- Broadcast: April 29th, 1966
Character: Paul Panacek
“Paul, either make love to me or make some more coffee!”
⇑ PETER as Paul Panacek with Judy Parfitt as Yvonne Cass
The Man in Room 17 was a British espionage drama made by Granada Television which ran for two series between 1966 and’67.
All the stories, which were written by Producer, Robin Chapman, were centred around the British government’s Department of Social Research, which was headed by Edwin Oldenshaw – a former World War II agent turned criminologist, who would solve problematic cases with the assistance of his assistants, Ian Dimmock (Michael Aldridge), who was succeeded in later episodes by Imlac Defraits, who was played by Denholm Elliot.
In 1967, a spin-off series – The Fellows (Late of Room 17), saw Oldenshaw reunited with Ian Dimmock at All Saints College, Cambridge University, where both agents had been appointed to the Peel Research Fellowship.
Saturday morning. A car pulls up outside a luxury apartment block in Westminster, London, and out steps confident Hungarian Interior Designer, Paul Panacek (PETER WYNGARDE).
A suspicious-looking character a trilby and black trench coat walks by the main entrance of the building; stares at Paul, but doesn’t break his stride. “You have some change for the (parking) metre, please?” Panacek calls after him, and the man turns around and hands him a couple of coins.
The entrance to the building consists of a revolving door, which both Paul and this Man both try to get through at the same time; Panacek to the left, the Man to the left. This causes the door to jam. Panacek gestures to the Man to step outside, which he does. “You are in the wrong!” Paul asserts, “and I am in the right. In Britain, you drive on the left-hand side, no?” With that, the Hungarian turns around and takes off through the door, leaving the Man standing open-mouthed with disbelief.
Once inside the lobby, Paul askes the doorman if the contractors in his employ had arrived, and he’s told that they’d been there for 2 hours already. Stepping into the lift, he’s just pulls the cage door shut when the man he’d encountered outside arrives, just as the lift begins its accent to the second floor. Paul shrugs ironically.
Over in Room 17 of the Department of Social Research, Edwin Oldenshaw (Richard Vernon), Imlac Defraits (Denholm Elliot) and Tracey Peverill (Amber Kammer) are discussing Paul over breakfast.
Oldenshaw – a distinguished man in his mid-Sixties, tells his younger colleagues that Panacek is not to be taken lightly: “Our man  didn’t realise the kind of person he was following,” he says between mouthfuls of kidneys and toast. “He’s the kind of man who enters a revolving door after you, but comes out in front!”
Tracey giggles, but Oldenshaw advises her that, whilst she might laugh now, she’d soon discover that Paul is in fact a very dangerous man who should not be taken so lightly. It transpires that the Hungarian, who is working on the home of a Lady Pennington, is actually a spy, who’s using his interior design business as a cover.
The young woman quickly points out that Panacek had only redecorated the apartment six months ago. Now he was changing it from the modern Swedish interior he’d installed then back to its original Edwardian.
Oldenshaw tells Tracey that it’ll be her responsibility to keep an eye on Paul, and that she’ll needs to be especially careful. She’d worked with him on the last occasion he was in London, but hadn’t noticed anything suspicious about him. Defraits adds that Paul had especially asked for her, but wonders why he’s come back to England so soon?
“If we knew that,” Defraits replies, “you wouldn’t have been given the job!”
Oldenshaw tells her that Lady Pennington has gone away for the weekend, and that Paul had moved into the flat for the duration. Basically, that’s all they know. “You observe and report on anything that doesn’t contribute to his cover as an interior designer”, she’s instructed. “He’s expecting you in half-an-hour,” he adds, as she grabs her coat and heads for the door.
Over at Lady Pennington’s flat, two workmen are installing panels to the lounge walls, whilst Paul draws out plans on a clipboard. He tells the two contactors to finish up what they’re doing and take the rest of the day off. One of them asks their boss about the overtime payment they’d been promised, but is assured that it’s safe. In fact, Paul gives the two men a couple of extra quid each and tells them to treat themselves to a drink on their way home. Neither of them can believe their luck.
