• title card: white all caps text reading ‘CASTLE De’Ath’ outlined in black and superimposed on the head of an iron maiden
  • Mrs. Peel blows into a tiny set of bagpipes, behind her an ornate tapestry hangs on the wall
  • After dinner, Angus leads Mrs. Peel and Steed down an armour and weaponry decorated corridor to see where Black Jamie was walled in. Angus on the left and Steed on the right are in formal Scottish attire with furred sporrans and tight black jackets; Mrs. Peel wears a blue lamé suit without a blouse
  • Steed sits on the stone floor, his back against the wall he is manacled to; a gillie points a rifle at him
  • Vision on the controller’s monitor of two-man minisubs leaving the pen
  • Mrs. Peel strokes a cannon suggestively as she waits to ambush the villains
  • Steed, sword and targe in hand, turns to face Angus as Roberton appears in the door behind him and takes aim with his revolver
  • Steed and Emma drive into the loch in their Amphicar

Series 4 — Episode 5
Castle De’Ath

by John Lucarotti
Directed by James Hill

Production No E.64.10.15
Production completed: August 20 1965. First transmission: October 26 1965.

TV Times summary

In which Steed becomes a strapping Jock — and Emma lays a ghost …

Plot summary

A diver is pulled dead from a Scottish loch, six inches taller than when he was alive. The Avengers investigate and are suspicious of the Laird who wants to keep his Castle and lands private. Steed has learnt that local fishing grounds have suddenly become depleted and their investigations reveal the cause — the Laird’s brother has been using minisubsa from underwater submarine pens to drive the fish into holding bays in the dungeons. After a furious sword fight, the minions are defeated and Black Angus tries to escape through a secret door inside an Iron Maiden, but the mechanism fails and he is killed.

show full synopsis

show plot summary


Bagpipes skirl in the deep of night and a sinister presence stalks the halls of a Scottish castle. Descending to the basement where a man is stretched on a rack; hands reach out to turn the wheel, sending the man into an agony of torment.

Act 1

McNab (Jack Lambert) and Ian De’Ath (Gordon Jackson), the Laird, are arguing, with Ian saying they may have to open the castle to the public to raise revenue1 when Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) arrives. She smiles brightly at them and says she doesn’t think they’ll have any trouble attracting tourists and explains she’s come in response to De’Ath’s letter. The Laird says he sent no letter and it transpires his cousin, Angus De’Ath, has invited her.

A crossbow bolt suddenly shoots across the room, flying between them and lodging itself in the wall. Angus (Robert Urquhart) has fired it from the stairs and runs down with a smile on his face. He is devious and pretends mentioning Mrs. Peel to Ian “slipped his mind”. Ian grumbles about historians and tourists entering the castle and warns them that he is Laird and will make any decision as to the future, then stalks off with McNab in tow.2

Angus takes her to meet the tame historian who turns out to be “Jock McSteed” — John Steed (Patrick Macnee), of course.

EMMA: You don’t have a Scots accent.
STEED: I was carried south by marauding sassenachs when I was a bairn. Ha, but this is my spiritual home.

He claims he’s writing a book on the 13th Laird, Black Jamie, and Angus tells them Black Jamie’s portrait hangs in the dungeon where it belongs, but Ian does not allow people down there. Steed plans to get a feel for the place by walking across the glen and asks if he needs permission to fish in the loch. Ian appears on the staircase and asks what kind of fishing — an amateur diver drowned in the loch last week not three miles away and he has banned diving. Steed placates him by explaining he’s just the bent pin and string sort.

On his way out, Steed hands Emma a history of the Clan De’Ath3 and quietly tells her the frogman was four inches taller when dead than he’d been alive — he’d been on the rack.

Steed goes outside and McNab, on the parapets, tells Roberton (James Copeland) the ‘chief’ has ordered them to keep an eye on him. They’re astonished when Steed sails a paper boat on the loch.

Mrs. Peel meanwhile descends to the dungeon where she finds the rack and an iron maiden. She knocks out a gillie who attacks her then is surprised by another who strikes her down.

Steed returns to the castle and asks Ian how deep the loch is. He replies, “Deep enough for its purpose” then breaks off when Mrs. Peel staggers out the dungeon door holding her head. Ian is concerned, saying the dungeons are dangerous and the stairs slippery as glass — he goes to get the key to lock the door while Steed tends to her.

Back in her room, Emma tells Steed she was jumped by two men, and there is a rack down there. She then turns her attention to the diver — Steed says he was an innocent civilian but someone obviously thought otherwise and tortured him to find out. Steed tells her, after a quick highland fling with Mrs. Peel playing a toy set of bagpipes, it’s all to do with the disappearance of fishing stocks, driving the British fleet into deeper water and competition with foreign fleets.

EMMA: Is Castle De’Ath involved?
STEED: Why else are we here?4

On his way back to his own room, Steed notices a bowl of flowers in the hallway — the flowers are sitting in water which is rippling mysteriously.

