Since the extended post I’m currently working on is giving me fits and conniptions, I’m gonna recycle this to give y’all something to ponder while I untangle the other one. You’re welcome.
(Steed stops to speak to a woman named Iris before going in to his meeting)
Steed: Hello, Iris! How’s business?
Iris: Not bad. A bit cold.
Steed: Oh, it’s early yet. It’ll warm up later.
Iris: How about you starting it off then? Buy me a drink!
Steed: You know me. Pleasure before business!
(Steed goes into the club after promising to come back)
This scene says something very important about Steed’s relationships with women and, I think about Patrick Macnee as well. Steed has stopped on his way to a meeting to talk to Iris. We can tell from context that she’s probably a prostitute: she works for the strip club that acts as a front for the Ministry’s secret meeting place, where she tries to get men to go in with her and “have a drink.” (nudge nudge wink wink)
Steed sees her as a friend, and never treats her with anything other than respect. He knows how she makes her living, but he never sexualizes her, and he never judges her for what she needs to do to put food on the table for her family.
When she teasingly invites him to buy her a drink inside, he declines, but suggests that maybe later he will buy her one. The original line in the script for Steed’s refusal is “Business before pleasure,” but Macnee changed that to “Pleasure before business.”
This is an important ad-lib. The former, with the emphasis on “pleasure” at the end carries overtones of Steed possibly intending to, um, sample Iris’ wares. But that’s not the kind of man Steed is, and not the kind of man Macnee wanted him to be. Yes, Steed will gladly take Iris out for a drink, but he’s not going to be her customer, and he’s not going to treat her like merchandise. He’s her friend.