A BBC radio sitcom, written by John Finnemore, about a small charter airline (or, technically, an 'airdot', as you can't put only one aircraft in a line). There are two pilots, a good one (Douglas) and a safe one (Martin), the former played by Roger Allam, the latter by Benedict Cumberbatch. The attendants are Carolyn (Stephanie Cole, Waiting For God), who owns the airline as part of her last divorce settlement, and Arthur (Finnemore), her well-meaning, if dim, late-twenties son.Much of the humour comes from the tension between the two pilots, Martin and Douglas; Carolyn's penny pinching ways; and Arthur's stupidity.
Ace Pilot: Deconstructed. Douglas is an excellent pilot, but a reckless one, his record of stunts resulting in his being knocked down to First Officer. Martin, meanwhile, is a very cautious and safety-conscious pilot, but not good at quick-thinking or improvisation in a tight spot.
Carolyn: I have a good pilot and a safe pilot. And the safe pilot is in charge of the good pilot. Martin won’t let them get into trouble, and if they do, Douglas would get them out of it.
For his part, Douglas managed to chase polar bears across Qikiqtarjuaq in a really old commercial charter plane, all the while making taka-taka noises.
Hercules 'Herc' Shipwright, Douglas' old friend, is another one.
Played with in the Series 3 episode 'Paris'. According to John Finnemore's blog, he promised Benedict that he wouldn't put in Sherlock references just for the sake of it. True to his word, in an episode where Martin attempts to track down a missing bottle of whisky with his trusty sidekick Arthur, he is repeatedly likened to... Miss Marple. He also narrowly avoids quoting Sherlock Holmes in the line;
Martin: The thing is, we've taken away all the things that can't possibly have happened, so I suppose the only thing that's left, even though it seems really weird, must be the thing that did happen in fact!
Douglas: ...Snappily put.
John Finnemore's promise to Benedict didn't stop him from having Martin's ring eaten by a goose in the season four episode 'Uskerty'. He thought fans wouldn't notice the reference to The Blue Carbuncle. He was very, very wrong.
It didn't stop Martin's brother Simon from being a minor government official in "Wokingham" either.
In 'Limerick', Douglas reminds an over dramatic Martin that he's not in an Arthur Miller play. He'd know.
In 'Newcastle' Douglas and Herc proceed to treat Caroline to an impromptu rendition of the Toreador Song (Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre) from the opera Carmen. Before becoming an actor, Roger Allam considered becoming an opera singer.
Douglas:Ohhh... You mean... Martin: What do you think? Douglas: I like it. Arthur:(conspiratorially) Yeah... that might just work... Martin: What might? Arthur: I don't know... I just like talking like this...
The B Grade: When Martin is told that he got 99% on a theory test (in which nobody has ever scored more than 84, and the testers conclude he must have cheated) he can only ask "...so I got a question wrong?" Turns out they were just confused by his British 7 (with no crossbar) looking like a European 1, so he was right after all.
Douglas: Arthnoldmanercatsirman... That's an unusual name. Tell me, is it made up?
Arthur: Yes, it is. Augh!
Douglas tries to teach him to lie better by using anecdotes from real life instead of trying to make things up, but this doesn't work since most of his anecdotes include the people he's trying to lie to (telling Carolyn he's been at the dentist's when she took him last week, telling Martin he's been having lunch at an Italian restaurant with Douglas and Mar...k Ramprakash).
Batman Gambit: Douglas' scheme in "Kuala Lumpur" (to make Martin think Carolyn had shut down his secret bar, when really she'd been a regular patron before he found out about it) relied on Arthur being such a Bad Liar that Martin would realise the bar had been set up again, Martin calling Carolyn and then immediately regretting doing so, and Martin picking up on his hint to give her the one bottle filled with apple juice. He knows his colleagues inside-out, does Douglas.
Berserk Button: Arthur loves his mother and woe betide anyone who insults her in his presence. Admittedly his idea of going berserk is putting a cake in someone's face, but by Arthur's standards the merest hint of hostility is an extreme reaction.
