Cabin Pressure (radio series)
|Running time||28 minutes|
|Home station||BBC Radio 4|
|Recording studio||RADA Studios|
|Air dates||since 2 July 2008|
|No. of series||4 (plus Christmas special)|
|Audio format||Stereophonic sound|
Cabin Pressure is a radio situation comedy series written by John Finnemore. Its first series was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2008. The show follows the exploits of the oddball crew of the single aeroplane owned by "MJN Air" as they are chartered to take all manner of items, people or animals across the world. The show stars Stephanie Cole, Roger Allam, Benedict Cumberbatch and John Finnemore.
Critical reception to the series was positive and four series have been broadcast, along with a special 2010 Christmas Day episode. The fourth series consisting of six episodes was broadcast in January and February 2013. The show finale entitled "Zurich", was recorded at RADA Studios on 23 February 2014. The series' opening music is Mikhail Glinka's Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmila.
The principal cast, the 4-person crew, is the following:
- As part of her last divorce settlement, Carolyn Knapp-Shappey (Stephanie Cole) received a mid-size (16 seat) jet aeroplane named "GERTI" (a "Lockheed McDonnell 312", registration G-ERTI). As a result, she founds her very own single plane charter airline, "MJN Air" ("My Jet Now"), which is crewed by an oddball mixture of characters who fly to various cities around the world, encountering a variety of situations.
- The airline's only Captain, Martin Crieff (Benedict Cumberbatch[note 1]), has wanted to be a pilot since he was six years old (before which he wanted to be an aeroplane). He suffers, however, from a distinct lack of natural ability in that department. He was rejected by at least one flight school, and had to put himself through the required coursework, barely qualifying for his certification – on his seventh attempt. He took the job with MJN for no salary at all, as long as he could be Captain. He appears to have no outside interests beyond flying. He is a stickler for procedures and regulations, but is more prissy than pompous. At the end of series two he tells Douglas that he survives financially by running a delivery service using the van he inherited from his father (running two different jobs largely explaining the lack of hobbies). This was his only inheritance (apart from a tool kit and multimeter) because his father believed he would waste any money he received trying to become a pilot. He has two siblings, Caitlin, now a traffic warden and Simon, a council administrator who often frustrates Martin with his annoying superiority. This isn't helped by his Mother's constant admiration of Simon, often saying that "Simon knows best".
- First Officer Douglas Richardson (Roger Allam) is, on the other hand, a quite competent pilot who worked for Air England – until he was fired for smuggling. He chafes at his subordinate position to Martin, and misses no opportunity to flaunt his superiority in the younger pilot's face. In later episodes, it is revealed that Douglas, ashamed of his second-rate job, dresses in Captain's uniform for his wife Helena's benefit, changing to First Officer's uniform before he gets to work. Douglas is, however, something of a smooth operator who knows all of the dodges available to airline officers, and enjoys taking part in all of them.
- Carolyn's son Arthur Shappey (John Finnemore) is an eager and cheery dimwit aged 29, who is supposed to be the flight attendant but usually manages to get in everyone's way. He is half-English and half-Australian; Carolyn is his English mother, and Gordon, Carolyn's ex-husband, his Australian father (original owner of Gertie). Arthur is a relentless optimist, whose biggest claim to fame is being the inventor (or at least discoverer) of fizzy yoghurt (the recipe for which is yoghurt plus time). He also celebrates Birling day, Birling day eve, Gertie's birthday and Summer Christmas, and is a definite polar bear enthusiast and expert. He is very allergic to dragon fruit and strawberries, but frequently forgets, having eaten strawberry mousse on occasion.
The cockpit crew frequently pass their time by engaging in word games, such as naming Brians [sic.] of Britain, making bets that Douglas always wins, playing a game of the travelling lemon (wherein a lemon must be hidden in plain sight among the passengers to be discovered by the next player), or playing "Simon says". All crew members also make humorous cabin addresses, inserting e.g. limericks or titles of Hitchcock films, generally when there are no passengers on board. The highlight of their flight is often the cheese tray, and they are angry to learn that before it is delivered to them, Carolyn eats the Camembert off it.
