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Happy Birling Day

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Martin: My gallant crew, good morning!

Arthur: Skip, good morning!

Martin: I hope you’re both quite well.

Douglas: Quite well, and you, sir?

Martin: I am in reasonable health and happy to meet you once again.

Arthur: You do us proud, Skip!

Martin [singing to the tune of "I am the captain of the Pinafore"]: I am the captain of the airline’s plane.

Arthur [singing]: And a right good captain, too!

Martin [singing]: You’re very, very good, and be it understood, I command a right good crew.

Arthur and Douglas [singing]: We’re very, very good, and be it understood, he commands a right good crew.

Martin [singing]: Though I have to drive a van, I can take off and land and handle the yaw and pitch. I am never known to quail at the fury of a gale, and I never, never faint or twitch.

Arthur [singing]: What, never?

Martin [singing]: No, never!

Douglas [singing]: What, never?

Martin [singing]: Well… hardly ever!

Arthur and Douglas [singing]: He’s hardly ever known to twitch.

Benedict: Cabin Pressure, starring Stephanie Cole as Carolyn, Roger Allam as Douglas, Benedict Cumberbatch as Martin and John Finnemore as Arthur. This week: Rome!

Douglas: Must we really go through this?

Carolyn: Yes, Douglas, you must go through with being searched because I am not going to let you steal Mr. Birling’s £200 bottle of Talisker whisky.

Douglas: You mean, this time?

Carolyn: Very well, if you insist. I am not going to let you steal Mr. Birling’s £200 bottle of Talisker whisky this time.

Douglas: Of course, you didn’t let me any of the other times, and I did it anyway.

Carolyn: Well, I’m not going to make it easy for you! We’re very fortunate that he has booked us again for the Six Nations Rugby tournament.

Arthur: I wished on my eyelashes for the whole year!

Carolyn: Your... eyelashes?

Arthur: You know, when one of your eyelashes falls out, you can make a wish as you blow it away. And I dedicated all of my eyelashes ever since the last Birling Day to hoping that there would be another Birling Day.

Carolyn: I see.

Arthur: It always works.

Douglas: Does it? What else have you wished for?

Arthur: Well, I wished for a dog and I got Snoopadoop, and I wished for a surprise and on that very same day, I got a parking ticket!

Douglas: I guess that settles it.

Martin: I’ve filed the flight plan. Now let’s get ready so we can depart as soon as Mr. Birling arrives. Douglas, could you do the walk-around, please?

Douglas: I’d be delighted, Captain.

Martin: Really? I mean, excellent. Carry on.

Carolyn: Oh no, you don’t. I’m sorry, Martin, but Douglas is about to be searched from top to toe.

Martin: So that explains it! Fine, you don’t need to do the walk-around. I already did it once.

Douglas: Oh, Martin!

Carolyn: Phil, do your worst!

Phil: Sorry, Douglas.

[sound of Douglas being patted down, which, incidentally, is a task I would be happy to take on at any time]

Douglas: You won’t find anything. We made a deal, and I am a man of my word.

Phil: He doesn’t have anything on him.

Carolyn: His flight bag is clean too. At least, there are no bottles, jars, flasks or vials containing or capable of containing any fluids.

Douglas: Just as I told you.

Carolyn: He does have an unopened pack of playing cards.

Douglas: For playing solitaire to while away the hours of waiting so frequent in the life of a pilot.

Carolyn: Or poker.

Douglas: That too.

Arthur: Or Crazy Eights!

Douglas and Martin: No.

Carolyn: And two pairs of reading glasses.

Douglas: That’s neither here nor there.

Carolyn: And a set of chopsticks.

Douglas: What’s wrong with that? I don’t like those snap-apart wooden numbers you often get.

Carolyn: And a packet of baby wipes?

Martin: How are you going to use baby wipes to steal the Talisker?

Douglas: I’m not going to steal the Talisker.

Arthur: What are the baby wipes for, then?

Douglas: I’d rather not say.

Carolyn: All right, I can’t see any reason to confiscate any of this stuff. And now be off with you! I must get back to my ongoing project of figuring out how to run an airline without feckless flyboys.

Douglas: Well, now you know what to do with your next eyelash.

 

************


Martin: Douglas, what did you mean when you said you had made a deal with Carolyn? What sort of deal?

Douglas: That’s between Carolyn and me.

Martin: As commander, it is necessary that I be fully informed of all restrictions and arrangements undertaken by the officers and crew that may affect the safe operation of the aircraft.

