Room at the Bottom

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"Room at the Bottom"
Dad's Army episode
Episode no. Series Three
Episode 018
Directed by David Croft
Story by Jimmy Perry and David Croft
Produced by David Croft
Original air date Thursday 16/10/69 8.00pm
(recorded Sunday 29 June 1969)
Running time 30 minutes
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Something Nasty in the Vault"
Next →
"Big Guns"

"Room at the Bottom" is the sixth episode of the third series of the British comedy series Dad's Army that was originally transmitted on Thursday 16 October 1969.

Plot[edit]

Wilson is sitting at Mainwaring's desk, when Captain Bailey arrives. He asks Wilson about how long Mainwaring has been in charge. Wilson says it was ever since they were Local Defence Volunteers. Bailey is surprised because there were no commissions in the LDV, and Wilson admits that Mainwaring made himself a captain, and Bailey tells him that it's more ordinary to have a lieutenant in charge of a platoon, so Mainwaring must remove one of his pips. Wilson is delighted, and is even more delighted when Walker brings him his new hat: a beret.

Wilson, with some glee, practices what he is going to say to Mainwaring, who then arrives, announcing that he's recruited a Drill Sergeant for drill practice. He tells Mainwaring about Bailey's visit, but Mainwaring laughs it off. Mainwaring rings GHQ, and speaks to a sergeant, who knows nothing about it. Mainwaring waits for Wilson's explanation, and concludes that Wilson is jealous of him, and that is the reason why he bought a beret. GHQ rings; Mainwaring answers, and is shocked to learn that Wilson was telling the truth.

Godfrey sees Mainwaring removing his pips, offering to assist based on his former experience in tailoring, but is quickly dismissed by Mainwaring. Mainwaring is determined to make sure nobody finds out, but Godfrey blabs to the rest of the platoon. Frazer, Jones and Walker wonder whether he's been promoted. When the parade is about to be dismissed, Mainwaring emerges from the office with a rubber tyre on his shoulders, covering up his badge of rank. Walker and Frazer point out that they can't salute Mainwaring unless they can see his badge of rank. Mainwaring is about to reveal the truth, when the Verger comes rushing in, saying that the Bismarck has been sunk. Mainwaring quickly dismisses the platoon, the Navy having "saved his bacon."

Next day, Captain Bailey returns and tells Wilson that Mainwaring hasn't even been commissioned as a lieutenant, and he must join the ranks. He adds that Wilson will be in charge for the time being. He gives Wilson the news in an envelope and leaves via the main hall to avoid Mainwaring. Wilson hands Mainwaring the letter, and quickly leaves the office. He hears a shot, and thinks Mainwaring's committed suicide. He and Jones rush in, and Jones explains that it was Private Godfrey's rifle, and they help a stunned Mainwaring into a chair.

Wilson commands the next parade and admits he will be leading them on the divisional scheme on Sunday. Mainwaring enters, wearing a private's uniform, nobly declaring that the protection of the town must come before pride. The platoon are stunned as he joins the ranks. Wilson calls the platoon to attention, but Mainwaring mistimes his drill, while Jones has improved. However, the roles are soon reversed.

Suddenly the pre-arranged Drill Sergeant, Gregory, turns up and immediately barks orders at the men, insulting many members of the platoon. Mainwaring speaks up in their defence but, now as a private, is picked on for speaking out of turn. However, he is soon given a taste of his own medicine when they practice sloping arms. Jones mucks it up, accidentally throwing his rifle on the Drill Sergeant's foot.

At the exercise Wilson does not make a good job of leadership. Jones volunteers to be the scout, but ants climb up his trousers and he has to take them off to get rid of them. Believing it's the signal to advance, the platoon move forward, but soon find themselves in an ambush. It is a disheartened platoon that heads back to Walmington. Sponge remarks there'll soon be no platoon for the new officer to take charge of. Therefore, the platoon decide to write to GHQ, asking for Mainwaring's commission. In his letter, Walker offers a couple of bottles of scotch "if it will make any difference." Frazer declines to write with his colleagues, instead writing at home and asking for promotion himself.