A recurring character from Series 3 onwards, Hercules Shipwright (Anthony Head) was a pilot in Air Caledonia. He often goes on dates with Carolyn, despite her claims otherwise, during which they tease each other. A source of ridicule is his vegetarianism and his phobia of sheep, to the extent that Carolyn flies to Ireland to purchase a stuffed sheep for a birthday present. He is fond of opera, much to Carolyn's dismay.
Writing in The Independent newspaper, Nicholas Lezard praised the first series highly, called "the writing and performances ... exceptional" and suggested that the show "deserves an award". Gillian Reynolds of The Daily Telegraph called Cabin Pressure "one of the best written, cast, acted and directed comedies on anywhere."
Partly due to the popularity of leading actor Benedict Cumberbatch  the show has a significant fandom, and its final episode received a record number of requests for audience tickets for a Radio 4 comedy recording — 22,854 requests for just 200 available tickets. 
While it has never been formally announced, it has become apparent that the episode titles follow an alphabetical sequence, beginning with the first episode, "Abu Dhabi", followed by "Boston" etc. In Series 2 and 3 the episodes were broadcast out of the original intended order for various reasons.
|No.||Episode No.||Title||Original airdate|
|1||1||"Abu Dhabi"||2 July 2008|
After a £7,000 diversion to Bristol, Carolyn forbids Martin to make any more diversions in the future. Partway to Abu Dhabi, however, Douglas realizes that, despite reminders about the cargo-hold heating, Martin has left a client's cat in the unheated hold. Martin must decide whether to divert or to let the cat freeze. Meanwhile, Arthur attempts to discover how aeroplanes fly.Guest Cast: Ewen MacIntosh as Carl
|2||2||"Boston"||9 July 2008|
A stubborn passenger refuses to extinguish his cigarette and makes Martin cry. Arthur, on a mission, accidentally gives him a heart attack, forcing Martin to fly back and forth between Reykjavik and Boston in indecision. Meanwhile, Martin and Douglas play a challenging game of "Simon Says".Guest Cast: Ewen MacIntosh as Carl, Kerry Shale as Hamilton Leeman, Matilda Ziegler as both the Paramedic and Shanwick ATC
|3||3||"Cremona"||16 July 2008|
MJN are flying an actress, for whom Arthur has a particular fondness and Carolyn not so much, to Cremona. Martin tries in vain to impress her but instead attracts her ire when she blames him for a horde of her fans showing up at her hotel. Douglas saves Martin from her anger with a dozen black shirts.Guest Cast: Helen Baxendale as Hester MacCaulay, Rufus Jones as Percival, Robert Harley as Gawain, Ali Amadi as Lancelot
|4||4||"Douz"||23 July 2008|
MJN are stranded on the outskirts of the Sahara Desert. Carolyn refuses to pay a pricey bill and Martin quibbles over a firetruck. Douglas joins a Scottish team in an exciting match of topless cricket while Arthur takes some embarrassing photos.Guest Cast: John Sessions as Yves Jutteau, Rufus Jones as Captain Jessop, Robert Harley as Lachlan, Ali Amadi as Habib
|5||5||"Edinburgh"||30 July 2008|
It's the annual Birling day, where MJN flies the wealthy Mr Birling to a Six Nations rugby match. Martin resents Birling's pompous ways and doesn't understand why Douglas and Arthur toady to him so much until he realizes that Birling gives huge tips to people he likes. Douglas and Carolyn are at war over a bottle of expensive Talisker whisky.Guest Cast: Geoffrey Whitehead as Mr Birling, Adam G Goodwin as Philip
|6||6||"Fitton"||6 August 2008|
The crew are on standby at Fitton, waiting for an important client to call. Carolyn tries to keep them all sober in case the client calls; when she fails, drunk Martin must act as steward and sober Arthur has to pretend to be captain. In an attempt to return a gift, Martin discovers a shocking secret about Douglas.Guest Cast: Adam G Goodwin as Mr Goddard, Melisande Cook as Helena Richardson