Douglas: This has nothing to do with the safe operation of the aircraft.

Martin: I’ll be the judge of that.

Douglas: You just made all that up, anyway.

Martin: I most certainly did not. It’s on page 334 of the manual.

Douglas: Martin, I’m positively scandalized. You’re so eager to be in the know that you’re taking the contents of the manual in vain?

Martin: I didn’t say which manual. I’m working on my own version.

Douglas: At last! Something to live for! Well, I don’t really mind telling you. You remember that cargo run to Trondheim that the client postponed? Actually, Carolyn very generously rescheduled the flight so that I could attend my daughter’s school recital, and I even more generously agreed that I wouldn’t attempt to steal the Talisker this year.

Martin: Aha! You agreed not to attempt it. But you’re still going to do it.

Douglas: How do you reckon that?

Martin: You said you wouldn’t attempt to steal it. Not that you wouldn’t steal it. It’s like that thing Yoda says.

Douglas: Do tell. What does Yoda say?

Martin: “Don’t try if…” No. “If at first you don’t…” No, wrong track. “Try to do…” “Try…” It’s definitely “Try” something…

Douglas: “Try a little tenderness”? It always works for me.

Martin: No, that’s not it. Maybe “Trying…” “Trying to do…”

Douglas: I could listen to this all day, but I believe the phrase you are fruitlessly groping for is “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Martin: You knew all along!

Douglas: Does that surprise you?

Martin: Oh, never mind that. The point is, saying you won’t try something is not the same as saying you won’t do it.

Douglas: Martin. I am not going to steal, take, pinch, pilfer, nab or make off with the Talisker this year.

Martin: There must be some loophole.

Douglas: Why does everyone think I’m lying when I say I’m not going to take it?

Martin: Is that going to keep you up at night? I can solve that little mystery. Because you’re you! You always take it, and you frequently lie.

Douglas: True, but I’m turning over a new leaf.

Martin: Then answer me this: why did you bring chopsticks and baby wipes?

Douglas: I confess that was a bit underhanded of me.

Martin: Go on.

Douglas: I knew Carolyn didn’t believe that I’m not going to steal the whisky, which I’m not. I should be offended that she doesn’t trust my word of honour, but I do enjoy watching her get all agitated. I threw a random assortment of objects into my flight bag just to mess with her head.

Martin: This is all part of some complicated scheme to steal the whisky, isn’t it?

Douglas: OK, yeah, you got me. You broke me down with your relentless interrogation.

Martin: I knew it! Or maybe this is your back-up plan if you fail to snaffle the bottle. You’ll claim you never meant to.

Douglas: That does sound like something I would do.

[sound of sat-com beeping]

Douglas: Yes, Carolyn?

Carolyn: The Birlings are here and ready to board, finally. Do wring that horrible man’s neck for me if you have a chance.

Douglas: We can but hope.

Arthur: Right this way, please!

Birling: Good morning, you two nobodies.

Martin: Oh, hello, Mr. Birling. Wonderful to have you on board today.

Birling: You remember my awful wife, Elizabeth.

Douglas: Of course we do. It’s a pleasure to see you again, Mrs. Birling.

Elizabeth: Now, let me see. Are you the thief with the drinking problem?

Birling: Yes, that’s him.

[pause]

Douglas: I prefer to be known as Douglas Richardson, dashingly handsome First Officer, but just as you like.

Elizabeth: Birling told me all about you. And you must be the incompetent little one?

Martin: Well, I, I, I, that is to say, I am Captain Martin Crieff.

Birling: Exactly.

Arthur: Mrs. Birling! You shouldn’t say those things!

Elizabeth: I beg your pardon!

Arthur: I’m sorry. I know the customer is always right. At least, Mum says that we should pretend that’s what we think. But in this case you’re absolutely wrong.

Birling: You tell her, boy!

Arthur: Douglas and Martin are both brilliant pilots!

Birling: No, stick to telling her off.

Elizabeth: You’re obviously the dim-witted steward. But loyal, I’ll give you that. Well, let’s get this fiasco underway.

Martin: Oh, will, will, will you be joining Mr. Birling at the match this year?

Birling: Yes, we’re turning over a new leaf. She agreed to accompany me to the rugby, and I agreed that she could accompany me to the rugby.

Elizabeth: If we make it that far. Given the looks of you lot and this plane, it’s not exactly a sure thing.

Douglas: Well, how lovely for both of you. Best be on our way, then!

Birling: How soon can I have a drink? Right this instant would be good.

