Saturday, 9 July 2011

Stage direction: [DING] Ding! [DING] Ding! [DING] Ding!

Paris, episode two of Cabin Pressure, is available here for the next six days.  Massive spoilers for this episode follow. Don't read on if you haven't heard the episode, and think you might want to. 

First, to give those guys time to leave, thank you so much for all the nice comments about my piece about the News of the World on The Now Show this week. I cannot think of anything I've ever written that's got quite such a reaction. Tomorrow, outrageously big-headed though it seems, I'll put a transcript of it up here, including some of the bits that didn't make the edit. 

But back in Paris, or at least on the way to Paris... did I fool you? I hope so. I love whodunnits, they are my trashy fiction of choice, especially the 'golden age' thirties and forties ones, and I've wanted to do a whodunnit episode of Cabin Pressure for ages - even before Captain Crieff took on his secret identity on BBC1. For a long time, this episode had a totally different plot and solution, and was all about Mr Alyakhin (from the Christmas special) and his party of rich yacht buyers losing some sort of priceless jewel on a trip to look at massive yachts in Palma. But the problem was, I always knew I wanted Douglas to be the culprit; and I couldn't quite believe in him actually stealing a valuable thing from a passenger, however unpleasant I made them. And then I remembered Birling Day, which meant I could also bring back Geoffrey Whitehead as a guest star, who is simply one of my favourite comedy actors. 

I decided early on there would be no mention of the S word, or indeed the H word, still less the 'E, MDW' phrase. But that didn't mean there couldn't be, maybe, a couple of sly references... Benedict was an incredibly good sport about it all, especially given the audience was full of Sherlock fans. Though he did give me quite a look at the first read-through when we got to 'Wow, Skip! You're just like Miss Marple!' 

A few people have asked me about Martin's money situation at the end - I did explain this in the script at one point, but as always I had to cut loads to fit it to 28 minutes. Anyway, yes, it's possible that Martin does not have to tell Carolyn that he lost the bet, given that Birling got the whisky in the end, and can claim his hundred pounds off her. However, personally, I think Martin's too decent; Douglas too boastful; and Arthur too incapable of lying for her not to find out the truth pretty quickly. However, Martin gets a thousand pound pearl off Birling, plus a fifty pound tip, so even if he pays up to Carolyn he comes out £950 ahead on the trip, which should buy him plenty of baked potatoes. So I think it's a happy ending for him. 

Somebody asked why Carolyn opened the bottle at the start - so that she (and we) could be absolutely certain it was the genuine whisky seconds before being put into Martin's hands. After that, only Martin and Arthur touch the bottle before it's poured. 

I'm very pleased a couple of people said they thought the guilty party was Mr Birling's wife. That's absolutely what she was there for. I hoped a lot of people trying to guess the solution would hit upon the Carolyn solution Douglas tries to sell Martin, and that others, if I introduced one other character early on, who was studiously never accused by anyone, would go for them. But really, of course, once Douglas has said he's going to steal a bottle of whisky... it always had to be Douglas. Hence this bit of dialogue which didn't make the edit:

MARTIN                          Stop doing that! I admit you have a sort of underhand sneakiness…
DOUGLAS                         A brilliant flair for strategy and subterfuge.
MARTIN                     your disposal, but what I have that you don’t, and which you always underestimate, is that I am meticulous and methodical. And it seems to me that so long as I make sure there is never even a moment on the trip when I’m not watching you, or the whisky, or both; then however clever you are, I can’t see how you’ll take it. 
DOUGLAS                       Of course you can’t ‘see how I’ll take it’! I’d hardly be a criminal mastermind if you could ‘see how I’ll take it’! But I will take it. 


Michele said...

Martin getting the pearl plus the £50 tip from Mrs B made up for last week's episode. I got quite upset last week at Martin *begging* Carolyn for some sort of wage - I've been that broke while unemployed and it's the unfunniest thing I've ever experienced.

A.W. said...

You fooled me – I was actually thinking it would be Carolyn or even Arthur who stole the whiskey – or that, perhaps, Arthur was right the whole time about the circus and the drunken monkeys. I absolutely loved the process of each character trying to work it out - especially Martin’s rather warped Sherlock Holmes quote and Douglas's “who, me?” act throughout. I would have loved to see the Sherlock fans in the audience react to the Miss Marple bit.

Also, thank you for letting us have a peek at your notes! It’s always neat to see how the whole process goes.

