• title card: white all caps text reading ‘QUICK-QUICK SLOW DEATH’ outlined in black and superimposed on the dead man’s arm, showing the tattoo reading ‘Lucille’
  • Huggins lies on the changeroom floor, the torn ledger on his chest and a dagger protruding from his waist
  • Piedi kneels on the floor with his hand on Emma’s foot which he has plunged into the bowl of plaster; she is sitting with her legs crossed on a chair in front of him
  • Nicki and Emma try to teach their toe-crushing students how to dance the cha cha
  • Emma turns away from Lucille, worrying where she’s going to hide the enormous garlic sausage Steed has just given her
  • The extras from central casting whirl around the ballroom in their evening best
  • The foreign agent pauses as he raises his cosh to belt Steed over the head
  • Emma and Steed dance away as a muslin veil is overlaid the picture

Series 4 — Episode 19
Quick-Quick Slow Death

by Robert Banks Stewart
Directed by James Hill

Production No E.64.10.19
Production completed: November 12 1965. First transmission: February 1 1966.

TV Times summary

In which Steed has two left feet — and Emma dances with danger …

Plot summary

A man pushing a pram is horrified when it gets away from him down a hill but when it tips over, a corpse falls out.
Steed and Emma investigate, but all their leads end up dead. They finally follow the trail to a dancing school and Mrs. Peel gets hired as an instructress. The studio is being used to acquire identities for infiltrating enemy spies — they dispose of students with no family or friends and replace them with sleeper agents. Confusing their enemies with some tricky dance moves, the Avengers defeat the spies and close down the Terpsichorean Academy.
The Avengers dance away into the darkness as the lights go down…

show full synopsis

show plot summary

Prologue

Willi Fehr (Michael Peake) pushes a pram along the high street and stops to make a phone call, then is aghast to see the pram start rolling away — he chases it but after a contretemps with a sports car it’s upturned, and a man’s corpse rolls out, bullet holes in his Marcella shirt-front.

Act 1

Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) visits John Steed (Patrick Macnee), who is busily firing beer cans from a clay pigeon launcher1 and shooting them with shotguns. He takes her to interview Willi Fehr, formerly a top spy,2 now relegated to “traffic control” — supplying incoming spies with money and accommodation.

Captain Noble (John Woodnutt) who is guarding Fehr informs them that Fehr is refusing to talk and adds that the victim’s pockets were empty and all the labels removed from his clothes. The suit didn’t fit him, so it may have been hired — Willi pricks up his ears when he hears Emma suggest this… The only real clue is the label they couldn’t remove — a tattoo of Eros with the name “Lucille” on the dead man’s right wrist.

Mrs. Peel visits a tattooist, Fintry (Alan Gerrard), who is busily tattooing a belly dancer and asks what design Emma would like.

FINTRY : Engraved garter around your left leg? I enjoy doing those…
EMMA: No, actually…
FINTRY: No, no, Rosebuds. Pretty pink rosebuds… One on each!

She declines the offer and shows him a photo of the tattoo and he confirms it’s his work, adding hw was a mousey, middle-aged man was called Peever.3

Fehr meanwhile takes off his tie and attacks Noble, strangling him with it, but Noble manages to shoot him before passing out. Badly wounded, Fehr struggle to the phone and calls someone to warn them they overlooked the hired suit before succumbing to his injury.4

Steed is already at the suit hire company, Lichen & Co.,5 where Huggins (Graham Armitage) is staring in dismay at the bullet holes. He says they’ll never be invisibly mended and Peever’s deposit is forfeit. Steed claims to be from Baggypants Ltd. a top secret government-run company which supplies ill-fitting clothes to visiting Russian diplomats, and asks for Peever’s address.

Steed amuses himself trying on different hats while Huggins goes to find the ledger. A customer6 intercepts Huggins on his way back and asks for help with his bow tie then stabs him. Steed comes to see what’s taking Huggins so long and discovers his body, the last few pages torn from the ledger.

