• title card: white all caps text reading ‘THE DANGER MAKERS’ outlined in black and superimposed on a close-up of the general’s chest, showing his uniform and ribbons; the hand holding the black rose is obscured by the titles
  • Major Robertson stops his hands shaking by playing russian Roulette, pointing his service revolver at his right temple
  • The delirious Lamble climbs onto a high window ledge to calm his jangling nerves
  • Steed takes cover in the shadows of the library, atop a ladder when robertson enters and signals the Last Post on his bugle
  • Mrs. Peel takes cover behind the chimney as Steed cautiously opens the box of chocolates
  • Mrs. Peel, in a stretch catsuit, is midway through her initiation test, risking her life on an electrified obstable course
  • Steed grabs at a sword to fence with one of the officers, only to find he’s picked up a horsehair switch
  • Steed and Emma drive away from Manton House in go-karts

Series 4 — Episode 20
The Danger Makers

by Roger Marshall
Directed by Charles Crichton

Production No E.64.10.20
Production completed: December 10 1965. First transmission: February 8 1966.

TV Times summary

In which Steed joins a Secret Society — and Emma walks the plank …

Plot summary

A General is the latest officer to die by deliberately putting himself at risk so the Avengers investigate. Groves was well-regarded by his troops but his Major is cagey, so Steed tells Emma to show him her bumps — the Major is interested in phrenology. They discover Major Robertson is a member of a secret society which allows Army men to experience the adrenalin rush of being in battle again, by performing crimes and taking risks. The leader is revealed to be the psychologist Dr. Long, who wants the society to steal the Crown Jewels. Steed and Emma are of course more than a match for well-trained killers and round up the gang before departing on mini-karts.

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show plot summary

Prologue

A masked motorcyclist prowls a country crossroads, ‘chicken running’1 the vehicles passing through, missing them by a hair’s breadth. He misjudges the speed of a lorry and collides with it; when the driver and his mate check him, they discover he’s wearing the uniform of a British Army officer under his leather jacket, with a black rose tucked into his belt.

Act 1

John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Emma Peel (Diana Rigg) visit Dr. Long, a ministry psychiatrist. Steed tells her the rider in the chicken-run crash was General ‘Woody’ Groves, a 60 year old general who was next in line for Chief of the General Staff. Steed says there have been others, including Admiral Jackson, who decided to cross the Atlantic in a Force 8 gale in a canoe.

Dr. Long (Douglas Wilmer) enters and tells Mrs. Peel there have been seven others — the latest is Gordon Lamble, Head of the Chemical Warfare Establishment, who fell while trying to climb the outside of St. Paul’s Cathedral. They go to the bedside of Gordon Lamble (John Gatrell), who is bruised and unconscious, and Steed decides he will visit Groves’ regiment while Emma stays at the hospital.

Lieutenant Stanhope (Adrian Ropes) tells Steed that Groves was a good officer who knew all his men. Steed is introduced to Major Robertson (Nigel Davenport) as being from the War Office; Robertson grimaces and tells him he won’t have a good man’s name dragged through the dirt. He’d known Groves since he was a cadet at Sandhurst and considers him the best general he even served under. Robertson adds that Groves had the humanity of Caesar, tenacity of Wellington and the brilliance of Napoleon — and, when Steed notices him feeling the head of a bust of Napoleon, he admits he’s an amateur phrenologist.

ROBERTSON: You can always tell a military head.
STEED: Bullet-shaped?

Robertson tells Steed that Groves never adjusted to admin and may have done chicken running to alleviate the boredom. Steed leaves, promising to pour oil on the War Office waters but notices Robertson is limping slightly, which the officer dismisses as a twisted ankle from the assault course.

After Steed’s gone, Robertson marches to his desk, his hands shaking. He pulls a service revolver out of his desk, loads one bullet and spins the chamber. He puts the barrel to his temple and pulls the trigger2 — with the adrenalin kick he breathes out in relief and is calm again, his hands steady.

