Tuesday 15 December 1964
“Only A Few Millions” Writer David Weir Director John Cooper
“Every step of the way, Wilder outwitted us,” ” Sir Gordon Revidge
Although Patrick Wymark does not appear in this episode, Wilder casts a long shadow as the other characters spend the whole episode trying to outguess him. Sir Gordon Revidge and Sir Gerald Merle intend to nominate David Corbett as a director of Scott Furlong. They assume Wilder will oppose him, but learn that Don Henderson has been instructed to vote for Corbett in Wilder’s absence. .
With Wilder attending a NATO meeting in Paris, it will be up to Corbett to meet with the Ministry of Defence and discuss VTOL costs. Although Corbett believes the meeting is long overdue, he is also apprehensive that costs have risen. “The Ministry aren’t going to jump for joy when they find out the VTOL’s going to cost £18 million more than the figure we quoted a few weeks ago.”
Corbett is suspicious that Henderson and Forbes know more than they’re letting on, and presses Henderson to reveal that the MOD expect Scott Furlong to fund the £18 million shortfall. “Wilder wanted me to look foolish! Floundering in front of the Ministry.”
Corbett is determined to find the extra funding, but Laura Challis explains that ( in the 1960’s economy) the problem can’t be solved by writing some figures on a balance sheet. “If you borrow £18 million, someone, somewhere has to have £18 million”
Revidge makes discrete enquiries in the banking community, but can’t identify anyone with the spare capacity. When Corbett begins contacting bankers directly, Sir Gordon Revidge is angered and explains that the world of merchant banking is a small one - if a firm controlled by Elbertson’s bank starts asking for a loan everyone will know about it, and question why they can’t come up with it themselves.
With no funding available, the desperate Corbett’s first act as a member of the Scott Furlong board is to commit the company to the £18 million. He explains to Revidge that Wilder would not have set the situation up, without knowing that he could return to “pull the money from up his sleeve – another Wilder miracle!”
Revidge realises that the reason he couldn’t find out where the £18 million was coming from, was because Wilder was getting it from outside the banking community. Further enquiries confirm that the loan would come from a joint stock company . The chairman was anxious for a Knighthood and the Minister had agreed to broker the deal because it would save the Government having to increase the VTOL budget . If Corbett had admitted that he didn’t know where to find the extra £18 million, the Minister would have told him.
A well-plotted story from David Weir keeps the audience engrossed up to the last minute. If the story has any flaw, it is one shared with films like “Skyfall” in that it depends on everyone acting the way the grandmaster expects; in this case that Corbett’s paranoia will lead him to pressure the “truth” out of Henderson and that Corbett’s “pride and stubbornness” would prevent him from admitting to the Minister that they didn’t have the £18 million.
However, Weir develops the story convincingly. Like the old joke, "just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get you," Corbett's badgering of Henry Forbes seems over the top at first until we realise that Forbes really does know something that will affect Corbett. The opening scenes about impending board room elections give no hint that the plot will take a right turn into the world of high finance. Weir also enlarges the character of Sir Gordon Revidge as he tells Corbett a parable about his early days as young financier.
Revidge’s reaction to Corbett as a non-drinker is typically discrete. Accepting a brandy, Revidge tells him that, “The first drink of the evening after a busy day is a great pleasure.” By contrast Laura Challis jokingly turns down an offer of a drink at lunch saying, “You teetotallers seem to think everyone else drinks themselves to death.” (“Some of them do”, Corbett remarks matter-of-factly).
This episode shows a gradual softening of Elizabeth Wallace who appears as Corbett’s secretary Harriet Evans. Having detested Corbett when he took over from Bill Ryan, Harriet now leaps to Corbett’s defence when Don Henderson criticises him. “You don’t know the pressures they put on him! Just because he won’t do things their way. Just because he’s not a yes man.” Wallace would go on to play the White Witch in ABC’s 1967 version of “The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe.”
There’s an interesting effect during the opening sequence. The camera is looking through the entrance doors of the Scott Furlong offices as Revidge and Sir Gerald Merle arrive in a limousine. The camera cuts outside as Corbett meets them on the tarmac and they walk towards the office and then cuts back in front of the doors as they walk into the office. But it looks very much as if the doors are part of a false wall put outside, just for the Outside Broadcast cameras to film through.
For more about the "Predator" VTOL jet featured in this series click here
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