• title card: white all caps text with black dropshadow to the left reading ‘THE SUPERLATIVE SEVEN’ superimposed on a view through a red and white circular door of ranks of male and female martial artists dressed in black, flanking a dead man lying on a mat between them; a red lattice hangs from the ceiling in the background, before white curtains
  • subtitle card: white all caps text with black dropshadow to the left reading ‘STEED FLIES TO NOWHERE
			EMMA DOES HER PARTY PIECE’ superimposed on a view from further down the round corridor, now predominantly red
  • Youtube video — Steed is hunting in the woods and thinks he’s bagged a catch, only to find Mrs. Peel hiding in the bushes when he finds a yellow rubber duck emblazoned ‘Steed’. ‘We’re needed’, she quips
  • Steed, seated in the aeroplane and dressed as one of Wellington’s officers, straightens a bent poker as Dayton looks on thoughtfully
  • Joe Smith is impaled on a pitchfork
  • Steed and Wade fight in the main hall
  • Emma, in an orange catsuit, points one of Hannah Wilde’s revolvers at her as she tells her Steed is innocent
  • Hannah Wilde shoots away the revolver as Jessel tries to pick it up
  • Youtube video — Emma thinks she’s ‘winged Santa Claus’ when she bags a teddy bear, but Steed says she’s missed and bags a bottle of champagne; she counters with a pair of glasses

Series 5 — Episode 12
The Superlative Seven

by Brian Clemens
Directed by Sidney Hayers

Steed flies to nowhere
Emma does her party piece

Production No E.66.6.12
Production completed: March 13 1967. First transmission: April 5 1967.

Regional broadcasts

Rediffusion London7/04/19678:00pm
ABC Midlands8/04/19679:10pm
ABC North8/04/19679:10pm
Anglia Television7/04/19678:00pm
Border Television4/02/19688:10pm
Channel Television5/04/19678:00pm
Grampian Television7/02/19688:00pm
Southern Television7/04/19678:00pm
Scottish Television8/12/19678:00pm
Tyne Tees Television5/04/19678:00pm
Ulster Television15/02/19687:30pm
Westward Television5/04/19678:00pm
Television Wales & West7/04/19678:00pm

TV Times listing

TV Times listing for April 8 1967, 9.10pm (Midlands edition)
TV Times listing for April 7 1967, 8pm (London edition)
Sydney Morning Herald listing for June 20 1967, 8pm
The Age listing for June 19 1967, 8pm

9.10 The Avengers
Patrick Macnee

as John Steed
Diana Rigg

as Emma Peel
The Superlative Seven
By Brian Clemens

In which Steed flies to nowhere — and Emma does her party piece

Cast also includes

Hana Charlotte Rampling
Mark Dayton Brian Blessed
Jason Wade James Maxwell
Max Hardy Hugh Manning
Freddy Richards Leon Greene
Joe Smith Gary Hope
Jessel Donald Sutherland
Kanwitch John Hollis
Stewardess Margaret Neale
Toy Sung Terry Plummer

Designed by Robert Jones
Music by Laurie Johnson
Directed by Sidney Hayers
Produced by Albert Fennell
and Brian Clemens
Executive Producer
Julian Wintle

ABC Weekend Network Production

International broadcasts

ABN2 Sydney, Australia20/06/19678:00pm
ABV2 Melbourne, Australia19/06/19678:00pm
ABC New York, USA21/04/196710:00pm
ORTF2 France13/08/19688:30pm
Suisse Romande, Switzerland17/06/19688:40pm
French titleLe dernier des sept
ZDF Germany12/03/19689:15pm
German titleFliegen Sie mal ohne
KRO Netherlands
Dutch title
Svizzera Italiana21/12/197310:00pm
Italian titleuno su sette
Spanish titleLos siete superlativos

In Switzerland on 10 June 68, Carrefour and this episode of The Avengers were pre-empted by the documentary “L’attentat de Los Angeles”, covering the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. The episode was rescheduled for the following Saturday, June 17 1968.