Back at the hospital, an orderly opens the windows to let in some fresh air and Lamble’s eyes go wide and his hands start to shake. Lamble climbs out the window then stands on the ledge but is affected by the fear of falling, a sweat forms on his brow and he clings to the wall, afraid to move. Emma and Dr. Long enter, the doctor stopping her from running over. Lamble then staggers back inside, legs shaking, and is immediately sedated.

Stanhope, practicing with grenades, tells Steed that Groves borrowed the motorbike from a junior officer but often did odd things — one morning he swam Kenton reservoir in full battle kit. Robertson interrupts them and sends Stanhope away; then vaguely threatens Steed by picking up a grenade.

ROBERTSON: Nothing like a grenade at close quarters.
STEED (WARILY): No… nothing.

He tells Steed not to pay much attention to Stanhope, the general was a father-figure and the men hung on every word. Steed thanks him for the warning3 and departs and another officer, Captain Peters (Moray Watson), approaches the grenade bay.

Peters is greeted as “Jupiter”; he calls Robertson “Mercury” in return and tells him “Apollo” has a mission for him — Lamble has turned chicken and must be eliminated.4

Peters hands Robertson a grenade and hopes he isn’t turning chicken too — Robertson proves his resolve by pulling the pin of the grenade and hurling it away at the last possible second.5

That night, Robertson comes down the side of the hospital in a window washer’s seat and enters Lamble’s room. He hears Steed talking to Mrs. Peel in the next room and raises the risk to himself by opening the door, which makes him develop a facial tic and his hands start shaking. Robertson then smothers Lamble with a pillow.

In the other room, Steed commends Mrs. Peel’s actions but wonders why Lamble was on the ledge; Emma says Dr. Long thinks he’s in a state of shell shock. Robertson slams the door shut when he’s done and Steed and Emma enter to find Lamble dead, an envelope containing four white feathers lying on his bed.6

Steed breaks into Groves’ office, the Major appearing shortly afterwards and Steed seeks refuge at the top of the bookcase ladder in a dark corner. He watches Robertson, wearing full dress uniform,7 bugle The Last Post and deposit a black rose in a box of medals. Descending, Steed discovers the box was presented to Groves by Wing Commander Watson of RAF Hamelin.8

Steed visits Watson’s base and watches in horror as the Wing Commander laughs as his jet fighter plunges into the woods and crashes when he overshoots the runway. Steed notices an RAF officer (Richard Coleman) is holding Watson’s jacket, which has a black rose on the lapel.

Act 2

Steed confers with Emma while she changes into a more athletic outfit. Two black roses, three corpses and four feathers — with respected men dicing with death like “irresponsible beatniks”. He tells her to infiltrate Robertson’s regiment as his explanation of an ankle injury was suspiciously false — there is no assault course at their camp!

EMMA: I’m looking forward to meeting this Major — how do I play it?
STEED: Show him — (GLANCES AT EMMA’S PLUNGING NECKLINE) — show him your bumps.
EMMA (SURPRISED): Hmmm?
STEED: He’s a part time phrenologist.

She poses as the valuer from an auction house, come to evaluate Groves’ estate. She lets slip a passion for phrenology, idly stroking Napoleon’s head as she speaks to Robertson. She correctly rates Napoleon an “alpha alpha minus” and confesses a fascination for all things military — the life, excitement, adventure and danger.
He says that life is lost, wars are becoming push-button affairs and the military man is defunct, a dodo. He grimly tells her he tasted the real army life before it disappeared.

The Major sends her off to the museum before she can read some papers on the desk, saying they’re restricted information, and then sets fire to them. Robertson rings “Apollo” and Stanhope enters just in time to hear him say he’d found the papers Groves’ connection to “the organisation” is being destroyed.

