The Avengers: Dead On Course

Dead on Course (Episode 02-14, December 1962).


In the third and final Dr. Martin King episode Dead On Course, we take a sojourn out of England and head for Ireland. Steed is sent to the Emerald Isle to investigate a plane crash and the disappearance of some bank consignments that happened to be on board. He drags Dr. King along, presumably because Cathy Gale does not have a medical degree (although what I wouldn’t have given to see what Cathy made of this one).

The crux of the script involves a plane crashing apparently off-course, the last in a series of mysterious plane crashes. The multiple dead are taken to a nearby nunnery. There’s a survivor, though: a severely concussed air hostess who might know what’s been happening to the planes. Things are further complicated when Steed discovers that the co-pilot is not numbered among the dead. Bizarre goings on at the local pub, the local airfield, and the local nunnery are all wrapped up in a somewhat confusing script.

Dead On Course is one of the more complex episodes to come out of the second season. It doesn’t much matter what’s actually happening, of course: there are villains with Irish accents, nefarious shenanigans, and Steed flying a plane. It seems safe to presume that this episode is a leave-over from the hard-boiled, more dramatic first season of The Avengers, as it bears little resemblance to some of the weirder-themed episodes featuring Cathy Gale or Venus Smith. Although death tolls in this series are sometimes surprisingly high, this one brings us up close and personal with at least one murder, not to mention the aftermath of a massive air crash. Steed gets very violent with one villain which, while justified, is shocking to those who have only seen him as the bowler-hatted English gentleman.

There’s not a great deal to recommend about Dead On Course, unless you’re a completist (or a Steedophile like myself). It’s a middling little drama with little flair until the end. There is the enjoyable performance of Donal Donnelly as the apparently simple pub worker Vincent O’Brien, but beyond that you might as well skip it. Even nuns with guns cannot make this more than slightly interesting. Good-bye, Dr. King. You probably deserved better.

Author: Lauren

Lauren Humphries-Brooks is a writer, editor, and media journalist. She holds a Master’s degree in Cinema Studies from New York University, and in Creative Writing from the University of Edinburgh. She regularly contributes to film and pop culture websites, and has written extensively on Classical Hollywood, British horror films, and the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror genres. She currently works as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader.

2 thoughts on “The Avengers: Dead On Course”

  1. …a very confusing episode! Sound and picture are shockingly poor too. I’m used to bright color, better sound and a cuter PEEL person from about 1965 and later. I spent most of 1962 being 5 myself. Do you actually enjoy these early seasons? Or is the historical analysis what you’re actually enjoying?? Me, I’m shocked at the amateurishness of the production! Early episodes of THE SAINT, though black and white, English, and dating from the same time period seem much better and more professional. db

    1. Yes, I do enjoy these early seasons. I generally don’t spend a great deal of time watching and analyzing things that I don’t enjoy. I think what you’re calling amateurish is simply the nature of video-taped, live-recorded series during the 1960s (the early seasons of Doctor Who have a similar quality), which often seem more like filmed stage plays than TV shows. What I like here is the relationship between the leads (especially in the Gale episodes) and the characterization of John Steed, coupled with the darker, more film noir plots than later seasons. The perceived “cuteness” of the female lead is neither here nor there – I personally like Honor Blackman in other episodes, and in this case, I think that Martin King acquits himself just fine. I do not and have never enjoyed The Saint.

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