• title card: white all caps text reading ‘THE MURDER MARKET’ outlined in black and superimposed on the fish tank which has three bullet holes in the glass out of which water is bursting
  • Lovejoy, on the left, smiles at Mrs. Peel’s photo as Barabara tells him Mrs. Peel was at Henshaw’s apartment. Dinsford, standing between them, looks worried
  • Mrs. Peel lounges on Steed’s sofa, playing his tuba
  • Lovejoy, Steed and Dinsford taste the wedding cake as Lovejoy expands on the plot to kill Steed’s cousin
  • Steed cold-bloodedly takes aim with a silenced pistol
  • Emma lies in her casket, covered in a quilted cloth
  • Emma dances around her casket, drinking champagne
  • Emma chauffeurs the hearse while Steed gets dressed in the back

Series 4 — Episode 7
The Murder Market

by Tony Williamson
Directed by Peter Graham Scott

Production No E.64.10.2
Production completed: December 18 1964. First transmission: November 9 1965.

TV Times summary

In which Steed seeks a wife — and Emma gets buried …

Plot summary

A businessman meets a woman for a blind date and she immediately shoots him.
He’s not the only one though, and the Avengers are called in to investigate a spate of similar deaths that seem linked to the Togetherness introduction agency.
The agency facilitates the murder of inconvenient relatives for its members, while providing alibis for them by making sure they’re seen elsewhere at the time of death, the attractive Barbara Wakefield being their chief assassin.
The Avengers fake Emma’s death at Steed’s hand, then defeat the members of the agency in their offices. Steed and Mrs. Peel depart in a hearse.

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show plot summary

Prologue

A businessman, Jonathan Stone, (Edward Underdown) fumbles nervously with the carnation in his lapel while waiting to meet a woman – Barbara Wakefield (Suzanne Lloyd) – for a blind date in an Aquarium. She arrives and gazes at him silently as he blathers on about blind dates but when he asks her what she thinks of him, she pulls out a silenced pistol. He backs off in shock, against a large fish tank and she immediately shoots him. He collapses and water pours out of three bullet holes in the tank behind him…

Act 1

John Steed (Patrick Macnee) tells Emma Peel (Diana Rigg)1 that Stone was the eleventh apparently motiveless murder in the last six months, and the prime suspect in each case have perfect alibis.

Each victim had a photo taken at the same studio before their deaths so Steed goes there while Mrs. Peel visits Stone’s widow, posing as a journalist from Industrial Times magazine asking for background detail and a recent photograph of her late husband for a biography piece.

Mrs. Jessica Stone (Naomi Chance) is cagey and says she doesn’t have a photo of her husband but her brother-in-law, Robert Stone (John Woodvine) says there are some in his desk. Mrs. Stone assures him he’s wrong then looks and claims not to find any; Robert is visibly perturbed by her lie.

Steed meanwhile visits the fashionable photographer Fred Beale (John Forgeham), who is struggling to get an advertising shot just right. Steed lends the model his bowler and umbrella and Beale is elated, but claims never to do portrait shots – except for clients of Togetherness Inc., an exclusive marriage bureau.

Afterwards, Steed bribes Emma with a fancy lunch2 to get her to check whether the previous victims were married.

EMMA: What has marriage got to do with it?
STEED: A marvellous institution, my dear. I’m seriously contemplating it; I offer myself on the market today. Every bid considered, nevertheless, I am very choosy.
CLOSE SHOT: EMMA reacts with a smile and looks directly at the camera, sharing with the audience that she knew what he was up to all along.3

Steed visits Togetherness, where the secretary (Barbara Roscoe) entices him in with her ample bosom and offers him champagne and wedding cake, which he declines. The proprietor, Adrian Lovejoy (Patrick Cargill), is busy congratulating a happy couple – a towering woman and mousey little man (Penelope Keith and Colin Vancao). After the couple leave, Lovejoy drags Steed away from staring at his secretary and asks for personal details to determine his “emotional and physical compatibility rating”.4

Lovejoy is pleased to hear he was a Major in the Guards but dismayed to hear he was expelled from three public schools.