Once the workmen are out of the way, Paul goes to the bathroom where we find a middle-aged woman lounging in a huge tub. He complains to her about all the chaos at the flat; the contractors and everything else he’s had to cope with. She reminds him that he doesn’t have much time to accomplish his objective. Paul is flippant, however, saying that he may just get a promotion, if ever he managed to get everything finished.
⇐ Paul and Yvonne discuss tactics
Again, the woman mentions time, but he responds by saying that there’s nothing he could do while the workmen were there. The woman reminds him that a consultant from Sprite and Co. will be calling sometime that morning, which Paul had completely forgotten all about. “You see,” the woman adds sarcastically, “You keep saying there’s plenty of time, but there’s not”; unless they get the “information” back within a week, it would be useless.
She asks why he didn’t get Lady Pennington to go away for longer than just the weekend, since two days simply aren’t enough to get everything completed. Paul says that he’s had difficulty enough persuading her to let him re-design the flat, let alone anything else. At that very moment, the doorbell rings. “That’s him (the consultant) now”, the woman mutters. Paul smiles knowingly. “Her!”
She adopts a disapproving tone, and warns him not to let “her” interfere with his real work. “Like you, I wasn’t born yesterday!” replies Paul, with a small dig at her age.
By this time the ‘Consultant’ (Tracey) has already let herself into the hallway when Paul arrives to greet her with a wolf whistle. They run into each other’s arms like old friends. She corrects him when he refers to her as a “smart chick” – saying that the term is old hat. “I’ve been out of London for six months,” he gasps, “and ‘chick’ has become a dolly!”
After all the small talk, Paul invites Tracey into the flat, and begins to show her all Lady Pennington’s furniture and knick-knacks that are piled up in one of the rooms. He then takes her through into the lounge, where most of the building work and renovations are being carried out.
Once there, she hands him a book of wallpaper samples, whilst the woman who’d been taking a bath earlier, listens intently to their conversation from an adjoining room. When she eventually shows herself, Paul introduces her to Tracey as his Assistant, Yvonne Cass (Judy Parfitt), who announces that Lady Pennington wishes to speak with him on the phone. Before taking the call, he tells Tracey that he’ll see her again on Monday, and she leaves.
The moment he hears the front door close, Paul turns to Yvonne angrily, and asks why she’d fabricated the call from Lady Pennington. She tells him that she suspects that Tracey isn’t who she claims to be, and points out that her arrival had been too soon and too neat. Paul however, assures her that he’s worked with Tracey before, and that she’s an innocent girl who’s beyond reproach. Yvonne is outraged: “And YOU don’t suspect her?” she inquires, cynically. “Just because she has a pretty face!” It’s HE, she suggests, who’s the innocent!
Panacek accuses her of being suspicious of everyone which, she reminds him, is what she’s paid for. Paul thinks on what’s been said for a moment, then asks what she proposes to do about Tracey.
“Not me, YOU!”, she barks, punctuating every word by tapping Paul’s cheek with the flat of her hand. “And your Hungarian charm”.
Back at base, Tracey reports her findings to Defraits and Oldenshaw. Although she hasn’t found out much, she is able to give them the name of Yvonne Cass – the “assistant” that Paul had introduced her to earlier. Defraits reveals that she’s British; an agent, and Paul’s ‘Political Mentor’. She’s also a known killer. He also adds that it’s fortuitous that Panacek is unable to see Tracey again until Monday, as it will afford British agents to check out the flat.
Oldenshaw advises Tracey to go home and get some sleep, but just as she prepares to leave, a call comes in for her from Sprite and Co.. They tell her that Paul had rung their office to invite her to dinner that evening. Oldenshaw instructs her to accept with a nod of his head and produces a cheque book from his desk drawer. “Now what do I do?” she asks as she’s handed a cheque for what is obviously a very generous amount of money.
Oldenshaw tell her to go out and shop at the most beguiling boutique she can find, adding that he expects his agents to dress suitably… for any operation.
As she goes leaves, she flashes the cheque at Defraits, who is equally aghast at the amount she’s been given. “And to whom are we going to charge her dress allowance to this time?” he asks. “I’m not sure,” Oldenshaw replies. “Isn’t it time the rates went up again?!”
Over at the flat, we find Paul and Yvonne moving furniture around in an attempt to make the lounge area look a bit more welcoming. Given the amount of shifting and lugging he’s been doing, he questions Yvonne’s reason for disallowing him to simply take Tracey out for dinner.
