So… the placeholder for this post has already had more than twice the number of comments than the actual post yesterday. I think I might be doing this blogging thing wrong. Anyway, thank you for your patience... and for the little anthology of Placeholder poetry. Some very moving work there.
Anyway, Qikiqtarjuaq! Bears. Lemons. Outrageous French accents. This episode has probably done more than any other to shape what people think of as Cabin Pressure. It's a close thing with Ottery, but I think Qik just wins. Once again, for the post I wrote at the time, go here. But here are a couple of extra Farewell Bear Facts, from the episode that invented them.
- The process of coming up with the central idea for this one is quite interesting as an example of how useful restrictions can be for writing. In the first place, I was now committed to the entirely arbitrary alphabetical destinations thing, which began as a little private joke with myself in series one, and which doesn't even exist in the characters' world (it can't, because we know they fly to other destinations in between episodes.) So, this meant I needed to find a town or airfield beginning with Q, and there aren't many. There are a few regions, like Quebec and Queensland, but not many settlements. There's Quimper in France, and a couple of Queenstowns, but apart from that it's places in the Middle East or Canada that few people have heard of. But, ooh, some of the Canadian ones have really fun names… So, why on earth might MJN go to a remote arctic community? An emergency diversion, of course, but I knew I was having one of those in St Petersburg. Delivering a light aircraft from the US to Europe, with frequent fuel stops? This does happen, and I looked into it, but in the end it was just too implausible they'd get the job. Why would they even be type-rated on that model of aircraft? Taking scientists to a research station? Oh… or wildlife experts! To track polar bears! At this point, in the diagram I'm drawing as I think this out, you can see me react more or less the same way as Arthur does at the start of an episode, as I realise the possibilities of inviting some polar bears into my sitcom.
But this is when another set of restrictions kick in. Consulting with my principal aviation advisor (a certain Capt. D. G. Finnemore, Rtd) I discover that Gerti is far from the aircraft of choice if you're tracking wildlife. Jet aircraft (even Gerti) are too fast, fly too high, make too much noise… Now, back in series one, when Gerti was a fairly undefined and elastic sort of machine, I would have just shrugged and said, ok, well, this week she's got propellors. But ever since series two, I have kept to a consistent design for her, with sixteen seats, and two underwing jet engines, and I'm reluctant to break that now, even for the sake of polar bears. Could it even be done at all? I ask my aviation consultant desperately. 'Well… I suppose you could go pretty slow, so long as you watch the angle of bank… and of course, you could get a bit lower than normal in a treeless landscape… it would need some pretty skilful flying, but...' Well, hang on, that sounds exactly like Douglas talking! And Martin would have a fit. But Arthur would be desperate to see the bears. And ok, maybe it wouldn't work for scientists, but if the passengers were just tourists whose own aircraft had gone tech, then Carolyn would be be keen to get their business, and they'd all have to persuade Martin it wasn't unprofessional… And so on, and so on, and before long I had the central concept, the central conflict, and the value at stake; and a story that would never have happened had I not made the arbitrary decisions, a couple of years earlier, that this week they had to fly somewhere beginning with Q, and that Gerti has jet engines.
- Nancy Dean Liebhart's name is, for once, not a reference to anything at all. But I've always been rather pleased with it. For some reason, I find there's something oddly plausible about it. It is, as Arthur once said, the sort of name a person would have. The passengers, on the other hand, are all named after polar explorers.
- When Martin says to Nancy at the end that he's paid to fly aeroplanes, that's because of a deleted scene with Carolyn in which they came to a certain arrangement, which I won't go into now, because as it didn't go out, the rule is it didn't happen; and Martin remains unpaid (as we hear in Uskerty). So what he says here must be a forgivable white lie.
- I totally defend Douglas' behaviour to Martin in this episode. In the scene just after Nancy leaves the flightdeck the first time, Martin, high on compliments, is outrageously patronising to Douglas (especially as he was totally fine with the Hitchcock address when it happened); and Douglas gives him not one but two opportunities to back off, which he ignores. Never poke a dragon, even if you've been getting on well with him lately...
- The last line might be my favourite punchline of any episode. There are episodes with endings I like more, but not which are revealed in a single sentence like this.