• title card: white all caps text reading ‘SMALL GAME FOR BIG HUNTERS’ outlinked in black and superimposed on a milestone reading ‘LONDON 23 MILES’
  • Steed, in his dashing chalk-stripe suit, looks concerned about Emma who is yawning loudly — she wears a tight sleeveless top and stands before the plastic screen shielding the sleeping patients
  • Razafi captures Steed in a tiger trap which whisks him up in the air until his head collides with a tree branch
  • Steed ans Trent enter the jungle inside the enormous greenhouse, passing the formidable temperature and humidity controls
  • Razafi, his face painted with a tribal marking, lights a hurricane lantern in the foreground left
  • Emma, dressed as Lala in a sarong, is captured by one of the tribesmen and questioned by Professor Swain
  • The flies begin to … die like flies … in the English rain
  • Emma paddles away in the front of a canoe while Steed just sits in the back talking

Series 4 — Episode 16
Small Game for Big Hunters

by Philip Levene
Directed by Gerry O’Hara

Production No E.64.10.17
Production completed: October 1 1965. First transmission: January 11 1966.

TV Times summary

In which Steed joins the natives — and Emma gets the evil eye …

Plot summary

A farm labourer is found on the Great South Road in a coma with an arrow in his back. The Avengers investigate, and discover that the arrow is of Kalayan design, and the tropical clothes were sent to Colonel Rawlings in Kalaya, back in 1929.
Everything points to the Kalayan Ex-servicemen’s club, a stones’ throw away from where the man was found and a visiting expert claims the coma is in fact due to Kalayan voodoo. Steed infiltrates the club and discovers some disaffected ex-colonial settlers, including the expert, planning to bring Kalaya to its knees with a new strain of tsetse fly. A Kalayan secret service agent assists Steed but is killed by the plotters, and the Avengers manage to quash the plan.
Exit the Avengers downstream, in a canoe.

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Prologue

Jack Kendrick (Peter Thomas) wades through a swamp then slashes through the deep undergrowth of a forest, pursued by native calls and the throb of jungle drums. His clothes torn and dirty, he scales a barbed wire fence to escape but is shot with an arrow in the back. He collapses to the ground next to a milestone bearing the legend “London 23 miles”.1

Act 1

Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) is summoned to the house of Dr. Gibson, where John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Dr. Gibson (A.J. Brown) are examining Kendrick. Steed tells her the victim is a local farmhand who disappeared four days ago and was discovered by Dr. Gibson alongside the Great South Road in a coma, sporting a deep tan and wearing tropical kit, with a native arrow, bearing no trace of poison, in his back.

Kendrick stirs but slumps back into coma without answering any questions. They are all astonished to hear the beat of distant drums and Emma and Steed go outside but the sound has stopped — however, a strange mark has been chalked on Dr. Gibson’s door.2

Professor Swain (Liam Redmond), an entomologist with an interest in primitive cultures after lecturing at the Kalayan University until the new government took over, is called in and shows Mrs. Peel an illustration of the cult of Shirenzai, a Kalayan form of voodoo — bearing the same strange symbol. He surprises her by playing a short tune on a Kalayan flute, calling it Aradi, the sweet sound of hell as played by the holy men, portending doom. Swain then adds that he could detect a victim of the African voodoo easily with a dart dangling from a stick.

Steed is visiting the tropical outfitter (Tom Gill) who made the shirt Kendrick was wearing. The outfitter tells Steed they ship anywhere and even supplied kit to the famous hunter, Simon Trent, who killed a bull elephant at 40 paces … or was it 30?

STEED: I once shot a bull elephant myself.
ASSISTANT: Really, what did you use?
STEED: F8 at 500th of a second — and a small roll of film.

He checks the records and reveals the clothes had been made for a Colonel Rawlings, sent to him on May 14 1929, in Kalaya.

Swain goes to examine Kendrick, much to Dr. Gibson’s disgust — the doctor complains about the “mumbo jumbo quackery” and storms outside saying Mrs. Peel will have to take responsibility. Professor Swain starts anointing Kendrick and waving a horsehair fly swatter and skeletal hand around his face as Mrs. Peel looks on in amusement. Swain picks up the divining stick and when the tiny dart hanging from it spins madly he croaks, “Shirenzai, Shirenzai!”

Dr. Gibson meanwhile is having a quiet smoke on the driveway, but as he lights his pipe he hears the drums and goes to investigate… as he approaches the hedge he hears the chattering of chimpanzees and gasps in horror at what he sees.

