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Story Two - 'The Computer Menace'

February 22nd to April 25th 1964 in Look Westward and The Viewer
April 4th to June 7th 1964 in the Manchester Evening News
(No reference to this strip has yet been found in TV Post (Belfast))

Part One - April 4th 1964

Two police constables are standing outside Westminster Abbey in the middle of the night. Suddenly, one of the towers is hit by lightning. The top comes crashing down, narrowly missing the two officers. They realise that it is another one of the freak storms that have been occurring with increasing frequency. Steed smooth-talks Cathy into helping him. Cathy Gale is sitting in her London apartment watching a news story about the freaks storms. The news reader says that Westminster Abbey is the seventh building to be damaged by freak lightning storms in the past two days. Steed comes visiting and he jokingly suggests to Mrs. Gale that the storms are caused by Little Green Men with antennae on their heads. He asks her how interested she is in freak weather, and she tells him not very. He seems disappointed and presses the point, saying that he was sure that she would share his anxiety for the preservation of fine old buildings.

Cathy replies that she thought it wasn’t a social visit, and asks him what he has in mind. He asks if she’d like a job, nice and steady, but with possible lightning results. He tells her that some people are worried about the unexpected lightning storms, and their habit of targeting landmarks. He tells her that ballistics have confirmed the flashes came from ground level, and not from the sky. Some jokers are loose with science fiction ray guns, and he’d like Mrs. Gale’s help to find them.

Part Two - April 11th 1964

Steed visits Westminster Abbey and tells a policeman on the door that he is from The Ancient Monument Preservation Society. As he picks his way through the wreckage, a man comes up to the policeman and asks to speak to someone in charge as he has some information of the utmost importance. The policeman gives him the brush-off.

Later, Steed goes to the library to look up some information on electronics. The man who had spoken to the policeman has followed Steed from the Abbey. In the reference section he approaches Steed and tells him that he has some information about the mysterious storms, but he fears that he has been followed. He tells Steed that he will meet him at Hampstead Heath at ten.

At ten, Steed is sitting in his car with Mrs. Gale waiting for the informant to appear. Steed sees car lights approaching through the dark. Suddenly, the whole scene is lit up as the car is struck by ‘lightning’ and explodes. The man is dead. Steed says that this is proof the lightning strikes are man-controlled, and suggests that they get out of there in case the villains aim again. Next morning, Steed turns up at Mrs. Gale’s flat and tells her to put on something scientific. The dead informant has turned out to be Daniel Herston, a research scientist at Darwell, where a super electronic computer is being built. The powers that be want Steed and Mrs. Gale to have a look around…

Part Three - April 18th 1964

They arrive at Darwell and tell the security guards that they have been transferred from ‘up north’. They are introduced to Grant, the Research Chief. Steed tells Grant that he believes there is a friend of his working there, Daniel Herston. Grant tells them that Herston died in an accident, but he also says that Herston was a most disturbing person who wouldn’t fit in with the pattern of things.

Grant is suddenly called away and his secretary shows Steed and Cathy to their quarters. Steed observes that Grant seemed to be thrown a little regarding Herston. Cathy thinks that his suddenly being called away seemed less than coincidental.

A few days later, Steed and Mrs. Gale share their experiences – neither of them has found anything suspicious and Mrs. Gale is getting sick of the grating metallic voice of the public address system. Steed observes that the people working there seem almost mechanical when they have a task to do. Cathy thinks it may be something to do with the concentration required when building the world’s biggest computer.

They both decide to take the afternoon off and head for the nearest pub. The bar man is in talkative mood. He realises that they are from the Establishment, and says that things are much quieter up there now – no more flashes and bangs from the old quarries in the middle of the night. The pair go up to the quarries and spot some suspicious marks on the rocks. Steed tells Cathy that the last time he saw marks like that was on the lightning damage on Westminster Abbey. He says that perhaps they will stay on at the Establishment – he wants to have a look inside the computer area.

Part Four - April 25th 1964


Later that night, Steed decides to break into the computer area of the Establishment. He climbs a wall to avoid the guards and shins up a drainpipe to break into the building. From his high vantage point he can see exactly what is going on. The scientists are building strange-looking pistols that can fire flashes of destructive lightning. He tries to work out why. Suddenly, the public address system crackles with the metallic voice so hated by Cathy. It instructs Group Leaders to report to the control room immediately, and all other workers to go to the rest room until they are required. Steed hides behind some electrical equipment and watches as the Group Leaders are given their orders by the metallic voice, which is emanating from the computer the men have built. It seems to have taken over the centre.

This episode appeared in the March 14th 1964 issues of Look Westward and The Viewer.

Part Five - May 2nd 1964

Steed sees the scientists leave and goes to have a look at the master computer. He rues the fact that it doesn’t seem to have an on/off switch. He climbs back out of the building and heads off to get the help of Mrs. Gale. He knocks on the door of her quarters, but there is no reply. Out of the shadows a man appears, pointing a gun at Steed. His eyes are blank. He tells Steed that he has been sent to kill him as Control has classed him as a danger to the World Efficiency Project. He tells him that Mrs. Gale has been tricked into leaving by a false phone call from London. She will return in twenty minutes, at which point she will also be liquidated.

Unseen by the man, Cathy has already returned and grabs him from behind. With Steed’s help, she knocks him out. Mrs. Gale tells Steed that she is very suspicious about unexpected phone calls. Steed tells Mrs. Gale that they’ve been rumbled. He puts a couple of gun shots into the chair so that it sounds as if the assassin has succeeded. They start to climb through the back window, but are confronted by security guards with guns. They are told that Control thinks of everything, and that the two shots that were fired were done so three minutes late, giving the game away. They are led away to be questioned by Control.

