Thank you for all the messages I've had about Uskerty - I'm really glad people seem to like it so much. If you haven't heard it, it's available to listen to here for a week, and will then immediately be available to buy here.
So, back when I was writing Ottery St Mary, I thought it would be nice to see the crew split into the only combination of pairs we haven't seen yet. Obviously they are often split pilots / cabin crew; and in Johannesburg they're split Martin and Arthur / Carolyn and Douglas; so that just leaves Martin and Carolyn / Douglas and Arthur. It didn't work out in Ottery, because it seemed a shame not to see Martin in his van, but that meant I still had it as an option for this series.
The Martin and Carolyn plot came unusually easily - the notebook page at the bottom of this post is of the day I came up with it, and it's very unusual that so many of the elements, and even lines of dialogue, are essentially unchanged from then right through to the final script. I knew that if M and C were going to spend time together I would want to revisit the unresolved payment question from Qik, and if I was going to do that without it being too treacly I'd need to undercut it by having Carolyn give Martin as hard a time as possible otherwise. Which lead me to the tree, which lead me to the hitch-hiking, which lead me to the geese, which lead me to the ring… it was all strangely easy. 'Maybe I've finally cracked this writing business!' I thought to myself 'Maybe from now on I'm going to be one of those writers you hear about who can just sit at the keyboard, and let the story flow unbidden from their fingertips…'
...No. I hadn't, and I'm not. Getting the Douglas and Arthur story right was blue murder. In fact, I went through three completely different ones before I found one I was happy with. First, the one in the notebook photo, about them inventing a sport to distract their delayed passengers, which I rejected as being too 'wacky' ( I hate the word 'wacky'), given that there was so much slapstick already going on in the Carolyn / Martin plot. Then came one which combined elements of what turned into Uskerty with elements of what turned into Vaduz (next week's episode), which worked better, but had no real thematic connection to the C/M plot. Then there was one in which the 'Gerry' character was an antagonist, and Douglas and Arthur teamed up to get the better of him. But like the invented sport one, it was just too frantic, and left no room to actually find out what Douglas and Arthur would be like one on one, which was supposed to be the whole point of the split.
So finally, I stripped out all the running around, and just wrote a list of simple things they might do whilst waiting in an airport. And as soon as I put down 'D and A 'get drunk' together (without drinking)', I knew I finally had something I wanted to write. Once I had that, it was obvious (and a relief) that Gerry should be a friendly character, and from there came the whole film noir thing, which I really like. I don't often make myself laugh when I'm writing, but I did when I wrote 'Between the dames and the horses, sometimes I don't know why I put my hat on.' And at the recording, it was glorious when after a frenetic Martin and Carolyn scene, the jazz would start again, and Roger and I would mooch nonchalantly up to the mike... I really am very lucky in my job.
NOTES AND QUERIES
'Is the goose thing a reference to the Blue Carbuncle?'
Yes and no. At the beginning of the series, I decided that I'd had my Sherlock referencing fun in Paris, and that to do it any more would be milking it. However, once I realised I needed an animal to eat Martin's ring, it seemed a shame not to make it a goose… To be honest, I didn't think many people would notice. I was wrong.
'…so, does Martin get his ring back?' AND: 'It ends a bit suddenly, doesn't it?'
Ah. Yes, I'm sorry about that. As always, the episode was overlong, and several minutes had to be cut in the edit. Essentially, once the obvious things had gone, we were left with the choice of either cutting lots of little bits which were funny, but didn't move the plot along, for instance Arthur's airport announcement… or to cut the final scene entirely, and trust that Douglas' plan and Gerry' and Martin's agreement to it would convey that they then went ahead and did it. In the end, I think we made the right choice, especially as I think 'Always, the extra mile' is a stronger final line than the one I had; but there's no getting away from the fact that it does cut the episode off a little abruptly. However, if you're interested in how it would have ended...
ARTHUR And… contestant 21!
FX GOOSE CARRIED THROUGH GATE.
MARTIN (SIGHS) Ok. So it has to be this one then…
DOUGLAS It’s always the way when you lose something, isn’t it? It’s always in the last goose you look.
CAROLYN You are sure the goose swallowed it, are you?
MARTIN I … was sure. Alright… come here…
FX GOOSE COMPLAINS.
FISHER No, remember, support her body…
MARTIN I’m trying!
ARTHUR Contestant 22!
FX SECURITY GATE BEEP
GERRY There it is! That’s her!
ALL RAGGED CHEERS
CAROLYN Now for God’s sake hold on to her!
FISHER You can have that one for twenty euros.
MARTIN Ok, er… let me see…
CAROLYN I’ll get it, Martin.
MARTIN Oh… you don’t have to do that.
CAROLYN Well, I’ve already spent 85 euros on a dead sheep today – I may as well stand you a live goose as well. Now, Gerry, I don’t suppose there’s any way you can still clear us to leave?
GERRY Carolyn, I’m sorry, I really can’t. They’d have my license off me.
CAROLYN Well, then. It looks like we’re here for the night.
ARTHUR Brilliant! Oh, and Douglas and I can teach you a great game with the security gate!
GERRY And the bar’s open as long as you want it. Can I get you anything now, in fact? Carolyn?
CAROLYN A large gin and tonic.
MARTIN A small red wine.
GERRY And gentlemen… two shots of the usual?
DOUGLAS Thank you, Gerry. Oh, and Gerry?
DOUGLAS Leave the carton.
GRAMS SIG AND CREDITS