As a result of the letters, Mainwaring is reinstated and everything is back to normal... almost. He and Wilson then muse on the events of the past few days. When Wilson laughs at the fact that Mainwaring had had no authority whatsoever to command the platoon, the latter then shocks Wilson by saying that he, therefore, had had no authority to promote him to sergeant in the first place. Wilson realises what Mainwaring is implying, but the latter plays on the moment by saying that he was sure everything would be sorted out ... and then says nonchalantly, "Perhaps you'd like to borrow my penknife!" (to remove his sergeants strips).

Notes[edit]

  1. According to the Verger's announcement, the first half of this episode must be set on 27 May 1941.
  2. When Drill Sergeant Gregory asks Walker why he isn't in the army, he replies that he 'got his ticket' for being allergic to corned beef - a reference to The Loneliness of the Long Distance Walker.

Cast[edit]

Character TV episode Audio drama
Capt. George Mainwaring
Arthur Lowe
Sgt. Arthur Wilson
John Le Mesurier
Lcpl. Jack Jones
Clive Dunn
Pvt. James Frazer
John Laurie
Pvt. Joe Walker James Beck
Pvt. Charles Godfrey
Arnold Ridley
Pvt. Frank Pike Ian Lavender
Maurice Yeatman Edward Sinclair
Capt. Bailey
John Ringham
Drill Sgt. Gregory Anthony Sagar Jack Watson
Pvt. Sponge Colin Bean

Radio episode[edit]

"Room at the Bottom"
Dad's Army episode
Episode no. Series One
Episode 017
Story by Harold Snoad and Michael Knowles
Produced by John Dyas
Original air date Monday 20 May 1974, 6.15pm
(recorded Monday 23 July 1973)
Running time 30 minutes
Episode chronology
← Previous
"The Bullet is Not for Firing"
Next →
"Menace from the Deep"

Plot[edit]

Wilson is sitting in Captain Mainwaring's chair when Captain Turner (John Ringham) walks in and asks Wilson about Mainwaring with respect to his commission. When Wilson reveals that he had "made himself one", meaning a captain, Turner reveals that Mainwaring had never held the rank and that he had to "take one of his pips off", meaning that he is only a lieutenant.

Turner leaves moments before Mainwaring arrives, and the subsequent exchanges between Mainwaring and Wilson and between Mainwaring and the (unheard) sergeant at GHQ take place. Mainwaring is displeased at what he thought was Wilson's deception when Turner himself rings and confirms what Wilson had told him. As he is about to cut off one of the pips from the shoulder epaulettes of his uniform with a penknife, Wilson, shocked, thought he was going either to harm or kill himself, but then Godfrey walks in and offers to help Mainwaring by virtue of the fact that he was, after all, employed in tailoring for 35 years. Nevertheless, Mainwaring is embarrassed at his demotion and hits upon the idea of wearing the rubber shoulder protectors invented by Walker.

However, when Mainwaring address the men, Jones points out that the men cannot be expected to salute him if they cannot see their badges of rank. Mainwaring is saved only when an excited Frazer bursts in and announces that the German battleship Bismarck has been sunk. Mainwaring seizes upon the men's cheering as the ideal pretext to dismiss them. Wilson comments, "Once again, the Royal Navy's saved your bacon!"

On the next parade night, Turner comes again and revealed to an astonished Wilson that Mainwaring actually has no rank at all and therefore no authority to command the platoon. He leaves a letter for Wilson to give to Mainwaring, who, having been left alone in the office, reads the letter and goes "No ... Oh, my God!" A shot then rings out, prompting Wilson to dash back into the office and rush over to Mainwaring who declares softly, "I'm wounded, Wilson ... inside!" Jones then bursts in and announces that Godfrey's rifle had discharged accidentally.

Moments later, it is clear that everyone knows of Mainwaring's demotion ... and deception ... when Jones blurts out: "I can't get over it! Mr Mainwaring was never an officer at all!" Frazer is totally unsympathetic and says that Mainwaring alone is responsible for what has happened to him. The men are incredulous when Mainwaring himself walks in, intent on rejoining the platoon as a private. He is allowed to fall in but makes as much a hash of standing to attention on time as Jones used to do, something that Frazer comments on mockingly.