Arthur: If you would just take your seats, Mr. and Mrs.— or should I say Mrs. and Mr. Birling? You know, ladies first? But that sounds odd, doesn’t it? If you would just please take your seats, Mr. and Mrs.—

Elizabeth: Speaking of odd, why are you holding a bottle?

Arthur: Oh, Mum wants me to do that. So that Douglas— I mean, so that nothing will happen to it.

Birling: Something had better happen to it straight away! To be specific, it should be poured into a glass and down my throat!

Arthur: Right ho, Mr. Birling. Straight away.

[sound of chink of glass and pouring liquid]

Birling: Ah, there’s nothing like the sixth whisky of the day.

Elizabeth: You mean, the eighth.

Birling: I never said this was the sixth.

Arthur: Mr. Birling, I regret to be obliged to inform you that your seatbelt is not in a state of secure tightness.

Birling: What?

Arthur: Your seatbelt is not tightly secured.

Birling: I don’t know what you mean, but if it has to do with my seatbelt I would have thought you’d have learned by now.

Arthur: Mrs. Birling fastened her seatbelt.

Birling: That’s all right for her.

Arthur: But suppose there were to be the unlikely event of turbulence. You could get injured and she would be okay.

Birling: Ah, I see what you mean. Elizabeth, take your seatbelt off!

 

************

 

Douglas: Post takeoff checks complete.

Martin: Thank you, Douglas.

Douglas: Mrs. Birling is quite the charmer, isn’t she?

Martin: She’s awful! She’s even worse than he is! Did you hear the things she said?

Douglas: Just out of curiosity, Martin, which bothers you more? “Incompetent” or “little”?

Martin: How can you be so flippant?

Douglas: “Sticks and stones may break my bones…”

Martin: “…but words will hurt forever.”

Douglas: Oh, Martin. Their money isn’t awful. Just try to keep that in mind.

Martin: And you’re really not going to steal the whisky?

Douglas: I promised Carolyn.

Martin: Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, eh?

Douglas: No. I wouldn’t describe it that way at all. Let’s say that a wise strategist doesn’t poison the well. I may need another favour someday.

Martin [bitterly]: Maybe we could encounter wind shear.

Douglas: Martin!

Martin: No, no, no, never mind! Forget I said that. I was just blowing off steam.

Douglas: Forget? It’s a moment I shall treasure always.

Martin: What? You really think?

Douglas: Why not? It’s a time-honoured tradition in commercial aviation to give duff passengers a bumpy ride, and no real harm done.

Martin: I am fed up to the back teeth with those two.

Douglas: Splendid! Only, you will let me do it, won’t you?

Martin: Very well. You have control.

Douglas: I have control. Now let’s see. We don’t want to alarm ATC if we can help it, so I think in, oh, about twelve minutes we’ll be in a pretty deserted zone. That will be the opportune moment.

Martin: Fine. I’m going to stretch my legs.

Douglas: Hope springs eternal.

Martin: Really, Douglas? After I’ve just done you a good turn?

Douglas: All right, I’m sorry. I should have resisted, but you know me. “I can resist anything…”

Martin: Yes, I know. “…except temptation.”

[sound of flight deck door opening and closing]

 

************


Arthur: Mr. Birling, you know how you always ask me questions about the rugby and I always get them wrong?

Birling: Yes.

Arthur: I thought we could do something different this year!

Birling: Don’t tell me that this year you’re going to get them right.

Arthur: OK, I won’t tell you that. What I will tell you is that I thought that this year, I could ask you questions instead.

Birling: Well, I daresay I am rather knowledgeable.

Arthur: Brilliant! I’ve got them all prepared.

Birling: Go ahead.

Arthur: First question: how high can penguins jump?

Birling: Penguins?

Arthur: Yes, penguins. You know, those black and white—

Birling: I know what a penguin is, you imbecile!

Arthur: And they can jump how high?

Birling: How the hell should I know? I follow the rugby, not ruddy black and white ruddy birds!

Arthur: But penguins are brilliant! If you knew how high they can jump, I bet you’d want to follow them.

Birling: I bet that if you don’t get out of my sight this instant, we’ll find out how high you can jump.

Arthur: Yes, Mr. Birling.


************


[sound of flight deck door opening and closing]

Douglas: Did you warn Arthur?

Martin: You know how he is. I couldn’t be too explicit, but I did tell him what to expect.

Douglas: Well done, my delightfully devious partner in mischief.

Martin: Are you sure this is a good idea?

Douglas: The only way it could be better is if it were one of mine.

