In the Season 2 episode “Warlock,” Steed has to track down the person who murdered Peter Neville, an important British scientist who was working on a top-secret formula, and who also later murders Mrs Dunning, Neville’s housekeeper. With the help of Cathy Gale, Steed discovers that Neville was involved with a black magic circle, and that the members of this circle are implicated in his murder, having been hired by an enemy agent to use occult means to coerce Neville into handing over the formula to the opposition.
This episode was first broadcast in the second half of Season 2 (it’s the eighteenth episode, out of 26, and the twelfth to feature Mrs Gale), although it was originally intended to be the first of the Cathy Gale stories.* Even though it was reworked to function as a later case and appears later in the lineup, it still makes more sense if “Warlock” is construed as Steed and Cathy’s first case rather than one that comes later in their partnership, especially much later. In “Warlock,” they’re clearly still getting to know one another: Steed really has absolutely no idea what to do with Mrs Gale, who is unlike any other woman he’s ever met, and she is herself still trying to decide whether she likes working with Steed or not.
*Thanks to celluloidbroomcloset.tumblr.com for bringing this to my attention.
“You know something about black magic”
When we first see Cathy Gale, she is at work on some fossils in the British Museum. Cathy has a PhD in anthropology, so Steed visits her to see whether she might help him sort out the clues he has found so far, a bird feather and a grimoire, or book of black magic. Steed and Cathy seem to have been introduced to one another earlier, since when Steed walks in Cathy recognizes him and he feels no need to tell her who he is or why he is there.
So although we can tell they’re already acquainted on some level, this earliest conversation contains conflicting signals about how well they know one another: on the one hand, at one point Cathy calls him “Mr Steed,” instead of using the less formal surname by itself; on the other, she responds to his quoting from Hamlet (“A fellow of infinite jest”) with a rather spiteful riposte—”It’s more than can be said for you”—which suggests that she does know him enough to think it worth trying to take him down a peg or two.
Steed then proceeds to ask Cathy questions about the occult, and she provides answers, both from her own knowledge and from sources she has to hand on the bookshelf behind her. They speak for a while, and then Steed asks whether a warlock could influence someone from a distance. Cathy tells him this is possible, and says that if Neville is Steed’s responsibility, he ought not to leave Neville by himself for a moment. The way she says this is relatively formal: Cathy calls Steed “Mr Steed.”
A scene change immediately follows Cathy’s pronouncement about not leaving Neville alone, and when we arrive with Steed at Neville’s house we find that Cathy has not accompanied him. We may infer from both the scene change, which happens without Steed asking Cathy to do anything else, and Cathy’s absence at Neville’s that she has no other involvement in the case (and maybe even in Steed’s work, generally) other than to provide certain background information at his request.
“Did I break any bones?”
An important indicator that Steed doesn’t know Cathy well at all at this point is that he seems completely unaware of how skilled a combatant she is. And he finds out the hard way.
The night after Neville is murdered, Cathy sneaks into his home through an open window, thinking to search for clues. As she starts to look around, she is surprised by a hand holding a flashlight coming over her right shoulder. She grabs the arm it is attached to, and throws the person to the floor. It’s Steed, who is no end astonished to find himself flat on his back with Cathy kneeling on his chest.
Steed seems not to have known that in addition to being a brilliant scholar, Catherine Gale is also an accomplished judoka who can kick his ass without really trying. The point is further brought home to him later, when he says he found it strange that she would break into Neville’s house, to which she replies, “Did I break any bones?” Steed is being quite jocular here, but Cathy’s take-no-shit answer sobers him immediately. He’s finally getting the message that this woman is skilled and dangerous, maybe just as dangerous as he is, and that he was lucky not to have been badly injured when he stupidly snuck up on her.
And Steed was all, “Hey, isn’t it totally wild that you would break into that dude’s house, too?”
And Cathy was all, “Yeah. Isn’t it totally wild that I didn’t put you in the hospital?”