A relatively minor example, but in 'Gdansk', when Martin brings up Douglas letting his wife believe he's a captain, Douglas' reaction instantly shifts from his usual playful sarcasm to dead-serious This Means War!
Bland-Name Product: Douglas and Herc's former employer 'Air England', probably because British Airways wouldn't appreciate the implication that they'd ever employed anyone like Douglas.
G-ERTI is a 'Lockheed McDonnell 3-12', which doesn't exist as a real aircraft. Presumably a combination of Lockheed Martin and McDonnell Douglas.
Subverted in the Birling Day trilogy: John Finnemore never thought that the Talisker would make a return after Edinburgh, so he didn't bother making up a fictional whisky. He is also quite adamant that he doesn't have shares in Toblerone.
Blessed Are The Cheese Makers: Douglas and Martin take the cheese tray very seriously. Hardly surprising, given the state of the rest of the catering.
The Blind Leading the Blind: A Running Gag in 'Abu Dhabi' is each of the main characters trying to explain to Arthur how planes' wings work. Carolyn is out of her depth almost immediately, Martin gives the classic primary school "the air on top has to keep up" explanation (which Arthur scotches with "but why does it have to?" and Douglas gives a more accurate explanation regarding relative air pressures. When Arthur asks how planes are able to fly upside-down, even Douglas has to deftly change the subject.
Bolivian Army Ending: The final episode of series 4, 'Yverdon-Les-Bains' ended with Martin leaving the question of whether he's going to take a paying job at another airline up in the air. Finnemore hoped to be able to make a 'Zurich' episode to wrap everything up, but made 'Yverdon' in such a way that it could stand up on its own if that wasn't possible. He eventually confirmed that a final episode would be broadcast in early 2014.
Finnemore: Yes, now he has a big decision to make, and that decision has potentially sad consequences... but he hasn't made it yet, so we don't even know which potentially sad consequences to be potentially sad about.
Bottle Episode: 'Limerick', 'Fitton' and 'Xinzhou' all take place largely on-board GERTI and feature quiet character interaction between the core cast rather than a complex comedy plot.
California Doubling: An in-universe example in 'Timbuktu', when the crew try to pass off Guspini on the Italian island of Sardinia as the eponymous remote African town, for the benefit of a drunken multi-millionaire. It almost works...
Calling Shotgun: In "Abu Dhabi", Martin and Douglas squabble over this. "The captain gets to sit in the front of an aircraft, because he's driving it. He doesn't get to sit in the front seat of any vehicle he happens to be in."
The Cast Showoff: Roger Allam is an acclaimed performer on the West End and has been for over twenty years. He gets to show his singing voice off in "Ottery St. Mary", "Fitton", and "Newcastle".
Douglas: Always at hand with the mot juste, aren't you Arthur? Yes, the Sahara Desert is "brilliant", just as Niagara Falls was "brilliant", the Northern Lights were "brilliant", and that chap from RyanAir burping the theme from The Muppets was "really brilliant".
Chain of Deals: Douglas is quite good at this. He started with a half eaten sandwich, and towards series 2 has a couple of bouquets of orchids.
Chekhov's Gag: Often an apparent one-off joke will become important later in the episode;
Douglas running his car on spare aeroplane fuel ("feeding a rabbit cheetah food") in 'Douz'; turns out you can also feed a cheetah for a short while with an awful lot of rabbit food.
Code Emergency: The paranoid Madame Szyszko-Bohusz overhears Carolyn and Arthur's cryptic conversation about the Seven Dwarfs (regarding the latest cabin game) she assumes it's a case of this, and Carolyn humours her, explaining that they have a Disney character for every emergency.
Cold Open: Some episodes open with self-contained pre-credit gags, whether plot-related or not, such as the characters making mock intercom announcements in their off-hours.
Comic Trio: Douglas the schemer, Martin the complainer, Arthur the idiot.
Played with in "Ottery St. Mary", with its very The Three Stooges-esque premise involving the three being hired to move a piano. Martin is responsible for the "scheme", such as it is (and constantly excuses himself from heavy lifting because of his sprained ankle); meanwhile Arthur and Douglas' roles are switched when it's revealed that it was Douglas who lost the van keys and thus derailed A Simple Plan.