Back inside, Professor Swain has packed away his trinkets and says he has diagnosed it but does not hold the cure. He declares that Kendrick is gripped by Shirenzai.

SWAIN: He sleeps the sleep of the living death. There is no awakening him — not by any means I have at my command.

Mrs. Peel protests that they are in Hertfordshire, not a primitive jungle3 and Swain wonders how Kendrick could have offended the Kalayan Gods there, but says it is the curse that crosses continents. When Mrs. Peel asks him if there are any Kalayans living in England he becomes evasive and when she suggests phoning the embassy he darkly says his experience with that government is that they are extremely unhelpful.4

Swain drives off while Mrs. Peel calls the Kalayan Embassy, who very helpfully tells her about an Ex-Servicemen’s Club. She then goes outside and finds Dr. Gibson comatose in the hedge with a Shirenzai symbol in his shirt pocket.

Steed arrives to examine Gibson and is a bit alarmed when she yawns loudly as he asks her questions. She assures him she’s an insomniac and he imparts that Kendrick and the other missing locals had served in Kalaya. She tells him Swain mentioned a curse, and the Embassy said several Kalayan nationals work at the Kalayan Ex-Servicemens’ Club, owned by a man called Rawlings. Steed realises it’s the same Colonel Rawlings who owned the tropical kit and explains that Rawlings did his whole military service in Kalaya then stayed on after retirement, but was turfed out when Kalaya gained independence.

Steed goes to fetch Rawlings’ file from his car and encounters Razafi (Paul Danquah), a war-painted tribesman5 who steals Rawlings’ file6 and tries to stab Steed. Steed fends him off and returns inside — he’d already read he file twice so infiltration of the club will not be a problem, and he asks Emma for its address.

EMMA: That’s no problem … see that house at the bottom of the garden … that’s “The Willows”. The house of Colonel Rawlings … and Headquarters of the Kalayan Ex-Servicemen’s Association. Now isn’t that a coincidence?
STEED: Isn’t it just??

Steed enters Rawlings’ garden armed with a stout sword stick and is ready for Razafi when he hears him creeping behind the hedge. He pins Razafi down with the sword and orders him to take him to his leader but is lead into a Malayan tiger trap and knocked out when it swings up to the boughs above.

Act 2

Steed awakes in the club house to the sight of mounted tiger heads, and the attractive Kalayan servant Lala (Esther Anderson). He sits up and is faced with the rifle of the big game hunter Simon Trent (James Villiers), who has picked Steed’s pocket to learn his identity — Major Steed. Steed learns who he is7 and there is a verbal riposte around hunting which bears a strong undertone of menace.

STEED: Of course your reputation precedes you. Shot a bull elephant at fifty paces isn’t that so?8
TRENT: Oh that’s not all I’ve shot in my time.
STEED: But there can’t be much hunting around here.
TRENT: You’d be surprised. It’s amazing what turns up in the traps sometimes.
STEED (LIGHTLY, WITH A SMILE): Isn’t it?
TRENT: Then the only thing to do is to put it out of its misery.

Steed asks to see the Colonel and Trent asks what for; Steed stares at him and suggests he join them and eavesdrop. Trent sneers at him and says he’s not really dressed for where he’s going. They change into tropical gear and Trent leads Steed into an enormous artificial jungle — with under-soil heating and spraying equipment to maintain the humidity, and huge windows to filter the sunlight. The jungle even has dangerous wildlife such as huge snakes.

Razafi is sitting outside the club house in the jungle, where Colonel Rawlings (Bill Fraser) rises grumbling from his netted hammock to greet Steed.9 He is a bluff old soldier with an eye patch who notices Steed is wearing his old regimental colours. Steed tells him they met some years ago at a regimental dinner.

Rawlings is quite mad and thinks himself still in Colonial-era Kalaya and won’t countenance Steed’s cover story — that he lost his rubber plantation when the new government took over — he considers Kalaya to still be British. Trent quietly explains the Colonel couldn’t handle the winds of change and they play along his fantasy of still being in the jungle.

Mrs. Peel meanwhile hears a noise and checks the patients, but finds nothing wrong — but someone has approached the house and peered through the windows.

Rawlings wishes he were back in England — he’d quite like a house in Hertfordshire and become wistful thinking about it.

RAWLINGS: The English countryside, oh nothing to beat it y’know. You been back home recently Major?
STEED: Fairly recently — yes Colonel.
RAWLINGS: Cows are still as green as ever, eh?

