Saturday, 13 December 2014

Farewell Bear Facts - Paris

Again, not much in the way of Bear Facts about Paris that I didn't already say in this post when it was broadcast, so for much more, do go and have a look at that if you haven't seen it.

I'd thought about a Whodunnit episode of Cabin Pressure for each of the previous series, but I always got stuck on what the crime could be - if it was serious then it wouldn't sit well with the tone of the show, but if it wasn't… then why should I expect anyone care to about it for half an hour. And then I remembered Birling Day. But that brought with it its own problems - firstly, that everyone, both characters and audience, would naturally assume Douglas was the culprit… and second, that I was immediately certain that indeed, Douglas MUST be the culprit. There are many times, over the series, where we see that Douglas' life is not all he takes care to portray it as… but this, at least, I couldn't take away from him. If there are any immutable laws of Cabin Pressure, the first, as Martin has learnt by Timbuctu, is that Douglas ALWAYS steals the whisky on Birling Day.

Anyway, I found a way to do it that pleased me in the end, and it was fun writing an episode in such a different way from normal; and pleasing how naturally my main cast fitted into familiar roles from the detective fiction genre - the meticulous detective, his devoted assistant, his no nonsense boss… and his nemesis, the Napoleon of crime.

I also like that by the end of the episode, every single speaking character in the episode (except Mrs Birling, who was deliberately left out so as to attract listeners' suspicion) has been accused at least once, and mostly with at least a semi-plausible theory: Douglas, by Martin; Martin, by Douglas; Mr Birling, by Martin and Douglas; Arthur, by Martin; Arthur, by Douglas; Douglas again, by Martin; Phillip, by Douglas; and Carolyn, by Douglas. Not to mention, of course, that extremely suspicious hypothetical circus full of mischievous clowns and their drunken monkey; by Inspector Marple's faithful assistant, Shappey of the Yard.


Anonymous said...

Skip, you're absolutely brilliant! How did you work it all out? You're like Miss Marple!

Thanks for everything.


Anonymous said...


I'm just wondering if Martin and Douglas' names are inspired by different types of planes?

Thanks for a wonderful radio show. I'm going to really miss it when it ends.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I just want to say thank you for bringing us such brilliant comedy. I had a dark time this spring, and my introduction to Cabin Pressure was the only thing that could get me to smile for a few months, so thank you very much for writing it!

Second of all, this is a brilliant episode. It is and it isn't a genre shift, and I love how it's still funny AND a mystery. It shows just how versatile some character archetypes are, and how the cast can stretch their characterization without breaking it entirely. Speaking as someone whose taste in mysteries is everything from any form of Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie to Nancy Drew to Amelia Peabody to Columbo to Brother Cadfael to Aunt Dimity to Scooby-Doo, I thought it was a beautiful example of a fair-play whodunnit. All the clues are there for the audience to figure it out before the cast does.

Thirdly, I totally thought Carolyn took the whiskey until Douglas pointed out that she took a drink right in front of them all. After that, I stopped theorizing and just listened and laughed.

Fourth, even though Martin lost (again), I'm glad that he got 950 pounds out of it anyway. I just like it when the characters are happy at the end of the day.

Rach Cherryade said...

'Paris' is one of my favourite episodes, I love a mystery and the way you play with the conventions and expectations of the genre and subvert them to comic effect here is hilarious. I love all of the Birling day episodes, Geoffrey Whitehead is one of my favourite actors as he never fails to shine in any of his numerous roles, both dramatic and comedic, I highly recommend that anyone unfamiliar with his other radio comedy work track down such delights as 'Alison and Maud', 'Bleak Expectations', 'Ed Reardon's Week' and 'The Wordsmiths of Gauzemere Hall' to name but a few and his performance as the irrascible Mr. Birling is just perfect! I also think the plots work amazingly well in the three Birling day episodes, and each is very different to the others despite a seemingly similar set-up. Douglas was definitely at his sneakiest in this episode and Arthur was at his most delightful, but I felt that Martin dismissed the flying circus theory far too quickly!

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the 'clowns getting the monkey drunk', theory come from 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue'?

Anonymous said...

This episode is clever and funny on so many levels. Only one question remains: Was there a Birling Day the year before (when the events of episodes G to M took place), and if so, how did Douglas steal the whisky?

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous of 6:35pm --

Yes, Martin and Douglas get their names from two very big aeroplane manufacturers, namely Lockheed Martin and McDonnell Douglas. There's a nod to this fact in Newcastle, when Linda identifies Gerti as a Lockheed McDonnell 312.

Malie said...

One of my favourite episodes. So many good lines, but one of my favourites (Arthur's - just the delivery of that single word...)

MARTIN: I'm not Miss Marple!
ARTHUR (scathingly): No.

Of course later Martin says 'No, I'm Miss Marple', which just makes it funnier. And then again, 'I'm the organ grinder.' Oh Martin, you can't be both.

Thanks for the little blog posts John - look forward to reading them every day.

Anonymous said...

John, at some point in the past I recall you writing that you knew in your mind exactly where Fitton airfield is located. As you continue to wrap up loose ends, I wonder if you might reveal that location (particularly interested to know as I have a suspicion that I live within walking- or at least easy cycling- distance of it!)

Philippa Sidle said...

Paris is the perfect sealed room murder mystery. Or whisky mystery.

Anonymous said...

The mangled not-quite-Holmes quotes gave me an opening to play a tiny clip of Paris during a presentation to my local Sherlock Holmes club during a talk about Sherlock Holmes on radio. Cumberbatch stuttering through "whenever you have eliminated the impossible" brought the house down and, I hope, won Cabin Pressure a few more American fans.

I hope you find the crossover with American Holmes fandom flattering -- we may have arrived because of that voice, but we stayed because Cabin Pressure is itself a delight and joy. These days, it's impossible to go to 221BCon, GridlockDC, or Seattle Sherlock and *not* find at least one lemon loitering suspiciously in various locations.

Steve said...

I wonder how many people recognised "terrapins tickle me if I lie" as a homage to I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again.
And I'm more than ever convinced that JF has created in Arthur a 21st century Eccles!

Lothiriel said...

I've only just realised that Benedict Cumberbatch starred in one of Agatha Christie's Marple episodes (even though it's based on a book that didn't include Miss Marple as a character).
I guess that was probably Martin undercover, wasn't it?

Paul B said...

I loved Mr Cumberbatch's mangling of the famous Sherlock Holmes line. Very clever stuff.

Justine Lark said...

Tied for my favorite with Ottery.

Also, I wrote a fanfic Birling Day episode in which Douglas has vowed not to steal the whiskey (in exchange for a favor from Carolyn) and has to cope with everyone expecting him to anyway.

Tumsh said...

Loved this episode, especially the Sherlock (non-)references! I was half expecting Douglas to say at some point - "No kidding, Captain"!

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