Paris, episode two of Cabin Pressure, is available here for the next six days. Massive spoilers for this episode follow. Don't read on if you haven't heard the episode, and think you might want to.
First, to give those guys time to leave, thank you so much for all the nice comments about my piece about the News of the World on The Now Show this week. I cannot think of anything I've ever written that's got quite such a reaction. Tomorrow, outrageously big-headed though it seems, I'll put a transcript of it up here, including some of the bits that didn't make the edit.
But back in Paris, or at least on the way to Paris... did I fool you? I hope so. I love whodunnits, they are my trashy fiction of choice, especially the 'golden age' thirties and forties ones, and I've wanted to do a whodunnit episode of Cabin Pressure for ages - even before Captain Crieff took on his secret identity on BBC1. For a long time, this episode had a totally different plot and solution, and was all about Mr Alyakhin (from the Christmas special) and his party of rich yacht buyers losing some sort of priceless jewel on a trip to look at massive yachts in Palma. But the problem was, I always knew I wanted Douglas to be the culprit; and I couldn't quite believe in him actually stealing a valuable thing from a passenger, however unpleasant I made them. And then I remembered Birling Day, which meant I could also bring back Geoffrey Whitehead as a guest star, who is simply one of my favourite comedy actors.
I decided early on there would be no mention of the S word, or indeed the H word, still less the 'E, MDW' phrase. But that didn't mean there couldn't be, maybe, a couple of sly references... Benedict was an incredibly good sport about it all, especially given the audience was full of Sherlock fans. Though he did give me quite a look at the first read-through when we got to 'Wow, Skip! You're just like Miss Marple!'
A few people have asked me about Martin's money situation at the end - I did explain this in the script at one point, but as always I had to cut loads to fit it to 28 minutes. Anyway, yes, it's possible that Martin does not have to tell Carolyn that he lost the bet, given that Birling got the whisky in the end, and can claim his hundred pounds off her. However, personally, I think Martin's too decent; Douglas too boastful; and Arthur too incapable of lying for her not to find out the truth pretty quickly. However, Martin gets a thousand pound pearl off Birling, plus a fifty pound tip, so even if he pays up to Carolyn he comes out £950 ahead on the trip, which should buy him plenty of baked potatoes. So I think it's a happy ending for him.
Somebody asked why Carolyn opened the bottle at the start - so that she (and we) could be absolutely certain it was the genuine whisky seconds before being put into Martin's hands. After that, only Martin and Arthur touch the bottle before it's poured.
I'm very pleased a couple of people said they thought the guilty party was Mr Birling's wife. That's absolutely what she was there for. I hoped a lot of people trying to guess the solution would hit upon the Carolyn solution Douglas tries to sell Martin, and that others, if I introduced one other character early on, who was studiously never accused by anyone, would go for them. But really, of course, once Douglas has said he's going to steal a bottle of whisky... it always had to be Douglas. Hence this bit of dialogue which didn't make the edit:
MARTIN Stop doing that! I admit you have a sort of underhand sneakiness…
DOUGLAS A brilliant flair for strategy and subterfuge.
MARTIN ...at your disposal, but what I have that you don’t, and which you always underestimate, is that I am meticulous and methodical. And it seems to me that so long as I make sure there is never even a moment on the trip when I’m not watching you, or the whisky, or both; then however clever you are, I can’t see how you’ll take it.
DOUGLAS Of course you can’t ‘see how I’ll take it’! I’d hardly be a criminal mastermind if you could ‘see how I’ll take it’! But I will take it.