Cool Shades: Martin finds some aviators in 'Johannesburg.' He's reluctant to wear them lest Douglas mock him, but since Douglas isn't around he does (and his confidence improves without the constant snarking as well). Of course by the end of the episode, before Dougie even gets a chance to get any good jabs in, they — along with his newfound self-esteem — get broken.
Arthur: Ladies and gentlemen, as you can see our onboard transit process today has now reached its ultimate termination. Carolyn:He means we've landed. Arthur: Yes. So as yourselves prepare for disemboarding, if I could kindly ask you to kindly ensure you retain all your personal items about your person throughout the duration of the disembarcation. Carolyn: He means take your stuff with you. Arthur: In concluding, it's been a privilege for ourselves to conduct yourselves through the in-flight experience today, and I do hope you'll refavor ourselves with the esteem of your forth-looking custom going forward. Carolyn:[wearily] No idea.
Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Carolyn has put (lost) most of her share of her ex-husband's fortune into the airline, which has been running at a deficit for years. She holds on because being the CEO of MJN Air is "a good thing to be. Better than ... a little old lady."
Determinator: Martin. It took him seven goes to get his pilot's licence, but he managed it eventually!
He also managed to read and memorize the entire 600 page flight manual.
Henpecked Husband: Carolyn's brother-in-law responds to being told that they've left his wife in Helsinki with "Oh. Well done you!" He's also led his wife to believe that he's deaf just so he has an excuse to ignore her.
Hey, It's That Voice!: Besides the main cast, there are rather a lot of guest stars, including recurring character Hercules Shipwright, played by Anthony Head of Buffy fame (who gets in a warm fuzzy voice contest with Douglas).
Hurricane of Euphemisms: Douglas, trying to give an oblivious Martin a hint to the last of the Seven Dwarfs after promising Carolyn he wouldn't tell him the answer:
Douglas: Then I suggest you seek out a... healthcare professional. [Martin doesn't get it] No, Martin, listen: if you have those six symptoms, I strongly suggest you seek out a medic. [still nothing] ...A quack! A sawbones! Someone who can tell you, in the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, "What's Up?"
Martin: He's alright really, he's just one of those little men who've got a little job so need to spend the whole time proving they're just as good as anyone else — you know the type. Douglas: It rings a faint bell.
Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each episode is the name of a city the crew is flying to (or occasionally travelling to by other means, as in "Ottery St. Mary" and "Wokingham"), and the city names start with each letter of the alphabet in order: Abu Dhabi, Boston, Cremona...
Mistaken for Gay: After Martin gets over his animosity for the other Martin, his friendliness is misinterpreted. His frenzied reaction is quite priceless.
Martin: Do you live in Fitton, Martin?
Other Martin: Yes.
Martin: You want to... go for a drink some time?
Other Martin: Martin... look, I'm really sorry I'm not...
Martin: (realising) Oh no! No!!
Also, Linda in 'Newcastle'.
Mister Muffykins: Snoopadoop the cockapoo ("noblest of hounds!"), Carolyn's "ridiculous little dog".
Modest Royalty: The Princess of Liechtenstein, who books her own flights and insists everyone call her Theresa. Her younger brother the King is not an example, and apparently neither is their mother, of whom she pulls off a terrifying impression to cow Carolyn.
Mondegreen: Arthur is convinced the Christmas carol goes "Get dressed, ye merry gentlemen."
Mood Whiplash: St. Petersburg goes from word games to an impending crash and sirens going off.
Subverted in "Wokingham"; Martin gets the rest of the crew to humilate his brother by regaling the rest of his family with stories of what a great pilot he is. At the end, Martin's mother suggests he may have been a bit too cruel, and assures him that his brother genuinely loves him. For a moment it seems like Martin is genuinely guilty... but it soon becomes clear that it was one of the enjoyable things he's ever done regardless.
Carolyn: "Don't 'oh, but mum' me. Who owns your car?"
Arthur: "...Douglas does."
Carolyn: "Well then."
Athur: "He still lets me drive it!"
Douglas: "And at a very competitive hourly rate!"
