Series 2, Episode 25: Ypres- 1914
VOICE OVER Michael Palin
SERGEANT Michael Palin
JENKINS Eric Idle
MAJOR Graham Chapman
PADRE John Cleese
FLOOR MANAGER Terry Jones
(A stock drawing of a First World War trench scene – barbed wire against the sky with a helmet stuck on a bayonet.)
Voice Over: (and caption) ‘IN 1914, THE BALANCE OF POWER LAY IN RUINS. EUROPE WAS PLUNGED INTO BLOODY CONFLICT. NATION FOUGHT NATION. BUT NO NATION FOUGHT NATION MORELY THAN THE ENGLISH HIP HIP HOORAY! NICE, NICE YAH BOO. PHILLIPS IS A GERMAN AND HE HAVE MY PEN’
Different Voice Over: (and caption) ‘START AGAIN’
Voice Over: (and caption) ‘IN I914, THE BALANCE OF POWER LAY IN RUINS…’
(Mix through to close up of a harmonica bring played by a British Tommy. CAPTION: ‘YPRES 1914’ The camera pulls slowly out, with the plaintive harmonica still playing, to reveal the interior of a bunker in the trenches. Sitting around on old ammunition boxes etc. are the harmonica player, Private Jenkins, Sergeant Jackson, a padre with no arms, a sheikh, a Viking warrior, a male mermaid, a nun, a milkman and a Greek Orthodox priest. Sounds of warfare throughout, shells thudding, explosions etc.
Sergeant: (looking round rather uncomfortably at the strange collection) Jenkins?
Jenkins: (equally uncomfortable about playing such a tender scene in front of sheiks etc.) Yes, sir.
Sergeant: What are you going to do when you get back to Blighty?
Jenkins: I dunno, surge… I expect I’ll be looking after me mum. She’ll be getting on a bit now.
Sergeant: Got a family of your own ‘ave you?
Jenkins: No, she’s … she’s all I got left now. My wife, Doreen … she .. I got a letter…
Sergeant: You don’t have to tell me, son.
Jenkins: No, sarge, I’d like to tell you, see this place
(Cut to long shot of bunker. Floor manager strides on to set.)
Floor Manager: Hold it. Hold it. Look, loves … can anyone not involved in this scene, please leave the set. (he starts to herd out anyone not in First War costume) Now! Come on please. Anyone not concerned in this scene, the canteen’s open upstairs. (sheikh, male mermaid etc. troop off) Now come on please. (to soldiers) Sorry loves. Sorry. We’ll have to take it again, from the top. All right. OK… Cue!
(Back to identical shot of harmonica-playing tommy; he plays a few bars. CAPTION: ‘KNICKERS I9I4’ Cut to long shot. The floor manager rushes on again. The caption remains superimposed.)
Floor Manager: Hold it. Hold it. Now, who changed the caption? Can whoever changed the caption put the right one back immediately please.
CAPTION: ‘YPRES 1914’
Floor Manager Right. All right, we’ll take it again from the top. Cue.
(back to identical shot of harmonica-playing tommy with correct caption superimposed; slow pull out as before, then floor manager rushes on again)
Hold it. Hold it. (he goes behind some sandbags looking extremely irritated)
Come on. Come on, out of there.
(he hauls a spaceman and hustles him off the set)
You’re not in this … you’re only holding the whole thing up.
(turning to studio as a whole)
Come on please. lt’s no good, loves. It’s no good. We’ll have to leave it for now. Come back when everyone’s settled down a bit. So-that means we go over to the An Room, all right· So cue camera three!
(cut to Guevara caught in a hot embrace with Karl Marx) Sorry, camera four.