At dinner, Steed notices his brandy vibrating wildly as Ian and Angus relate a bit of family history — the De’Aths have always been fighters and patriots, which Ian describes frankly as “exploitable”.

They tell the tale of Black Jamie’s treachery, how he conspired with rival clans to betray his own. Jamie was found out and sealed inside the East tower until Doomsday; Ian will not countenance the tower being opened but Angus leads them to where the last stone was set in place and tells them Jamie’s ghost can still be heard — and sometimes seen — playing the Lament of the De’Aths on his bagpipes.

Roberton, who is snuffing the candles in the hall, stops Steed at his bedroom door and tells him he’s been moved to a different room because the East wind will howl around the room he was in. The “Lord Darnley Room” is ornate and dominated by a huge four-poster bed.

Mrs. Peel wakes in the night to the sound of the pipes, she puts on a gossamer-thin nightgown and descends to the dungeon, which is once again unlocked. She finds the rack has recently been greased then the lights go out and she’s locked in.

Meanwhile, Steed appears to be asleep in the four-poster bed with his hat lying at the foot. Suddenly, the canopy of the bed starts to grind slowly down, revealing a heavy concrete slab that crushes the shape under the covers and Steed’s hat.

Act 2

In the morning, Steed winces at his salty porridge; Ian notices his displeasure and mistakenly agrees it hasn’t enough salt. Steed watches in horror as Ian and Angus douse their porridge with a mountain of salt.

When Ian asks if Mrs. Peel’s company has her insured against injury, Angus wonders where she is and Steed cheekily suggests that Emma is a “lie abed type”.

Ian turns to Steed and asks if he had any disturbance in the night and is surprised when he says not — Steed tells them he didn’t hear the ghost, as he’s a heavy sleeper, but he found the bed claustrophobic and slept in a chair. Angus laughs at this while Ian alarmingly says they might have better success with a different room.5

Steed asks if Ian was in the dungeon last night and he confirms he was, and shows him the portrait of Black Jamie he’s retrieved. Steed gazes quizzically at the portrait but doesn’t reveal what he’s thinking. Ian is astonished Steed didn’t hear the pipes last night and tells Steed the ghost is heard irregularly — sometimes three times in a week then not again for a month or more.

A short time later, Steed enters the dungeon and finds Mrs. Peel, still in her night clothes,6 sore and tired after a night trying to sleep on the rack. He tells her of his narrow escape.

STEED: Spent a pretty restless night, eh? Well luckily so did I.
EMMA: Luckily?
STEED: They’ve got a spot on service here … tried to press my best shirt last night — while I was still wearing it.

Meanwhile, Angus and Ian are arguing again — Ian is happy to have a gathering of the clans but tells him the public will not enter the castle while he is still laird, they will not host light displays, hops, or bingo nights!

Mrs. Peel has got dressed and Steed shows her Black Jamie’s portrait. She doesn’t think there’s much of a family resemblance, but Steed ambiguously thinks otherwise:

STEED: I’m not so sure.7
STEED: You locked up all night … me destined to be suffocated … I think we’ve been rumbled.

He hands her a history of the castle to see if she can find more about entrances to the east tower, he suspects there are secret passages behind the walls. Then he tells Emma he’s off fishing — in the moat this time — and leaves.

Ian finds Emma reading the book — he tells her Wild Willie planned the Rising of the Clans in the main hall of the castle. Mrs. Peel sees the potential for a recreation with dummies in period dress but Ian tells her opening the castle would take a lot of work; he already runs a small foundry in Edinburgh which takes a lots of his time. As Angus is in Glasgow as well, he leaves the running of the castle to McNab.8

McNab meanwhile is telling Roberton to keep an eye on Steed — Roberton says he can see the tip of his fishing rod and settles in to watch.

Mrs. Peel takes some notes and draws a couple of sketches of the castle then descends into the dungeon again after picking the lock with her pencil. She is forced to hide in the iron maiden when McNab enters. Roberton calls him and says their spotted something in the moat on the radar. McNab orders him back to control, he’ll check Steed and report to the Chief, then he leaves the dungeon.

Mrs. Peel reopens the maiden from inside and is startled when a concealed door in the back of it hums opens. She goes through it into a corridor and beyond a sliding door finds banks of machinery and turbines wit someone at a control area at the end — much more than the diesel generator Ian had said they had.

Returning the way she came, she sees McNab returning angrily from discovering Steed has given them the slip, his fishing rod unattended. Mrs. Peel follows McNab but he disappears in the corridor near their bedrooms. She looks inside the two doorways then Angus suddenly appears at her elbow with an intense look in his eye and asks if she’s looking for someone and she disarmingly asks if he’s seen Jock McSteed.

Steed9 meanwhile is nabbed by the gillies when he emerges from the moat in his scuba gear.

A while later, Ian stops Mrs. Peel in the hallways and tells her he will not open the castle and, to prevent embarrassment, suggest she leaves as soon as convenient. She offers to pack her things immediately and he apologises for his “apparent rudeness”.