And Steed was all, “Well, shit.”
“Wouldn’t it be better if I went?”
When Steed first goes to visit Cathy at her work, he does so because he thinks she might have information helpful to him in solving the case. Although he already knows her as an intelligent, highly educated woman who possesses helpful expertise, he’s apparently not planning on involving her any further than his initial visit to the museum. But just as he doesn’t know she is a judoka until she throws him, he also apparently has yet to discover that she has a keen sense of adventure, a boatload of courage, and no small amount of skill as a detective. It takes some additional encounters with her before he realizes that Cathy’s brains and spirit are even more substantial than he initially had thought, and then he needs some time to process what this might mean for a future relationship between them, either on a personal level or a professional one, or both.
Of course the first question Steed asks Mrs Gale after she throws him and he is flat on his back trying to get the room to stop spinning, is: “What are you doing here?” He wasn’t expecting to find her at Neville’s house, and I don’t think he expected her to have any further interest in the case beyond their conversation at the museum, another piece of evidence that they haven’t started working together as partners yet.
Cathy lets Steed up and starts going through the books on the shelf, while asking him why he is there himself. He tells her that he wanted to look for further clues or papers, and that he found some “mathematical formulas” that he thought to take away with him. Her reply? “You’re welcome to them.” This indicates that Mrs Gale thinks Steed is barking up the wrong tree and doesn’t know what he is doing. Steed realizes Cathy doesn’t think much of how he does his job, and he has no idea what to do with that information. He’s supposed to be the experienced agent, not her. It’s supposed to be his case, not hers. He didn’t ask or expect her to do anything but give him background info. But here she is, tossing him across the room and rifling Neville’s shelves like she owns the place, and now she’s telling him how to do his job, a job that he knows he happens to be extremely good at.
To his credit, Steed decides there’s nothing to be done but to roll with it, and together they find an important clue: Neville is connected with one Dr Cosmo Gallion, who is an investigator into the paranormal and might be part of the black magic circle. Steed then hurries over to the window and starts to go out. Even though Steed says nothing about where he is going, Cathy susses that he’s on his way to talk to Dr Gallion, and she gives Steed his comeuppance for the third time in less than ten minutes by letting him know she knows exactly where he’s headed and then suggesting that while he’s not qualified to conduct that interview, she certainly is.
Cathy: Wouldn’t it be better if I went?
Cathy: To Cosmo Gallion’s.
Steed: I don’t think so.
Cathy: How are you going to discuss paranormal phenomena with Dr Gallion?
Cathy: That settles it, then.
All Steed can do is shrug and step aside and let Mrs Gale do her thing. And he is wise to do so: Steed is learning that Catherine Gale, PhD, is a force of nature and there’s pretty much nothing anyone else can do to sway her from her path once she’s decided where she’s going and what she’s going to do.
“I’m an expert!”
The next day, while Cathy is off talking to Dr Gallion, Steed finds himself in need of a stiff drink. He goes to the pub, where he strikes up a conversation with the barmaid, whom he already knows (we see Steed and One-Ten drinking together in that pub earlier in the episode, and the same woman serves them). It would seem that the previous night’s encounter with Mrs Gale has shaken his confidence somewhat: he seems a little down, and tries halfheartedly to impress the barmaid by telling her that he has been researching paranormal psychology. When the barmaid asks him what that is, he says, “Oh, you know, the study of hypnotism, telepathy, trance states, that sort of thing.” Steed’s recitation has the desired effect. The barmaid is indeed impressed, and asks if he can tell fortunes. Of course Steed says “I’m an expert!” wanting to keep up the impression he has thus far established, and proceeds to read her palm.
What Steed says to the barmaid about the paranormal is quite literally a recitation: it’s nearly an exact quote of what Cathy Gale told him was entailed in paranormal psychology the night before, when they were discussing what Cosmo Gallion might be up to. The only thing Steed changes is the order of the elements listed. Steed may very well have been at the museum researching those very things in an attempt to catch up with Cathy in that line, but at the moment he’s trying to bolster his self-esteem because he’s feeling unmoored by his encounter with the supremely and unexpectedly strong, fierce, and capable Mrs Gale.
