• title card: pale yellow all caps text with black dropshadow to the left reading ‘A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE STATION’ superimposed on a view of Lucas walking up a railway siding beside a stationary train
  • subtitle card: pale yellow all caps text with black dropshadow to the left reading ‘STEED GOES OFF THE RAILS
			EMMA FINDS HER STATION IN LIFE’ superimposed on Lucas, a bit further down the siding beside the train
  • Youtube video — Mrs. Peel enters her living room to find a Percy train set on the table, the caboose bearing a card reading ‘Mrs. PEEL’ on one side and ‘WE’RE NEEDED’ on the other; she fillips Steed’s nose with it
  • The attendant hands Emma a £5 note in the carriage corridor as Steed looks on
  • Lucas lies in the box, a white carnation left by the groom lying across his chest
  • Crewe chuckles at the recording on the umbrella and declares it isn’t a train at all; Mrs. Peel looks confused, possibly because of her bright yellow suit
  • The groom laughs manically as he peppers the signal box with sub-machine gun fire
  • Steed, handcuffed to the pipes, looks perturnbed by the ticket collector’s plans
  • Youtube video — the Prime Minister drops by Emma’s flat to give a personal thank you but the Avengers decide not to answer the door so they don’t have to be subjected to an interminable speech

Series 5 — Episode 13
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Station

by Brian Sheriff
Directed by John Krish

Steed goes off the rails
Emma finds her station in life

Production No E.66.13
Production completed: March 22 1967. First transmission: April 12 1967.

Regional broadcasts

Rediffusion London14/04/19678:00pm
ABC Midlands15/04/19679:10pm
ABC North15/04/19679:10pm
Anglia Television14/04/19678:00pm
Border Television11/02/19687:25pm
Channel Television12/04/19678:00pm
Grampian Television2/04/196810:30pm
Southern Television14/04/19678:00pm
Scottish Television15/12/19678:00pm
Tyne Tees Television12/04/19678:00pm
Ulster Television22/02/19687:30pm
Westward Television12/04/19678:00pm
Harlech Television26/05/19687:25pm

TV Times listing

TV Times listing for April 14 1967, 8pm (London edition)
Sydney Morning Herald listing for October 3 1967, 8pm
The Age listing for October 2 1967, 8pm

8.0 The Avengers
Patrick Macnee

as John Steed
Diana Rigg

as Emma Peel
A Funny Thing Happened
on the Way to the Station

By Bryan Sherriff

In which Steed goes off the rails — and Emma finds her station in life!

Cast also includes

Ticket collector James Hayter
Crewe John Laurie
Groom Drewe Henley
Bride Isla Blair
Salt Tim Barrett
Admiral Richard Caldicott
Warren Dyson Lovell
Attendant Peter J. Elliott
Lucas Michael Nightingale
Secretary Noel Davis

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

ABC Television Network Production

International broadcasts

ABN2 Sydney, Australia3/10/19678:00pm
ABV2 Melbourne, Australia2/10/19678:00pm
ABC New York, USA28/04/196710:00pm
ORTF2 France20/08/19688:30pm
Suisse Romande, Switzerland29/04/19689:15pm
French titleUne petite gare désaffectée
ZDF Germany2/01/19689:15pm
German titleDiesmal mit Knalleffekt
KRO Netherlands28/12/19689:00pm
Dutch titleTreintje spelen
Svizzera Italiana15/03/19749:50pm
Italian titleservizio di sicurezza
Spanish titleTerror en el tren

In Australia, Series 5 was split in two, the first half running from April to June in 1967. Something Nasty in the Nursery was the final episode in the first half-series while this episode was held back and used as the “first episode in a new series” in October 1967.

USA: New York Times listing for April 28 1967, 10pm
Spain: ABC Madrid listing for November 18 1967, 4.10pm
Germany: Hamburg Abendblatt listing for January 2 1968, 9.15pm
Switzerland: L’Impartial listing for April 29 1968, 9.15pm
France: L’Impartial listing for ORTF2, August 20 1968, 8.30pm
France: Journal de Genève episode highlight for August 20 1968
Netherlands: Leidse Courant listing for December 21 1968, 9pm
TV Svizzera Italiana: Radiocorriere listing for March 15 1974, 9.50pm
TV Svizzera Italiana: La Stampa listing for March 15 1974, 9.50pm
USA: Chicago Tribune listing and highlights for April 28 1967, 9m

Episode Rating

Subject 0–5
3½ stars
Music 3 stars
Humour 5 stars
3½ stars
Mastermind 4 stars
3½ stars
3½ stars
Set Design
2½ stars
8 stars

Fast-paced fun from beginning to end in this special episode for all the trainspotters. They certainly seem to cover all demographics when producing stories for The Avengers and this isn’t the least of them. Full steam ahead to adventure!

