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Series / Come Back Mrs. Noah

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Come Back Mrs. Noah is a British sitcom starring Mollie Sugden that aired on BBC1 in 1978. It was written by Jeremy Lloyd and David Croft, who had also written Are You Being Served? which also starred Mollie Sugden. Come Back Mrs. Noah was not a success, with some regarding it as one of the worst British sitcoms ever made.

In 2050, British housewife Gertrude Noah (Sugden) wins a cookery competition, and the prize is a tour of Britannia Seven, the UK's new Space Exploration Vehicle. In the pilot episode, the craft is accidentally sent blasting off into space with Mrs Noah and a small crew on it; said small crew consists of two mathematicians, Carstairs (Donald Hewlett) and Fanshaw (Michael Knowles), and low-level maintenance man Garstang (Joe Black), with roving reporter Clive Cunliffe (Ian Lavender) dragged along for the ride after having been accompanying Mrs Noah on her tour for news programme Far and Wide (the 2050 equivalent of Nationwide).

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The series then centres on efforts to bring Mrs Noah back to Earth. The news bulletins on Earth revealed countries like the United States and Germany had to turn to Britain, the most successful nation on Earth, for help. After a failed effort to nudge the craft into the Earth's atmosphere, the series concluded with Mrs. Noah, and crew, careering off uncontrollably to the depths of space.


Come Back Mrs. Noah provides examples of:

  • Auto Kitchen: A "nutrition pill" is inserted into a robot chicken, which after much clucking produces a string of eggs.
  • Bridge Bunnies: Mission Control is populated by Stuffy Brits wearing ties and beautiful women wearing Space Clothes that reveal their cleavage.
  • Cliffhanger: At the end of the final episode, "The Last Chance", a mistake by Mission Control has caused Britannia Seven to go shooting out of Earth's orbit. However will the intrepid passengers get back to Earth now? We'll never know; they never got a second series.
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  • Cold Equation: A rescue ship manages to make it up to the space station, but due to damage sustained it has to leave someone behind. The decision is made on everyone's 'worth' to society, so it's obvious the Butt-Monkey (whose only job is to change the lightbulbs) is going to be left behind. Then it turns out the damage is worse than they thought, so only the pilot and co-pilot can return.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: At the end of "The Last Chance", Sir Garfield Hawk has only to press a button to fire a beam that will nudge Britannia Seven into Earth's atmosphere so that the five passengers can jump out without dying of asphyxiation. Unfortunately, at the critical moment, he is too busy gazing amorously at his fellow bridge bunny, Scarth Dare, and when he realises the countdown to firing has already finished, he frantically presses the first button he can - which fires a beam that pushes Britannia Seven away from the Earth.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: The format of the show meant that any attempt to return the Britannia Seven to Earth was doomed to fail.
  • Food Pills: A "nutrition pill" is inserted into a robot chicken, which after much clucking produces a string of eggs.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The Britannia Seven is launched from the Pontefract International Space Centre, or PISC, which sounds a bit rude and is therefore used as a joke.
  • Future Imperfect: Ringo Starr is mis-identified as the inventor of the telephone.
  • Going Down with the Ship:
    Fanshaw: What's more, you are the captain of the space station!
    Carstairs: What's that got to do with it?
    Fanshaw: By tradition the captain goes down with the ship.
    Cunliffe: In your case you can stay up with it.
  • I Have a Family: The cast is faced with a Cold Equation where someone has to be left behind on the space station, so they start arguing who has the most worth to society.
    Fanshaw: I have a wife and family!
    Cunliffe: Well then you've done your bit to perpetuate the human race.
  • Improvised Microgravity Maneuvering: In the pilot, Mrs Noah maneuvers in Zero G by spritzing her perfume sprayer.
  • Is This Thing Still On?: The characters reassure themselves that the people back home undoubtedly have a plan to get them back down, only to connect to Mission Control as he's saying "I've no idea how we're going to get them back down!" They're then switched to the studio for Cunliffe's employers, Far and Wide, where the presenter is telling their families that they're stranded in space forever, but that they should pretend everything is all right.
  • Last-Name Basis: As is often the case in sitcoms co-written by David Croft, most of the characters only refer to each other by their last names, sometimes without "Mr." in the case of the male characters. We never learn Fanshaw or Garstang's first names (though Garstang's first initial is revealed to be E in "The Last Chance"), and Carstairs' first name (Damon) is only mentioned in a brief conversation with his wife in the episode "In Orbit".
  • Malaproper: It wouldn't be a David Croft sitcom without a character who confuses similar-sounding long words. In the first episode, Mrs. Noah, not realising the station really is about to launch by mistake, thanks the crew for "stimulating" an emergency for her benefit.
  • Mission Control: Many of the scenes on Earth centred around mission control (or "mish con" as Carstairs and Fanshaw call them) attempting to find a way to retrieve Britannia Seven.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: It seems the government of 2050 - which is neither Conservative nor Labour, as those two parties have formed an opposition coalition - is just as uninterested in taking real action as the governments of the 1970s.
    "In reply the Prime Minister said he had already set up a Royal Commission to look into the whole matter, and this was the strongest measure any government could take, short of doing anything about it."
  • Space Station: Most the action (such as it is) takes place the Britannia Seven space station.
  • Teleporter Accident: The characters decide to try an experimental teleporter to escape the space station they're trapped on. Fortunately they test it first by sending down a robot Mrs. Noah, whilst simultaneously sending up a parrot and a cat, resulting in the inevitable parrot-cat creature (maybe the cat tried to eat the bird mid-transport?) It's not clear what happens to the robot.
  • Twenty Minutes In The Future: Made in 1978, but set in 2050, the series mostly portrayed its 'futuristic' status via the existence of gadgets such as the instantly boiling atomic kettle.
  • Two Beings, One Body: A Teleporter Accident winds up creating a fused cat-parrot hybrid.
  • Women Drivers: One of the Bridge Bunnies pilots the rescue rocket sent to retrieve the title character, only to miss their launch window because she floods the engine.
  • Your Cheating Heart: It seems Mrs. Noah's husband is wasting no time using her absence to get to know his widowed neighbour, the much younger Ivy Bassett, a little better. Mrs. Noah rubbishes Cunliffe's speculation that they might be committing adultery while she's away, citing the age difference as evidence against it rather than evidence for it. Meanwhile, Fanshaw's wife has decided to go on their planned holiday to Ibiza - and has taken his brother along so as not to waste the other ticket. "He said he knew you'd understand," Fanshaw is told.
  • Your Television Hates You: The protagonists trapped on the Space Station reassure themselves that the people back home undoubtedly have a plan to get them back down, only to connect to Mission Control as he's saying "I've no idea how we're going to get them back down!" They're then switched to Far and Wide, where the presenter is telling their family members that they'll be stranded in space forever before he's quickly hushed by a technician.

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