It’s important to note that Steed isn’t really trying to pick up the barmaid, nor is he really all that serious about making sure she’s impressed with him. He gives her a wink when he starts reading her palm that suggests (to me, at least) that he’s just doing this for fun. Whether the barmaid picks up on this or not is an open question, but I don’t think Steed would try to take advantage of her if she didn’t; he’s not trying to prove his dominance or cozen her into bed with him. No, poor Steed is feeling a bit lost and sorry for himself, and he’s trying to cheer himself up by having a spot of interaction with another human being with whom he doesn’t feel the need to compete and who isn’t going to bark at him the way Cathy and One-Ten do. Besides, maybe he can also make the barmaid happy in some way by telling her fortune, and that would be good.
And who should show up in the middle of Steed’s palm-reading performance but Mrs Gale, who is not impressed at all. Steed and the barmaid sheepishly leave off their fortune-telling session, she to go back to work and he to talk to Cathy about what she learned at Gallion’s place. They order drinks, and when Cathy takes out a note to pay for them, Steed tells the barmaid to keep the change. Of course Cathy can’t say no to this without seeming rude, but she gets her own back by making a sarcastic toast to palmistry. Swords are drawn and crossed between Mrs Catherine Gale and Mr John Steed, and they have been since she dumped him on his ass the night before.
“I was only trying to be friendly”
Cathy and Steed visit Gallion’s, where they hear him give a talk about yoga, and the conversation they have with him afterwards only increases their mutual anxiety about what he is doing. They talk about it for a bit in the foyer of Gallion’s place, and then Cathy gives Steed a ride home. Cathy astonishes Steed once again, this time with her very fast driving. Steed decides to paper over his distress over the way Cathy drives by playing the gallant, inviting Cathy up to his place. She declines. She’s still not impressed with him. At her rebuff, Steed gets out of the car, bidding her a rather tetchy good night, but Cathy calls him back by asking what he discovered. He immediately turns around and grins at her, saying, “Oh, so you do care!” That does nothing to get him into her good books. Cathy’s own experience of witchcraft and superstition while she was living in Africa was not a positive one, and she’s irritated that Steed seems not to be taking the situation seriously. When Cathy finishes describing the kinds of disturbing things she saw in Africa, Steed smiles at her and cheerily invites her up to tell him about it. Strike two for Steed. Cathy is frustrated now. She feels that Steed hasn’t been paying attention to what she is trying to tell him.
They talk a bit more about the case. Steed says he wants to go back to Gallion’s place that night and snoop around. He invites Cathy to come along, but she declines, rather forcefully. He protests, smiling: “But I thought you were interested!” Strike three. Cathy tells him that solving Neville’s murder is his problem, not hers, whereupon he says that he found it strange to find her breaking into Neville’s house the other night. Cathy responds with “Did I break any bones?” and then rockets off, making Steed jump back to avoid being dragged along by her car.
For most of this exchange, Steed is bouncy and friendly. He keeps trying to get Cathy to come up to his place. Clearly he is intrigued by her, and he certainly finds her attractive, but none of his overtures meet with success. He makes the mistake of trying to jolly her along, to use her apparent interest in the case as a kind of lever to maybe make some social hay out of their association, at one point protesting, “I was just trying to be friendly!” It’s no use. Treating Mrs Gale like he would any other woman is simply not going to work, because she doesn’t need either his attention or approval, and she doesn’t think she owes him either her time or her conversation.
If Steed had no idea how to handle Cathy when they encountered one another at Neville’s place, he has even less of an idea now. He stands there on the pavement, completely nonplussed. Steed isn’t a man who is used to failing to make at least some kind of headway with women. But his charm evidently isn’t going to do the trick here, and he’s not sure why or what to do next.