|No.||Episode No.||Title||Original airdate|
|7||1||"Helsinki"||17 July 2009|
Carolyn and her sister haven't spoken for fifteen years so when Arthur books a fake trip to Helsinki with Carolyn's sister, her husband and her grandson, it is a little awkward. Kieran intimidates Martin and shows some exceptional karate skills, Arthur makes an imaginative cake and Douglas exchanges orchids for fishcakes.Guest Cast: Alison Steadman as Ruth, Matt Green as Kieran, Simon Greenall as Milo
|8||2||"Gdańsk"||24 July 2009|
MJN is flying an orchestra to Poland. Carolyn is left to deal with a highly suspicious passenger who requests explanations for fractionally elevated arm-rests, broken glass-salt, 'Goofy,' and poisoned cheesecake. Douglas and Martin place bets over the cheese tray including a passenger derby commentated by Arthur, and Martin reveals a shocking secret to Douglas.Guest Cast: Britta Gartner as Madame Szyszko Bohusz, Simon Greenall as the Conductor
|9||3||"Ipswich"||31 July 2009|
Carolyn, Douglas, Martin and Arthur are sent on an SEP course. Arthur struggles with his stupidity, Douglas struggles with his impatience with Mr Sargent and Martin struggles with a health issue, so Carolyn is forced to work hard to keep her crew from losing their jobs.Guest Cast: Philip Davis as Mr Sargent, Alex MacQueen as Dr. Duncan
|10||4||"Johannesburg"||7 August 2009|
After an unsuccessful birthday treat for Douglas' daughter, Carolyn makes a bet with her pilots. However, a dodgy warning light means that Martin and Arthur must fetch the engineer in a baggage truck. Douglas scrapes €20 by washing the airfield manager's car, Carolyn relaxes on a deckchair and Arthur uses the engine exhausts to make boiling water which ends badly.Guest Cast: Michael Fenton Stevens as Señor Quintanilla, Javier Marzan as Diego
|11||5||"Kuala Lumpur"||14 August 2009|
Martin discovers a secret, illegal airfield pub frequented by Douglas and other airfield staff and can't decide whether to report it, as duty requires, or to turn a blind eye, as surprisingly everyone at the pub seems to like him. Meanwhile, Carolyn tries to improve Arthur's stewarding skills.Guest Cast: Paul Putner as Dave, Roger Morlidge as George
|12||6||"Limerick"||21 August 2009|
|MJN are flying an insufferably long flight to Limerick with the comforts of an unpleasant-filled box, Arthur's spot-check method of learning the phonetic alphabet, Douglas and Martin's game of evil-sounding names and some creative limericks.|
|No.||Episode No.||Title||Original airdate|
|13||1||"Molokaʻi"||25 December 2010|
It's Christmas aboard Gertie and Arthur is singing merrily. Carolyn is treating a yacht salesman, Mr Alyakin, on the trip to Molokaʻi, but he begins to doubt the airline's competence, while Martin and Douglas go to extravagant lengths in an attempt to make it Arthur's best Christmas ever, within seven minutes.Guest Cast: Ben Willbond as Mr. Alyakhin
|No.||Episode No.||Title||Original airdate|
|14||1||"Qikiqtarjuaq"||1 July 2011|
A Canadian passenger informs Douglas that he is not professional but Martin is, which infuriates Douglas and causes him to humiliate Martin. Arthur teaches the passengers all about bears and Douglas chases them. Carolyn and Douglas also play a game of "the travelling lemon" which ends badly when Martin has a go.Guest Cast: Melanie Hudson as Nancy Dean Liebhart, Kosha Engler as Mrs Cook, Ewan Bailey as Mr Peary
|15||2||"Paris"||8 July 2011|