There is one thing I’ve been wondering, though, that I’ve been meaning to ask – I may be completely wrong, but is Martin meant to be autistic? I know it’s a folly to try to psychoanalyze fictional characters, but, speaking as an autistic person, Martin does seem to fit, especially with his rigidity and fanatical observation of the rules (I really don't see him lying to Carolyn to get the extra 100 pounds), his lifelong fixation with airplanes and flying (I loved his line about his wanting to be an airplane when he was little from the Limerick episode), the lack of a social life (especially the bit from Kuala Lumpur where he talks about the secret clubs), his desperation to be taken seriously, etc. It might be the way Benedict Cumberbatch plays him – he does tend to play characters that are a bit off – but that’s just the way Martin seems to me at least. It might be that I sympathize with him a bit more because I can completely relate to a lot of what Martin has experienced – especially the rampant teasing from people like Douglas and Carolyn.

That, or Martin’s just an annoying little prissy person. Either way - It’s too bad he lost the 100 pounds, but he still netted a nice profit of 950. Definitely enough to buy something better than just toast, pasta and baked potatoes (even the poorest college student eats better than that…).

AM said...

I love this blog and its great to know that so many other people love Cabin Pressure and your writing. There are very very few programmes that make me laugh out loud but Cabin Pressure is one of them. I had tickets for the Christmas special but couldn't get in then didn't get any tickets in the ballot for this series but listening to Series 3 has made up for that. Thank you.

Fruitbat said...

I love the notebook motives for stealing Martin's hat, I don't know why that amuses me so much.

Another great episode. I've been making people in the office listen to it on Fridays. Now we get sod-all done for half an hour, it's brilliant.

KB said...

I love the insight into your notes, and the entire plotline of Paris was wonderful - to cram so many motives and plausible scenarios into half an hour! Expertly done. Speaking as a Sherlock fan as well, I did very much enjoy the warped SH quote. I was also very pleased that Martin came out with a profit in the end, since he does have such awful luck.

Also, you really were excellent on The Now Show.

Caroline said...

You definitely fooled me! At first I thought it was Carolyn. Then I was sure it was the wife... I should have known! Occam's razor! ;)

P.S. I'm going to have to steal your notebook - it's so pretty!

Custard Socks said...

Firstly, a huge well done for stealing the (Now) show. It was a pleasure and a privilege to witness.

Secondly, another huge well done for "Paris". As we queued outside the theatre, m'colleague and I (well, maybe not m'colleague!) spotted Grimpunch... oops! Geoffrey Whitehead arriving and got quite excited at the thought of another Birling Day. "Edinburgh" is one of my favourites and this too was an absolute treat. I did wonder if Douglas and Carolyn were in cahoots to trick Martin like they did in "Kuala Lumpur" but I'm glad they're not that cruel!

Oh, and if you think I've got a smutty sense of humour, you didn't notice Benedict sniggering at the "pulling this again in ten minutes" line!

Great stuff. Eagerly awaiting the next episode :)

Miss Pear said...

A.W. - You might be right about the way Martin comes across - though that description could also be akin to Asperger's Syndrome (another ailment I may or may not have, whoopee!).

Yet again, I didn't get to hear this ep at time of broadcast due to travelling (clear-as-a-bell FM reception on a mobile phone, my arse) but was lucky enough to be at the recording with m'colleague and it was superb. Also, god bless iPlayer. Have tonight been prodding people to tune in next week on pain of glaring. Might even get to hear it myself at the time, too.

As an aside - harkening back to an older episode, I believe I have coined a new phrase tonight: an MJN Conga. It's like a normal conga, except everyone hangs on to the back of someone else and you all go round in a pointless circle. That's what happened.

(John - hope you got the message that I was too awkward to post on here. I am truly Queen of the Awkward Buggers. Sorry.)

Anonymous said...

Just caught your Now Show NotW piece on podcast here in Canada. Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Man, Douglas is on a roll! Bears and cabin address systems last week, whisky this week. . . It was a huge kick to see just how many twists you managed to fold into half an hour. Far's I'm concerned, the whodunnit was immensely successful--you (or Douglas) had me convinced that it was Carolyn, all along. And Martin as--Miss Marple was very funny indeed. (But whether I shall ever truly enjoy another Agatha Christie book if the denouement does not involve all the suspects being called together together, remains to be seen.)

Thanks for another great episode, not to mention for yet another look in The Book.


R. Valentine said...

Oh my, once again you have made me cry...My husband came running up the stairs when I screamed...You are one of the funniest men I have ever heard...wish I could be there to watch it all happen...
Polar Bears...who knew


Anonymous said...

I should never listen to new episodes at coffee shops. I get looks. Of course, I get some anyway but the pounding on the table in hysterical laughter usually brings more glares my way.

Listened to The Now Show. I'm American so I must admit that a lot of it went right over my head but I agree with your sentiment (I think).

Rebecca said...

Heee, when I saw in the announcement that Martin had to find a bottle of whiskey, my first thoughts were: Is it Birling day again?

I loved this episode. I'm a huge fan of whodunnits, so I had great fun with all the references. The "Put your hands on your head" moments were just hilarious.

And of course Douglas is magical! ;-)

Andrew Bossom said...

