In “Dead on Course,” Steed and Dr. King go to the coast of Ireland to investigate an air crash, one that appears to be part of a disturbing pattern of such crashes. The sole survivor of the crash, an air hostess, is recuperating in a nearby convent, which is also acting as a temporary morgue for the dead passengers and crew. Unfortunately, the villains are hiding out at the convent, too, disguised as nuns. When the air hostess wakes up and starts to talk, one of the baddies strangles her.
This murder is of grave concern to Steed, of course. He worries that the murderer is at large in the convent and will start going after the sisters next. He begs Sister Superior to allow him to search the convent. She says no.
Steed’s anxiety goes up a couple notches. He’s frightened for the safety of the nuns and surprised that Sister Superior won’t let him look for the killer. She says all they can do is pray that the killer will feel remorse and turn himself in. Steed is gobsmacked by this. He growls at Sister Superior: “That isn’t good enough!”
Then he says that if he has to, he’ll go to the Garda (Irish national police) and the county authorities to get help and a search warrant. Sister Superior basically says, “Pfft, fuck off, this is a convent in Ireland, who do you think’s gonna help you?”
And Steed is left absolutely speechless. (Which happens pretty much never.)
This scene is interesting since it puts Steed into a position where he’s completely powerless to get the job done, not because he has been captured or chased away by the bad guys, but because none of his usual methods of persuasion are of any use. Threats don’t work. Growling doesn’t work. He can’t very well physically attack Sister Superior and pressure her that way. He doesn’t even bother turning on the charm: he’s too anxious for that, the situation is too serious, and he knows that turning on the S.A. in the general direction of a nun is way inappropriate.
Steed knows that he’s a guest in a place that normally he wouldn’t even be allowed to enter. He’s trying hard to be respectful, and so even though he skates at the edge of being Scary Steed, he manages to pull himself back and keep his temper. But he’s unused to failing to get other people to fall in with his plans, willingly or unwillingly. He has no clue how to handle someone who has absolutely no concern not only for her own personal safety, but for the safety of the sisters in her charge. Moreover, this lack of concern appears to come not from an outsized sense of invincibility or defiance towards Steed, but from a consciously chosen resignation.
We later learn that there’s more to it than that, but at the moment this is what Steed thinks he’s dealing with, and the poor chap is at sixes and sevens. He has such a strong instinct to protect human life, and the idea that lives would be held so cheaply by someone who would appear to be literally on the side of the angels is beyond his comprehension.