• title card: white all caps text reading ‘THE GIRL FROM AUNTIE’ outlined in black and superimposed on the front wheel of the fallen bicycle, and the knitting that has fallen out of the basket
  • Georgie, dressed as Mrs. Peel, turns to speak to Steed
  • Auntie’s receptionist draws a Luger pistol when she hears Steed outside the door
  • The old lady viciously lunges towards the camera (and Georgie) with her knitting needle
  • Steed, in evening wear, finds the Mona Lisa amongst Auntie’s stolen goods
  • Mrs. Peel is singularly unimpressed with being locked in a cage wearing a bodystocking and a few feathers, Auntie gloats from behind the cage
  • Steed knocks Auntie out by smashing the Mona Lisa over his head, destroying the priceless painting
  • Emma drives while Steed is squeezed into the back of the tiny Messerschmidt car

Series 4 — Episode 17
The Girl From Auntie

by Roger Marshall
Directed by Roy Baker

Production No E.64.10.18
Production completed: October 26 1965. First transmission: January 18 1966.

TV Times summary

In which Steed almost outbids himself — and Emma is a bird in a gilded cage …

Plot summary

Leaving an all-night party, Mrs. Peel goes to help an old lady who has fallen off her bike, but the old lady drugs and kidnaps her!
Returning from holiday, Steed finds an impostor in Mrs. Peel’s flat but they team up to find Mrs. Peel when they discover everyone involved is being killed off – with knitting needles! They track the needles to Arkwright’s Knitting Circle, across the hall from Art Incorporated, who run shadowy private auctions – and Mrs. Peel is the next item to go under the hammer. Steed bids for her and wins, but is recognised by the old lady – actual a male assassin in disguise. There’s the usual furious fight and The Avengers depart, squashed into a tiny bubble car, while Georgie drives away in an enormous old Lagonda.

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Prologue

Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) is leaving an all-night fancy dress revel of the most entertaining kind – men in masks, women in bikinis – when she sees an old lady (Mary Merrall) fall off her bicycle. Going to her aid, she is surprised when the old lady turns on her and injects her with a fast-acting sedative…

Act 1

John Steed (Patrick Macnee) arrives back from holidays, surprising his taxi driver (Ray Martine) by the number of sporting goods the porter crams into the cab.1 They drive to Mrs. Peel’s apartment, Steed seeing her return moments before him, and tell the driver he should be able to find something to amuse himself with while he’s inside. The taxi driver grabs a canoe paddle and holds it out the driver’s window, pretending to paddle the taxi along.

When Steed catches up to Mrs. Peel at her door, he discovers her to be an impostor, and a poorly instructed one. He gives her a lobster from Steed, whom he describes as a little fat man with a grey moustache, then rings up from the booth outside, pretending to be a Hooray Henry lover boy, who’ll “be round in a couple of jiffs”. The impostor panics and leave the flat in a hurry and Steed tells the driver, now wearing a snorkelling mask, to follow her when she speeds away.

Meanwhile, at the office of Art Incorporated, the receptionist (Yolande Turner) tells her boss, Gregorio Auntie (Alfred Burke), that lot 17 has been safely delivered. He orders “Operation Cast-off” – the elimination of everyone associated with the fake Mrs. Peel – and she starts with the theatrical agents.

We find the fake Mrs. Peel standing in the now-empty office of the agency when Steed catches up to her. She smiles and tells him she’s Georgie Price-Jones (Liz Frazer), hired to play Mrs. Peel by Mr. Lamb.

GEORGIE: But where’s he got to?
(She idly pulls on a ball of wool she has found on the floor and Mr. Lamb promptly falls out of the cupboard, dead with a knitting needle in his back.)
GEORGIE: So that’s where he got to!2

Georgie tells Steed two advertising men, Bates and Marshall, were also present at her audition and they pay them a visit, passing the old lady on their way into the office. Steed starts looking for clues3 and Georgie find what she thinks is a code: “S1, K9, K2, tog, tbl.” while Steed finds a diary noting an “Appointment with Auntie”. Georgie spots another ball of wool and they exchange a glance — this one leads to the now dead ad men. One of them has a cheque for Georgie skewered on the knitting needle in his back, drawn against the account of a firm of solicitors.

