Friday, 6 November 2015

Nerdversity Reviews: Cabin Pressure (series overview)


Cabin Pressure was a BBC Radio 4 comedy series that ran from 2008-2014. It was created by comedian John Finnemore, who also plays the delightfully cheery, yet idiotic steward Arthur. It was produced by veteran radio and TV producer David Tyler.

The general plot of the series is that it follows the oddball crew of the world's smallest airline, MJN Air, or rather Airdot, as they are chartered to take all manner of weird and wonderful items, people and even animals across the globe. The show stars:
  • Roger Allam as First Officer Douglas Richardson
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Captain Martin Crieff
  • Stephanie Cole as Carolyn Knapp-Shappey
  • John Finnemore as Arthur Shappey
The show takes place in the fictional town of Fitton, which is located somewhere in the Midlands, though never clearly expressed where it is. As the series progresses, we find out that Carolyn has received an old Lockheed McDonell 312, a 16 seater plane called Gerti, as settlement from the divorce from her previous husband, Gordon Shappey. She proudly proclaimed "MY JET NOW!", which is what the company is named after.



The crew is made up of Martin Crieff, a man who has been wanting to be a pilot since he was 6 years old, but before that he wanted to be the aeroplane. He does however, have a distinct lack of natural piloting ability, because as the series progresses, we find out that he was turned down by several flight schools and failed his CPL 6 times, barely passing on his seventh attempt. He doesn't appear to have any outside hobbies other than flying. He possesses an almost encyclopedic knowledge of flying and how aircraft work. He lives a life of poverty in a student house attic, making a small amount of money on the side by being a "Man With A Van", despite being a Captain, Martin isn't paid by Carolyn.Martin has shown throughout the series that he is a stickler for the rules and regulations of the CAA, though more prissy than being pompous, rather proclaiming "as the commander of this vessel...." several times through out the series. He has a good friendship with Arthur, who prefers to refer to him as "Skip". 



First Officer Douglas Richardson used to work for Air England before being fired for smuggling. He's the competent pilot, while Martin is the Safe one. He's a smooth talker, witty and intelligent, usually missing no opportunity to flaunt this in the face of Martin and Carolyn. In the series, he's embarassed by his second rate job and pretends to be a captain to his then wife Helena. Every Birling Day, which falls on the Final of the Rugby World Cup, Douglas makes every opportunity to steal a 25 year old bottle of Talisker single malt Whisky from Carolyn. He often has schemes and plans that involve smuggling or in some cases, fix the situation the crew are currently stuck in. Douglas is a recovering alcoholic and has been sober for over 10 years, but maintains his image as a "hard boozing sky god"


Carolyn is the owner and stewardess of MJN Air. She received GERTI in a divorce settlement and used it as a charter airline. MJN is always on the verge of bankruptcy.This is why she's always trying to get customers, especially rich ones to keep MJN afloat. Carolyn often gets involved with the Word Games and other Games that Martin and Douglas like to play on the flight deck. Towards the end of the series, she meets another pilot called Hercules Shipwright (played by Anthony Head) and the two begin a relationship. She also looks after her idiot son Arthur and his pet cockapoo Snoopadoop. Of course, she pulls multiple duties throughout the series as owner, managing director, administrator and stewardess as well.


Arthur is Carolyn's half Australian son. He's the steward onboard GERTI, though he proves to be over helpful and gets in everyone's way. He's 29 and still lives at home with his mother. As well as being overly cheerful and an idiot, he's always over optimistic about life and doesn't ever see anything as bad. His claim to fame is that he is the inventor or at least discoverer of Fizzy Yoghurt, which is essentially Yoghurt plus time. Aside from Birling Day, Birling Day Eve, GERTI'S birthday and Summer, Christmas is his favourite time of year. He's also an avid fan of Toblerone, a bear expert. He is allergic to dragon fruit and strawberries. He also can't lie, as he turns a funny colour and falls over every time he tries. He also invented a game of Yellow Car, in which the player must point out every Yellow Car they see, but there is no end to the game. 

Douglas and Martin pass the time on the flight deck by playing many games including:
  • Brians of Britain
  • Making bets that Douglas usually wins
  • People who have Evil Sounding Names
  • Books that sound different with the last letter removed
  • Simon Says
  • One syllable words only
  • The Travelling Lemon 
Douglas has also invented several humorous cabin addresses, based on Hitchcock Films and even Limericks too. 

The series was one of the most popular shows on Radio 4, with over 20,000 people fighting over just 200 tickets for a recording at the RADA Theatre. It has also won numerous awards, as well as John Finnemore winning several awards himself. The series theme is Mikhail Glinka's Ruslan and Ludmila Overture, which can be heard here, Finally, the series has been released in it's entirety and can be bought here