Emma finds a toy train in her living room — a summons from Steed.
They’re needed to meet an agent who’s discovered foul things afoot on the trains, and it’s not the food for a change. When the agent fails to show, and Steed discovers his briefcase, they investigate the disused station of Norborough. Dissidents are passing on information through the ticket inspector on the train, one of them being Salt, a clerk in the Admiralty. They plot to explode a bomb under the Prime Minister by remote control, when they pass by on another train. As the minutes tick towards 8.57pm, Emma and Crewe, the owner of Norborough station (played very humorously by John Laurie from Dad’s Army), tackle the train’s unfriendly passengers and staff. Steed gets the enemy all steamed up, and they’re dispatched in the fog. Crewe, however, finds himself unable to stop the train.
The Avengers, having discovered neither of them actually voted for him, avoid the Prime Minister’s long speech of thanks by pretending they’re out.

The Cars

Marque/Model Colour Number Plate
Class 86 (AL6) Electric Train — Goods train for Wolverhampton HL to Chester via Shrewsbury blue, white and yellow 3D 66 (E3152?)
Class 86 BR Electric Train — passenger express to London blue, white and yellow 1A 57 (E3...)
Class 86 BR Electric Train — passenger express to London blue, white and yellow 1A 59 (E3...)
Class 86 BR Electric Train — passenger express to London blue, white and yellow 1A 61 (E3...)
Class 86 BR Electric Train — passenger express blue, white and yellow 1[] 15 (E3...)
Class 86 BR Electric Train — passenger express to London blue, white and yellow 1A 66 (E3...)
Class 86 BR Electric Train blue, white and yellow ?? ?? (E3...)

Who’s Killing Whom?

Victim Killer Method
Unnamed thug [big] V* Lucas Garrotted with tie
Lucas Groom V* Pistol
Bart V* Steed & himself V* Slams door on pistol, causing Bart to shoot himself
Salt V* Groom V* Pistol
George Warren Groom V* Machine-gun
Groom V* Emma & Crewe Thrown from speeding train
Click a name to see the face

The Fashions

Emma’s Fashions Steed’s Fashions
  1. lilac dress piped in dark blue, with matching jacket
  2. blue jacket with white cotton skivvy & cap, matching skirt & shoes, white stockings
  3. white skivvy, dark blue jacket, white shoes, orange skirt, white gloves
  4. yellow jacket & trousers, white skivvy (not rollneck) white boots
  5. black catsuit with silver trim
  6. (1)
  1. light grey chalk stripe single-breasted 3-piece suit, white shirt, dark blue tie
  2. brown and green hunting blazer with dark brown paisley cravat, houndstooth trousers, pale yellow-brown shirt, brown suede boots
  3. grey single-breasted 3-piece suit with triangular flap pockets, white shirt, matching green with white spot tie & handkerchief, pale taupe bowler
  4. ..loses bowler & umbrella
  5. light grey chalk stripe single-breasted 3-piece suit, white shirt, dark blue tie