LOVEJOY: And after leaving the Guards, what position did you take?
STEED: Position?
LOVEJOY: Your work?
STEED: Work!?
LOVEJOY: Oh, I’m terribly sorry. We do have the occasional client, you know, who …
STEED: Tried working once – didn’t work out – too much like work.5

Steed says he’s not fussy then is humorously demanding – he would like someone with a good seat on a horse, plays bridge, mixes a dry martini, and whips up a passable soufflé – a good all-rounder.

Lovejoy’s colleague, Walter Dinsford (Peter Bayliss) rushes in nervously, clutching the file for Mr. Henshaw which he wants Adrian to look at urgently. Lovejoy angrily says he’s busy with Mr. Steed and Dinsford scampers off. He catches Henshaw (John Moore) at the door, where he’s just appeared to announce he’s leaving; Dinsford ushers him out and Lovejoy dismisses the incident.

That night, Steed breaks into the Togetherness Inc offices and searches them, eventually finding Henshaw’s address on a notice board hidden behind some sliding panels depicting Adam and Eve. He rings Mrs. Peel and tells her to go there immediately then hangs up as he hears footsteps. He overhears Lovejoy and Dinsford arguing about Henshaw; Dinsford is worried Henshaw will smash the whole operation. Lovejoy phones the ‘managing director’ and learns Henshaw has already been taken care of.

Sure enough, when Mrs. Peel arrives at his flat she finds an abandoned romantic dinner for two and an overflowing bath – with Henshaw drowned in it. Miss Wakefield runs for the front door and escapes, but not before she and Emma get a good look at each other.

Act 2

Mrs. Peel is livid when she reports back, accusing Steed of knowing Henshaw was going to be killed and didn’t stop it. He explains he only found out at the last second and warned her immediately, then tried Henshaw who didn’t answer. Mrs. Peel relents and confesses she let the murderer escape.

STEED: Did you recognise him?
EMMA: Her. Young, very pretty.
STEED: I wonder if she’s looking for a husband.

Steed is convinced the bureau is implicated, as all the cases except Stone involved bachelors. He adds the agency should have found him a match by analysing his personality to find a suitable companion, which Mrs. Peel thinks would be quite a problem.

EMMA: Finding a match for you …
STEED: Oh, I don’t know – educated, charming …
EMMA: Ruthless, devious, scheming… Have to be quite a girl – a mixture of Lucretia Borgia and Joan of Arc.6
STEED (grins): Sounds like every girl I ever knew.
STEED: By the way, my dear – isn’t it high time YOU thought of marrying again?
(EMMA reacts, choking on her drink.)

Lovejoy tells Steed to meet Miss Wakefield at noon, they will both wear red carnations. He asks Steed to sit for a portrait and Steed offers to send him some photographs in the mail. On the way out, he passes Mrs. Peel, who is signing up. Lovejoy is about to usher her into his office when the managing director rings, so he bustles her off to have her photograph taken.

Lovejoy tells the director Steed is just their type and he has, of course, sent Barbara on the date. Steed meets Barbara at the Aquarium7 and for a moment it looks like he will share Stone’s fate – but she simply adjusts her hat.8

Mrs. Peel has her photo taken by Beale, and sees Robert Stone asking Beale questions. Meanwhile, Steed discovers Barbara is from Toronto and whisks her off to his riding club. She asks if he comes there often and he says there are a couple of polo ponies he’s rather attached9 to but can’t afford to own his own. He sees a chance to dangle some bait and claims he’s the black sheep of the family and would only inherit a large sum if his favoured cousin dies.

Lovejoy meanwhile is talking to Mrs. Peel and discovers what she wants in a man.

