Upstairs Downstairs – An Object of Value (15th December 1972)

An Object of Value continues a run of episodes defined by the arrival of an outsider to 165 Eaton Place who has an immediate destabilising effect on the household. Today it’s Lady Marjorie’s recently widowed mother, Lady Southwold (Cathleen Nesbitt), and her companion Miss Hodges (Nancie Jackson) who, almost as soon as they step through the door, begin to put the cat amongst the pigeons ….

Although Lady Southwold is a suitably imposing figure in public, in private she comes across as a fairly genial old soul. Mind you, it’s understandable that she’s rather short tempered once she believes her irreplicable butterfly brooch has been stolen. Miss Hodges is the one who mainly suffers at Lady Southwold’s hands, although you get the sense that her flashes of anger don’t last long (and if Miss Hodges wasn’t such a terrible snob, maybe Lady Southwold would be able to hold her tongue a little more).

If Lady Southwold kicks off proceedings by deciding that she’s been robbed, then Miss Hodges stokes the fire by confiding to Hudson that she thinks (with no real evidence) that Miss Roberts is guilty.

The simmering enmity between Hodges and Roberts is nicely teased out at the start of the episode as is Hodges’ strange limbo-like position. She considers herself to be a cut above the servants and wouldn’t think of taking her meals with them, but whilst she’s present in the drawing room with Lady Marjorie, Richard and Lady Southwold, her menial status is made clear very quickly (she remains standing whilst the others sit, and her comments tend to be politely ignored).

Richard instructs Hudson to make discreet enquires amongst the staff. This is the cue for a ladle of humour (the unfortunate Edward compares Hudson to Sherlock Holmes, unaware that the cat-like Hudson has crept up on him and can hear every mocking word) and also drama (Roberts explodes into hysterics after she decides her position and integrity are under attack).

An Object of Value is one of those self-contained stories, never setting foot outside 165 Eaton Place. Apart from the regular cast (for once, all the servants are present and correct) there’s only four guest actors – Cathleen Nesbitt and Nancie Jackson are both quite key, even if they don’t have a great deal of screentime (Lady Southwold and Hodges exist mainly to kick the plot into action) as is Christopher Biggins as Mr. Donaldson, although his big scene comes right at the end of the episode.

Donaldson is an acquaintance of Thomas and someone who the chauffeur hopes to go into partnership with. Sarah – on Thomas’ bidding – steals a bottle of wine from the cellar, all the better for him to sweeten Donaldson. This action is a little hard to swallow – why would Sarah risk everything, especially since she didn’t seem to benefit? At first I thought that maybe it would be used later by Hudson as an example of Sarah’s untrustworthiness (if suspicion fell on her that she stole the brooch) but as that didn’t happen, we can just take as a spot of colour which enlivens the early part of the episode.

John Alderton gets plenty of good material to work with today. Thomas continues his pursuit of Sarah and eventually gets her into bed although it’s his confrontation with Rose that really stands out. First, Rose finds it impossible to articulate quite why she cares so much about Sarah’s burgeoning friendship with Thomas (although the innuendo is quite plain) and then Thomas roughly manhandles her (demonstrating that beneath his thin veneer of affability that’s won round some of the staff, such as Mrs Bridges, there’s something rather nasty lurking).

When Hudson later asks him to explain who his visitor was, Thomas stands his ground and refuses. There’s strong energy in these scenes with Gordon Jackson and John Alderton – Hudson might be able to browbeat the rest of the staff, but it’s plain that Thomas is an immovable object. Thomas even stands his ground with Richard, although eventually he does concede and explain.

Then an unspoken irony comes into play. Thomas is off the hook because Richard knows that Mr. Donaldson is a respectable man, but that’s only his public face. In private Donaldson is revealed to be somewhat degenerate – pawing Sarah and limbering up for something more, before Thomas bursts in and they slug it out.

We don’t see many fight scenes in Upstairs Downstairs, which makes the Thomas/Donaldson one quite noteworthy. Christopher Biggins isn’t the sort of actor who tends to indulge in a great deal of fisticuffs, so it’s not entirely convincing (although you have to say that recording fights in a multi-camera vt studio never offered the director or actors the same flexibility as single-camera film work did). It’s not a total disaster though, and the pair certainly threw themselves around with abandon as flimsy prop chairs and tables get demolished with alacrity.

After that’s over and Sarah finds herself bonded ever tighter to Thomas (although we still don’t know if he cares for her at all) there’s just time for the mystery of the missing brooch to be solved (no spoilers – but it’s a happy ending).