Continuity and trivia

  1. 1:20 — Lucas is chased through Wembley Yard, just south of Wembley Central Station.
  2. 2:19 — Lucas is wearing an Old Etonian tie.
  3. 9:26 — There’s a yellow cast across this scene, making Mrs. Peel’s clothes greener than they should be.
  4. 11:55 — Mrs. Peel is unfamiliar with the Auntie Maud pouch, showing that she’s not officially a member of the Ministry staff. Also, if Lucas’ “Auntie Maud” standard issue army pouch, agents for the use of, is so named for the acronym Microfilm And Unciphered Documents, why does Steed examine its contents and then say (12:05), “this will take some time to decipher?”
  5. 12:40 — The admiral’s office is the same cabin-style set from What the Butler Saw.
  6. 12:50 — Salt appears to be wearing an Downing College, Cambridge tie. I suppose they’re making a connection to Cambridge due to the Burgess & Maclean scandal — they were at Trinity & Trinity Hall.
  7. 14:40 — Mrs. Peel trips over Bart’s body as she enters Steed’s flat and quips, “You really must have a word with that cleaning lady of yours!”
  8. 14:58 (15:07) — Why was Bart carrying a Chase Halt ticket at all? It seems a pointless divulgence of the villains’ plot.
  9. 15:08 — The scales on the platform at Chase Halt — obviously as much in disrepair as the rest of the station (speaking of which, is it only me that’s reminded of The Goodies by this episode? ) — inform us that Mrs. Peel’s weight is an unlikely 5 1/2 stone (34.5 kg, for the youngsters). As she says, "Flatterer!"
  10. 15:30 — It’s no wonder Mrs. Peel stumbled upon Lucas so easily, he wasn’t very well hidden; the end of the packing case he’s been hidden in has been cut away so they could lie him flat, and his lets were sticking out the end.
  11. 16:35 — Crewe tells Emma and Steed that he “missed the last train and had to take a bus... a bus!” But since the trains haven’t stopped at Chase Halt for the past nine years, what difference would it have made? (And for that matter, how did he get to the practical joke destination in the first place without taking a bus?)
  12. 17:40/25:55 — The false signal fed to Salt mentioned using “HMS Pyrocantha” to tour enemy installations.
  13. 18:29 to 25:00 — Salt and Steed get on the 8:10 to Liverpool (Salt asks which platform it leaves from at 18:29); Emma gets on at Norborough. At the end of the trip, when Emma pops into Salt’s compartment and grabs Steed’s umbrella, they’re in London! It’s far enough from London to allow for two calls for dinner, at least. (If the trips were only to Norborough and back, as would seem to be the case from the punched-through tickets in Salt’s desk, then why didn’t Salt get off at Norborough when Emma got on?)
  14. 21:25–25:00 — Steed reads “Cheaper Tackle” by Dr. Robert Bruce (Adam and Charles Black, 1966).
  15. 22:43–23:00 — Mrs. Peel seems to be looking the wrong way when the train comes into Norborough (although the lights passing by her support her direction, but the shot of the train at 22:48 contradicts). Earlier, (7:34–7:45) it came into the platfrom from the other direction, and the shot of the train coming into the station supports the earlier shots. However, the motion of the train at 23:18 supports the shot.
  16. 23:30 — How did Steed get his umbrella up onto the train compartment shelf without being noticed or arousing suspicion?
  17. 25:40 — If Admiral Cartney’s office is full of top secret, could-be-very-embarrassing information, how does the groom pop in and out so easily?
  18. 26:05 — Just before the groom shoots Salt in the back, the groom says “You may be telling the truth; you may be right!” and Salt replies, “Well, then, in-in that case, surely--” and the groom interrupts him with “In that case... you’re under suspicion!” However, if you watch and listen closely, the groom starts to say his line BEFORE Salt ever says “in that case”, then stops himself and waits until Salt finishes!
  19. 27:28 — Why was Salt careless enough to keep his old London-Norborough First Class Return tickets?
  20. 28:38 — The words “the Prime Minister” are drowned out by the sound of a passing train to maintain suspense.
  21. 29:43 — The end of the packing case is back on it now that Lucas has been removed, but when the groom checks the packing case (32:47), the end of it is not in place again.
  22. 30:36 — Mrs. Peel tests Warren’s knowledge of Steed by asking, “Where does he buy his trilbys?” Warren replies, “He wears bowlers and he gets them from St. James”. (Which is not true, they’re from Howard Johnson & Son.)
  23. 34:56 —
    This episode breaks one of the supposed tenets of The Avengers — no uniformed policemen; and here the two bobbies wandering in and out of shot seem pointless — they’re supposed to lend an air of Downing Street security to the Secretary’s inspection of the carriage, but you’d have Special Branch doing that anyway…
  24. 35:13 — He must face the engine — but Salt said he preferred to have his back to the engine from the same seat.
  25. 36:36 — The bride has a very sharp memory -sometimes. She remembers Lucas’ briefcase and also remembers Steed as the one who found it. However, earlier, Emma stops and looks into her compartment as she sits with Bart, and stays there for several seconds, even tapping on the glass and smiling; yet near the end, when Emma enters her compartment and sits opposite her, the bride doesn’t recognize her!
  26. 36:51 — Watch for some John Laurie comedy gold — when Crewe is trailing Ticket Collector, he opens a compartment and sits in a woman’s lap! She’s awake and reading a magazine but apparently doesn’t even notice!
  27. 38:11 — The newspaper Mrs. Peel reads on the train (see the image above and top right) is also read by Sir Andrew Boyd in his limo on the way to the conference in Death’s Door.
    Note that not only the headline is the same, but the sports section (back page) of both says “LUCKY GRAEME”
  28. 39:14 — The secret knock is “Shave and a haircut, two bits”, not a very secret knock!!
  29. 40:45 — After the bride is bundled up into the luggage rack, we see one of the signs in the compartment reads, “Please keep this train tidy, don’t leave litter”.
  30. 41:43 — The set dresser even has a British Rail wine glass for the groom to drink out of.
  31. 42:30 — When Emma and the groom fight, the train is moving at about 80 MPH. When she opens the window her hair blows all around (very nicely done, by the way!); yet when she opens the door into the 80 MPH wind, the wind doesn’t blow the door back at her or even affect it in the least!
  32. 44:19 — More comic gold from John Laurie — while watching Mrs. Peel fight the villains, he hides behind a seat and eats a biscuit.
  33. 44:29 — The girl who attacks Mrs. Peel with the fork and later gets knocked out in the dining room car is seen again in the back room, halfway through the fight scene, running the toy train set again.
  34. 47:45–48:35 — Neither Steed nor Mrs. Peel voted for the Prime Minister and, dreading one of his long speeches, they pretend they’re not in when the VIP party arrives to thank them personally. “He’s the one in the raincoat”, Mrs. Peel replies, when Steed presumes him to be the one in the top hat.
  35. Running time: 49′20″