The Colonel then sets off to order the natives about. He passes Fleming (Peter Burton) at the door, who rather gives the game away as he crosses the room by saying loudly “I’ve just been out to the cottage, both of them are there-” Trent quickly cuts him off and introduces him to Steed as their rubber expert.

Steed suggests England is a strange place to try to grow rubber and wonders urbanely if Kalaya is barred to them. Trent then leads Fleming outside and Steed tries to eavesdrop on their conversation but all he hears in Fleming apologise for being careless. Rawlings shows a polite Steed his photo album while Steed despairingly watches Fleming and Trent disappear into the jungle.

Mrs. Peel by now has fallen asleep and is startled awake by the front door slamming in the wind. She wakes and imagines she sees the face of an old tribesman, that resolves into a photo in one of the books on Kalaya. She goes to check the patients and to her shock finds them missing!

Fleming and some natives are transporting them through the jungle, in netting slung from long poles. Steed meanwhile is playing cards with the Colonel — snap, of course — and they hear a commotion outside. They see the men being borne through the bushes and Rawlings tells Steed they’ve had an outbreak of “The sleep of the living death”.

Trent enters and claims it’s all a charade they put on to convince the Colonel he is in Africa. Steed says he must be getting back up river but the Colonel won’t hear of, thinking the river too dangerous in the rainy season. Trent ominously agrees and says they’d be delighted to have him stay…

Swain meanwhile has returned to the cottage and declares the missing men are “walking the dark forests of hell for all eternity” as he predicted. Mrs. Peel is sceptical and asks him if he’s heard of glossina trypanosoma; he acts baffled and she chides him — he is an entomologist and ought to recognise the tsetse fly.

Swain irately dismisses the suggestion that the men had sleeping sickness and is offended that she doubts his knowledge, so he leaves in a huff. She follows him out and finds he has disappeared, his broken spectacles lying in the gravel and a Shirenzai symbol painted on his car.

Act 3

Steed, unable to leave the previous night, wakes early and creeps back to the main house from the club house in the jungle, stepping over Razafi who is pretending to be asleep as he leaves the club house. Steed phones Mrs. Peel and tells her the missing men are at Rawlings’ but has to hang up before he can explain more. Trent enters menacingly, carrying a rifle, and smiles insincerely at Steed.

TRENT: Ah, up bright and early Major?
STEED (SMILING): Morning constitutional … old habits die hard.
TRENT (COLDY): Yes… don’t they. I find the same thing myself you know. This time of day if I see something moving,
(PULLS BACK BOLT OF RIFLE)
it’s all I can do to stop myself from shooting it.
(DRIVES THE BOLT HOME)
STEED: Very upsetting for the early risers in Kalaya when you were there!

They head back to the club house, watched by Razafi, and Trent probes Steed’s disaffection with the Kalayan government, Steed happy to feed him enough bait for the hook to be taken. Steed joins the Colonel for breakfast and Razafi collides with their table in passing. He whispers to Steed to meet him at the juniper tree at midnight — but Lala has noticed.

Steed keeps the rendezvous and discovers Razafi is a Lieutenant of the Kalayan Intelligence Service and has an impeccable Oxford accent.

RAZAFI: I’ve been observing you Mr. Steed … it appears that we’re working to the same end …
STEED (GLANCES AT RAZAFI’s KNIFE): I sincerely hope so!

Razafi leads Steed through the jungle telling him that Trent and Fleming are planning something against the Kalayan government, and all the sleeping death and Shirenzai is trickery, hiding the real truth. In the shadows, Lala stalks them silently…

Emma meanwhile crosses the garden and enters “The Willows” through a window. When she enters the artificial jungle she discovers herself overdressed in her plastic mac and starts stripping it off.

Razafi leads Steed into a hut where Gibson and Kendrick lie sleeping. He tells him they and the other locals are medical guinea pigs. Lala stabs him in the back before he can say any more then runs off crying “Abu sla-tama!”10 Razafi gasps that Steed should escape while he can, then dies in his arms.

Emerging from the hut, Steed runs into Trent who has been alerted by Lala’s cries — Lala meanwhile runs past Emma, now in her singlet top, who takes off after her stealthily.

