18 February 1964
"A Paper Transaction". Writer Stanley Miller. Director Bill Stewart.
'Like everything human, (the Sovereign) must fall short of perfection.' J Ashley Pender
Jack May guests as J Ashley Pender, an accountant who Sir Gordon Revidge has installed to find efficiencies in Scott Furlong. Wilder sees it as a threat to himself. 'Sir Gordon couldn't get rid of me one way, so he has to try another.'.
Wilder plots to undermine the accountant as he makes an initial survey, advising Henderson to 'Pass it around the grapevine that he might be responsible for redundancies if people talk too much' .
Wilder suspects that Ashley Pender is afraid of flying and offers him a seat on a Sovereign proving run in attempt to discredit him. Ashley Pender accepts the flight, but panics during a stall test and tries to open the emergency exit.
Jack May, who the BBC would later cast as butler William E. Simms in Adam Adamant Lives delivers a beguiling portrayal of the company accountant. May initially seems unconvincingly emotionless voicing lines like, 'figures have a fascination and perfection.' But we gradually realise he is eaten up by the knowledge that people assume his success has come from his marriage to Sir Gordon's wealthy god daughter, Joyce (Naomi Chance). Ashley Pender is playing a part, hoping (like so many people) that he doesn't get found out. After his breakdown, from the quiet of a private hospital bed, May's delivery is much more naturalistic as he objectively admits he could never be like Wilder and Sir Gordon. 'When a chosen instrument breaks down, men like him don’t weep salt tears. They throw them on the scrap heap and get another one that works.'
The scene where Wilder detects Ashley Pender's weak spot is effective. Ashley Pender's wife has brought him to a meeting with 'Uncle Gordon' Revidge. Wilder is flirtatiously charming, and casually proposes that the Ashley Pender's come on a test flight with Sir Gordon. Naomi Chance skilfully conveys the swift search for an excuse before she says they will be viewing a house at the same time. Wymark raises an eyebrow and offers to postpone the flight by an hour. Mrs Ashley Pender's frozen-mouthed look and confusion when her husband agrees, convinces Wilder that 'Our Pender is scared stiff of flying.'
Wilder expects Ashley Pender to back out of the flight and arranges to meet with an important client at London Airport. Therefore he isn't present to see Ashley Pender's breakdown. It's not clear how much of himself he recognised in Ashley Pender. The first episode of The Plane Makers established that Wilder always avoids test flights because of the risk (but was comfortable enough with commercial flights to use a business trip to New York as an excuse). It's possible, therefore, that Wilder underestimated the accountant's determination to go forward with the trip. As Jack Watling explains the principle of the stall test, where power is cut and the plane loses momentum, Jack May convincingly portrays Ashley Pender's desperate attempt to stifle his growing hysteria.
The aftermath shows Wilder increasingly isolated as test pilot Henry Forbes, Don Henderson and even the normally unflappable Miss Lingard are appalled by Wilder's callousness. But as predicted by Ashley Pender himself, Wilder doesn’t much care and continues with his paperwork.
Robert Urquhart as Henry Forbes confronts Wilder about the managerial joy rides which have pushed his test schedule back. He lists a number of examples of board members and politicians, 'and on the 28th there was that old lady,' referring to the 28 January episode Miss Geraldine.
Noel Trevarthan, making his second appearance as Henry's co-pilot Davies, would subsequently co-star with Reginald Marsh in the Scales of Justice short, The Material Witness.
This was the only contribution by Stanley Miller, who would go on to write episodes of Rediffusion's The Rat Catchers and adaptations of 'Thirteen to Arcturus' for Out of the Unknown and 'Carmilla' for Mystery and Imagination.
Return to The Planemakers main page