The solicitors are found dead in a car outside their office, similarly stabbed – the old lady riding off on her bicycle seconds before they arrive. Steed and Georgie climb back into the taxi, Steed startling the driver when he declares:

STEED: Six bodies in an hour and twenty minutes! What do you call that?
GEORGIE: A good first act!4

They’re at a loss until Georgie, puzzling over the code, latches onto “tog” and remembers the costumiers who supplied the wig and clothes. They arrive at Jacques Brothers and see four mirrored cupboard ominously awaiting them. The first few are empty, prompting Georgie to quip, “Losing your touch?” as she leans against the third. This causes the fourth to creak open and the brothers topple out, all with a needle in their back.

Fred Jacques (John Rutland) isn’t dead yet and he gasps, “Auntie did it”, before slumping to the ground. They’re left wondering what to do next when a different old lady, Aunt Hetty (Sylvia Coleridge), wanders in, looking for her knitting pattern. She beams at the men on the floor and says she’s their favourite auntie!5

Steed whisks her away to Mrs. Peel’s flat and they ask her about her nephews over tea and crumpets. They’re getting nowhere until Steed asks her about the needle he removed from one of the bodies. Her eyes light up, excited that he is also a member of the Arkwright Knitting Circle.

They visit Arkwright’s circle, which shares a building with Art Incorporated. Arkwright (Bernard Cribbins) is circling a group of old ladies, chanting rhymes like a square dance caller to them as they knit. Steed shows him the needles and Arkwright says he had some stolen from the storeroom last week.

Steed departs and runs into a Russian agent, Ivanoff (David Bauer), emerging from Art Incorporated. Ivanoff claims he’s buying a painting for a friend as the ladies bustles past them – the killer is one of them, and she slips past behind Ivanoff. Steed gets back into his taxi where the driver is now wearing boxing gloves. Steed is suspicious of Ivanoff as he didn’t ask after Mrs. Peel as he usually does and tells the driver to drive around the block.

On his return, Steed pauses at the door of Art Incorporated, where the receptionist has her long, shapely legs up on the console; he changes his mind and heads back to the knitting circle, deftly avoiding Arkwright and slipping inside. He searches the cupboards, overheard by the receptionist who has now pulled out a pistol. Steed is suddenly hit over the head with a vase6 – by Aunt Hetty, who is surprised to discover it’s Steed. She and Arkwright thought the burglar had returned. Meanwhile, next door, the receptionist is telling someone the deception has failed because Steed returned home early – the fake Mrs. Peel is to be eliminated.

Act 2

Georgie is reading a self-defence book when the murderous old lady pays a visit and, following the instructions in the book, manages to defend herself and escape to the kitchen. The old lady pedals away just as Steed arrives in his taxi and he enters the flat. He’s examining the needle stuck in the kitchen door when Georgie clobbers over the head with another vase.

GEORGIE: Steed … I thought you were an old lady with a veil and knitting needles.
STEED: They do say I take after Granny.7

Georgie tells Steed about her attacker, who was old enough to be someone’s grandmother – “Or Auntie”, muses Steed.

He takes her to Arkwright’s to identify her assailant but when she can’t tell them apart he suggest she join the knitting circle,8 leaving her there while he visits Art Incorporated. On the way in he notices a plaque which reads “The unobtainable obtained, the priceless acquired at a price”.

He enters and the first thing he sees is some knitting and a couple of needles. Then he poses as a pretentious art connoisseur who has to compose himself before he can do business.

STEED: Yes definitely yes – the air ‘breathes’ well… my nerve endings are positively tingly. – I must strike up a rapport with the surroundings before I can possibly… yes, I can do business here.

Steed introduces himself – after sorting through some business cards – as “Wayne Pennyfeather ffitch”. The receptionist tells him they only take personally recommended clients when he asks about ‘the unobtainable’. Another client emerges from the main office and the receptionist, calling her Lady Bracknell,9 reminds her of her handbag with the knitting in it – but she’s not the killer.

Georgie meanwhile fails to recognise anyone and is startled when Aunt Hetty arrives and surreptitiously draws a pistol from her handbag. Hetty smiles and says she got it to deal with her nephew10 – then demonstrates it’s only a water pistol.

