5 November 1963
A Matter of Self Respect. Writer Leslie Sands. Director John Cooper.
“You didn’t want a job when you came here. You wanted an anaesthetic. You didn’t want to think or feel. Just operate.” Arthur Sugden.
Tim Carter, formerly a key man in design, returns to Scott Furlong after a year and a half in Brixton jail and chooses to work in the machine shop. Arthur Sugden, an old colleague, says he’ll contact the staff welfare section to find him lodgings. Carter is in a bail hostel until the end of the week and had to sell his house to cover legal costs.
That evening, Carter moves into lodgings with Angie Morris (June Ellis). When she tells him he can get a sandwich in the pub round the corner, Carter says he doesn’t drink. He tells her he has a daughter, who is now ten but his wife is dead. At home, the Sugden’s are discussing Carter. He was driving home drunk from a party and crashed into a lorry, killing his wife and the other driver. Carter survived and after recovering from his injuries got two years for manslaughter.
Three months pass – Carter has the respect of most of his colleagues in the workshop except for the bullying Fred Collins (Garfield Morgan). Sugden offers him a job with responsibility but Carter refuses saying he prefers to go home exhausted so there is less chance for him to fall off the wagon. “I’m an alcoholic. There’s no cure for me. Only what the doctors call recovery. But no cure.”
Carter has three aims; prove to himself he’s off the booze, live with what he did and one day see his daughter again. He meets with his sister-in-law (June Peart) who tells him that Jennifer knows her mother is dead but thinks he’s been ill. The Stricklands have never touched a penny of the money he’s sent and he can have it back when he wants because they think of Jennifer as their responsibility. She also says that when the court order regarding Jennifer’s care is reviewed they intend to apply to adopt her. Carter tells her that, “You both looked down on me. You and Jane. Because you both believe she married out of her class!”
.Carter’s brother-in-law Walter(John Horsley) talks to Carter alone, asking what would happen if Jennifer came to live with him and he starts drinking again. Carter tells him it’s easy to stop, “once the root cause has been cut out.” He says he started drinking because his wife despised him and made him despise himself. She had a string of affairs, and they were arguing about her latest conquest when they were driving home. His reaction scared her and she grabbed the steering wheel, causing the accident. Carter says he never spoke about this at his trial because he didn’t want to smear his daughter’s memory of his wife. Walter is stunned, and then agrees that Carter should visit his daughter.
On the day of the visit, Sugden offers Carter a job in the design department. He says Carter wanted to work in the machine shop because he didn’t want to think or feel, but he won’t be right in the head until he can handle all his responsibilities. “You can’t destroy responsibility by ignoring it.”
That night, Carter is rushing to his appointment with Jennifer when a drunk is thrown out of a pub by the landlord. He collides into Carter, smashing the present he’s bought for Jennifer. Carter pulls a cigarette packet from his pocket, but it’s empty. He debates for a second and then enters the pub to buy a packet of filter tipped. While he’s waiting, he hears a young couple arguing about whether to rent a room or buy a house. “You want children don’t you?” the wife (Elizabeth Counsel) says, “ You’ve got to have a home to bring kids up! A proper home!”
Carter arrives an hour late, obviously drunk and tells his daughter that he killed her mother. He says he wants her to grow up good and honest, with the help she can get from her aunt and uncle. As he leaves the house he says he will sign the papers for Jennifer’s adoption. His sister in law asks he’ll still feel the same way when he sobers up. “Why do you think I had to take a drink tonight of all nights, “ Carter says, adding that it was ironic that it was in the pub he heard, “the one word nobody mentioned – Home!"
Actor Leslie Sands wrote “No Man’s Land”, the second episode of the series and the first to focus on Arthur Sugden. Here he stars as a friend of Sugden’s whose life has gone off course. Apart from a small, quickly resolved sub-plot about workplace bullying (which generates the episode title) , the episode focuses on Tim Carter, opening with the mystery of what he has done and why he should chose to work in the machine shop and then how he will resolve the conflict over his daughter.
Sands’ approach to Carter’s alcoholism is deceptively constructed. He begins by stating in a matter-of-fact manner that he will never be cured, and hoping to stave off a relapse by working himself to exhaustion. However, as his sister-in-law blocks his plans to be reunited with his daughter, he blames his wife for eroding his confidence. Carter tells his brother-in-law that he won’t start drinking again because “the root cause has been cut out” (ie his wife is dead). Towards the end of the episode, Sands uses coincidence as metaphor when alcohol (in the shape of the drunk being barred from the pub) shatters his fragile dream in the shape of the gift he’d carefully wrapped for his daughter. To satisfy a compensating addiction, he enters the pub for the first time to buy a pack of ten cigarettes, and it’s here that he hears the young woman talk about needing a home to bring a child up. With the promise of a better paid job, Carter could probably afford to move on from his depressing lodgings with a bed, wardrobe and one-ring cooker, but could not match the stable home-life of his childless in-laws.
The episode title comes from a comment by Dave Fletcher (Peter Funnell) after a fight with a love rival that, “A fella’s got to stick up for his rights…it’s a matter of self respect.” However, Fletcher was on the point of avoiding the fight and pushed into it by the bullying Fred Collins. In the same way, Carter seems intent on asserting his rights over his daughter and only realises at the end that, “there are different kinds of loving…even me going away from you…is a kind of loving.”
As noted above, a pack of ten cigarettes (for two shillings and threepence, inflation watchers) is pivotal to the plot, and this is certainly a fag heavy episode with Carter and his sister –in-law both puffing away, Sugden and workshop manager Alex Dougall on pipes, while Garfield Morgan has a cigarette in hand for his first scene on the workshop floor (times certainly have changed).
Staff Welfare officer Elliott is mentioned in this episode and appears (played by Tenniel Evans) in next week’s episode “Costigan’s Rocket”.
This episode saw The Plane Makers move from Monday nights to Tuesday nights (although not every ITV region showed the series on ATV's broadcast day
A final irony is that Reginald Marsh and John Horsley would both appear in the 1965 “Scales of Justice” cinema featurette, “The Material Witness in which Marsh plays a business executive brought down by drink driving.
Return to The Planemakers main page