Sunday, 14 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - ᕿᑭᖅᑕᕐᔪᐊᖅ



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. 

59 comments:

BradyB66 said...

I don't know that I want you to delete it, it's worth the wait just for the placeholder!

Conor Roche said...

We always know.

Bianca said...

"Placeholder; O Placeholder
Thou holdst the place so sweetly.
Though John be slow, they'll never know…
Tomorrow he'll delete thee."

Feeling poetic tonight? ;)
We had a right laugh tonight, and a serious question about the episode that inspired sooo many pictures was sparked in our little chat-together:

How does Douglas tape the lemon to Martin's hat? Because he wouldn't go through the cabin without it on, and we don't think he would not notice it if Douglas did it in the flightdeck, right?

mq, cb said...

You know and we know that we always know, flower.

And we like it.

Benjamin Russell said...

You say no one will ever know, but that's in part because you've learned a little bit about placeholders over time. If I'm not mistaken, the first appearance of Sunday Papers is still called "Place Holder" in the URL.

BradyB66 said...

John Finnemore, John Finnemore, you are a clever fellow.
John Finnemore, John Finnemore, you are a clever fellow.
Your Farewell Facts, they make our day.
Wish Cabin Pressure'd always stay.
John Finnemore, John Finnemore, you are a clever fellow!

Alex G said...

I suppose we'll have to wait a few hours for a proper post. Good job I'm so darned ace at sleeping...

Anonymous said...

Arthnold Manacatsaman, ranting with rage
Said, "Damn Finnemore for this holding page.
Qikiqtarjuaq
Surely deserves a Fact
Before G-ERTI dies of old age."

;-) PollyTheWasp

Jessica Marie said...

I wish you would leave the place holders, they're brilliant!

Dominic C. said...

Our ken you underestimate,
but we don't mind if you are late.
For Placeholders, your Placeholders,
they fill the space quite fleetly!

Warren Terra said...

Placehold'r Placehold'r, shining bright,
On the blog, eleven-fifty at night;
What Finnemoreal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Lydia said...

Fantastic episode and brilliant placeholder. Like many, I am a great fan of Martin's horrible French accent and Douglas's strafing of the polar bears.

I know that various passengers ignore the rules concerning who's allowed on the flight deck for story purposes (I'm looking at you, Mr. Birling; and maybe you, Mr. Alyakhin), but I can't help but smack myself in the forehead mentally in dismay whenever Nancy shows up there. I just can't see how she could be ignorant of how horrendously illegal it probably is (I'm not very well-versed in how FAA regulations differing for charter flights as opposed to public ones) considering that she works in the travel industry in the USA.

So my question is this: did you have her do it deliberately as a way to show just how unprofessional/hypocritical she was?

JennaM said...

John, oh John, be not such a fool,
For the humans have made an ingenious tool.
The camera, dear John, dust ruin your aim,
Of deletion for good your mark of late shame,
The screenshot, my friend, will betray you

Admittedly that's not the same style of poem as yours (I sound like a sinister Doctor Seuss), but the threat remains! You have been warned!

Anonymous said...

The best parts about the episode: Martin's French accent, Douglas strafing the polar bears, and the Traveling Lemon meme that's sprung up in pretty much every Benedict-centered fandom.

Your placeholder is great. I love how good you are at wordplay and poetry.

Victoria said...

My brain refuses to not sing this.

Anonymous said...

This makes me regret missing the other placeholders.

Anonymous said...

I just adore Arthur ' s exuberance when he realizes he WILL get to see the polar bears! To me, that is the absolute essence of Arthur. Never fails to make me smile.
Thank you, John...a thousand times, Thank You!!

Anonymous said...

John Finnemoe, O John Finnemore.
Don't worry that you're late
You take your time with the sublime
We know it will be great!

Anonymous said...

I"m really, really sleepy
My eyes won't stay ajar
So I hope you will forgive me
For missing out your 'r'.

Anonymous said...

So Arthur didn't use the photo of the Scottish cricket team moving the fire truck in Douz on the website?

Rach Cherryade said...

I do love this episode and it confirms what I've long thought, that Arthur is definitely my favourite (followed closely by Carolyn!)! His erudition on the subject of bears and Egypt is astonishing and who knew his talents extended to web design? It was also a delight to hear the always wonderful Mel Hudson in this episode. Anyone wishing to check out more of her excellent work might want to listen to the first series of her fabulous comedy show with Vicky Pepperdine appropriately if unimaginatively named 'The Hudson and Pepperdine Show' which is being rebroadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra at the moment and can be listened back to on Iplayer.

Molly said...

Screen Shotter; O Screen Shotter
Thou save-est the post deviously.
Thou John's post soon shall go, we fans shall know,
And wave it upon the Internet.