At Art Incorporated, the boss sends the old lady to investigate ffitch’s credentials. Steed shows Georgie that he’s borrowed Goya’s La Doña Isabel Cobos de Porcel from the National Gallery to prove his bona fides and moments later the killer arrives, asking for charity for a dog’s home. She quickly searches Steed’s living room when he goes to fetch some money and is impressed by the Goya.

Steed sets off that night, armed with a burglary kit at which the taxi driver looks askance; Steed claims he’s going to a fancy dress party. He breaks into Art Incorporated and finds the Mona Lisa on an easel moments before the boss appears, armed with a flintlock pistol.

STEED: I thought you were less likely to shoot me standing in front of a Da Vinci.
AUNTIE: How right you are…

The boss introduces himself as Gregorio Auntie and says they can indeed get anything at all but the price is sometimes very high. They always leave a replica in the place of works stolen and Auntie comments on the quality of Steed’s replica Goya which now hangs in the National Gallery; in return, Steed offers to put him in touch with the Flemish forger who painted it for him.

Steed tells Auntie he wishes to acquire a woman – for her mind. He names Mrs. Emma Peel but is told he is ten days too late, they have already acquired her for another client.

“Ivanoff”, Steed suggests, but Auntie won’t divulge – he has a reputation to protect and can’t sell her on, even for triple the price. Auntie offers a first folio of Hamlet taken from the British Museum and is startled when Steed tells him it’s a replica – he already has the original at home.

After Steed leaves, Auntie slips behind a tapestry and takes some grapes to Mrs. Peel, who is resting on the swinging perch of an enormous bird cage. He tells her her popularity is increasing – ffitch, a true English gentleman, is interested as well. She perks up, which makes Auntie suspect she knows “ffitch”, but is disconsolate when Auntie wonders what secrets she knows and says she will be moved on in two days; he adds ominously that knowing Ivanoff’s methods, her cage will then seem like a paradise.

Act 3

Steed, in the cab with Georgie, tells her he plans to “sell her to the enemy”, surprising Georgie and the taxi driver.

GEORGIE: What’s so special about this Mrs. Emma Peel? You’d think she was Madame Curie and half a dozen others all rolled into one.
STEED: Her vital statistics…
(GEORGIE SMOOTHES DOWN HER DRESS ANS SITS MORE UPRIGHT)
STEED (cont.): the I.Q. Variety!… hold that. She knows about cyphers, sintered fuels, cybernetics… that’s what Ivanoff’s interested in.

Steed tapes her mouth before putting an auburn wig on her – the driver nearly crashing when he sees what’s going on. Georgie sits back and make the muffled complaint, “Charming!”

Ivanoff is reading Pravda11 when Steed knocks on the door and announces, “Special delivery, perishables!” Ivanoff peers through the peephole and sees the re-disguised Georgie and releases all the bolts, chains, and locks on his door. When he emerges, Steed attacks him and they fight furiously.

Steed tells her to pay the driver while he deals with Ivanoff but he discovers the agent doesn’t know where Mrs. Peel is being held – Ivanoff only knows he has to pay 140,000 American dollars for her,12 which Georgie finds in a briefcase. Steed calls a number and asks for a “package to be collected” and asks for maximum publicity.

Auntie is delighted to read of Ivanoff’s arrest, seeing it as evidence of ffitch’s ability and order that Mrs. Peel be put up for auction, with particular notice to the Eastern Bloc. He’s arranged for the old lady to silence Ivanoff and he’s murdered in his police cell by the vicious old trout.

Auntie conducts the auction, selling the Mona Lisa to a Russian (Maurice Browning)13 and promising to deliver it to his submarine. The next lot is Mrs. Peel, shown on a closed-circuit television screen – she bashes the bell in her cage when she hears herself announced.

AUNTIE: A very desirable acquisition… I understand that she carries most of the disposition of western defence bases in her head, is a cypher expert of no mean ability, and would be a splendid addition for any intelligence system anywhere in the world. I must make it quite clear however that I cannot guarantee that she will betray her secrets… that is up to the purchaser. But she does carry some very special ones and so I must ask that the bidding begin at the reserve price of fifty thousand pounds.14

Bidding is fierce between the Russian and a Chinese agent and Steed can’t help egg them on a bit, and annoy Emma at the same time!

