21 January 1964
In the Book. Writer Arthur Swinson. Director Dennis Vance.
"This isn't just an aircraft company you're dealing with. This is people's lives... reputations!" Arthur Sugden.
Jeremy Dobell has been commissioned by John Wilder to write a history of Scott Furlong. Wilder is pleased with the proof ("He's certainly got me taped") but Arthur Sugden challenges the chapter about the Questor, a plane built in the 1930's when Sugden was an apprentice. Dobell has credited K.G Bennington with the project, but Sugden says the plane was the idea of works manager Arthur Hedges and Bennington fought against it. Unfortunately, Bennington's brother is managing Director of Anglo-Continental Airlines and Wilder hopes to sell five Sovereign's to the airline.
Arthur Swinson wrote over 300 radio, TV and theatre plays and documentaries and over 30 books. In 1955, Swinson had published Writing for Television, an early textbook covering documentaries and talks as well as drama. Swinson wrote and produced the TV series Private Investigator ( starring Douglas Muir - Tom Bancroft in The Plane Makers) and later contributed scripts for Doctor Finlay's Casebook and Crane.
Swinson would go on to publish novelisations of ATV's 'Sergeant Cork' as well as non-fiction such as 'The Great Air Race' and would also publish 'Kohima', a history of the 1944 battle in which he was involved as a Staff Captain. At the time of 'In the Book', Swinson had just written 'Scotch On The Rocks', an account of the wartime wreck of the SS Politician on which 'Whisky Galore' was based. He was therefore well qualified to write an episode which explored the difficult path of identifying a version of the truth which would be satisfying to all.
It's also possible that the subject of attribution was becoming dominant in the minds of 'The Plane Makers' production staff. The series had, after all, been launched in one format by producer Rex Firkin, under script editors Geoffrey Belman and John Whitney and had not met with resounding success. After the series had been revamped by incoming script editor Wilfred Greatorex with continuing characters, it became more popular attracting praise from within the industry (including the BBC's Sydney Newman) and award nominations.
'In The Book' follows a similar line of development for the Questor. Sugden maintains that Charles Hedges was the originator of the torpedo-carrying bomber, and finds the minutes of a meeting in 1934 where K.G. Bennington opposed the project and Hedges had to fight for it. However, Dobell looks further into the record and finds that Hedges' original design had flaws which Bennington predicted, and which Bennington as project director put right. Dobell lays each stage of the design in front of Sugden pointing out the changes at each stage. While crediting Hedge's original design, Dobell says it needed Bennington's "cold technical mind" to realise the project.
Michael Gwynn (Revenge of Frankenstein) is deceptively laid back as Dobell. It's ironic that he says of Sugden that, "He looks dull, flat, unemotional on the outside" since Dobell is also not as much of a pushover as he seems. In contrast to Wilder's pragmatism , Dobell's assertion that there are more personalities than politics in the minutes and that he'd like to get into the psychology of the situation seems wide of the mark. But as the facts are uncovered, it becomes clear that there is a strong personal reason why Sugden is so determined to promote Hedges' memory.
Anthony Marlowe as Sir Frank Bennington is a quick sketch in old-school privilege. Entering his wood-panelled Victorian office, he tells a subordinate that his only interest is whether executives will want to fly Anglo-Continental. "The idea that everybody wants to fly about in a sort of miniature palace is quite ludicrous. They just want to get the journey over as soon as possible." Bennington dismisses Sugden's claims about Charles Hedges saying he's never heard of Hedges so he "can't be distinguished" and asking Dobell if he thinks Sugden is "a crank".
Patrick Wymark displays more petulance as John Wilder when he upbraids Sugden for contacting Dobell direct, as in 'Strings In Whitehall' expecting subordinates to read his mind ("Do I have to spell everything out?"). But he swiftly changes gear when Sugden threatens to resign over the matter ("I was complaining that you're too phlegmatic."). Wilder's pragmatism is demonstrated when he assesses the evidence as supporting Sugden's claim and then instructs Dobell to find some way round it.
At first this may seem a relatively trivial story (it is set against the background of Sugden trying to ensure that a late tail-assembly is put in place, assuring Wilder that everyone will meet their deadlines), but it makes some valuable points about the difficulty of identifying the truth of events (especially when some of the evidence is never recorded and only exists in the memory).
Once again, you can read a review with photos of this episode as part of a review of that evening's TV at TV Minus 50
Return to The Planemakers main page