pemberton wears dark glasses, has a chair that doubles as a lie detector, and has a novel way of improving the prospects of clients - he eliminates their competitors; Jeremy Raven, a twitchy bespectacled academic, is convinced that the ceramics industry can only succeed if he is in total control of all production.


  • Acronyms... BEB the Business Efficiency Bureau; CPC - the Central Productivity Council.


  • Trivia... Actor Jeremy Burnham had previously featured in Series 4's The Town of No Return and would later appear in The Forget-Me-Knot. He was one of a handful of actors who also wrote for The Avengers. He would be ultimately be responsible for five scripts, all produced during Series 6: You'll Catch Your Death, False Witness, Love All, Fog and Who Was That Man I Saw You With?

  • Actor Declan Mulholland receives a character name - Saunders - and is credited at the end of the episode despite the fact that he makes only a fleeting, non-speaking appearance. It follows then that his role was originally more substantial but his speaking scenes were excised during the editing process as non-speaking actors are not normally credited.

  • The distinctive sound effect that accompanies the operation of Raven's ceramics machine was taken from stock. It had been created for the Ealing comedy The Man in the White Suit (1951).


  • In the Archives... A series of silent colour 35mm 'trims' from this episode were recently unearthed by the British television preservation society, Kaleidoscope. These comprise alternate takes of scenes from the episode.


  • Bloopers... Considering that Pemberton is supposedly frightened of the dark, when Steed turns the lights off in the BEB office, it is hardly what one might call dark!

  • When Emma's comments to Steed are being read by the lie-detector in Pemberton's office, her arms are not on the chair arms, through which the readings are taken.


  • And Finally... The Fear Merchants proved to be the highest rated Series 5 episode, having been seen in 8 million homes. This secured The Avengers 3rd place in the TAM National Top Ten for the week of 21st January 1967.

Plotline by Alan Hayes UK Transmissions by Simon Coward, Alan Hayes and John Tomlinson
International Premieres by Denis Kirsanov Ministry Verdict by Alan Hayes
Declassified by Gareth Humphreys and Alan Hayes

 

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