I'm the one who asked about Carolyn opening the bottle. The dramatic requirement wasn't lost on me, I just wasn't convinced by Carolyn's stated reason that it was to thwart Douglas's use of the nail varnish trick.

But having thought about it -- maybe I'm just impossibly slow on the uptake -- did Carolyn think Douglas might perhaps have already stolen the whiskey?

Mags said...

Technically, though, Douglas didn't steal the whiskey as Mr Birling ended up drinking it at the end. He was just storing it for a while.

So, while Martin maybe honest, Douglas will also want to get one up on Carolyn and will probably bring up this point and Martin gets his £100 or at least won't have to pay £100.

an_ordinary_person said...

Brilliant, truely brilliant. Look forward to the transcript of your Now Show call to arms.


Hannah said...

John, who was Captain before Martin arrived? In Edinburgh the reason Martin doesn't know about Birling Day is because he wasn't with MJN for the last one (but the others were). Did Carolyn only have one pilot? Or was there someone else? It seems to me like part of the reason Douglas does what he does (smuggling and pilfering Birling's whiskey etc) is because he gets bored and needs to prove he's smarter than everyone else (which is why he seldom has a problem with being caught). He must have been peeved when Martin arrived and then grinned like a Cheshire cat when he realised that Martin was, well, Martin. Did Douglas have a battle of wits with the previous Captain as well or was it just with Carolyn? I would love this to come up in an episode, assuming i) the answers aren't already in an episode and ii) we get another series.

Adam K said...

Thank you, thank you thank you for your brilliant piece on the Now Show. I thought it was funny, moving and stirring and everything that comedy should be. You are officially my new hero.


Adam K

Mark Hillier said...

Always brilliant to see or hear Geoffrey Whitehead perform.

His supporting role alongside Michael Crawford in 'Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em' ('Love Thy Neighbour' 1973) is the one that always comes to mind first for some reason.

I was only seven at the time!

Ross Bennett said...

John, you are in top form all around.

You completely had me fooled with the Whodunit. I thought I was being so completely clever guessing the real culprit was years of Mr. B being fobbed off with cheap whiskey that he didn't know what Talisker at altitude was supposed to taste like.

The Now Show piece—I've never heard anything like it. It was epic. The roar from the audience afterward underscored it. Even here in Texas where we're largely insulated from the ins-and-outs of the NotW story, you had us punching the air and rising to our feet.

Finally, I can't stress this enough. As a developing writer the glimpses of your notebook have been a gift beyond measure. Loads of folks talk about motivations, through-lines, mind-mapping to brainstorm elements, and such, but nothing compares to actually seeing it. Only this last year I've come to realize there's a world of difference between the craft of writing and the craft of story building. Not that my first forty years have been wasted, but your notebook glimpses have produced some of the finest lightbulb events in a very long time. I've been poring over them like the Rosetta Stone of story development.

Thank you; for all of it.

daneastside said...

did someone say whiskey??? cool post.

Ross Bennett said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
H. R. Bryen said...

...and of course Benedict has done Marple as well anyway (Murder is Easy), and he was a policeman in that too.

ProfZarkov said...

Absolutely Marvellous!
Thanks John for another excellent series - loved every second. Can you tell us why Benedict's not in the next episode?

Littlepippin76 said...

Fabulous! And I'm really looking forward to the Now Show piece. It really was the finest thing I've heard on the NotW, and not remotely big headed to fly it from your masthead.

I'm really glad that it got such a strong response!


John Finnemore said...

Everybody - Thank you very much! Very glad you liked it.

AW - That's an interesting point. Yes, I think he may well be on the spectrum somewhere, though as Miss Pear suggests, probably nearer the Asperger Syndrome end than full-on autism. But I did not set out to create a character with the condition, so let's say it's present, but undiagnosed. (It has only just occurred to me that AS sometimes impairs motor skills and co-ordination, so it's possible that the very thing that gave him such a drive to become a pilot was also what stood in his way...)

Rewboss - Yes, I think so. She was saying 'Right, he definitely hasn't stolen it up to this moment, and from now on it's in your care, Martin.'

Mags - That's true. I can't quite see Carolyn accepting that, but you never know. She might be in a good mood. They do occur, about once a decade.

Hannah - Yes, there was another captain before Martin. His name was Nigel, which I must have mentioned in an episode somewhere, though I can't remember where, because somebody noticed when Carolyn referred to him obliquely in Molokai...

Ross - Thank you! I will now go back and answer the question you asked in the comments to Qik.

ProfZarkov - Because he lost his voice. He'll be back the week after, and Tom Goodman-Hill was superb as his stand-in.

A.W. said...