Catherine Gale is a beautiful woman. She’s strong and dangerous, she’s fierce, she’s ridiculously intelligent. She wants to work on the case with him but she also doesn’t want to work on it, and she doesn’t seem to be either impressed with or interested in him at all. And in that moment, when he’s going over all that in his head, something clicks into place. Steed looks in the direction Cathy drove off in, and grins. Steed has just decided that Catherine Gale is the best thing that has ever happened to him, and he can’t wait to see her again.
“I like to be in on the kill”
Later that night, Steed does go to Gallion’s, as he told Cathy he would do. He braves a watchdog, which he subdues with an anaesthetic, but not before getting his suit and shirt sleeve badly mauled. He discovers that Markel, the enemy agent, has been killed, and after being taken prisoner and escaping, he puts on a cloak and cowl and joins Gallion and his crew, who are engaged in performing the Ritual of Asmodeus, a dangerous black magic rite. Gallion has decided that now is the time to do this particular ritual, because Mrs Gale turns out to be the perfect subject to use for it.
As Gallion uses magic to summon Cathy, the members of his circle dance a mystic dance to the pounding of drums, until the guard Steed had knocked out rushes into the ceremony room and tells Gallion about the intruder. Steed is unmasked, hustled away, and tied up in in upstairs room, prisoner for the second time. Meanwhile, Cathy is shown sleeping in her flat. She wakes, and looks out the open window, apparently in answer to Gallion’s call.
Not long afterward, Mrs Gale arrives in the ceremony room, seeming to be in a trance. Gallion’s adepts place her on a bier and bring out a dagger: evidently her role in the ritual is to be a human sacrifice. But Cathy disarms the adept who holds the dagger, knocks him out, then draws a pistol and fires it. The company is thrown into confusion by the gunshots, which are closely followed by the arrived of a dishevelled and frantic Steed, who managed to escape his captor a second time and is worried that Gallion will harm Mrs Gale. Cathy steps down from the dais, where she and Steed take up a defensive stance, back to back, waiting for the attack they are sure will come any moment. But it never does: suddenly Gallion convulses and drops to the floor, dead. So much for the Ritual of Asmodeus.
The villains dispatched, Steed and Cathy repair to the pub for a much-needed drink, where Steed explains who Gallion was working for, an enemy agent who had been on Special Branch’s radar for a while. He also says that Gallion seems to have died of heart failure, which Mrs Gale says might have been the result of him believing that if he didn’t perform the ritual properly it would destroy him. Steed asks her why she went to Gallion’s place, if she wasn’t really under his spell. Cathy’s answer? “When I find a hunt worth joining, Steed, I like to be in on the kill,” to which Steed replies, laughing, “Obviously.” After a night of shared danger, Cathy and Steed have finally arrived at detente, and a brilliant new partnership is beginning to take shape.
“Work something out for yourself”
As I mentioned earlier, before the order of broadcast was changed, “Warlock” was indeed intended to be the first episode featuring Mrs Gale, and the original script had a scene where Steed meets Cathy for the first time, although this scene was reworked to accommodate its placement later in the season.
“Warlock” can still be read as their first case together even so, since there are many reasons why Steed might have already met her. One possibility hinted at in the original script is that Mrs Gale is already known to the Ministry as an expert in things anthropological, and that she makes her expertise available to agents on an as-needed basis. In the final screened version, as in the original script, Steed arrives already having met Mrs Gale, even if he doesn’t know her well. The apparent difference in this case compared to others for which she might have provided information to Ministry agents is that Cathy feels she has a personal stake in stopping the black magic circle.
For most of the episode, Steed keeps thinking that Cathy has gotten more involved because she wants to help him with his case, but she hasn’t and she doesn’t. She has her own agenda with respect to what is going on, and that is to take down the black magic circle. Cathy is acting as an independent agent in this, outside the Ministry’s aegis. The fact that what she is doing happens to overlap with Steed’s case solving the murder of Neville and the leaking of military secrets is coincidental and, to her, ultimately unimportant.