Yvonne explains that if Tracey is an agent, it would make it easier for them to observe her at the flat than it would at a restaurant. She adds that when she arrives, he should take his time making coffee to give her a chance to check out the place should she be planning to do so.
Once all the furniture has been place in the desired positions, Paul attempts to complement Yvonne, but gets no reaction. He observers that she simply doesn’t care, to which she says her aloofness is part of the assignment: “If she does turn out to be an agent,” she adds, “I shall have the last pleasure!”
Back at Room 17, Tracey is giving her colleagues a private fashion show comprising of all the clothes she’d bought for her dinner date that evening. The opening outfit is a skimpy black dress which could barely be classified as a T-shirt. The two men regard her thoughtfully. Since the whole point is to disarm Panacek, Oldenshaw comments, “I’d prefer more bosom and less knee!” Ms Peverill returns to the sofa, where there’s a pile of other items of clothing to choose from.
The next getup from the rack is a flowery top-and-trouser combo, to which Oldenshaw gives a curt, “No!” The accent, he says, is on seduction, not horticulture! “And besides, it went out last week!”
Paul awaits Yvonne’s approval of his evening wear ⇒
Whilst Tracey continues to totter about the office in just her underwear, Oldenshaw and Defraits discuss the morals of what they’re asking the young woman to do: “You do realise that we’re acting like a couple of pimps!” the older man comments. Yes. And on government money, too!
Over at the flat, Yvonne is in the kitchen busy preparing snails for the dinner later. Paul enters and embarks on his own fashion show. First he shows off a double-breasted tweed number, to which Cass merely shakes her head. Paul tuts and leaves.
Meanwhile, we find Oldenshaw testing a large range of perfumes, whilst Tracey ponders over an array of earrings. Her mind is quickly made up when Oldenshaw tells her to take the pearl set, since the transmitter inside them has a range of 2 miles.
Back in Flat 12, Yvonne wanders into Paul’s bedroom to find him putting the final touches to a formal black dinner suit and white shirt. “You look like an ageing bull fighter”, she hisses. He gruffly begins to undress while cursing her in Hungarian.
When finally Oldenshaw has agreed on both the outfit and scent Tracey will be wearing that evening, they go through the plan – which includes checking the transmitter in the heal of her stilettos. That, Oldenshaw remarks, should tell us all they need to know. “Let’s hope I can exhaust him”, Tracey adds as she gets up to leave.
Whilst Oldenshaw and Defraits lament the passage of time in Room 17, Tracey is already ringing the bell at Flat 12. When Paul answers the door, we find that he’s changed his clothes yet AGAIN to a pair of casual trousers and light-coloured turtle neck. He asks her in enthusiastically and offers to take her coat. When he sees her elegant new, he feels somewhat underdressed by comparison.
Whist she goes through into the recently remodelled lounge, Paul quickly inspects her coat to see if she’s concealing anything in the pockets. Oldenshaw and Defraits listen in to the small talk between the two back at the office.
Tracey tells Paul that he shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble, when they could’ve simply gone out to dinner. He responds by saying that he enjoys the challenge of cooking, but is slightly concerned when she jokingly asks if he has an ulterior motive in asking her there. He quickly counters by declaring that, actually, he has; he needs to pick her brain. What ideas might she have to make the room perfect? He hands her a glass of sherry, then excuses himself to check on the oven: “I am cook and waiter”.
Over at the Department of Social Research, Defraits discoveres that Oldenshaw has been going through Lady Pennington’s bank statements in the hope of finding some clue as to why Panacek and Cass are so interested in her.
Paul and Tracey, meanwhile, are sitting at the table – she watching him devour a plate of snails, when they suddenly small burning. “My goulash!” he cries. She offers to help, but he declines. She uses his absence to take a look around the room.
In the kitchen, Yvonne is putting some of their food onto a tray. By the time Paul returns to the lounge, Tracey is seated back at the table. He insists that they must have music to accompany their meal, and puts a 78rpm on an old wind-up gramophone. Next, he uncorks a bottle of champagne – making sure to spray Tracey as he does so. Apologizing profusely, he checks out her shoes as he wipes them over with a cloth.