Hi -thank you for replying to my comment and clarifying Martin's character - my official dx was AS (autism and AS tend to get lumped together - for some reason I wrote "speaking as an autistic person" and feel like a total liar now...) and Martin does seem to fit and it is nice to see relatable characters out there with AS tendencies who aren't meant to be some sort of savant. Martin may be a little pathetic, but he seems much more realistic to me than other AS characters in media. And the thing about motor skills is true - probably why he failed his flying exams so many times. Some also have trouble with spatial awareness, which might also be a factor.

Anonymous said...

Stop 'n Grow still exists?! I was brought up on the stuff and everything I ate tasted of it too (anything you touch - bread and butter, apples, bananas, sweets, ice-cream). I still sucked my thumb til I was 11 so the only thing it put me off was food!

Me said...

My mum made me wear that stuff on my nails when I was little. It didn't stop me biting at all. xD

Anonymous said...

Love your brain! Thank you for your piece on The Now Show the other day; it was brilliant and I was in a better mood after hearing it.
Thanks, too, for all the other writing you share with us.
- from a US fan

forsakinghalfloves said...

A coworker introduced me to Cabin Pressure last year and I was hooked almost immediately. Brilliant writing and lovable characters and awesome adventures!

I just listened to the first two episodes, and I'm loving the new series! Thank you so much and I'm looking forward to the rest of the episodes! :)

forsakinghalfloves said...

Greetings from Manila!

A coworker introduced me to Cabin Pressure last year and I was hooked almost immediately. Brilliant writing and lovable characters and awesome adventures!

I just listened to the first two episodes, and I'm loving the new series! Thank you so much and I'm looking forward to the rest of the episodes! :)

Anonymous said...

I truly love the frizzon between Martin and Douglas - brilliantly and hilariously written and acted

PfJ said...

Love the show and have been an avid listener since the very beginning.

One thing I have noticed about this latest series, especially the Paris episode, is that the "audience" appears to be getting younger. At one point the laughter of the audience reminded me of the laughter from BBC's classic children's programme - Crackerjack;

- "It's Friday, it's five to five... it's Crackerjack" - "CRACKERJACK!"

for those not familiar with Crackerjack which ended in 1984 - here's a link:

So, my question is - has the demographic of your studio audience changed for this series?

John Finnemore said...

PfJ - Yes, I would say the studio audience definitely has got a lot younger, and come to that more female. I would date this phenomenon as starting on or about the 25th July 2010. But why on earth it happened is a mystery I fear not even the greatest detective could solve.

PfJ said...

"Excellent! I cried. "Elementary," said he.

Anonymous said...

Just have to say thank you for another wonderful, wonderful programme. Edward

Sasha said...

Clever, I love a good mystery. And in the tradition of all good mysteries, I was completely wrong. I was so sure it was Carolyn from the very beginning!
Having Burling day happen again was a nice touch. Though it was mentioned as a yearly event, I did not expect it to happen again, but I am glad it did.

Anonymous said...

"She took away my money, she took away my cards, but she didn't take away my lovely pearl cufflinks."

Is that a reference to a song? I feel like it is, but I can't think what it would be, and Google is failing me. Am I just making it up?

2fishinatank said...

Nicely done John! Great to hear Mr Birling back - any chance of a Yves Jutteau return? Love how the boys got one up on him! Pretty please?

Understand the affinity for whodunits completely - highly recommend Joanne Fluke, Colin Bateman, Kathy Reichs (and possibly Stuart McBride's Blind Eye, if I ever get to the end of it). God I sound like a Border's sales assistant!

MistressBligh said...

Great episode and I LOVE Geoffrey Whitehead - anything with him in it gets my vote.

Robin Tamblyn said...

About a year ago I was watching the 1980 Polish Sherlock Holmes series and thinking 1) how much Geoffrey Whitehead looks like Benedict Cumberbatch in this and 2) what is he up to these days? And then there they both are in Cabin Pressure...marvellous!

Tata said...

my god, the notes!
Someone stealing Martin's hat. This has to be done. This is a demand, not a request. MARTIN'S HAT MUST BE STOLEN AT SOME POINT, AND IF YOU DON'T DO IT, I WILL. The idea is too beautiful for me to ignore.

For the whooole of this, I knew it was Douglas. He's Douglas, after all. Douglas knows no failure.

Natalie said...

"I decided early on there would be no mention of the S word."

The funny thing is I didn't even know anything about the S word when I first heard this episode of cabin pressure and having redicovered the series only now did I realise that Benedict was in it.

I really am glad that R4 are repeating it Roger Allam's voice is like honey~!

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1124star said...

This may sound really ridiculous but what is meant by the "E MDW phrase".
I have watched Sherlock but on only one occasion so I'm not totally familiar with it.
I love episode. The ending is really great!

Дени said...

I can't be sure, but I think the "quite" a look might have been because Mr. Cumberbatch remembered that he was in fact in a Miss Marple episode. You just check that know-it-all IMDB and you'll see.

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