Oh dear. I have to sing this song at a school concert later and I may be liable to sing the wrong words now...

Philippa Sidle said...

Happy not to have missed the placeholder this time!

Anonymous said...

I always like to picture Arthur's face as he says the line... 'we've GOT to see the polar bears.' Priceless. Or should I call them ours blanc?

Bedders said...

O little post of placeholder
How still we see thee lie
In your short and troubled sleep
G-ERTI splutters by
Yet in thy dark skies shineth
The everlasting hope
That Finnemore before new years
Will replace your words tonight

davidbrider said...

Placeholders are...BRILLIANT!!!

Philippa Sidle said...

I think it's fun that John has such enthusiastic fans that even his placeholders get an excited reception!

Anonymous said...

Get up you lazy Gentleman
And write the bloomin' post
Your fans are waiting patiently
So have a piece of toast
Then give us what we want kind sir
Its what we crave the most.
Some tidings of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy.
So please delete the placeholder old boy!

Anonymous said...

Come on, Kicky-tarry-jack, Martin's got a job on Thursday!

Alex G said...

As Shirley Bassey might sing...

Playyyyyceholder!
The man, the man with the comic touch
Did not write much
But in this space bolder
Words will be written soon
...This afternoon?

Golden words he may write when he's back
Certain facts 'bout Qikiqtarjuaq
It's the kiss of death for one more...
Placeholder!

Anonymous said...

This must be one of my favorite episodes. The attack on the bears deserves an award.

I loved reading this entry! Thanks for posting it!

Tealin said...

Catching the placeholder last night felt like a great privilege, but the post is even better. It's fascinating to get an insight into how an episode germinates, as from this end of the broadcast they appear to have sprung fully-formed into your head.

Thanks also for the CanCon – it's always a thrill to register a notice in Mother England. :) And isn't the Inuit alphabet cool?

Anonymous said...

This episode is funny and cleverly written and all, but for some reason it will never be my favourite. I just find Douglas unbearable here.

Henry said...

This is fascinating. O is not close to being one my favourites and it never crossed my mind other people thought differently.

It just feels too frivolous to me, which I know is a ridiculous thing to say when I love O, P, S and U...

Anonymous said...

While my Top Two are Ottery St. Mary and Limerick, Q is definitely among the mass of excellent and hilarious episodes following them closely.

Before Uskerty came about my theory also was that Carolyn had agreed to split Douglas's pay between him and Martin (not necessarily 50-50, but maybe 75-25 or something), partly as a punishment for Douglas frightening everyone on board half to death (it was he who forgot about the cabin address and his thumb, after all). Since Uskerty, I've wondered what she did to Douglas instead of cutting his pay, because surely she did something...

Anonymous said...

If I was stranded on an island and allowed only one episode of Cabin Pressure, it would be this one. It's been my absolute favourite from day one and it still is.

Stephen Buxton said...

Hi!

Here's a question in advance of the St Petersburg episode, as I hope you might be able to answer it then.

When you wrote the episode, did you have a moment in mind when Douglas realised that he might be able to scam Gordon Shappey out of an engine, or at the very least, the money for a new engine? If so, at what point was that?

(Apologies in advance, but I would REALLY like this to be answered, so I will probably keep posting it in each of the subsequent blogs!)

Lothiriel said...

May I ask what happened with the title of this post, specifically the part where it should say 'Qikiqtarjuaq'?

Also, could that Capt. Finnemore be your father, by any chance?

Emma M said...

I completely forgive Douglas' behaviour in this (partly because it's so funny). I think it's one of the only times when I take his side over Martin's (and then immediately feel sorry for Martin again after his chat with Carolyn).

These placeholder poems are excellent. Cabin Pressure fans are... brilliant!

Anonymous said...

Regards to Captain Finnemore (Rtd) - and thanks for both his intellectual and genetic contribution to Cabin Pressure.

bigseach said...

this one is in my top 5 because i went polar bear wathching in canada! arthur perfectly states my feelings about polar bears. they are brilliant!

i went to churchill to see the bears, and was in a tundra buggy not a jet plane. i did get to see them and be with them.

D said...

@Lothiriel

That jumble of shapes is actually 'Qikiqtarjuaq' written in its local language.

Elizabeth said...

Where brilliance is scattered everywhere--as it is in families and CP--ranking things isn't fair. But I had to pull off the road because I was weeping with laughter while listening to Qikiqtarjuaq. It really should have had a road hazard warning. Maybe not my topmost favorite, but safely in the top drawer with about seven others.

Katherine said...

It's the episode that stops in my town, Toronto--brilliant! Lovely to hear an actor who can more or less do a Canadian accent, unlike some tortoise ranchers I could mention...

P.S. That reminds me: did they write those "Brilliant!"s into 'Federigo' especially for you?