Martin: How would just being your idea make it any better?

Douglas: Do you even have to ask?

[sound of engines and from the cabin, shrieks and breaking glass, followed by more engine noise as the plane levels out]

[sound of flight deck door opening]

Birling: What the hell was that?

Martin: I’m terribly sorry about that, Mr. Birling, but I’m afraid you shouldn’t be up here.

Birling: If you want me to leave, you’ll tell me what the hell that was!

Martin: Yes, sir. Unfortunately, we encountered wind shear undetected by the required onboard wind shear detection system. It is a hazard that cannot always be avoided.

Birling: My wife bruised her arm!

Martin: I do apologize profusely, sir. We have a first aid kit available, if you’d like to use it.

Birling: I’ll stick to whisky. Though it’ll have to be Johnnie Walker. That simpleton who flies around with you dropped the Talisker when we started falling out of the sky.

Douglas: Did he? What a shame!

Elizabeth: Well, Birling? Have you made it clear that you won’t be flying in this deathtrap again?

Martin: I am so sorry, Mrs. Birling. You see, strong outflow from thunderstorms causes rapid changes in the three-dimensional wind velocity near ground level. Initially, this outflow causes a headwind—

Elizabeth: For the love of God! If they don’t kill you with sudden maneuvers, they try to bore you to death! I’m going back to my seat.

Martin: I do hope she’s not too distressed. We deeply regret the unpleasantness of the incident, but I assure you that there was not a second of real danger with my very skilled and experienced co-pilot at the helm.

Birling: I suppose Dougie must have a knack for flying if he’s managed to hold onto his license despite his history of crimes and misdemeanors.

Douglas: How kind of you to say so, sir.

Birling: Well, here’s £500 for each of you. I may be tending towards sloshed, but I can still recognize a good bit of piloting.

Douglas: Thank you very much.

Martin: Thank you, Mr. Birling.

Birling: I must say, I’m feeling rather impulsive. A brush with death makes you appreciate life and rugby and fine whisky and even minging pilots. I’m going to spread the dosh around today, my boys! There’ll be more where that came from.

[sound of flight deck door closing]

[sound of flight deck door opening and closing]

Arthur: Chaps! Mr. Birling just gave me £500!

Martin: Yes, he tipped us the same as well.

Arthur: I told you so!

Douglas: Did you?

Arthur: It always works when I wish on my eyelashes.

Martin: What are you going to wish for next?

Arthur: I think I’d really like to see a penguin jump.

Douglas: Oh, that was going to be my first guess.

[sound of service bell]

Arthur: I’d better dash!

[sound of flight deck door opening and closing]

Douglas: Well!

Martin: £500 each!

Douglas: That was an unexpected side effect.

Martin: And he’s still in a generous mood!

Douglas: I might almost feel a little guilty. Wait, what am I saying? I don’t feel guilty in the slightest.

Martin: Nor do I.

Douglas: And he won’t be enjoying his special £200 bottle of Talisker whisky.

Martin: No, it seems that he won’t.

[pause]

Douglas: Martin?

Martin: Yes, Douglas?

Douglas: By any chance, when you told Arthur to take care during our little prank, did you also make sure that the Talisker would come to grief?

Martin: No, I didn’t.

Douglas: Just another instance of the universe conspiring to make Douglas Richardson’s dreams come true, then?

Martin: Not quite.

Douglas: How do you mean?

Martin: The Talisker is safe as houses.

[sound of chink of glass]

Douglas: What? But that’s— You mean—

Martin: Yes, I do mean. When I left the flight deck I switched it with the Glen Mackay Green Label Thistle Blend which was in this bottle. That’s what spilled. The Talisker survived to be a little souvenir for you.

Douglas: Martin, you amaze me. I don’t know what to say.

Martin: Well, this is a red-letter day. I’ve rendered Douglas Richardson speechless. How about… Yes, I’ve got it. “Martin, I respect you as pilot and a fine human being. Thank you for stealing the Talisker for me. I owe you one, mate.”

[pause]

Douglas: Martin.

Martin: Yes?

Douglas: Thank you for stealing the Talisker for me.

Benedict: That was Cabin Pressure. It starred Stephanie Cole as Carolyn, Roger Allam as Douglas, Benedict Cumberbatch as Martin and John Finnemore as Arthur. It also starred Geoffrey Whitehead as Mr. Birling, Flip Webster as Mrs. Birling and Ewan Bailey as Phil. The producer was David Tyler, and the program was a Pozzitive Production for the BBC!