In "Kuala Lumpur"
Douglas: "If it’s any consolation, I thought you coped very well with being anchovied. You had a real, quiet dignity."
Douglas: "Peach Schnapps is to Arthur what water is to gremlins."
Arthur: "I was terrifying."
No Social Skills: Martin. Uptight, borderline neurotic, and utterly incapable of being "one of the blokes", even when he desperately tries.
Not so Above It All: "Limerick" opens with Douglas bemoaning just how phenomenally boring flying over Russia is (and inviting the passengers to the flight deck for sex). Martin cuts in to apologise for Douglas, then to agree that it is, in fact, unbelievably boring. (Fortunately, it's a cargo flight.)
Not So Different: Martin is terribly jealous of the actor Carolyn hires to record a welcome video, thinking he makes a far more convincing airline captain than he does himself. He eventually finds out the guy is an amateur (and not very good) actor who's waived his fee in order to get some work, and who drives a taxi to pay the bills.
Not That Kind of Doctor: When Martin makes several increasingly sarcastic requests for any doctor on board to help a patient in the galley, knowing there's a "Dr. Pryce" on the roster, the man eventually comes forward and angrily explains that he's a Ph.D in civil engineering.
No, You: Arthur responds to a fourteen-year-old saying his job is stupid with "no, you've got a stupid job!"
Obstructive Bureaucrat: A corrupt one in Douz air-traffic control, who keeps racking up ridiculous charges knowing that nobody can leave without his say-so.
Older Sidekick: A humorous variation. Douglas is first officer to Martin, who is younger (and less experienced). Everyone always assumes Douglas must be the captain, which drives Martin crazy.
Once a Season: The annual tradition of "Birling Day," when they fly the wealthy Mr Birling to wherever the Six Nations rugby tournament is being held; 'Edinburgh' in series one, 'Paris' in series three, and 'Timbuktu' in series four (it's not really in Timbuktu, but he decides he'd rather go there than Twickenham). Only series two didn't have one.
Douglas: I think what we may be witnessing here, is Arthur trying to describe something with an adjective other than 'brilliant'. Arthur: No, I wouldn't say he's b... well I mean, everyone's b... No, he's not brilliant. He's, ah... he's alright. Martin: God... he must be awful!
Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Carolyn speaks with a Received Pronunciation accent. Most of the time. In "Helsinki", when her Lancastrian sister turns up, Carolyn's accent gradually drifts back to her natural Lancastrian as she and Ruth spend more and more time bickering.
Actually, her vowels are generally a little more flattened than in 'classic' RP. This is probably correct for the upmarket dormitory district of Cheshire, just south of Lancashire.
Opposite Day: "Timbuktu" — "It's been a topsy-turvy sort of Birling Day, hasn't it? We flew away from the rugby, Mr. Birling got soberer and soberer, and Arthur ruined everything with his knowledge and erudition."
The Other Darrin: In "Newcastle", Benedict Cumberbatch was ill with Laryngitis. As there was no time to re-record the episode when he was well, Tom Goodman-Hill filled in as Martin. Although he didn't sound exactly the same, he did an excellent job of mimicking Cumberbatch's speech patterns. This is heavily lampshaded in the pre-credits opening scene.
Arthur: Mum, we've only got two pilots. What would we do if one of them went sick?
Carolyn: They wouldn't dare.
Arthur: But what if they did?
Carolyn: Well, I'm sure we'd think of something.
[Door opens and Martin enters - played by Tom Goodman-Hill]
Carolyn: Ah, there you are, Martin.
Martin: Hello Carolyn, what have I missed?
Arthur: Hi Skip, you're looking very well.
Martin: Oh, thank you Arthur.
Arthur: Don't you think, Douglas?
Douglas: Not especially. I think he looks exactly the same as always.
Overreacting Airport Security: Martin, flush with self-confidence after strongarming an obstructive paramedic, tries the same tactic with one of these when he objects to Martin's nose hair trimmer. The results are predictable.