After the Major leaves the room, Stanhope cautiously approaches the desk and finds a scorched postcard beside the waste bin. He calls Steed, who is talking to Dr. Long about the danger kick these men are on, Long suggesting it’s like an addiction. Long answers the phone and passes it to Steed, and Stanhope, having to speak up to be heard, asks to see him at 2130 in the grenade bay. Dr. Long lies on his couch, apparently oblivious to the barked conversation.4

Unfortunately, Robertson gets there first and mows down Stanhope with a submachine-gun. Steed rushes to the bay and finds the postcard in the dead man’s hand — it’s of a place called Manton House.

Steed returns to Emma’s flat and tells her Manton House is a military museum run by a Colonel Adams OBE, he intends to chat to the “old boy” about his military recollections. Emma reveals she made progress with Robertson, who reacted very positively when she got onto the subject of danger, and has sent her some chocolates. Steed is startled by the threat of a bomb and takes the box off her and orders her to stand back. He pries the box open carefully and mutters to himself:

STEED: Ah, I thought so… I’ve seen them before.
EMMA: What is it — a booby trap?
STEED: Whatever you do — don’t touch the wrapped ones …
EMMA: Why not?
STEED: ’Cause I like ’em!

Steed visits Manton, stopping to put a black rose in his lapel, and discovers Colonel Adams (Fabia Drake) is a military woman proud to uphold the glory of her forebears. Steed notices the family crest is black roses and white feathers — the black rose of courage rampant and the feathers couchant, she tells him. She explains that young officers are welcome to use the library, in fact they use the house as a sort of club — and Groves spent many hours at Manton with the younger officers.

Peters interrupts them to call Colonel Adams to the phone and notices Steed’s rose. He assumes Steed is from the Northern chapter and reveals that Adams knows nothing of the society; she’s in a dream world, recreating the Indian Mutiny in the potting shed.

PETERS: You weren’t in on that Liverpool job?
STEED: Unfortunately not.
PETERS: No … I’d love to know how you got away with it.
STEED: So would I!
PETERS: You can say that again …
STEED (SOTTO VOCE): I may have to.

Peters shows him the “inner temple”, the Black Rose Room. There are six photographs of courage on the wall — Watson and Groves among them in a shrine of remembrance. Peters asks Steed for his society name and is slightly taken aback when Steed says it’s “Bacchus”.9

Robertson meanwhile asks Mrs. Peel if she’s busy that night and presses her on if she was serious about the spice having gone out of life. She launches into a diatribe against modern safety standards and emasculation of men:

EMMA: A life should be landscaped with danger … man used to live by the strength of his arm …
ROBERTSON: And the sharpness of his sword.
EMMA: Now it is all he can do to lift a mug of beer to his mouth. He’s dead …
ROBERTSON: Dehydrated.
EMMA: Sterile.
ROBERTSON: Frightened.
EMMA: Tasteless.
IN UNISON: Atrophied!

Suitably impressed, he announces they’ll leave immediately — for Manton!

Act 3

Major Robertson tears through the countryside at high speed, not slowing for crested bridges, crossroads or when passing trucks, leaving Mrs. Peel shielding her eyes with a hand. When they arrive he introduces her to Peters and some other officers as a possible Diana or Pallas Athene.

Robertson is surprised to find Steed in the Black Rose Room but Steed convinces him by saying it took some wangling to get the Groves assignment. Robertson tells Mrs. Peel about “The Danger Makers” — a society designed to put some of the spice back into life. Members earn their black rose by undertaking the “Labours of Hercules” — physical and psychological tests which become increasingly difficult. She accepts the challenge and Robertson departs to prepare her initiation.

STEED: Clearer?
EMMA: Much. A bunch of schizoid, paranoiac psychopaths.

Steed wonders who Apollo is and plans to search the premises while Emma undergoes her initiation after Robertson comes to collect her.