The undertakers depart with Huggins and Syder (Charles Hodgson) shows Steed a ticket for shoe repair from Piedi’s he found in the “gentleman’s secret pocket” of Peever’s suit; he tells Steed that Piedi’s is the most exclusive shop in town. He adds that Peever may have paid by cheque, and goes to look up the bank details.

Emma visits Piedi (David Kernan), who rhapsodises over her feet, affecting a fake Italian accent — except when telling his assistant, Bernard (Colin Ellis), to “push off”. The foot fetishist collapses at Mrs. Peel’s feet after submersing them in plaster.

Steed meanwhile visits Mulberry’s Bank where the bank manager (Ronald Govey) tells him Arthur Peever closed his account — that morning! — and left a forwarding address. Steed visits the address and finds it’s an office in a half-demolished building, the door opening onto a yawning chasm above parked cars and traffic, Steed only just saves himself from falling to his death.

Piedi removes the cast from Emma’s feet, promising to make shoes like puffs of air and now sweating profusely in his heightened sexual ecstasy.

PIEDI: And now, signora, is there anything else I can do for you, huh? A pair of slippers for the boudoir?
(HE BITES HIS FINGER)
Wellington boots in the kinkiest black leather…?

His face falls when she produces the repair ticket. He tells her it’s for a shoe ready-made for a dance academy.

Following this lead, Emma visits Terpsichorean Training Techniques Inc. and spots the sign saying a dance instructress is required.

Inside, a pupil is mashing the feet of Nicki (Carole Gray). Emma’s met by the principal, Lucille Banks (Eunice Gayson), who hands her over to their senior male instructor, the sleazy Ivor Bracewell (Maurice Kaufmann) — the customer who murdered Huggins! — to decide if she could be a new instructress.

After a brief whirl around the room, Miss Banks gives her a week’s trial and Ivor ogles the departing Mrs. Peel, saying she shapes up pretty well. Nicki is told to show Emma the ropes and she tells her of the pains of dancing:

NICKI: We’re expected to take six pupils each per day at hourly sessions. It isn’t hard work — so long as you have an unlimited amount of energy, the constitution of an ox, and cast iron feet.

The band leader, Chester Read (Larry Cross) bursts drunkenly into the room and Nicki tries to introduce him to Mrs. Peel. He misses her hand when she goes to shake it and staggers off, Nicki confiding that he drinks too much. Nicki tells Emma that Dance Night is their busiest day and Lucille doesn’t let them rest for a moment.

Emma immediately picks up on the name Lucille and Nicki explains that’s Miss Banks. A pupil comes in and Nicki introduces her to their leading toe-crusher — Arthur Peever (James Belchamber)!7

Act 2

Emma shows a photo of the Peever from the studio to Steed and Captain Noble. She wonders which is the real Arthur Peever but the Captain has a huge bandage around his throat and is so hoarse after his throttling that he can barely speak. Steed takes the photo and she waves a shoe at them, saying it was made for Peever and “if the shoe fits…”, then departs.

She takes the shoes and puts them in Peever’s locker, but is caught by the sleazy Ivor Bracewell8 who menaces her. She slams his hand in the locker, then Lucille enters and orders her out. Ivor tells Lucille about her looking in Peever’s locker; Lucille’s eyes narrow as she ponders this development.

Nicki and Mrs. Peel are asked to take two students — Mr. Marsh, a short fat man who is excited to dance with Mrs. Peel, and Mr. Peever. Emma observes Peever struggling to get his shoes on; Lucille notices her gaze and bundles him out to get a new pair, reprimanding him for cursing in Russian, then notices his unadorned wrist as he collects the shoes. A sudden jolt of memory and she rushes off to Ivor and tells him to warn the commander urgently — they’ve forgotten about the tattooist!