This is another good script from the always reliable Jeremy Paul. Apart from the smooth-running of the main plot, there’s plenty of incidental moments to also enjoy. Such as Sarah teaching Ruby to read with the baby’s blocks from the nursery and Mrs Bridges instructing Ruby (it’s her day to learn) about the best way to slice a cucumber. I also appreciated Rachel Gurney’s wistful underplaying during the scene where Lady Marjorie confides that she wished she’d known her father better. Gurney delivers the line in such a detached way that it almost feels like Lady Marjorie is referring to a distant acquaintance, rather than one of her closest relatives.

Upstairs Downstairs – Out of the Everywhere (8th December 1972)

The episode opens with a cross-fade from the empty hallway (albeit with a new object – a perambulator – prominent) to the kitchen and parlour, where the servants are all in silent contemplation. Given Upstairs Downstairs‘ large cast, it’s rare for an episode to feature every regular – and so it proves today as Rose and Ruby are absent.

It’s a mystery where Ruby is (not to mention who’s doing her work in her absence) but at least Rose gets a namecheck. Given that Out of the Everywhere sees the return of Miss Elizabeth (complete with her baby daughter) it’s a little surprising not to see Rose, but in her absence, Sarah steps forward to fill the void as Elizabeth’s moral conscience.

There’s a rare moment of contentment downstairs after Hudson, welcoming Richard and Lady Marjorie back home, passes on the news that Elizabeth has given birth to a baby girl. Although Mrs Bridges can’t resist a spot of gentle chiding – Hudson (as befits a man) failed to ask any further questions, such as the baby’s name or weight ….

Even the sour-faced Roberts joins in the jollification as Hudson agrees (after a moment’s pause) that they can wet the baby’s head with a tot of beer. Although it doesn’t take too long for the peace to be shattered once it’s revealed that Nanny Webster (Daphne Heard) is returning to take charge of the child.

Hudson reacts to the news with barely surpassed dismay, telling Lady Marjorie that he’d thought she might have retired (“you mean you hoped she had” mutters Richard out of the corner of his mouth). Nanny Webster appears, in episode terms, about five minutes later – which is still long enough for a sense of foreboding to begin to build.

It’s interesting that we don’t see the response of the other staff to the news of her arrival, instead there’s a sharp cut to the front door, where – a vision in black – the imposing Nanny Webster, scowling at Hudson, impatiently demands to be let in. That she comes in through the front door, rather than the servant’s entrance, and the fact she’s remarkably outspoken to Lady Marjorie (despairing that she’s not wearing her corset) marks her out as a servant with very special privileges.

This really is Heard’s episode, and she dominates it from her first to her last scene, deftly creating the complex character of Nanny Webster in around forty minutes of screentime. Although Nanny Webster is autocratic and capable of finding fault with everything that Sarah does, there’s no denying the love she has for her little charge. There’s also no suggestion that she’s deliberately cruel or careless, it’s simply that her failing energy means that a disaster seems ever more likely as time goes on.

With Richard and Lady Marjorie urgently called away to Southwold (as always, an excellent plot device whenever characters need to be moved offstage for a while) it falls to Sarah to break the news about Nanny’s incapacity to Elizabeth. This isn’t easy though, as Elizabeth initially doesn’t seem at all bothered.

Elizabeth has tended to be painted as rather selfish and self-absorbed since her debut appearance, and today’s episode carries on this trend. That she seems more concerned about going out to a party or finishing her book than learning about her child hardly paints her in the best light.  It’s quite notable that she only visits the nursery quite late on in the episode, although that might be down to her own awkward relationship with Nanny Webster rather than disinterest in her daughter.

And to give her some credit, eventually she does begin to take more of an interest and although she can make no headway with Nanny herself, she ensures that Lady Marjorie gives her her marching orders. This is an exquisitely played scene between Rachel Gurney and Daphne Heard, in which all of Nanny’s arrogance is stripped away to reveal the real woman underneath (one who accepts that she can’t carry on, but still has her pride – sticking to the fiction that she’s only leaving because the stairs are too much for her).

Also of interest is the final appearance by Ian Ogilvy as Lawrence Kirbridge. It’s very low-key (he slips away from the christening never to return) but it works – in this case, less is more.

A strong episode then, although not one with any shocks or surprises (it seemed pretty obvious from the start that Nanny Webster would turn out to be unsuitable). A pity that both Christopher Beeny and Pauline Collins separately indulge in spots of overacting, but you can’t have everything.

Upstairs Downstairs – Your Obedient Servant (1st December 1972)

If (and it’s a big if) you can accept the central conceit of Your Obedient Servant (Hudson aping his betters) then there’s a great deal to enjoy in this episode. And even if you can’t, Fay Weldon’s script still sparkles.