It's Birling Day again and Carolyn has put Martin in charge of ensuring Douglas doesn't steal the expensive whisky meant for their client. But when the whisky does disappear and the evidence seems to point to everyone except Douglas, Martin must become the Miss Marple of MJN Air and discover the real culprit.Guest Cast: Geoffrey Whitehead as Mr Birling, Flip Webster as Mrs Birling, Ewan Bailey as Phil
|16||3||"Newcastle"||15 July 2011|
Martin has a soft spot for a Scottish first officer who is travelling with MJN for the day. However, Martin gets in a muddle and it all becomes a bit awkward. Carolyn meets a captain called Herc and everyone immerses themselves in exciting games whilst Martin applies a navigation-tail light onto the back of the plane. (Note: Martin is played by Tom Goodman-Hill.)Guest Cast: Anthony Head as Herc Shipwright, Mark Williams as Eddie, Anna Crilly as Linda Fairburn
|17||4||"Ottery St Mary"||22 July 2011|
When Martin sprains his ankle and can't complete a piano delivery for his second job, Douglas and Arthur agree to help, but forgotten addresses, missing van keys, and Arthur's game of Yellow Car make the trip much more complicated than expected. Back in Fitton, Herc and Carolyn go out for lunch and an eventful dog-walk.Guest Cast: Anthony Head as Herc Shipwright, Flip Webster as Mrs Laurel, Ewan Bailey as Mr Hardy
|18||5||"Rotterdam"||29 July 2011|
MJN are filming welcome and safety demonstration videos to make the airline look more professional. When no one on the crew is able or willing to deliver the lines, Carolyn appoints an actor called Martin, making the original Martin deeply jealous and paranoid. But a little competition from Herc might convince Douglas to do the video after all.Guest Cast: Anthony Head as Herc Shipwright, Gus Brown as Martin Davenport
|19||6||"Saint Petersburg"||5 August 2011|
An unexpected bird strike takes out an engine, which could lead to the end of MJN Air, so Carolyn is forced to call in her ex-husband. Douglas and Martin entertain themselves with a game of "rhyming journeys" while Arthur is sure Douglas will sort the situation out.Guest Cast: Timothy West as Gordon Shappey, Paul Shearer as Tommo
Finnemore announced a fourth series consisting of six episodes recorded in December 2012 and January 2013. It was broadcast from 9 January 2013.
|No.||Episode No.||Title||Original airdate|
|20||1||"Timbuktu"||9 January 2013|
MJN are looking forward to their day off when Mr Birling turns up demanding to be flown to Timbuktu to watch the Rugby World Cup on television so he can prove a point to his "awful wife". Martin discovers a slight problem with the planned destination, Arthur is reading a potentially problematic book and could this be the year that Carolyn steals the whisky from Douglas?Guest Cast: Geoffrey Whitehead as Mr Birling, Steve Brody as Giancarlo
|21||2||"Uskerty"||16 January 2013|
The crew are in Ireland, where Carolyn is purchasing a birthday present for Herc, assisted by Martin. However, difficulties with heavy rain, stubborn taxi drivers, poor phone reception, angry bees and signet-eating geese with no control of their bowels ensue. Meanwhile, Douglas and Arthur enjoy the luxuries of an empty airport with an over-enthusiastic manager.Guest Cast: Marian McLoughlin as Breeda, Robert Wilfort as Gerry, John O'Mahony as Farmer Fisher
|22||3||"Vaduz"||23 January 2013|
An incredulous crew escort the young King of Liechtenstein and Princess Theresa to England, the latter becoming fond of Martin, but encounter a misunderstanding with fuel. Meanwhile, Herc is eager to enjoy his holiday, but Carolyn refuses to return his affections.Guest Cast: Anthony Head as Herc Shipwright, Matilda Ziegler as Princess Theresa, Kieran Hodgson as King Maximilian, Dan Tetsell as Otto/Carl
|23||4||"Wokingham"||30 January 2013|