USA: Chicago Tribune listing for April 21 1967, 9pm
USA: New York Times listing for April 21 1967, 10pm
Spain: ABC Madrid listing for November 27 1967, 4.10pm
Germany: Hamburg Abendblatt listing for March 12 1968, 9.15pm
Switzerland: Gazette de Lausanne listing for June 10 1968, 8.35pm before being pre-empted
Switzerland: Feuille d’Avis de Neuchâtel L’Express listing for June 17 1968, 8.40pm
France: L’Impartial listing for August 13 1968, 8.30pm
TV Svizzera Italiana: Radiocorriere listing for December 21 1973, 10pm
TV Svizzera Italiana: La Stampa listing for December 21 1973, 10pm
Switzerland: L’Impartial on June 10 1968, The Avengers replaced by “L’attentat de Los Angeles”

Episode Rating

Subject 0–5
4½ stars
Music 3 stars
Humour 3 stars
4½ stars
4½ stars
3½ stars
Emma 3 stars
Set Design 2 stars
7½ stars

A good earthy Agatha Christie story as a vehicle for Steed. Not what you’d normally expect from The Avengers, but it works nonetheless.

Mrs. Peel summons Steed with a rubber duck; he is needed to attend a fancy dress party — somewhere above the south of England!
Stranded on an unknown island, Steed and the other guests are told that one of their number is a killer. The scenario has been staged by Jessel to convince Kanwitch that his agent is unbeatable. Charlotte Rampling shines in the rôle of Hana Wild, despite unfortunately knocking out Steed, whom she suspects to be the killer. Mrs. Peel drops in to expose that the agent is actually a pair of identical twins and Jessel loses a shoot-out with Mrs. Wild.
Steed drops in on a Mrs. Peel’s duck shoot, just as she bags a brace of teddy bears — but she missed the bottle of Bollinger!

The Cars

Marque/Model Colour Number Plate
Lotus Elan S3 glacier blue SJH 499D
Handley-Page Herald blue and white -

Who’s Killing Whom?

Victim Killer Method
Toy Sung V* Stewardess V* Sword
Freddy Richards Wade V* Broken back
Joe Smith Wade V* Pitchfork
Max Hardy Wade V* Sword
Mark Dayton Wade V* Garotte
Jason Wade V* Steed Spear
Wade’s twin V* Emma Thrown off balcony
Kanwitch V* Jessel V* Pistol
* Wade is in fact two characters, Jason Wade and his unnamed twin. Working out which is which is left as an exercise to the reader.
Click a name to see the face

The Fashions

Emma’s Fashions Steed’s Fashions
  1. plaid jacket & white woollen skivvy
  2. yellow collared jacket with diagonal rib & matching skirt
  3. orange catsuit with black trim, black boots
  4. (1) with tan shorts & boots, white gloves
  1. dark single-breasted taupe jacket, green waistcoat with brass buttons, pale green shirt, patterned dark brown tie, beige trousers, grey socks, brown chelsea boots
  2. British Army Waterloo general’s costume
  3. dark single-breasted taupe jacket, green waistcoat with brass buttons, pale green shirt, patterned dark brown tie, beige trousers, grey socks, brown chelsea boots

Continuity and trivia

  1. 4:28 & 47:28 — What sort of hunters are Steed and Emma anyway? At the beginning (4:28/4:15) Steed shoots at wood pigeons a nd at the end Emma shoots at the same (47:28), both of them expecting to bring down ducks.
  2. 4:55 — Steed has been invited to a party by Sir George Robertson DSO CBE KCB.
  3. 5:51 — The back of the invitation reads:
    Clements Airport 18.30 hrs ..TINUM QUINTUM IDUS MARTIAS
    i.e. 6:30pm on 11th March (ante diem quintum idus Martias).
  4. 7:17 — Freddy Richards looks at Steed’s costume and quips, “Kitchener’s Valet?” — “I was Kitchener’s Valet” was an exceedingly fashionable shop on Carnaby St, frequented by the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and The Rolling Stones, which sold old military uniforms among other things.
  5. 8:54 — Hana quotes the nursery rhyme, “here comes the chopper to chop off our heads”
  6. 10:23 (10:10) — There’s a continuity error when the plane’s taking off (10:10) — Steed and Mrs. Wild fasten themselves into their seats, then they’re peering out the portholes, then they’re back in their seats again, all in the twinkling of an eye!
    ©1961–9 CANAL+IMAGE UK Ltd All Rights Reserved
  7. 11:03 — The footage of the aeroplane passing overhead — call sign G-ASBP — has been flipped horizontally.
  8. 11:47 — We had already heard that Steed was invited by Sir George Robertson DSO CBE KCB and we now learn the supposed hosts of the other guests: Hana Wilde had been invited by Mark Salter (or Walters?), Joe Smith by Jack Peters, Max Hardy by Lance Quilley, Freddy Richards by Charlie Reed, Jason Wade by Alfred Williams (although we learn he was actually there at Jessel’s behest), and Mark Dayton was invited by “a man called Godfrey”.
  9. 13:37 — sea shot — stock?
  10. 14:52 — The aeroplane seems to change a lot. On the ground, it’s a Handley-Page Herald, but it has new livery (and is a different model) in one shot in the air; and in another it’s become a low-winged craft!

