Series 3, Episode 36: Elizabethan Pornography Smugglers
GASKELL Michael Palin
MESSENGER Terry Gilliam
ELIZABETH GENT Eric Idle
SPANIARD Terry Jones
VOICE OVER Terry Jones
WIFE Carol Cleveland
MADDOX Graham Chapman
SUPERIMPOSED CAPTION: ‘THE LIFE OF SIR PHILIP SIDNEY’
(Mix through to a Tudor dining room. At the table a group of Tudor gentry are sitting listening to Gaskell. Evidence of a banquet, and two minstrels in attendance. Gaskell has obviously just finished a story. Applause and laughter.)
Gaskell: …then did we bust the Harry Tony mob, who did seek to import Scandinavian filth via Germany. For six years they cleaned up a packet – the day I got whiff of them through a squealer and within one week did a mop-up right good. They’re now languishing doing five years bird in Parkhurst.
(Applause. They are all very impressed. Cut to exterior. A messenger on a horse rides full pelt straight towards the camera. It is dusk. He stops outside the Elizabethan house, leaps off and dashes into the house. Cut to interior again. They are still all laughing from his last story. The messenger bursts into room.)
Messenger: Sir Philip. The Spaniards have landed in the Netherlands. My Lord Walsingham needs you there forthwith.
Gaskell: Let’s go.
(Cut to exterior. Gaskell is seated on the back of the messenger’s horse and they gallop off. The dinner crowd are standing waving on the doorstep.)
Dinner Crowd: Good luck, Sir Philip!
(Cut to a British standard fluttering in the breeze against the blue sky. Fanfare. Tmo Elizabethan gentlemen, and four men dressed as Elizabethan soldiers are standing on a cliff top. Gaskell strides up to them, and.takes up position on topmost point of the knoll.)
Gaskell: Where are the Spaniards?
Elizabethan Gent: Down below Sir Philip, their first boats are landing even now.
(Shot of a sailing-galley seen from above.)
Gaskell: Right, you stay here, I’ll go and get them.
Elizabethan Gent: Sir Philip! Not alone!
(Cut to the beach. Suspense music. Gaskell strides up to the camera, until he is towering over it. The music reaches crescendo.)
Gaskell: Allo allo! What’s going on here?
(Cut to beached rowing boat piled high with bundles of dirty magazines. Two Spaniards are unloading it.)
Spaniard: Ees nothing, Senor, ees just some literature.
Gaskell: I know what literature is, you dago dustbin. I also know what porn is.
(pulls out a loose magazine and brandishes it) What’s this then eh?
Spaniard: It is one of Lope De Vega’s latest play, Senor.
Gaskell: ‘Toledo Tit Parade’? What sort of play’s that?
Spaniard: It’s very visual, Senor.
Gaskell: Right. I’m taking this lot in the name of Her Gracious Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
Spaniard: Oh, but Senor.
Gaskell: Don’t give me any trouble. Just pile up these baskets of filth and come with me.
(The second Spaniard leaps out of the boat with a drawn sword and they both engage Gaskell in a fight. Then we start to draw away from them, leaving them tiny dots in the distance fighting. Fight music over all this and voice over.)
Voice Over: The battle raged long and hard, but as night fell Sidney overcame the Spaniards. 6,000 copies of ‘Tits and Bums’ and 4,000 copies of ‘Shower Sheila’ were seized that day. The tide of Spanish porn was stemmed. Sir Philip Sidney returned to London in triumph.
(Cut to stock film of Elizabethan London street during celebrations.)
SUPERIMPOSED CAPTION: ‘LONDON 1583’
(Cut to side on close up of Gaskell riding hard through woodland)
Voice Over: Covered in glory, Sir Philip rode home to Pensburst to see his beloved wife… but all was not well.
(Gaskell runs up outside another Tudor house and strides in. Cut to interior of an Elizabethan room- panelled walls, log fire, latticed windows, etc. Sir Philip’s wife is sitting reading. Gaskell enters.)
Gaskell: Good evening all, my love. I have returned safe from the Low Countries.
(she hurriedly hides the book she is reading under some knitting and starts whistling) What an thou reading, fair one?
Wife: Oh, ’tis nothing, husband.
Gaskell: I can see ’tis something.
Wife: ‘Tis one of Shakespeare’s latest works.
(Gaskell picks up the book and reads the title.)
Gaskell: Oh … ‘Gay Boys in Bondage’ What, is’t – tragedy? Comedy?
Wife: ‘Tis a… er… ’tis a story of man’s great love for his… fellow man.
Gaskell: How fortunate we are indeed to have such a poet on these shores.
Wife: Indeed. How was the war, my lord?
Gaskell: The Spaniards were defeated thrice. Six dozen chests of hardcore captured.
Wife: (trying to look innocent) Hast brought home any spoils of war?
Gaskell: Yes, good my wife, this fair coat trimmed with ermine.
Wife: (without enthusiasm) Oh, lovely, nowt else?
Gaskell: No, no fair lady. The rest was too smutty.
(He settles himself down in front of his lady’s feet and the fire.)
Gaskell: Now, my good wife. Whilst I rest, read to me a while from Shakespeare’s ‘Gay Boys in Bondage’.
(The wife looks a trifle taken aback but reluctantly opens the book and starts to read with a resigned air.)
Wife: Yes… my lord… ‘Gay Boys in Bondage’… Ken, 25, is a mounted policeman with a difference… and what a difference. Even Roger is surprised and he’s…
(she looks slightly, sick with guilt) he’s used to real men…
Gaskell: ‘Tis like ‘Hamlet’ …what a genius!
Wife: ‘But who’s going to do the cooking tonight? Roddy’s got a mouthful…’
(Enter Maddox- a modern-day plain-clothed policeman.)
Maddox: All right, this is a raid.
(The wife screams, Gaskell leaps to his feet.)
Wife: Oh! We are disgraced!
Gaskell: There you are, Maddox!
Maddox: Cut the chat… and get in the van.
Gaskell: Maddox! You recognize me…
Maddox: Indeed I do, Sir Philip Sidney, and sad I am to see you caught up in this morass of filth,
(he picks up the book) ooh- that’s a long one.
Wife: Oh oh… the glorious name of Sidney is besmirched… all is lost… oh alas the day.
Gaskell: Shut upl I know this man – this is my old mate Sergeant Maddox…
Maddox: You’ll do time for this.
Gaskell: Oh Maddox- it’s me- Gaskell… ‘F’ division down at Acton… Inspector Arthur Frodwell.
Maddox: Come on Sidney.
(he bundles them both out) And you, miss.
Gaskell: I’m not Sir Philip bleedin’ Sidney …and where were you? We could have mopped up that Tudor shop…
(They are bundled out. Maddox pauses only to pick a book from the bookcase near the door.)
Maddox: Ooh- That’s a good one!
(Cut to outside a modern theatre stage-door Gaskell, still protesting, and wife are bundled out and into a police van. As it drives off, it reveals on the side of the theatre a poster saying: ‘The Aldwych Theatre, The Royal Shakespeare Company Presents “Gay Boys In Bondage” By William Shakespeare’.)