She’s chained to two metal loops which circle twisted metal rails — a current is passed through them, alternating from safe to very high voltage, if she touches a loop to a rail while the voltage is high, she will be killed, and she’s balancing herself on a series of see-saws.

Steed enters just as she begins the test and sits down, watching nervously. On the first see-saw, she skids down it when it tilts and she touches the wires but it’s luckily in the safe zone and she just sets off the alarm bell. After a tricky moment with the second see-saw when Peters starts coughing she makes it to the end, then Apollo enters — it’s Dr. Long, who points a pistol at Steed and bids them welcome to The Danger Makers.

Steed is handcuffed to a cellar wall and Dr. Long tells him that while treating soldiers with combat fatigue during the war he discovered that one in a hundred suffered mental regression when they weren’t exposed to danger — they actually missed the shock of war, having been conditioned to it. He devised a plan to harness this destructive energy and thinks he has succeeded.

Long explains he conditioned the men to crave danger, like drug addicts. Chicken running and climbing St. Paul’s are not enough — the real test, the theft of the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London,10 is their goal and it is set for the morrow. Dr. Long gloats at his plan for the crime of the century — the danger that had deterred others will only spur on his gang.

Long departs, preplaced by Robertson who has come to kill Steed. Steed acts nonchalant, reading a newspaper he’s picked off the ground, and observes that the Major’s hand is steady as a rock.

STEED: Look, where’s the danger in this? I’m handcuffed, you’ve got a gun… There’s more danger in — well — in stamp collecting!
Now if we both had an equal chance, either side of that table … the gun in the middle … I can see the point in that!

With this Steed tricks him into unchaining him and putting the revolver in the middle of the table. Steed cheats, of course, and knocks the Major out before cuffing him. Emma has also escaped and they re-enter the Black Rose Room as Long goes over the plans and attack, disarming the men one by one in a sword fight. Steed declares he will take on their leader in single combat and takes off after the escaping Long, followed by the other Danger Makers.

Peters is aghast when Long pulls a pistol on the unarmed Steed and is gunned down by his own leader when he tries to interfere. Long turns on Steed but Peters has fallen against the generator for the electrified rails, turning it on. Mrs. Peel, thinking fast, send Long onto the rail by jumping on the other end of the see-saw. The mortified Danger Makers deposit their black roses on Long’s corpse before departing the room.

Epilogue

Steed describes the torturous sequence of connections that led him to Manton and then they depart on mini karts.


  1. Bored youths doing the ton plus ten (see Build a Better Mousetrap) or chicken running with motorcycles appears to have been an issue in Britain, no doubt beaten out of all proportion in the Daily Mail. Mrs. Peel dismisses the article in the paper by saying there’s nothing remarkable about it.
  2. There’s a censorship memo for series 4 that explicity forbids guns being pointed at heads or suggestions of mental illness but here we have them combined.
  3. There’s a double meaning here, with Steed obliquely referencing the threat of the grenade as well as the advice about Stanhope idolising Groves.
  4. I feel that this gives away the mastermind fairly early in the episode.
  5. Robertson says the grenades have a seven-second fuse. Peters hurls his just after six seconds and Robertson nearly a second later. Robertson’s explodes in mid-air just beyond the trench.
  6. In August 1914 The Order of the White Feather was set up in Britain, the central idea based on A.E.W. Mason’s novel The Four White Feathers (1902). Its purpose was to encourage women to shame family and friends into enlisting for the Army but it quickly turned into the ugly spectacle of women thrusting white feathers into the hands of strangers who weren’t in uniform.. The white feathers symbolise cowardice or pacifism.
  7. Including all his medals in full and his sword.
  8. This is a reference to Roger Marshall’s RAF episode, The Hour that Never Was that centred around that fictional RAF airbase.
  9. Steed loves his wine so what would be more natural than to choose Bacchus.
  10. Steed talks about his coup but it’s not clear if he means successfully making such an audacious robbery of if Long intends to try to claim the throne by being in possession of the crown.

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