The Prima Donna: The entire orchestra in 'Gdansk', but Madame Szyszko-Bohusz takes the prize
Carolyn: Listen to this! This chamber orchestra we’re picking up – listen to what their conductor’s put under ‘Any Special Requirements’: "The first violins will not sit together; the second violins will not sit apart. The harpist will ignore you unless your aura is orange; there is nothing you can do to make your aura more orange. The tubist must on no account be given alcohol; the conductor must at all times be given alcohol. He will also require the toilet to himself for an hour before landing. And, most importantly, the bassoonist, Madame Szyszko-Bohusz, will be working under the presumption that you are trying to kill her unless proved otherwise, so avoid approaching her with blunt instruments, sharp knives or hot liquids."
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: Martin gets one in "Boston" courtesy of an uncooperative passenger. Carolyn's sister gives her a scorching one in "Helsinki".
A Rare Sentence: In 'Gdansk', in the midst of a game of "who can remember the names of all the Seven Dwarfs first";
Martin: Come on, Douglas, I've got to get my last dwarf before Carolyn does! Douglas: There's a phrase you don't hear very often. Since the dwarf-hunting ban.
Reverse Psychology: When Martin complains that he never wins anything, Douglas bets Martin that next air traffic controller they contact will be female. Martin is suspicious of this, given that almost all AT Cs are male, and bets the other way. Predictably, he loses. This makes him incredibly paranoid when it comes to the cheesecake/strudel wager... and he still takes the long shot, and loses again.
Royal Mess: "Vaduz" features the King of Liechtenstein, which is really a principality. Word of God, heading off the inevitable angry letters, pointed out that this was because a particular joke relies on the regal, senior expectations associated with a "king", whereas our expectations of a "prince" would not be so subverted by The Reveal that he's a small child.
Rule of Funny: Madame Szyszko-Bohusz having her bassoon clearly out of its case and assembled on the seat next to her while in flight note would be ridiculous, leaving an expensive instrument vulnerable to damage- in fact a bassoon is over 4 feet long it probably wouldn't even fit in the seat!, seeing as it would be hard for Carolyn to identify it in its case.
Running Gag: Many episodes have Douglas and Martin engaging in some kind of word game ("Brians of Britain", flights between rhyming destinations, etc) to ease the boredom, and these serve as a running gag within the episode.
Arthur: Mr. Birling said I'll never find another girlfriend. Carolyn: I see. Well, Mr. Birling, the 70-something-year-old retiree from Sussex, is of course one of the country's leading experts on relationships, bu— Arthur: Awww, is he? I didn't even know that!
A Simple Plan: 'Ottery St. Mary'. Drive van to house; pick up piano; drive piano 200 miles to destination. Looking at that plan, you'd be stumped as to how they manage to involve an aeroplane in it at all.
Snipe Hunt: As part of a scheme to steal Mr. Birling's Talisker in "Edinburgh", Douglas sends Arthur onto the roof of the plane to adjust the aerial.
Story Arc: The thread of Martin's possible move to Zurich runs through series four, including his romance with Theresa and his application to work for Swiss Air.
Sue Donym: "Arth... nold... man. Err... cat... sir... man."
Tall, Dark and Snarky: First Officer Douglas Richardson. If the cast picture is canon, Roger Allam's Douglas is certainly dark-haired, and in dialogue he is described as much taller than Martin. And Douglas's snark is well-documented.
The Teetotaler: Douglas, revealed at the end of series 1. A recovering alcoholic, he fakes it at social events to keep up his reputation. He likes apple juice - it looks like whisky.
Technician Versus Performer: Martin compares his and Douglas' respective flying styles this way, lamenting that he doesn't have the innate feel for flying that others do... but that needing to make up for that weakness has forced him to devote every fibre of his being to improving his piloting skills in every other respect, leading to his ability steadily progressing.
At the end of series 2 Douglas actually lets Martin win one of their games. However, the alarm of Martin's "genuine" Patek Philippe kind of ruins the moment.
After winning a whole series of bets to Martin, Douglas gives Martin a hint to a quiz, letting him come in second to Carolyn.
Tongue on the Flagpole: Arthur gets his hands stuck on the hold doors in St. Petersburg, and when he's freed he tries to put his gloves back on and puts the keys he was holding in his mouth. This is a Chekhov's Gun for how they later teach a lesson to Arthur's dad.