As he reappears from under the table, he touches Tracey’s hand which is resting on the chair arm and notices that she’s very tense. He also spots her pearl earrings. He asks if he may look at them closer, and takes one of the clip-ons to examine it – commenting all the time about how stunning they are. He then decisively drops it into the steaming bowl of goulash. Again, he apologises, and makes a dash to the kitchen to clean it. Tracey is starting to get the feeling she’s been rumbled!
Yvonne checks the piece of jewellery, and confirms to Paul that Ms Peverill is an agent. Cass immediately produces a gun. Deflated by this betrayal, Panacek tell her to leave the young woman to him.
During this time, Oldenshaw and Defraits have been concerning themselves over Tracey’s safety, since they can no longer hear what’s going on. Nevertheless, the older man is still able to quip that it might be indecent to listen in anyway, given that Tracey’s mission was to seduce the Hungarian!
When we return to the flat, Paul and Tracey have finished dinner and are now sitting on the sofa. They appear to be talking about interior decorating, since Paul insists that a room should reflect the personality of the individual that lives there. With that, Tracey light a cigarette and laments that there would be no point in her taking on such a project, since she’s always on the move.
Paul suggests that she’s merely making excuses, and that she’s really running away from something. This causes her to react: “To move is simply to move!” she snaps.
But her job – doesn’t that keep her in London? She shakes her head, saying that she needs to travel in order to give people advice: “People like you”. Paul looks crestfallen on hearing the last remark: “So, I’m still just people, huh?” he asks solemnly. He then leans over and kisses her gently on the nose. She reacts by going in for a full-on smooch; all the time, Yvonne is listening from the kitchen.
“Now you are seducing me!” he laughs. Tracey sits up and takes a drag from her cigarette: “Paul, either make love to me or make some more coffee!” Some coffee or both, he wonders. “If you want both”, she replies, “then yes. I thought you said you always do what you want to do!”
It’s clear from her demeanour that she has feelings for him, and that she’s beginning to question what she’s doing there. Sensing that there’s a conflict of feelings, he asks what’s wrong. She smiles at him, then says: “You should go and make more coffee”
⇐PETER gets jiggy with Amber Kammer as Tracey Peverill
As Paul heads off to the kitchen, Tracey stubs out her cigarette and opens the heel of her shoe. She now begins a walk around the flat to see if she can detect anything untoward. As she approaches one of the recently-fitted wall panels, the transmitter gives off a high-pitched squeal.
In the kitchen, Yvonne is making coffee, whilst Paul paces up and down – hands in his pockets. Callously, Cass snipes: “He thinks she’s really fallen for him. You’d better be right!” He snatches the coffee pot from her and returns to the lounge.
As Paul approaches Tracey the heel of the shoe, which she has back on her foot, gives way and she falls into his arms. Throwing her arms around his neck, she begins kissing him, whilst kicking the damaged footwear under the sofa.
He, however, concerned about her ankle, and in spite of her protestations, gently rubs the sore joint. While doing so, he cleverly reaches under the sofa and produces the shoe – the heel of which is open and showing the transmitter.
Paul gets to his feet, and in a fit of rage, strikes Tracey hard across her face whereupon she admits to finding the listening devices hidden in the flat. He’s distraught at her duplicity, but she persists – asking if the equipment is to record politicians who drop in for a drink and to talk in confidence. “It’s all very clever, Paul!”, but then as he’s quick to point out, so is she!
She enquires if Lady Pennington is aware of what’s going on, but he declines to respond. There’s a moments silence between the two, but then she says in a very sincere tone: “You won’t believe me, but I’m very sorry I found out”. He reluctantly acknowledges that she had a job to do.
She tells him that she’s sorry, because she thought there might be a chance for them, and confesses that she’s far too susceptible to these sort of tricks. “Maybe I am, too”, Paul concedes. Tracey picks up her handbag as if to leave, but he snatches it from her. Then, after a moment’s pause, hands it back to her. He looks at her with some sadness in his eyes and says: “I want to take that chance you mentioned. Do you?”
Without waiting for her to respond, Paul reaches behind one of the wall panels and produces a reel of audio tape, which he sets fire to. She asks him how long it will take him to destroy all the surveillance equipment in the flat. He tells her that if she were to come back at 9 the next morning, everything will be gone by then. She asks if he’ll be able to trust her to return. He tells her he’ll try.