The bank manager meanwhile confirms the photo is of Peever — then confesses he only met him the day he closed his account. Steed returns to Captain Noble and gets the tattooist’s address9 in an attempt to positively identify Peever.

Someone else gets there first as Fintry practices his craft on a garlic sausage. The visitor reveals a tattoo on his wrist and then shoots Fintry in the forehead as he admires it. After the assassin leaves, Fintry’s hand gropes for his needle and the sausage…

Steed arrives and finds Fintry dead, but he’s engraved “KILLER HAS ROSE TATTOO ON RIGHT WRIST” on the sausage. Emma meanwhile avoids Mr. Marsh to instead offer Mr. Peever some tea, suggesting they get to know each other better as they will be seeing a lot of each other, and is astonished by his odd reply.

PEEVER: I regret — that will not be the case, Mrs. Peel. I shall soon be passing out.
EMMA: I beg your pardon?
PEEVER: I am within a ‘fish-tail’ of receiving my diploma in ballroom dancing, and when I have that, I shall have no further need to attend classes… I shall pass on, Mrs. Peel … and we will not meet again.10

She confers with Nicki who agrees Peever is a terrible dancer and adds that Lucille give diplomas to just a select few, who are never seen again. Steed suddenly appears, led in by Lucille and looking to brush up on his dancing.

Miss Banks takes down Steed’s particulars and he lays the bait — recently returned from overseas, no friends or family. Excited by the potential of Steed, Lucille goes to arrange things, giving Steed the opportunity to slip Emma the sausage and tells her to destroy it after reading. The gang have bittn on Steed’s rather obvious bait and Lucille returns and announces she will teach Steed personally.

Emma hides the sausage when Bernard arrives with a package for Nicki. Inside are shoes but Nicki makes her close the package quickly; she explains that Piedi is contracted to supply the pupils’ first pair but Bernard button-holes every pupil outside the school and sells them shoes on the side. Bernard cuts out the middle man and Nicki makes a commission as well; Emma realises that Bernard would have met Peever when he first joined the school.11

They leave and then Read emerges from one of the lockers with a steely glint in his eye and tells Lucille what he just overheard.

Steed looks at Peever’s watch and confirms the absence of a tattoo as they put their shoes on. Mrs. Peel joins him and tells him she’s going to see Bernard. Someone gets there before her and pushes Bernard’s face into a bowl of plaster; when she arrives, he’s dead.

Miss Banks meanwhile is dancing with Steed and checking out his suitability for their purposes:

LUCILLE: Oh, come now, Mr. Steed — there must be someone in this big city you know.
STEED: Afraid not. I told you — haven’t been back long … all my friends have moved away … and I’ve no family …
LUCILLE: You poor, poor man … why if you disappeared tomorrow — no one would know — or care.

Bracewell returns to report success and Miss Banks says they must tell the commander — and also tell him that Steed will be their next victim!

Act 3

Steed and Emma confer with Noble and decide, as the dancing school is clearly conniving at replacing innocent students with spies, they’ll “keep on dancing” and sashay out. At the school, Read puts up a sign announcing a gala dance and Nicki reminds Emma they happen once a fortnight.

Emma asks her if she’s noticed any changes in Peever and she doesn’t think so — but then, he is Lucille’s client and she kept him to herself at first. Emma asks if that happens often.

NICKI: Once in a while… nearly always the mousey, anonymous ones… keeps them under wraps… sometimes three or four weeks before I’m even allowed to SEE them!

Emma hears music start in the ballroom but the door is locked. She enters the store room and peers through a chink between some crates — Lucille is bizarrely practicing with a mannequin with the number 9 on his back and dances behind a partition, but when she emerges from the other side it’s with a man — the spy, Boris (Ray Adamson).

LUCILLE: Oh yes, that’s much better, that’s splendid, you’ll be absolutely perfect for the takeover tonight.