Martin learns his mother has fallen ill, and so tries to juggle flying, his secret delivery job, and competing with his sister to care for his mother, eventually enlisting Arthur to help, but when his dominating brother Simon turns up, Martin is determined to prove himself. Meanwhile, Carolyn and Douglas challenge each other to speak in words of only one syllable.Guest Cast: Prunella Scales as Wendy Crieff, Rosie Cavaliero as Caitlin Crieff, Justin Edwards as Simon Crieff, Dan Tetsell as Dr White
|24||5||"Xinzhou"||6 February 2013|
The crew must spend the night on Gerti but are distracted by uncomplicated word games, which Arthur cannot understand, and a constant alarm requiring trips out into the snow. Martin reveals his developing relationship with a princess, and Carolyn must make a decision about Herc.Guest Cast: Lobo Chan as the Chinese ATC
|25||6||"Yverdon-les-Bains"||13 February 2013|
Martin goes to an interview with Swiss Airways, and must fight for a place as a professional pilot. Herc and Douglas battle for metaphorical control of the plane, and Arthur discovers his severe allergic reaction to Dragonfruit.Guest Cast: Nicholas Woodeson as Oskar Bider, Kate Duchene as Captain Deroche
A show's finale ("Zurich") was recorded on 23 February 2014. "Zurich" is to be broadcast Christmas 2014 as 2 separate 30 minute episodes on the 23rd December and 24th December Anthony Head, Dan Tetsell, Timothy West and Mathilda Ziegler reprise their characters, and additional guest stars are Gordon Kennedy and Jonathan Kydd.
- In series 3 episode 3, Tom Goodman-Hill stood in for Cumberbatch
- John Lavalie (21 June 2012). "Cabin Pressure (a Titles & Air Dates Guide)". epguide.com. Retrieved 10 September 2012.
- "Cabin Pressure". BBC. Retrieved 10 September 2012.
- "Cabin Pressure: Episode guide". BBC. Retrieved 10 September 2012.
- John Finnemore (14 November 2012). "Cabin Pressure IV – prepare for boarding.". Forget What Did.
- "Final episode of Cabin Pressure".
- Finnemore, John. "Prepare for final descent". Forget What Did. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
- "The Cabin Pressure Theme Music". Cabin pressure Fans. 27 November 2011. Retrieved 10 September 2012.
- "Cabin Pressure". Radio 4 Extra. BBC. Retrieved 5 February 2014.
- Nicholas Lezard (10 August 2008). "Cabin Pressure, Radio 4: Scratch the surface and there's a classic British sitcom beneath". The Independent (London). Retrieved 4 March 2011.
- Gillian Reynolds (18 July 2011). "A strike and a scandal keep Radio 4 on its toes". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 20 July 2011.
- "John Finnemore on the joy of crafting radio comedy... and Benedict Cumberbatch". Radio Times. 9 January 2013. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
- "John Benedict Cumberbatch fans go wild for actor's recording of the last ever "Cabin Pressure"". Radio Times. 23 February 2014. Retrieved 21 November 2014.
- "Guild Awards 2010 – shortlists announced". Writers' Guild. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
- Writers' Guild Awards 2011 – winners
- "Victoria Wood awarded top TV honour from Writer's Guild". BBC News. 17 November 2011.
- "Shortlist announced for first BBC Audio Drama awards". Ariel. 10 January 2012.
- John Finnemore (19 July 2011). "Newcastle". Forget What Did.
- Finnemore, John. "Please remain seated until the series has come to a complete stop". Forget What Did. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
- Zurich broadcast at Christmas John Finnemore on Twitter. 23 August 2014. Retrieved 29 August 2014.
- "John Finnemore announcement at EuroAirDotCon". EuroAirDotCon. 23 August 2014. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Cabin Pressure|
- John Finnemore. "Forget What Did". Blogger. – Finnemore's personal blog often discussing the series.
- "Cabin Pressure Fans".