When she says that Steed is welcome to the mathematical formulas at Neville’s place and later when she argues with him about the case outside his apartment building, on the one hand she’s letting him know that she’s working a different angle, and on the other she is criticizing him for trying to treat symptoms instead of going after what she sees as the root of the problem, which is the nefarious activity of the warlock and his minions. She doesn’t want the kind of bad magic rites she saw in Africa repeated here in London, and she’s annoyed that Steed apparently either can’t see or doesn’t care how very dangerous Gallion and his circle are. And she’s not wrong: One-Ten mentions to Steed earlier that some other scientists have died under mysterious circumstances, and when Steed name-drops one of them to Gallion, Gallion gets nervous and scuttles away.
“That’s settled, then”
Across the episode, Steed has a very well defined character arc, the changes in which are largely motivated by his interactions with Mrs Gale. Steed goes from being completely in control of the case and using Cathy as a resource to being practically shunted to the side, by a complete amateur, no less, and this is hard for him to swallow. He’s not used to feeling like the junior partner in endeavors like this, and it’s not because Cathy is a woman and he is a man: Steed simply is not generally confronted with other people who not only can best him physically with ease but also seem to be better than he is at his job, especially not when those people present themselves as random bookworms who putter with fossils in museums. Across the episode, Steed goes from feeling a bit crushed by Cathy’s relentless competence to harboring a bit of antagonism towards her, to respect for her intelligence, spirit, courage, and skills, not to mention being completely over the moon at having met her. Catherine Gale has rocked his world, in more than one way.
Cathy also undergoes some important shifts in her character across the episode. She starts out as simply an expert giving advice to an agent, to working the case herself on her own behalf, to working in partnership with Steed. In her first dealings with Steed, she tends to be haughty and somewhat dismissive of him. Steed’s tendency to laugh off the black magic angle of the case bothers Cathy greatly and makes her question his intelligence and dedication. During their conversation after she gives him a ride home, she is more than a bit annoyed by his attempts to get her up to his apartment. Cathy isn’t working on this case in order to get a date, she’s not doing it as a lark, and she’s certainly not doing it as a favor to Steed: she’s doing it because based on her previous experiences with black magic she feels a personal responsibility to do something about the warlock’s activities. As far as Mrs Gale is concerned, getting chatty and having drinks with someone she considers to be a featherbrained Ministry agent who thinks he’s all that and can’t seem to keep his mind on the job is the last thing she wants to be doing when lives are in the balance.
Just as Steed initially underestimates Mrs Gale, at first she has a hard time seeing that Steed is, in fact, extremely good at what he does, despite his lack of caution when approaching her from behind, his bluff demeanor, and what she sees as frivolous attempts to employ his considerable masculine charm in the middle of what is shaping up to be a very dangerous situation. It’s not until the final showdown with Gallion’s crew that Cathy decides that Steed isn’t really all that bad. Perhaps the most important element driving the shift in Cathy’s attitude towards Steed is the fact that he doesn’t white-knight her. Although he is obviously concerned for her safety, he doesn’t treat her as a damsel in distress who needs his manly protection. Steed accepts Cathy immediately and without question as an equal, as a battle buddy, as someone he can trust to fight like a lion and have his back in whatever confrontation is to come. That he does so cements for Mrs Gale that this is a man who is worth knowing.
Steed and Cathy therefore go from working in parallel on different aspects of the case with somewhat different goals in mind, to a kind of armed truce in which they sort of work together, albeit not completely willingly. Initially, Cathy sees Steed as dead weight and Steed can’t figure out what to do about her at all, but they eventually move to a point where they work as partners and find a mutual respect for each other. And once that working relationship is established, it sets the stage for further adventures solving more cases, and for a rich personal connection that becomes deeply meaningful for them both.