Try to Fit THAT on a Business Card!: "I am Her Serene Highness Princess Theresa Gustava Bonaventura of Liechtenstein, Countess of Spondheim and Protector-Extraordinary of the Cantons of Nim. Who are you?"
Uncle Pennybags: Mr. Birling's redeeming trait, at least in the minds of Douglas and Carolyn.
The Unfavourite: Martin's brother and sister got five grand each in inheritance. Martin got ... a van. (Subverted in the fact that it was probably thought to be conducive to Martin's long-term happiness to force him to change jobs, but all the same...)
The Unpronounceable: There is no such word in Carolyn's dictionary (and if there were, she'd make damn sure she knew how to pronounce it). Witness the pride she takes in being able to say "Szyszko-Bohusz" in 'Gdansk' and "Qikiqtarjuaq" in the episode of the same name.
Douglas: Where is this Kicky-Tarry-Jack, anyway? Carolyn: Are you referring to Qikiqtarjuaq? Douglas:[long pause; frostily] ...You're really proud of yourself for learning how to say that, aren't you? Carolyn:[smug] Yes!
Arthur: The miniatures? Carolyn: Do not tell me you left Douglas alone with all those miniatures of very expensive whisky! Arthur: ...No... Carolyn: Then why were you saying "the miniatures" like that? Arthur: I wasn't! I was... singing. Carolyn: What were you singing? Arthur: "...The minute'cha walked through the door..."
A Very British Christmas: Done on a plane. In seven minutes. According to Arthur, it consists of: turkey and Christmas pudding and presents and carols and stockings and silly hats and mulled wine. Additionally, Martin is adamant that (for Arthur's sake, of course) that each stocking must have: an orange, a sugar mouse, and chocolate coins.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Martin and Douglas certainly seem to qualify for this by the end of season three; Douglas will insult Martin endlessly, as he always does, but Martin is by no means above returning the favor for himself. And, despite the rampant jabs at one another, they do both certainly have each other's backs when the organic matter hits the spinning blades...
Waxing Lyrical: One of the first series' Cold Opens has Douglas and Martin making tannoy announcements bearing a suspicious similarity to "Fly Me To The Moon" and "Come Fly With Me".
"Well Done, Son!" Guy: Understated (it's a comedy after all), but Martin harbors some angst over the fact that his father, who was frustrated with his son for "wasting" thousands of pounds re-taking failed aviation training and exams, died a scant four months before Martin qualified and got his first job as a pilot. He also keeps it a secret from his family that he's been using the van his father left him to run a side-business as a delivery man, only to discover that his father had left it to him for precisely that reason (to his older brother's considerable jealousy).
What Have I Become?: Douglas quotes this trope word for word as he, briefly, saw the world through Martin's eyes in 'Yverdon-les-Bains'.
What the Hell Is That Accent?: Arthur manages a mangled Australian and Irish accent. Martin also contributes with French and equally mangled Irish accent.
Whole Plot Reference: One episode has a man named Mr. Leeman inconveniently dying, and the protagonists try to recruit the help of a Dr. Pryce, which is basically the plot to the Fawlty Towers episode "The Kipper and the Corpse", right down to the names of incidental characters. Subverted when Pryce turns out to be Not That Kind of Doctor.
With Due Respect: When Martin insists that Douglas call him "sir" in "Abu Dhabi", he quickly comes to regret it.
Woman Scorned: The tone of the messages Carolyn leaves for her ex-husband definitely ring of this trope. And the airline is called "My Jet Now."
Would Hurt a Child: In 'Helsinki', Martin finally gives Bratty Half-Pint Kieran the "clip round the ear" more than one person had threatened him with. Forgetting, of course, that Kieran is an orange-belt in karate who's been itching for an excuse to use his skills in "self-defence".
Ruth: I can't believe you would hit a defenceless child! Martin:[groaning in a heap on the floor] He is not defenceless...
Write What You Know: Finnemore's father was a pilot, and a lot of Arthur's childish fascination with all things aeroplaney seems to be based on himself as a kid.