Philippa Sidle said...

Bears! On the ground! Of all places.

Yes you could put this forward as the definitive Cabin Pressure episode, containing all within it - including a sudden unexpected moment of pathos. And a bizarrely random obscure destination for a title.

Did you see the brief but intense Wiki-war that erupted on the Qiqi Wiki page at the time?

Looking forward to tonight's placeholder...

Anonymous said...

Such a delightful episode! It's a true favorite of mine, for the brilliant writing and structure, and for the hilarious, superb performances by the regular cast. Each time I listen to this ep, though, I always have to brace myself for Nancy's painfully hard R's. *shudder*

Rach Cherryade said...

Just heard you on 'I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue', great stuff! While I never miss an episode of 'ISAHAC' I was particularly excited about tonight's episode because my favourite stand-up comedian the wonderful Susan Calman was due to be on it, imagine my surprise and delight to hear you and Tony Hawks on there too! However, it has made me a bit concerned for lovely Barry Cryer and Tim Brooke Taylor, I hope their absense was due to prior commitments and not anything bad!

sylvia-rachel said...

@Lothiriel, it still says Qikiqtarjuaq, just in Inuktitut syllabics :) Tomorrow's high is a balmy -23°C, according to Environment Canada...

Kelsey said...

I'm a little surprised that Qik is a favorite. I love it, of course, but I feel so badly for Martin during the "baked potato" speech that it makes me uncomfortable. And there's nothing wrong with that; it's part of why Cabin Pressure is so great, but it does keep it from being a favorite of mine.
Also, Nancy is so obnoxious! I wish she had gotten more of a comeuppance in the end. Petty, I know.

Kelsey said...

Oh! John, I do have a question for you though: Is Douglas's "citrus pocket" in Molokai a sly foreshadowing of the Traveling Lemon, or a happy coincidence? In other words, did you'd be writing in a citrus-related game in a few episodes when you wrote Molokai?

Caroline said...

Thank you John, as always!
But also, on a day that has been rather black in this vector of the Real World, I have loved all the shared comments -especially the poetic responses to the place holder poem.So thank you all!

Alex G said...

I'm afraid I will have to reject your writerly suggestion that Martin is lying when he says he gets paid for flying aeroplanes. Martin's character development in this episode, and particularly in that speech, has got to be either that he's stood up to Carolyn, fought his corner well (and doesn't he just!) and won a wage, or that he's come to view himself as a professional regardless of whether he is paid or not. Either he's changed his situation, or he's accepted his situation, but either way he shouldn't be lying about his situation. Something may happen later to end his arrangement with Carolyn, but at the point when he says he gets paid, he's got to be telling the truth.

Anonymous said...

For Martin's getting paid thing, I think he did genuinely believe he'd be getting paid or he wouldn't have said it. Either he had more faith in Carolyn's 'I will consider it' and Carolyn just couldn't swing it when she went over the books on the ground, or she paid him a very token amount just for that trip, or she's paying him in food. Sack of potatoes, jar of bolognese, box of pasta, tin of sardines...

The Pink Lady said...

Ah, Kicky-Tarry-Jack. I think I return to this one more often than any other. It really does have everything, though Martin's outrageous anecdote, The Travelling Lemon and Douglas' Biggles act are perhaps the highlights. It's toe-curling and glorious by turns, and is the one through which I've best explained CP's brilliance to novices. Really, John, you are a marvel. Yet again, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the title of your post, does this mean that actually you've missed out Q? Kidding. Love that you've used the Inuktitut writing system for the title here, will you be doing the same when you get to Xinzhou?

Anonymous said...

Just re-listened to this episode and Douglas's bear viewing hi-jinks had me howling with laughter. Wonderful! And thank you to the senior Mr Finnemore retired for his flying insights and terminology which made it all the more believable. does he enjoy it too?

Moony said...

Being rather close to home, in a literal sense this episode sits happily in my top number. Though even if it wasn't Canadian in some fashion (with someone who can actually pass off a decent Canadian accent without butchering it into something more American), it has polar bears, a horribly awesome French accent and the Traveling Lemon. The second staple game of all the right sorts of people.

Alli in Toblerone-Land said...

Am I the only one who a) thinks that what sets Martin off in this episode isn't Douglas teasing him or Carolyn not paying him but Arthur defying him AND calling him by his first name, both for possibly the first time, within a single sentence, and b) thinks about this way too much?

Justine Lark said...

The antagonism between Douglas and Martin is painful to listen to, but Douglas did warn him to back off.

I think people don't give Martin enough credit that he did successfully improvise a way to defeat a polar bear armed only with a pogo stick and egg beater, while speaking in a French accent.

Fantastic payoff in the final episode with Martin's smooth cabin address in French.