    The cockpit

    On the ground...

    but what is this?

    a new paint job!
    ©1961–9 CANAL+IMAGE UK Ltd All Rights Reserved

    Consensus is that the aeroplane used in the episode was a twin engined Handley-Page Herald, probably about to be sold by BEA to Global Air, as all the livery has been painted out.
    Opinion is divided as to whether the scenes were shot at Radlett, where Handley-Page were based, or Luton, as there are Bristol Brittanias on the field, and both Monarch and Britannia were based at Luton.

  11. The cockpit used in some scenes was taken from a Trident 1, probably also BEA. 14:55 and throughout — G-APMG serial on controls in cockpit — which would make it the cockpit from a BEA deHavilland Comet 4B.
  12. 17:57 — The shot from the air shows the same islands as were used in an episode of “The Prisoner”.
  13. 20:43/21:13 and throughout — The house is dilapidated, has no out-size playing cards, but is otherwise more or less identical to the house in The Joker.
  14. 36:33 — Steed is completely out of focus when he enters the main hall.
  15. 39:00 — Steed says to Wade, revealed as the killer, “You were with me when Smith was killed”. — but he wasn’t! Everyone bar the dead Freddy and Smith were in the house, it’s true, but when Smith is actually killed, Steed is search the woods, alone. (On the other hand, he was with him when Hardy was killed, so perhaps it was a late script change or an error by Macnee).
  16. 39:35 — stunt doubles for fight
  17. 40:20 — The wall nearly collapses when Wade tumbles over it.
  18. 43:28 — scratch on film right down middle of negative.
  19. 46:07 — There’s a small hole in the film negative, almost dead centre.
  20. 47:56 — Moët et Chandon product placement
  21. Running time: 49′07″
  22. Rocky Taylor and the stuntman called in to replace him both suffered cuts tpo the wrist dutring filming.

A note on the timecodes

Timecodes for episodes are problematic as each release has its own quirks so the 2009–11 Optimum Releasing/Studio Canal DVD sets have different run times compared to the A&E and Contender DVD sets from a decade beforehand. The newer Studio Canal & Via Vision blu rays seems to be back in line with the earlier releases, except they often have StudioCanal idents lasting 20 to 22 seconds added to the beginning.

The Optimum Releasing/Studio Canal DVD releases were remastered and their frame rate has been changed, resulting in a shorter running time. However, the picture quality has increased markedly. I assume this is because they used a simple 2:2 pulldown (24 @ 25) when converting from the original film masters (film runs at 24 frames per second, while PAL runs at 25fps, the new DVDs are in PAL format).
This pulldown was also the cause of audio errors on many episodes, especially for Series 5, as the audio sped up to match the new rate (4% faster), rather than being properly pitch-shifted. Checking the dialogue sheets, which list the feet and frames of the reels, it looks like the speed change is around 5.04%, so there may be some cuts as well — probably from around the commercial breaks and ends of reels, as they amount to about 25 seconds. All my assumptions are based on the episodes having been filmed on standard 35mm film, which has 16 frames per foot and runs at 24 frames per second, so a minute of footage uses 90 feet of film (1,440 frames).

The audio errors have been corrected in the currently available DVDs, but the 2:2 pulldown remains. There is also the addition of a Studio Canal lead-in, converted to black and white to match the episode for Series Four, but colour for Series Five, adding an extra 18 or 19 seconds to the running time and making it harder to match timecodes with previous releases. It’s annoying that it has been slapped on every single episode, Series 1–3 didn’t suffer this indignity.

The previous Contender and A&E DVD releases didn’t seem to suffer from these problems, so I assume they either used soft telecine and preserved the original 24fps rate of the film (my preferred option in DVDs) or they used 24 @ 25 pulldown (2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:2:3 Euro pull-down).

Thankfully, the new blu ray releases for series 4–6 appear to use native 24fps with soft telecine so the running times and pitch all seem to be correct again along with a much greatly improved picture quality, most notably in the Tara King episodes which are finally (mostly) back to their original glory.

Cast notes

  1. This episode is famous because of the calibre of its guest cast — Donald Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, Brian Blessed are the most famous today and Brian Clemens reflect they wouldn’t be able to afford them now.
    James Maxwell, Hugh Manning, Leon Greene and Gary Hope were much sought-after in their time as well; so too John Hollis and Terry Plummer in their way.

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