“But what will you tell your bosses?” he enquires. She shrugs, saying that she’ll tell them that she found nothing of interest in the flat, and that he was doing nothing more menacing than redecorating.
Back at the office, Defraits is attempting to wake Oldenshaw, who’s been sleeping on a sofa. The younger man tells his boss that its 5.30am, and that Tracey still hasn’t reported back.
At the flat, Paul is standing on a pair of stepladders – a cigarette dangling from his lips, trying to take down the wall panels. Yvonne appears: “So, she got as far as the dummies, did she?” He tells her that Tracey has gone to report back to her bosses, which is exactly what he wanted her to do. Cass thinks he’s gone mad, but Paul assures her that they have plenty of time to get rid of the authentic tapes and be out of there before she returns.
When she arrives back at Room 17, Tracey tells Oldenshaw and his assistant that she’d examined the flat thoroughly, but that there was nothing suspicious there at all. Defraits tells her that he finds that very difficult to believe, but his boss cuts him off abruptly and thanks the girl for everything she’s done. She asks Oldenshaw if she might be released from the assignment, and he agrees.
Whilst Tracey changes back into her own clothes –tears streaming down her face, Oldenshaw reveals to Defraits that during the last 24 hours. Panecek hasn’t once left the flat. Therefore, whatever’s going on, starts and ends there.
Defraits reminds him of what Tracey had told them – namely, that she’d found nothing dubious going on there. But maybe she was mistaken? Oldenshaw doesn’t accept his assistant’s theory, saying that the girl is never mistaken, nor is she corruptible: “But she does have one other characteristic; she’s vulnerable to charm. She’s obviously lied to protect Panacek because she’s in love”.
Imlac Defraits shakes his head in disbelief, but Oldenshaw insists that it can be the only possible explanation. And the only way to get her to tell the truth is to show her what Paul really is. He suggests sending her back to him because, more than solving the case, Tracey needs to be taught a lesson.
At that moment, Tracey walks back into the office, whereupon Oldenshaw apologises for keeping her up for half the night: “But, at least you were able to clear Panacek of suspicion”, he adds, shrewdly. He goes on to tell her that word had reached him of Lady Pennington’s imminent return, and that it would be unfortunate if they had to inform her that she’d been “harbouring a charming viper to her bosom!” Tracey leaves knowing exactly what she must do.
Once she’s out of the door, Defraits turns to his superior and asks what they would do if she was to co-operate with Paul. “I have been known to be ruthless!” comes the reply.
Over at the flat, Paul and Yvonne are busy with hammer and chisel, knocking through a brick wall in an effort to retrieve the recording equipment they’d planted there (actually, Paul is doing all the hammering, whilst Yvonne – squatting in her spangly dress, obviously couldn’t knock the top of a custard!).
Just as Paul reaches through the hole he’s made in the wall, the doorbell rings, which startles the pair. The look at each other inquisitively; might it be the neighbours? Or the police!
Having been left outside while the two criminals try to guess who’s there, Tracey takes the key Paul had given her earlier in the day and lets herself in. She calls out to him. On hearing her voice, he instructs Yvonne to get rid of her.
Cass tells Ms Peverill that Panacek is too busy to see her, but she isn’t willing to accept what she’s told, so she pushes past the older woman and into the lounge where she catches the Hungarian just as he’s pulling another reel through the hole in the wall.
“What did you come back for, you fool?” he snaps. She tells him she’d come to warn him, but when she sees that the atmosphere has turned hostile, she attempts to make a run for it, only to find that Cass has blocked her exit. However, she managed to get into the room she’d seen earlier, where all Lady Pennington’s furniture is piled up. There, she takes a pistol from her handbag and fires off a couple of warning shots at the door. Undeterred, Cass grans her own handgun, and follows her into the storeroom. Paul, meanwhile, dives for cover on the sofa.
The two women circle each other, so Tracey fires off another couple of shots. Yvonne calls out to Paul to carrying on recovering the surveillance equipment while she deals with the girl.
Fortunately, Tracey is able to get out of the room and finds a phone, which she uses to ring the Office, but she’s only able to utter a few hurried words when Cass fires at the junction box on the wall and the connection is lost.