Steed comes to on the concrete floor of the control room and finds himself surrounded by gun-wielding gillies. Behind the controller (Russell Waters), Steed sees monitors showing a small two-man submarine emerging from an underwater harbour.10

Act 3

In the morning, Mrs. Peel drives off with her suitcases, provoking another argument between Ian and Angus, who is furious that Ian told her to leave. Ian sternly reminds him that he in the Laird when Angus protests.

Roberton meanwhile tells the Controller McSteed will have an ‘accident’ that night after the submarines go, but not another diving accident so soon.

That night, Mrs. Peel sneaks back into the castle and descends to the dungeons, where Steed is being held prisoner. She knocks out Rodnuk (Joe Farrer), who’s guarding the entrance to the power plant.

Ian and Angus argue about opening up the castle again and Ian turning down a chance at money. The argument quickly gets heated with them trading insults and when Angus asks Ian what skeleton he’s hiding he is ordered to leave the castle.

Steed meanwhile overpowers his gormless guard and takes his rifle. The controller is trying to phone Rodnuk at the power plant and Roberton goes to see what’s going on, Mrs. Peel ducking into the shadows when she hears him coming.

McNab arrives at the control room, quickly followed by Steed who holds McNab and the Controller at gun point — he tells then he’s worked out the whole setup:

STEED: Yes, you see the sound of the bagpipes — they wipe out the sound of the generators but not the vibrations. My swim in the moat helped me too. That great big plug hole in the bottom? The submarines come in from the open sea, under water. They then go into the loch, then by an underground channels into the moat and then into the flooded pens. And you pump the water back into the moat again. Er, do the submarines use some kind of ultra-sonic waves to drive the fish into deep water?

Roberton rings to tell them a woman has attacked Rodnuk11 and then a gillie runs in and knocks Steed’s rifle out of his hands — McNab draws a pistol and Steed is recaptured.

MCNAB: I would enjoy very much putting a bullet into you MacSteed.
STEED: But the wee hole would show when they found my corpse in the loch.
MCNAB: You’re an astute man … now if you’ll forgive me MacSteed I have an appointment with Black Jamie.

Mrs. Peel finds the guard knocked out in Steed’s cell and heads down some tunnels to continue her search for him.12

The controller starts opening the pens ready for the operation but Roberton keeps Steed there, waiting for Emma’s capture. Outside, Ian wanders bewilderedly around the grounds, seeking the source of the bagpipe music.

The controller orders them to put Steed into the pens but he tricks the gillie and in the confusion the rifle goes off, hitting the controls, making them short circuit and electrocuting the controller.

Upstairs, Mrs. Peel finds the stone wall of the East tower pivoted round and wide open, with McNab playing the pipes on the parapet. They fight when he returns inside and McNab falls to his death onto the banquet hall floor when he tries to push her over the balustrade.

Ian and Angus run in from different directions and Mrs. Peel seeks Angus’ help but he pushes past Ian then rushes up the stairs towards her. She realises her mistake and grabs his arm when he tries to throw a dirk at Ian — but he knocks her senseless against the wall13 and throws a second dirk into Ian’s chest.

Rushing back upstairs, Angus encounters Steed and they fight with swords back down the staircase. Emma recovers and kills Roberton with the crossbow when he tries to shoot Steed from behind. Angus realises the game is up and runs for the door behind the iron maiden but it jams and he is killed when it closes.


The Avengers drive off and Mrs. Peel says it’s a pity he didn’t get any real fishing in. Steed says he will now and turns right, driving into the loch in his amphibious car.

  1. The central flaw with the plot is it seems that Angus is trying to open up the castle but Ian is against it, but this solitary line seems to show that Angus in fact is scuppering Ian’s initial attempt to open the castle and turning him against the idea.
  2. Ian is quickly painted as the secretive Laird trying to keep strangers out.
  3. Diana Rigg grins when Steed hands her the history book and asks her, “Did you know that Mary Queen of Scots refused to sleep here?”
  4. The Avengers become meta-fiction. The Diana Rigg era was synonymous with the rise of the post-modern construct and the meta-fictional, self-referential spy parody concept.
  5. Ian is definitely being set up as the prime suspect.
  6. He very unsubtly looks her up and down, gazing at her underwear with a grin.
  7. Does Steed mean a facial resemblance or a behavioural resemblance? He seems to be holding something back.
  8. McNab is now presented as the main suspect, with dramatic music to match his appearance on screen.
  9. It’s a stunt double rather than Patrick Macnee, and he is quickly surrounded by three other stuntmen playing the gillies.
  10. The two-man minisubmarine footage is taken from the feature film The Silent Enemy (1958)
  11. "Bless her!" Steed exclaims.
  12. As in The Town of No Return, you can see the tunnel is short with a painted backdrop.
  13. Which rocks back and forth when she hits it.

fan forum Donate Become a Patron!