STEED: She looks a bit broody… can’t you have her move about a bit?

Steed joins the bidding and, after trading small increments with the Russian, makes the bid of £200,000 to win the auction:

AUNTIE: Two hundred thousand pounds I am bid. Two hundred thousand pounds for this outstanding example of British pulchritude and learning. 200,000… I say it once… I say it twice… Sold to Mr. Wayne Pennyfeather ffitch.

Unfortunately, the old lady assassin has learned Steed’s identity and Georgie sees she is holding a photo of Steed and a gun behind her back. Georgie shouts a warning to Steed who turns to fights Auntie now his cover is blown, dispatching him with the Mona Lisa15 while Georgie prevents the old lady from shooting him. They set off after the old lady, who’s joined the knitting circle. Steed marches up to her and punches her, which makes Arkwright gasp in shock; she’s revealed to be a man in disguise at the end of the fight.

ARKWRIGHT: Mr. Steed … I really must object to …
STEED: Quite unavoidable I assure you … what are they knitting?
ARKWRIGHT (deadpan): A bungalow.
STEED REACTS

Going to rescue Mrs. Peel, Steed fights off a guard (Romo Gorrara) while Mrs. Peel fights the receptionist then bends the bars to capture her. She opens the cage and warns Steed not to make any cracks about birds in gilded cages. Steed smiles and introduces the two Mrs. Emma Peels to each other.

Epilogue

The Avengers depart, squashed into a tiny Messerschmitt KR201 bubble car, while Georgie drives away in an enormous old Lagonda.


  1. This joke is repeated in Wish You Were Here. It also provides a running gag for the rest of the episode, with the taxi driver entertaining himself with the gear while Steed is busy.
  2. This scene was originally written more seriously, with Georgie screaming when the corpse falls out of the closet. The director no doubt decided to make full use of Liz Fraser’s excellent comic timing to make a more humorous episode. He also cut the long bit about the text of the job ad and Georgie’s background.
  3. There’s a lengthy bit of dialogue using advertising jargon in the shooting script which has been cut completely by the director.
  4. A purely post-modern, self-referential joke.
  5. This is where the first act originally ended, but with all the dialogue cut from the script it’s been moved later in the episode. It’s also the first of many frequent suggestions to the heroes that Hetty is the killer.
  6. The script originally had Steed overhearing the receptionist next door through the venitlstion grille.
  7. This superb line is not in Marshall’s shooting script and was changed during filming, either as pink pages from the author or an improvisation during rehearsal.
  8. This is done with the usual Steed manipulation, Steed asking if she knits then telling her “I take a size 9 3/4 in socks and nothing too garish”, which leaves Georgie quite cross with him.
  9. Roger Marshall repeats his Mellors joke from Silent Dust in the script, with Steed querying “That THE Lady Bracknell?” but the line was cut from the episode. In Oscar Wilde’s society farce “The Importance of Being Earnest”, Lady Bracknell discovers that the suitor for her daughter had as a baby been left in a handbag at Victoria Station and is later revealed to be her long lost nephew.
  10. A lot of the episode has mini climaxes with Steed or Georgie wondering if Hetty actually is the killer, then having the tension defused.
  11. Once again, Russia is not explicitly mentioned but they’ve crammed as many Russian props and references into the set as they could.
  12. $1,331,781 in 2023. The shooting script says 200,000 American dollars ($1,902,544 in 2023).
  13. Sold for “One million six”. I assume US $1,600,000 ($15,220,359 in 2023) as Steed has to convert Pounds to Rubles a moment later. The painting at the time was insured for $100 million. (He says £50,000/US$140,000 is worth 90,000 Rubles. In 1965 US$1 was worth ₽0.9 but now it is worth ₽92.25, accordingly Steed ought to have said it was ₽126,000)
  14. This is the correct exchange rate at the time – $2.80:£1, so $140,000 is £50,000. However, the Pound has not fared as well as the US Dollar and the sum is worth £810,135 in 2023, or US $1,026,583, $250,000 shy of the USD result.
  15. Steed looks at Auntie’s face where La Giaconda should be and quips, “Very enigmatic”. Unfortunately, as the prop is a print on paper, it’s torn through instead of splintered, as the original painting is on poplar panel.

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