Trent enters the hunt and, misreading the situation, is impressed that Steed spotted and dealt with the “dirty spy” quickly and quietly. Trent decides Steed has proven his mettle and reveals their plot — they are going to return to Kalaya, and bring a new strain of tsetse fly, immune to all insecticides, with them. A simple, secret inoculation will ensure the conspirators are not affected and 1,000 flies is all they need. “They breed like flies”, enjoins Steed. Professor Swain enters and happily gloats about his plan in true diabolical mastermind fashion:

SWAIN: The whole country will be paralysed within a week… and then we take over. A pretty plan don’t you think?

Trent reveals that Swain is the mastermind of the operation and Swain tells him it’s been easy to cover their traces by being in England and using a bit of mumbo jumbo — he presses play on a tape machine and the sound of drums fills the air. Steed is openly startled at their ruthlessness, both to the Kalayans and the guinea pigs. Professor Swain grins like a maniac as he delightedly tells him the ex-servicemen had no resistance to the disease from their new tsetse fly.

Lala enters and Trent tells her to fetch Fleming. She ignores him so he grabs her shoulder — she turns and is revealed to be Emma. Steed and Mrs. Peel quickly knock down the conspirators and steal the canister of flies then are chased through the jungle, Rawlings chuckling at the commotion.11

Steed defeats Trent in unarmed combat after the hunter empties the magazine of his rifle trying to kill him; the Colonel appears just as Steed is victorious and congratulates him on bagging a big one, failing to recognise with his alcohol-addled brain that the “ugly brute” is Simon Trent. Elsewhere, Emma is cornered by some of the natives who she fights off but is then caught by Fleming at gunpoint. Swain catches up and snarls at her:

SWAIN: You almost spoilt it Mrs. Peel. All that work almost in jeopardy because of you. That arouses me to violence.

Steed swings to her rescue on a vine, hollering Tarzan-style, to complete the jungle adventure film parody and he and Emma defeat the villains12. They depart with the flies to “the old country”, returning to the main house and the cold, wet English autumn weather. Steed opens the canister and places it out in the rain and notes that if the temperature falls below sub-tropical — "They die like flies!" Emma interjects.

Epilogue

Exit the Avengers downstream, in a canoe. Steed is in a Navy uniform and orders, “full speed ahead”. Emma smirks and says they’ll have to start the other engine. Steed looks at her blankly for a second then grabs his oar, says, “Aye, Aye, sir!” and starts paddling.


  1. The Goodies sent up this episode in their episode, “The Lost Tribe”, also starting with a man fleeing the jungle then ending up next to a milestone outside London.
  2. The Kalayan mark used in the episode was used by the writer W. Somerset Maugham, who had it on the cover and titlepage of his books. Originally it is a Moorish symbol called the hamsa which depicts Fatima’s hand warding off the evil eye and represents good luck. Used upside down, as in this episode, it is supposed to denote bad luck — the first time Maugham used it, in the first pressing of The Hero (1901) it was printed upside down and he blamed that for the poor sales of the book, even though the symbol was corrected from the second print run. Viewers of M*A*S*H may remember it being on the door of “The Swamp”.
  3. They are indeed, most of the location work and all the studio filming was done in Hertfordshire; the choice of the word ‘primitive’ sadly dates the script to a less progressive era, even id the outcome is in favour of an independent Africa.
  4. Hinting at the ex-colonial discontent plot for the second time, but nicely understated.
  5. The director does a great crash zoom to extreme close-up of Razafi’s painted face to add drama to his appearance.
  6. Where does he put it? When he runs off he’s empty handed and doesn’t appear to have any pockets.
  7. Steed wittily asks, “Can I pick your pocket now?” to learn Trent’s identity. It’s interesting that he armed himself with fake credentials on the off-chance of being searched, and, as we learn soon after, is wearing Colonel Rawlings’ regimental tie.
  8. The story about Trent’s bull elephant is different on every telling to suggest he can’t be trusted. Later on, Colonel Rawlings says it was at 20 or 10 paces.
  9. Bill Fraser was quite a television star, played Claude Snudge in Bootsie and Snudge (1960–74) and The Army Game (1959–60) before it, and often played these sorts of characters. The director ensures he gets a long dramatic entrance.
  10. The dialogue sheets have it as “Abou silla ha hama!” but either way it appears to be a fictional language.
  11. Colonel Rawlings is a lampoon of Imperial bigotry in the episode but it’s still disturbing to hear him suggest they take some coloured beads to quell a native uprising, and to later mutter, “By jove, the natives are restless tonight”.
  12. One native Kalyan takes off while the other seems to help Steed, knocking Fleming sideways, so I guess they realised their homeland was at risk and changed sides.

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