It is then that Drill Sergeant Gregory (Jack Watson) appears and insults practically every member of the platoon, both collectively and individually. He leaps upon Wilson's addressing Mainwaring as "Sir", mockingly saying: "What is he, a knight? Looks like a rough night to me!!!" When Wilson points out to Gregory that "Mr Mainwaring used to be our officer", Gregory retorts, "I HATE officers!!!"

On the next parade night, when Mainwaring absents himself, Frazer bemoans the fact that the morale of the platoon has sunk, while Godfrey suggests they all write to GHQ asking for Mainwaring's reinstatement. Frazer, for his part, suggests in his letter that, having been the alleged victim of jealousy whenever promotions came up in the past, he become the new C.O. of the platoon, signing himself "a well-wisher".

Finally, Captain Turner announces Mainwaring's reinstatement as C.O. and confirmation of his rank as captain to a joyful platoon, apart from Frazer who mutters "Bloody disgrace!" Mainwaring makes his entrance and the troops sing "For he's a jolly good fellow" in chorus. After Turner leaves, Mainwaring thanks the men and Frazer tries to play the part of the loyal soldier by suggesting that he could consider him for the rank of lance-corporal, to which suggestion Mainwaring says, somewhat dismissively, "I'll bear that in mind, Frazer!"

He and Wilson then muse on the events of the past few days. When Wilson laughs at the fact that Mainwaring had had no authority whatsoever to command the platoon, the latter then shocks Wilson by saying that he, therefore, had had no authority to promote him to sergeant in the first place. Wilson realises what Mainwaring is implying, but the latter plays on the moment by saying that he was sure everything would be sorted out ... and then says nonchalantly, "Perhaps you'd like to borrow my penknife!"

Notes[edit]

As mentioned above, there were only minor changes from the original TV episode, yet there is no scene in the radio episode at all depicting the battle exercise. The platoon did participate in it, though, since Frazer, when commenting about the plunging morale of the platoon on the night Mainwaring absented himself, he remarks bitterly on the fact that "Sergeant Wilson led us straight into an ambush!"

Cast[edit]

The surname of the character played by guest actor John Ringham was changed from "Captain Bailey" to "Captain Turner", presumably because actor Michael Knowles, who co-adapted the TV episodes for radio with Harold Snoad, made occasional cameo appearances as "Captain Bailey", including in the radio episode, A Stripe for Frazer.

Colour restoration of the original television recording[edit]

The original recording unscrambled (Photo: BBC)

This episode of Dad's Army, after its original broadcast on BBC1 in October 1969 and repeat in 1970, had only survived as a 16mm black-and-white film telerecording which had been transferred from the original colour videotape before that tape was wiped and reused for reasons of cost. In 2007 James Insell, a preservation specialist at the BBC Archive, established the Colour Recovery Working Group[1] and in 2008 a new technique developed by member Richard Russell was used to restore the episode back to colour.[2]

The technique relies on the fact that some black-and-white film recordings contain the original PAL colour sub-carrier recorded on each film frame as a pattern of fine "chroma dots" and the software is able to decode these back to colour. This process is completely different from the artificial colouring technique that was applied to some black-and-white films during the 1980s — with The Guardian describing the group's new descrambling process as "akin to turning an omelette back into an egg".[3]

After being re-mastered with a high quality audio soundtrack,[4] the resulting restored copy was a true representation of the episode as originally recorded and is now kept as the BBC Archive copy[5] — this was broadcast again in colour for the first time since 1970 on Saturday 13 December 2008 on BBC Two,[6] but has so far not been included in the DVD release of the complete collection.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Colour Recovery Working Group homepage". Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  2. ^ "'Don't panic' - comedy classic is restored". Bbc.co.uk. 12 December 2008. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  3. ^ Charles Norton (11 December 2008). "Unscrambling an army of colours". London: Guardian. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  4. ^ "'Lost' Dad's Army show back on TV". BBC News. 12 December 2008. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  5. ^ Re-Colouring the Past, Radio Times, 13–19 December 2008, pages 24-25
  6. ^ "Dad's Army episode to be seen in colour for first time in nearly 40 years". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Croft, David; Perry, Jimmy; Webber, Richard (2000). The Complete A-Z of Dad’s Army. Orion. ISBN 0-7528-4637-X. 

External links[edit]