LOVEJOY: Now, what are your requirements? Age group, physical aspect… Just let me know what you want.
EMMA: Well, he would have to be mature, a man of culture and intelligence…
LOVEJOY (writing): Mature, cultured, intelligent.
EMMA: With stamina!

Lovejoy is a bit taken aback by this but carries on, asking if she requires him to have a title but she says she’s really “more interested in the man”. Lovejoy informs her all their clients are wealthy and she will have no trouble being placed. She departs, passing Miss Wakefield in the lobby and the murderess immediately tells Lovejoy and Dinsford she was at Henshaw’s apartment. Lovejoy’s eyes harden and he angrily rips Emma’s photo in half.

Back at Steed’s flat, Mrs. Peel plays the Wedding March on his tuba and he practices golf10 while they exchange notes. He informs her that he invented a rich cousin as bait for Barbara, and she bit. In return, Emma mentions Robert Stone was at Beale’s studio but she couldn’t hear what they said.

Steed heads off for a wedding-cake tasting with Dinsford and Lovejoy, where Lovejoy tells him Miss Wakefield is very taken with Steed, but he hasn’t the finances to keep her in the manner to which she has been accustomed. Lovejoy insinuates a sporting accident may rid Steed of his troublesome cousin; Steed laughs and says he doesn’t like the thought of hanging from a rope, he’s always preferred soft collars. Dinsford suggests that if he eliminated someone else’s “problem” while they eliminated his, they could both have water-tight alibis.11 Steed agrees that he’d use the services of an organisation that could arrange it “like a shot” but wonders how such a thing could exist, undetected, where people could come and go and meet at will…

LOVEJOY: A marriage bureau, in fact.

Act 3

Mrs. Peel arrives at Steed’s flat just as he pops open a bottle of champagne, a gift from his new employers for services about to be rendered, along with the means – a silenced pistol. Mrs. Peel declares “we’ve got them” but Steed wants to get to the top and that means he has to murder somebody; they’ve given him a photo of the victim as well as the pistol. When she asks who he has to kill, he raises the pistol and points it at her and says, “You my dear”.

Lovejoy is delighted with Steed and say they may use him again but Dinsford is more cagey and doesn’t want to anticipate results; he reminds Lovejoy what happened when they pushed Henshaw too far.

Lovejoy is even more delighted when Steed arrives but when he pulls the gun out and points it at them, Lovejoy nervously asks if he wants something. Steed smiles and returns the pistol, already used. They congratulate him and he asks them to uphold their side of the bargain.

STEED: I thought I’d pop the question to Barbara … a little honeymooning on the Riviera … my dear cousin -
DINSFORD: Becomes your dear departed cousin.
STEED (beams): Exactly!

Lovejoy insists on verifying Steed has completed his task – at gunpoint. Steed takes him to the crypt where Mrs. Peel is lying in state and there Lovejoy suggests he become a regular assassin for them. Steed says he is tempted but would like to meet the managing director first.

He lingers after Lovejoy departs and tells Mrs. Peel to stay in the coffin until the evening. She groans and wants to go home, until he gives her a bottle of champagne.

EMMA: Oh! I call that very thoughtful.
STEED: Don’t get tipsy, we can’t have you hiccoughing in the coffin.12

Lovejoy returns to the office, humming happily, but loses his humour when told by Beale that Steed was at his studio the other day, saying he’d been recommended by a client.13

Steed is surprised to have a visit from Lovejoy and his henchman Simmons – they are going to bury Mrs. Peel that afternoon and lead Steed away to join them.

Mrs. Peel, bored and mildly tipsy, is dancing around the crypt, sipping champagne when she hears footsteps approaching. She leaps back into the coffin before the pall bearers and Lovejoy enter, and is carried out to the graveside. Steed and the staff of Togetherness Inc are the mourners, along with a woman wearing a black veil. Steed sees Robert Stone watching from a distance.

In the hearse on the way back, the woman removes her veil and introduces herself as the managing director – it’s Mrs. Stone!

