25 February 1964
"A Job for the Major". Writer John O'Toole. Director John Cooper.
'I had to contend with dumb insolence from the supervisors and intelligent neutrality at this level of management' Mr Crabbe
Wilder installs Mr Crabbe (Peter Copely) a former army major in order to improve the systems within Scott Furlong. Although undeniably efficient, Crabbe's management style provokes resentment among the supervisors and Arthur Sugden has the job of keeping the peace.
The opening scene with Bob Gorman (Fulton Mackay) objecting to being stopped for his pass by security officer John Webb (Desmond Llewellyn – Q from the James Bond films) makes it seem like this will be a retread of Wilfred Greatorex's 'A Question of Sources'. But this story also has echoes of O'Toole's own 'The Smiler'. Once more, we see 'an unwanted man' being imposed into the management chain. But where Harvey Graves used charm and natural authority to overcome resistance, Mr Crabbe ( who issues a notice to the effect that he is now a civilian and does not wish to use his military rank) attempts to impose military efficiency.
Crabbe's appointment could be seen as the absent Wilder's rebuttal to the bank's attempt to impose an accountant in 'A Paper Transaction'. Where Ashley Pender sought to find cost efficiencies in Scott Furlong, Crabbe is installed to improve the company processes. He tells the supervisors that they should see Sugden and Gorman as 'the brains' of the company and himself as the 'nerve centre', deciding whether they should have access to the works managers. Although proven correct when his new system is analysed by the computer, his 'task management' style, concerned with getting the job done, is imposed too quickly on men who 'left the army behind ten years ago.'
A short scene in which Crabbe suggests improvements to a design which a young apprentice is drawing up for the staff suggestion scheme (and which earns the apprentice a cash reward he needs to get married )shows him in a benevolent light. However, his attempt to control the weekly supervisor's meeting is overly authoritarian, imposing a rule that supervisors should have all required information to had without any warning, and barring another supervisor from the meeting because he has arrived late. Although he quells a subsequent attempt at resistance by informing the supervisors that he has drawn up a list of replacements and asking at the start of the meeting if anyone cares to resign, it does not address the underlying resentment and his victory is short-lived.
The episode includes some continuity from O'Toole's previous episode. Not only does Harvey Graves' former employer Speed Fontana ask to check up on reference, but Gabrielle Licudi recreates her role as the ambitious secretary Lamorna. Don Henderson excuses his wife's absence, saying she is in Edinburgh with her mother.
Peter Copely, playing Mister (not Major) Crabbe, was a prolific actor, memorable in the Hammer version of 'Quatermass and the Pit' as the civil servant whose dying words are about making a report to the Minister. Copely appeared in Olivier's Old Vic in exile from 1945-50, and continued to act into the 1990's appearing as the Abbot in the Derek Jacobi mediaeval detective series Caedfal.
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