The following items have been previously submitted by our readers but, on rewatching the episode, I’m no longer convinced they’re correct. I present them here for you to make up your own mind.

  1. After leaving his compartment on the train, Lucas starts walking down the aisle. Suddenly he stops as he sees Bart. Why didn’t he notice him before that exact moment, since he was looking right at him the whole time? (ED: I think he’s looking out the window or at the floor initially).
  2. 35:10 — How are the ticket collector and steward overseeing the secretary’s visit to commandeer the carriage, when the collector has just been at Chase Halt, telling the groom to take care of the people in the signal box when they discover Lucas has already been found by the security check? (ED: it seems reasonable to assume a passage of time has elapsed unseen).
  3. Why does derelict, abandoned Chase Halt station have working electricity and gas? (ED: because Crewe is doing it up and has had them reconnected?).
  4. Also, why don’t we hear Salt saying “I--I think it best you don’t move!” [said at 22:11] during the tapping code recording playback in the signal box? (ED: we do hear it at 25:08 when Emma is making the phone call to Crewe, so I assume we’re hearing a different part of the recording).
  5. In Crewe’s signal box, Special Branch man George Warren deciphers the Mark V Tapping Code message recorded by Steed’s umbrella, triumphantly announcing “Durbridge!” This means that the Ticket Collector instructed Salt to capture the dangerous man in his compartment (Steed) by tapping out the word “Durbridge”! (ED: Following on from the above, I think we’re hearing a later part of the tape — remember Steed left his umbrella in the luggage rack and may have left it recording).

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. Anyone know who plays the blonde hostess and Georgie. Just who are these people? The blonde girl appeared in the The Prisoner episode, “The General”, but received no credit.
  2. The writer of this episode, Brian Sheriff, is in fact two people: Roger Marshall, who wrote the original script and Brian Clemens who altered it greatly and prepared it for production after Marshall left the show.

Train notes

  1. The trains featured are all electric types as used on the then recently-electrified West Coast Main Line, the London terminus of which is at Euston. — However, the restaurant car attendant clearly calls out “King’s Cross next stop” at one point (not that it would have been his job to do so!), and a clock dial written “B.R. Kings Cross” (35:52) is also seen, implying that the train started its journeys from there — Kings Cross is the London terminus of the East Coast Main line!
  2. Secondly, we see a distant shot of what is presumably meant to be Mr. Crewe’s signal box at Chase Halt (31:52) — this is clearly meant to be on the same line as Norborough (otherwise the plot doesn’t work) and the electrically-hauled train calls there (twice), but there are no overhead wires visible in the shot of the signal box!
  3. The interior shots of the carriages (studio sets) do not match the exterior railway sequences, all of which feature BR standard stock of one sort or another, and as for the idea that a mere Travelling Ticket Inspector (or even a Guard) could influence the formation of any train set, let alone the selection of a particular vehicle for a V.I.P. train... — The villains would have been better advised to have tipped the chargehand shunter at Longsight — a couple of grand to achieve the desired result!

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