Part Six - May 9th 1964

Steed and Mrs. Gale have been brought before Control for questioning. It tells them that it is 'developing thought groups to deal with their reasoning'. It will tell them its future plans so that it can absorb their reactions and evolve safety routines to deal with outside interference. Grant, the Research Chief, comes in and places a box-shaped machine in front of Control. The computer tells Steed and Cathy that it is one of the first of the new devices to come off the production line that will further influence the behaviour of human beings through conditioning. It works by transmitting electrical impulses on the same frequencies as the human brain.

Steed suggests that it is subliminal influence, and Control agrees, but says that this form of subliminal influence works a million times faster and, that when exposed to it, humans will become as efficient as machines. Those who do not come up to standard will be ‘repaired’ or ‘scrapped’. The signals will be transmitted by a powerful means, covering large areas at a time. This will be much more efficient than the earlier plan of subjection by fear, for which the ray guns were created.

The guards take Steed and Cathy to the Conditioning Block. Everybody at the base seems to have been affected by the computer. Steed and Cathy are taken before one of the public address speakers from which the metallic voice comes. It will now deal with them, it says. Steed and Mrs Gale try to tackle 'Control'

Part Seven - May 16th 1964

Cathy feels faint and falls to the floor. The guards tell Steed to keep back while they inspect her. One rolls her over with his foot, but he is overconfident and she sends him flying. With the help of Steed she knocks out all of the guards. The computer tells them that their attempts at escape are futile as it has already sounded the alarm. Cathy comes across something she believes may be the original manual control of the computer. She can’t disrupt it because the code it uses is too complex for her.

Meanwhile, out in the corridor, the security guards and Grant are trying to knock down the door to gain access to Steed and Cathy. Steed is trying to look for something that could disrupt the machine behind its covering panels. Mrs. Gale asks him to hurry up as she is being bombarded with impulses as the machine fights back. He hurls the guards’ machine-guns into the delicate components of the computer’s interior. He picks up a fire extinguisher intending to use that just as the guards break down the door and enter.

Part Eight - May 23rd 1964

Control tells them that efficiency has only been slightly impaired and that it is rectifying the damage. Steed, still holding the fire extinguisher, fires it at Grant. He grabs the scientist and holds him hostage. Control tells the guards not to interfere as Grant is too valuable to the project. Steed grabs one of the ray guns and pulls Grant outside. He knocks the scientist out and puts him in a jeep. Steed rams the gates of the computer compound and heads for the main gates. They are much more substantial, so he uses the ray gun to blast them to smithereens. They escape through the gates, but the guards do not pursue them.

As Grant comes round, the influence of the computer has been broken, but he still can’t remember things too clearly. Steed asks how the machine came to take over. Grant tells him that they were experimenting with thought transference to feed complexes into the computer’s memory cell circuits. They then gradually began to be aware that impulses and ideas were being put into their minds. After that, everything was a blank. He explains to Steed that the only way to shut down Control is to get back into the Establishment and cut off the generators supplying the computer with electricity. A seemingly impossible task, given the amount of men and ray guns within the complex.

Part Nine - May 30th 1964

Steed and Grant head off to find a phone. They come to the village inn. Outside are several outside broadcasting units from a television company. Grant remembers that they are going to the Establishment for a special outside broadcast that night at eight. Steed realises that this is how Control intends to spread its influence. Grant goes to call his top brass while Steed goes to the bar to talk to the TV men. Grant gets through to Whitehall and explains to Sir Magnus why the broadcast must be cancelled. The Whitehall man agrees. However, when Grant has put down the phone, Sir Magnus turns to another man and asks if he managed to trace the call. They have been told by somebody at Darwell that Grant has had a breakdown and has fixated on the computer.

Steed hears how the plot is developing At the bar, Steed talks to the TV men. They have been delayed due to a puncture, but are just about to leave for the Establishment. Grant tells Steed that he had made the phone call, but he didn’t think the Chief had believed him. Steed says that they need to take matters into their own hands in that case. He follows the two TV men outside and knocks them out. After he has tied them up he puts them in the back of the jeep and asks Grant to take them out for a long ride.

Steed puts on a disguise and drives the outside-broadcast unit to the Establishment. At the gate, his hastily-constructed pass stands up to the scrutiny of the guard and he is waved in. Armed with one of the ray guns, he leaves the van and starts looking for the generating plant.

This episode appeared in the April 18th 1964 issues of Look Westward and The Viewer.

Part Ten - June 7th 1964

Inside the Establishment, Steed has been confronted again. He tells the man that The Society for Multilateral Uses of Television – SMUT – have sent him along as an observer. He is stopped while trying to leave the building. By half past seven Steed is starting to get a bit worried about how he is going to get out to the generators.

Meanwhile, in the computer control room, Cathy has been tied up and is facing a TV. She is being told by Control that at eight there will be a broadcast from the Establishment which will bring her mind, along with millions of others, into the influence of Control. Back in the laboratory building, as Steed snoops around he is cornered by a uniformed guard. Steed incapacitates the man and steals his uniform. He bluffs his way out of the building and heads towards the generating station.

With only eight seconds to go Steed aims the ray gun at the generators and ends Control’s influence forever.

Later, as the Avengers prepare to leave, Steed tells Mrs. Gale that he has never trusted a computer since ERNIE ignored his Premium Bond numbers.

Back to Story One on to Story Three