Read stumbles drunkenly into the storeroom and Emma bluffs her way out, saying she was looking for another door to the ballroom which is locked.

That night, Peever sways groggily as he conducts an orchestra of cardboard-cutouts of himself while taped music plays. Lucille welcomes the students, including Peever and Steed until Read stumbles past — she grabs him and orders Ivor to get some black coffee. Emma tells Steed what she saw and Steed reveals Noble has uncovered the depth of the plot — replacing anonymous bachelors with highly trained top agents,12 but he wants to catch them red-handed.

Lucille comes over to take Steed into the ballroom and the other dancers follow. Seeing her chance, Mrs. Peel enters the office and searches the drawers but finds nothing. She hides when she hears Ivor and Boris coming. Ivor tells him he will be wearing the same number as the victim, nine, and warns him the commander doesn’t like slip-ups.

Emma follows them in and Lucille announces there will be a dance competition, judged by Read. All the dancers will be numbered and masked, so there is no favouritism. She tells Steed about victim number nine then they’re interrupted by Lucille, who tells Steed he is number six. Ivor tugs Emma onto the dance floor and she doesn’t see Lucille pin Steed’s number upside down to become a nine.

Emma is shocked later when she sees the number on Steed’s back and warns him:

EMMA: You’re number nine…
STEED: And you’re dancing with garlic sausage!

Reeling around the ballroom, Steed turns Ivor’s number 6 to read “9” and Mrs. Peel turns Steed’s number to read “6” again. Lucille is confused when she dances Steed behind the partition and Boris does nothing; Read is also confused when they emerge unchanged. Peever is trying to get their attention as he has noticed the number changes — he and Read then see Emma forcibly dance Ivor behind the partition and sees his number has been changed. Ivor is coshed by Boris who then takes Emma’s hand and dances out with her, leaving Read even more baffled. Going around again, Steed coshes Boris after abandoning Lucille.

EMMA: How do you do it?
STEED: I neufed his soixante!

Peever and Lucille seek to intervene but they are waltzed away by our heroes, out of the ballroom and then set upon. Read, finally revealed to be the commander — his drunkenness is a pretence — pulls a long blade from inside his baton but he too is easily defeated.

Epilogue

In a pastiche of every Astaire and Rogers film, The Avengers dance away into the darkness as the lights go down…


  1. The shooting script actually stipulated they buy a Webley Target Launcher for “about £4”.
  2. Steed later talks about Fehr going “back and forth across the wall” so he is presumably an East German or Russian operative.
  3. Although he adds he was a funny little chap with thinning hair, middle-aged, nervous, glasses — which is the replacement Peever.
  4. Of course, this being The Avengers, no blood is seen coming from Fehr’s stomach wound despite the impressive abrasion on his face.
  5. The name is a joke on the famous Moss Brothers suit hire company in London, which is in fact mentioned in the shooting script. Fehr mispronounces in a German accent, saying to sound like “Litchen” rather than “Liken”.
  6. The script shows this was originally going to be the band leader Read but has been changed to Bracewell.
  7. Robert Banks Stewart gets his direction wrong, having Peever react to Emma Peel’s name, rather than her reacting to his.
  8. Once again, this scene originally featured Read finding her in the locker room.
  9. He’s surprised to learn that Noble had ‘spoken’ on the telephone to Mrs. Peel to get the tattooist’s details by whistling morse code.
  10. Peever gives himself away as not being English with these fractured, misused idioms. While “passing out” is indeed used for the completion of training from military academies such as Sandhurst, the phrase is not used in this sense elsewhere in English and in general parlances means to faint or lose consciousness. He then says ‘fish-tail’ instead of ‘whisker’ and ends by saying ‘pass on’ (which in English means to die) instead of ‘move on’, meaning depart.
  11. She doesn’t think to ask Nicki about Peever until later.
  12. Patrick Macnee accidentally says “highly paid agent”.

fan forum Donate Become a Patron!