The opening scene intercuts between Hudson (in his parlour) and Richard Bellamy (in the morning room) both of whom are more than a little irritated by the constant loud banging and showers of dust appearing all around the house. This is due to a new electric bell system which is being installed by a group of workmen (led by Larry Martyn).

Martyn (probably best known for playing the slightly more aged Mr Mash in Are You Being Served?) is an early recipient of some of Weldon’s top notch dialogue.

That the episode begins with Hudson and Richard Bellamy seems apt, as both are required to deal with the same issue – the surprise arrival of their brother – although their storylines conclude in very different ways.

Even before we learn that Hudson has a brother, Weldon provides him with a lovely little monologue (delivered, as always, exquisitely by Gordon Jackson) in which he lectures a slightly baffled Edward. “A brother, in any walk of life, is someone to whom much is owed. The greatest consideration, the greatest formality, no matter how the exigences of fate have led each into different paths, into different fortunes”.

Hudson certainly abides by these words, although it’s more than a little surprising when he leaves 165 Eaton Place without permission and nips out to hire himself a fine suit of clothes (plus a cane and gloves). It’s all part of his plan to ensure that his brother, Donald (Andrew Downie), his sister-in-law Maudie (Marcia Ashton) and his niece Alice (Kim Hardy) believe him to be a gentleman about town rather than a common servant.

The problem is that nothing we’ve seen of Hudson to date has prepared us for this. Extreme pride in his position has always been his defining feature – possibly it would be easier to understand had Donald had been an aggressive or foreboding man, but on the contrary he’s cheerful and welcoming. True, Maudie is a bit of snob (commenting that waiters aren’t people) but it’s hard to imagine Hudson going through all this rigmarole for her benefit.

If Donald is a thoroughly nice chap, then the same really can’t really be said of Richard’s elder brother, Arthur (John Nettleton). Nettleton (in reality some years younger than David Langdon) gets most of the best lines in the episode and delivers them with relish (his description of Hudson – “a furtive looking fellow with whisky on his breath” – is just one of many).

The regulars aren’t forgotten either. Mrs Bridges has several standout moments, the first being when she recalls an early crisis after the cook fell dead over dinner and she had to step into the breach. “I was only the kitchen maid. They wasn’t grateful. They sent the hollandaise back Said it was curdled. Well the look on that poor dead woman’s face. Enough to curdle anything it was”.

Later she passes over her life savings – thirty pounds – to Hudson. That she’s content to do this (asking no questions) is remarkable. She has total faith that Hudson will be able to repay her one day and hopefully he did so. If he ended up squandering all his savings (not to mention hers) just to entertain his brother for a few days then it would leave a bad taste in the mouth.

Roberts was probably the regular who always had the least to do (although Patsy Smart could work wonders with just a look or a disapproving purse of her lips). Today she’s given a nice monologue in which Roberts recalls how an early love of hers was chased away by her disapproving parents. It’s just a short speech, but it lays bare her lonely and unfulfilled life since.

Despite Arthur’s general waspishness, there are occasional signs that a rapprochement with Richard might be on the cards. But it’s quite telling that Richard eventually spurns him after he attempts to embarrass Hudson. And although Hudson fears for his position when Richard encounters him and his brother eating in the same swanky restaurant as he is, the viewer – no doubt knowing that the series wouldn’t be foolish enough to let Gordon Jackson go – will be one step ahead of Hudson and secure in the knowledge that the master/servant balance will shortly be restored.

A slightly strange episode then, but one that zings with such excellent dialogue that I’m prepared to cut it a great deal of slack. Other things to report – Edward attempts to smoke a pipe which doesn’t go down well with Hudson (“tobacco slows the nervous reflexes and yours are quite slow enough! Put that abominable instrument away and lay out two trays”) and a new parlour maid, Violet (Angela Savy), appears out of nowhere and is never seen again after this episode.

Upstairs Downstairs – The Property of a Lady (24th November 1972)

Lady Marjorie’s past indiscretion comes back to haunt her ….

The lack of a writing credit on the episode is a sure sign that its genesis was a troubled one (and indeed, that was the case – Peter Wildeblood was incensed that his script was so heavily written and asked for his name to be removed).

There aren’t too many outward signs of any production travails though – even if the story (despite a dollop of location filming) feels quite enclosed and restricted. It’s notable that it has a very small cast with only six regulars (Thomas, Sarah, Mr Hudson, Rose, Lady Marjorie and Richard Bellamy) and a sole speaking guest actor – Desmond Perry as Michael Dooley, a fast-talking Irish ex-soldier with blackmail on his mind.