At the office, Oldenshaw is holding the phone receiver in his hand. He tells Defraits that, although their colleague sounded perturbed, she was not panicked. This proved, if nothing else, that she’s not in league with Panacek.
Defraits is aghast at the older man’s complacency, and insists that he sends D.I.5. in to assist her. Oldenshaw refuses, however, saying that they must give Tracey the chance to complete the job. Defraits goes ahead and calls D.I.5. anyway.
In the meantime, Paul has packed all the equipment into a large leather hold hall, and both he and Yvonne make for the door in a hail of bullets from Tracey’s gun… until Cass hears the tell-tale click of an empty chamber, and goes after the girl.
Paul and Yvonne attempt to remove the surveillance equipment from the wall ⇒
In Room 17, Oldenshaw is preparing breakfast, must to Defraits’ irritation: “How can you possibly do that at a time like this?” The Older man explains that Tracey is not only an excellent shot, but is sufficiently resourceful to get herself out of any situation. Besides, she has only one dangerous opponent. Defraits corrects him: “Two!” Yvonne? Yes! But Paul? “I don’t think so,” he exclaims. “He loves himself too much!”
Oldenshaw then instructs Defraits to show a little faith, and to put out three coffee cups. If she wishes to continue working with them, he adds, Ms Peverill must learn to distinguish between work and pleasure.
Defraits is quite shocked by this rather blasé attitude towards the girls safety – telling him that when they’d first met in Peking, he thought that Oldenshaw was a man of intelligence, wit and humanity. He isn’t sure if he could continue to work with someone he’d been so wrong about. He adds that if they haven’t heard from the girl with in the next 10 minutes, he would resign.
At that very moment, the phone rings. Tracey is on her way over.
Over breakfast, the three agents discuss the previous day’s events. Tracey asks if Paul will get a long sentence. Oldenshaw tells he that he will – such things being the way of the world. Defraits adds that Panacek is not the kind of man to grieve over – even if she did like him.
“Oh, he has plenty of charm, I’ll grant you” the older man continues. “But so do all Hungarian’s – it’s a national commodity”. They’ll use it, he says, to buy anything – even secret information on tapes buried in a wall.
There’s a moment’s contemplation when, then Oldenshaw asks Tracey if Paul had ever shown her how to make a Hungarian Omelette. She tells him, no.
“It’s a well know recipe. First steal six eggs…”
THOUGHTS ON THE EPISODE:
Paul Panacek was an interesting and very different character for PETER to play, and showed off his versatility as an actor.
The viewer is kept in doubt right up to the very end as to what type of person Panacek really is, given that he has so many traits. Certainly, he has more faces than the proverbial town hall clock, and that has four!
With Tracey, he’s the charmer – the easy-going boyfriend-type with whom she could envisage spending the rest of her life. He appears under the thumb of Yvonne – his supposed ‘Assistant’, who has him run ragged; changing from one garment to the next until she’s finally satisfied with him. And yet, he’s still able to display his guile and ruthlessness when push comes to shove.
The story is a fascinating blend of espionage, comedy and thriller, but there are a few question marks hanging over the script which I wasn’t able to come to terms with, however. For instance:
During the opening scene at Lady Pennington’s flat, Paul dismisses the two workmen who comment that it’s only 10.30 in the morning. Tracey turns up shortly thereafter and stays only a a few minutes, and yet when she returns to Room 17 immediately thereafter, Oldenshaw advises her to go home and get some sleep.
It’s understood that Paul has moved into Flat 12 for the duration of Lady Pennington’s weekend away. So why did he take so many changes of clothes for such a short stay?
When Tracey and Paul were plotting to cover for each other; he promising to destroy the surveillance equipment and her to lie to her superiors so that they could carry on seeing each other, how did Tracey know that Oldenshaw and Defraits could no longer hear them vi the radio transmitter in her earring?
In spite of these glaring errors, ‘First Steal Six Eggs’ is a very classy episode, with all the turns putting in outstanding performances. Amber Kammer as Tracey Peverille was very good, as she didn’t come over as many female characters did back in the Sixties, as a weak and feeble woman. Yes, she was inevitably duped by Panacek, but she was able to hold her own when she finally realised what a cad he was.
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