That night, Robert enters the Togetherness offices and is searching Lovejoy’s desk when Mrs. Peel appears, pointing a gun at him. He’s astounded to see her then hastily explains he’s trying to find his brother’s killer.

They start searching and Mrs. Peel explains to Robert that Steed thinks ahead – the coffin had a lead floor to give it weight and hinged sides for an emergency exit. She has just found the date book, recording Barbara meeting with Jonathan, when Barbara walks in and holds them at gunpoint. She calls the other villains in – Robert amazed to see Jessica in their midst. Mrs. Stone hisses, “Fools, both of you!” at Lovejoy and Dinsford as they realise their suspicions about Steed were well-founded.

She says they’ll take care of their visitors first and tells Dinsford to back the car up to the entrance. He departs but is ambushed by Steed in the lobby and knocked out. Jessica meanwhile tells Emma and Robert that she and Jonathan ran the perfect organisation but he wasn’t content, and started dating the girls from the client list – so she used his own organisation to kill him.

Steed hears them and dons a top hat to take a place in a display. As they pass, he kicks out, disarming the henchman, then leaps down on the captors. Mrs. Peel and Robert, now freed, join in the fight and Steed sends Emma off to take care of Mrs. Stone and Barbara, who are burning incriminating documents. The villains are defeated and Barbara, in one desperate last attempt, leaps at Mrs. Peel, but is caught mid-air by Steed. Looking at him in a pose like a new husband carrying his wife over the threshold, Emma smirks “Congratulations!”; “Best Man”, replies Steed, and she laughs.

Epilogue

The Avengers depart in the hearse, Steed chatting away in the back as he straightens up his tie while Mrs. Peel drives. She can’t hear a word until he opens the glass panel and asks “Don’t you think so?” “I agree with every word you’ve said”, she replies and keeps on driving.


  1. This episode was the first filmed with Diana Rigg as Emma Peel and is notable for what seems to be an early producers’ directive that didn’t last — to have Diana use a husky whispering voice instead of her usual strident clarion. She slips up for one line in this scene and by 16:00 she stops using the whisper completely, except when circumstances demand otherwise.
  2. Steed suggests a lunch of Escalope à la crème and she hopes it has asperges; he replies it will have parmesan and a touch of garlic, and the restaurant’s crepes are superb. He then brings her back to earth with a thud by saying it’s a stones’ throw from the library so she can look through police records.
  3. From 1965 onwards, The Avengers becomes increasingly self-referential and meta-fictional, and the fourth wall is broken more and more.
  4. Sound familiar? The same actor delivers almost exactly the same line in The Fear Merchants.
  5. Steed adds, “I pootled around at the Foreign Office for a while. Found it all quite baffling.”
  6. The script originally said Florence Nightingale instead of Joan of Arc.
  7. He entertains himself while waiting by bobbing about near one of the tanks, pretending to blow bubbles like a fish.
  8. A lovely bit of narrative symmetry, Steed’s lines echoing those of Stone at the beginning of the episode.
  9. Steed has a history with polo ponies in Series 3, spending some of Death Of A Batman trying to buy some.
  10. This scene originally had them playing snooker, with “Mantha” potting every ball but was changed to the tuba and golf scene with Steed playing the tuba and Emma practicing golf. The gender rôle inversion is a bit of genius.
  11. Brian Clemens and Tony Williamson were great fans of Alfred Hitchcock and this plot of course appears in Strangers on a Train.
  12. He deliberately mispronounces it as “hiccoffin” so as to rhyme.
  13. The action in this paragraph is completely missing from the draft script, that goes from scene 36 with Lovejoy and Steed in the mortuary to scene 37/38 where Lovejoy unexpectedly arrives at Steed’s flat. There appear to be be 4 or 5 pages missing from the script which goes from replacement page 42A, to “new page”, and then page 48. Scene 37 maybe be redesignated 38 on page 48, the annotation is a bit unclear.

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