If you’ll bear with me for a post, I want to wander away from film and TV and talk about a radio play! I’ve only ever listened to four, but this has to be my favourite.

(For those who care, the others were The Inbetweenies – finished, My First Planet – ongoing, and Love Virtually – a one time thing.  There’s nothing wrong with them, I just don’t find them as good.)

Cabin Pressure is written by John Finnemore and stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Roger Allam, Stephanie Cole and John Finnemore as the only captain, the only first officer, manager/CEO and the only cabin crew of an airdot.  What’s an airdot?

“I have one jet. You cannot put one jet in a line. If MJN is anything, it is an air dot.” 

MJN Air is the name of the airdot, which stands for My Jet Now; what Carolyn decided on after getting the plane from her ex husband in their divorce.  Every trip could spell the end, but it’s hung on for a whole three series so far – just about.

GERTI (or Golf Echo Romeo Tango India, or Golf Tango India) is the name of the airplane which is “mostly gaffer tape and string,” and at least a couple of the so far 19 episodes are centered around, or at least involve, a malfunction.

Martin: 19. 19 passengers, one cabin crew. 19.

Douglas: 19.

Martin: 19.

Carolyn: Will you all please stop saying 19?

Arthur: I didn’t say 19!

Martin: That is exactly the problem!

GERTI likes to have her fun too, setting off ground proximity warnings when she’s on the ground, and setting off false warning lights… not to mention the pieces that aren’t supposed to come off and the flaps that don’t flap, though that’s actually normal.

The Characters

Carolyn “Give me a bing bong” Knapp-Shappey (Stephanie Cole), otherwise known as Miss Shappy-Nappy, is owner and CEO of the airdot.  After divorcing her husband and getting his favourite toy, she decided to start an airline with it.  Or an airdot.  Or “a charitable sanctuary for rubbish pilots.” Naturally, her ex hates that she got it, and calls once a year to try and buy it back, always asking how she is and how the plane is – though not in that order.  As well as a plane and a son, she has a loyal hound, a cockerpoo called Snoopadoop.

Martin “I’m the captain!” Crieff (Benedict Cumberbatch) is the pilot, not that anyone can ever tell. “God knows I could write ‘Captain’ on my forehead in lipstick and people still wouldn’t get it.” Not only that, but he failed his tests four times before he qualified, he’s unpaid and he has to sit next to an impossibly lucky first officer who likes nothing more than to tease people.  His name doesn’t even sound captain-y!

Douglas “I feel lucky” Richardson (now there’s a captain’s name – played by Roger Allam) is the first officer. Disgraced from his previous captain’s position for having sticky fingers, he’s the reckless pilot to Martin’s safe pilot.

Martin: No, we can’t! She’ll be hard to manoeuvre, and likely to stall. It would be incredibly dangerous and unprofessional.

Douglas: Fun, though – when do we leave?

Lucky in just about every bet he makes and passing a test he hasn’t studied for by sheer luck and coincidence, he’s also happily married; just about everything Martin isn’t.  He likes to pass the time with Simon Says, The Travelling Lemon and languid putdowns, as well as the many other word games you’ll be introduced to. (Hint, if you’re going to play with your friends: Bob Holness can count in a game naming people called Brian.)

Arthur “Brilliant!” Shappey (John Finnemore) is Carolyn’s 28 year old son who still lives with her, and his favourite game is Yellow Car.  “You’re aaalways playing Yellow Car.” Endlessly cheery, he’s the comic relief, just in case an unpaid pilot, sarcasm, and the notion of an airdot don’t do it for you. He acts as cabin crew and often wears a hat he made for himself; “the hat is paramount.”  Unfortunately for poor Arthur, “it has long been a maxim of MJN Air that once Arthur stops helping, we can do anything.”

Finally…

For the most part the series revolves around these four characters, with guest stars for each trip and various ATC staff.  Recurring characters include Geoffrey Whitehead as Mr Birling (who never quite manages to get to keep his fine whisky) and, from series three, Anthony Head as Hercules Shipwright (“Call me Herc” – named after the plane, not the hero).

Here’s the first episode: Episode 1 – Abu Dhabi. They mostly don’t need to be listened to in order, but I would the first time.

Quote attribution

The above quotes – the italics – are from the below episodes in this order, all of which can be listened to here (the site’s title is a reference to 1×03). Wherever it’s possible to use Dropbox, it is the easiest; otherwise, they’re cheaply available on iTunes or Audiogo.

1×01 – Abu Dhabi

3×06 – St Petersburg

2×03 – Ipswich

1×01 – Abu Dhabi

1×06 – Fitton

3×01 – Qikiqtarijuaq

3×04 – Ottery St Mary

3×05 – Rotterdam

2×03 – Ipswich

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