Monday, 11 November 2013
Monday 11 November 1963
The Plane Makers's greatest strength is the versatility of its format. We really never know what's coming next. Case in point: after the harrowing drama of last week's episode, Costigan's Rocket switches the tone to pure sitcom. Our leading man of the week is Gerald James as Harry Costigan, a blarneying whirlwind of a man who allegedly works in Scott-Furlong's stores, but drives his ineffectual superior Mr Bennett (Brian Haines) to distraction by never being where he's needed.
Costigan reports in to Mr Bennett just as it's time to head off home. There, timid young Dennis (Larry Dann) completely fails to ask Costigan for his daughter Maureen's (Jo Rowbottom) hand in marriage.
Fortunately, Costigan senses what Dennis is after and agrees with alacrity. The pair plan to be wed within three months, but Maureen's father's determined this shouldn't stop them from having the finest wedding money can buy. There's the slight issue, however, of where exactly this money's going to come from. The obvious solution is overtime, but as Costigan's barely at work during the time he's supposed to be, it's a pretty daunting prospect.
It looks like there may be salvation on the horizon in the form of an alternative way of making a good deal of money. Costigan pays regular visits to a friend, elderly nightwatchman Pop Prendergast (Gerald C Lawson, look- and soundalike brother of Wilfrid), and on the latest is presented with a thoroughbred greyhound the old man won in a raffle and doesn't know what to do with. Costigan immediately does - he can see the greyhound's a magnificent specimen and decides he can get more than enough money to pay for Maureen's wedding by racing it.
Maureen, understandably, is a tad sceptical. The canine actor, meanwhile, proves a major struggle for poor Gerald James to handle - he only just manages to prevent it escaping.
Costigan talks Mr Bennett and a group of other workmates (including a young, but still becombovered Brian Murphy) to form a syndicate to train and race the dog, (christened Costigan's Rocket) and hoodwinks Scott-Furlong's welfare officer Mr Elliott (Tenniel Evans) into allowing them to use the factory's sports ground in the early mornings for a "dog appreciation and education society".
Costigan swears his chums to secrecy about what they're up to, but on the eve of the Rocket's maiden race gives a highly indiscreet interview to the local paper in which he explicitly links the dog to Scott-Furlong by comparing its speed to that of the company's new Sovereign jet. MD John Wilder reads it and is not best pleased: "If the dog wins, OK," he growls at Don Henderson, "If not, I want one dog and one welfare officer stuffed and mounted on that wall."
On the night of the race, with everyone's hopes sky-high, the Rocket proves a non-starter.
Embarrassed by the affair, Wilder issues an ultimatum: either the dog goes, or Costigan does (and so, it's implied, does Mr Elliott). Not especially attached to the animal, Costigan's more than happy when Mr Elliott suggests a friend of his would happily buy it for 150 guineas. Which Elliott shells out... and then gets on the phone to beg his friend to have the animal. This being 1960s money, Costigan's able to reimburse the syndicate for their investment and still have enough left for a healthy contribution to the wedding fund.
Costigan's Rocket's a lot of fun, but it's very slight, and fits into the Plane Makers framework more tenuously than any of the previous episodes, with John Wilder appearing in just one very brief scene. Patrick Wymark still gets top billing though, and it looks like several other members of the cast have decided they want their own versions of his credit mentioning his work at the RSC...
Well, it's nice to be kept informed, I suppose.