23 September 1963
No Man’s Land. Writer Leslie Sands. Director James Ferman.
Wymark and Reginald Marsh are named above the episode title once more, but this story sets up the conflict between Wilder and Sugden. It follows Arthur Sugden’s bid for the role of General Works Manager – a role created by Wilder to strengthen his control over the Scott-Furlong factories. There are three contenders for the job – Bentley (nominated by the associate companies), Sugden (manager of the Radley Heath Works), and Ferguson (manager at Scott Furlong’s main plant). The other two men are graduate engineers, whereas Sugden has worked his way up from being an apprentice. The distinction between the main plant and Radley Heath is explained by Sugden; “At the main factory they make parts. We make aircraft. We create!”
Wilder is in favour of Ferguson (“we work awfully well together”) and is against Sugden (“His technical experience is beyond question. But every man has his personal ceiling.”).
We learn that Sugden’s father lost his job in Yorkshire during the depression and marched for jobs with his union. He was given shelter during the march by Ernie Lucas, before bringing his family South (a letterhead in a later episodes established the head office as being “near St Albans”). Arthur was an apprentice at Radley Heath, spent ten years as a union convenor, but also progressed to the position of works manager. In contrast to the Wilders’ home life, Arthur has a long scene with his wife Mary (Sheila Raynor) discussing how their life could be altered if he gets the job (they could get central heating). While Arthur’s younger brother (Jerome Willis) is a fierce union man, the 1960’s prospect of mobility is shown by Arthur’s son qualifying as a dentist.
The title comes from a comment by old friend Ernie Lucas, “If you get the job, nobody’ll cheer you up or down. No-Man’s Land, that’s what you’ll feel like. Just waiting to be shot down.”
The spine of the story is Wilder’s quest to give the board someone to blame for the undercarriage failure in the previous episode. Wilder is not so much concerned with the truth as with demonstrating that someone has been punished. Examination of the aircraft suggests sabotage, but Sugden keeps on testing the instruments in the hangar to satisfy himself as to why Forbes got a signal which suggested the undercarriage was safely down.
Sugden’s chain-smoking secretary Margie (Elizabeth Begley) checks the worksheets and determines that the supervisor who missed the sabotage was Sugden’s friend Ernie Lucas. With the actual saboteur having been laid off (motivation for the vandalism) this leaves Lucas in line to be Wilder’s sacrificial lamb to the Board.
At the board meeting, Sugden is able to explain that the sabotage was more complex than Wilders’ immediate assumption, and theorise why the sabotage took place. He also suggests that the saboteur expected the undercarriage to fail on the ground during taxi-ing tests. This reminds the Chairman that Wilder decided to bring the test-flight forward although Sugden says, “I’m blaming no-one, sir. Except the person who did it.”
The board agrees to take the incident no further in order to avoid bad publicity. The episode ends with Sugden being told the Board was split down the middle, meaning that “there is no particular confidence in you or your ability.” However, they offer him the post of General Works Manager for a trial period of six months.
Leeds-born playwright Leslie Sands was obviously considered an appropriate choice to flesh out the first episode to focus on Sugden. As an actor, Sands would guest star in the 5th December 1963 episode of “The Saint”, taking the title-role of “The Well Meaning Mayor.” Coincidentally, the coroner in that episode was played by Robert Sansom, who had appeared in “Too Much To Lose” as the aviation minister.
Ironically, Reginald Marsh was born in London and grew up in Worthing although he is utterly convincing as Sugden.
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