Dooley claims to have been batman to Captain Charles Hammond, an officer who fought and died on the North West frontier of India. In Dooley’s possession are a tranche of letters of an intimate nature exchanged between Hammond and Lady Marjorie (see the series one episode Magic Casements). Although why he should want to take these missives to a war zone is anyone’s guess.

Whilst Dooley isn’t exactly the most three-dimensional character, Perry gives a very effective performance, deftly altering Dooley’s tone from deferential to implacable whenever he spies that he’s gaining the upper hand. Initially turfed out of the front door of 165 Eaton Place by Hudson (who seems equally appalled that he’s a beggar and an Irishman) he finds a more ready confidant round the back, where Thomas is tending to the motor car.

Of course, the poor hapless Dooley never realises that in Thomas he’s run into someone who’s far more devious and underhand than he is ….

This is really John Alderton’s episode. He plays the episode’s two key scenes (Thomas approaching independently both Lady Marjorie and Richard to inform them of Dooley’s blackmail) very well. When Thomas pulls over the car to have a private word with Lady Marjorie, there’s some excellent byplay between the two – Lady Marjorie’s initial disdain turning to panic which is soothed by Thomas’ level-headed support (even though the audience – by now fully primed about his character – knows that he’s on the make).

Having acquired £200 (after her Ladyship pawns her jewels) Thomas then collects the same sum from Richard. Thomas correctly assumes that neither would dream of speaking to the other about the matter, allowing him to make a tidy profit.

And given that Dooley – asking for £200 – is eventually bundled out of the mews after handing over the letters with nothing to show for it, Thomas is able to walk away with all £400. Or is he?

There’s no getting around the fact that the wheels come off towards the end of the episode. Thomas talks Sarah into impersonating Lady Marjorie and together the pair bamboozle the unfortunate Dooley. To give her credit, Pauline Collins was less mannered and arch in this scene than I was expecting, but it still feels a little off.

Possibly the script in its original form had a little more bite, but I still enjoyed the delicate hypocrisy displayed by all the characters (except Rose, who remained in total ignorance). When talking to Lady Marjorie and Richard, Thomas’ true feelings are kept discreetly veiled as befits a good servant – but there’s no doubt that all parties know exactly what the truth is (but are compelled, for forms sake, to maintain an air of decorum).

The same goes for Hudson as he discusses the matter with Thomas. When they’re together, Hudson pours scorn on Dooley’s claims but after Thomas leaves it’s plain that Hudson is perturbed.

Sarah makes Thomas give all the money back. That Thomas does so (albeit receiving £10 from Lady Marjorie and £20 from Richard) is hard to swallow. What was there to stop Thomas pocketing some or all of it and not telling Sarah? This sudden burst of conscience seems more than a little out of character (especially since she could never have spoken to Lord or Lady Marjorie to discover the truth) but his duplicitous nature is restored when out of his £30, he only gives Sarah £3!

The Property of a Lady feels a little stretched – the plot is decent enough, but it’s quite a basic one to fill a 52 minute episode. Maybe an unconnected subplot would have given it a little more impetus.

Upstairs Downstairs – Guest of Honour (17th November 1972)

Guess who’s coming to dinner? Only the King of England, Edward VII ….

There’s a neat switch around halfway into this episode. Up until that point the focus – not surprisingly – has been on the Royal visit (first the preparations and then the arrival of his august Majesty).

Hudson is the first to learn the news and he immediately makes haste for the kitchen where he (eventually) tells Mrs Hudson. To begin with he amuses himself by discounting her many suggestions as to who the honoured guest might be (Mr Asquish and Mr Balfour are just two of the names she suggests) before he finally puts her out of her misery.

Hudson then displays a slightly surprising cynical edge to his character. No doubt if the younger servants were present he would have held his tongue, but with only Mrs Bridges there he’s quite comfortable in admitting that whilst he respects the institution of monarchy he has certain reservations about the person of the sovereign.  He then comments that he’d sooner have a Stuart on throne, before shrugging and stating that “we’ll just have to make do with what we’ve got”!

The King himself (played by Lockwood West) turns out to be a rather uninteresting fellow and his fellow dinner guests aren’t a great deal better. This has to be a deliberate touch – but just as the first pangs of disappointment for the viewer might be kicking in, the unexpected arrival of Sarah gives the episode new impetus as it sharply changes direction.

Sarah, pregnant with James’ child, has run away from the bucolic seclusion of Southwold and – by a feat of remarkable timing – goes into labour just minutes after she steps through the back door of 165 Eaton Place. There then follows some strange pantomimic scenes as the staff – aided by Lady Marjorie – attempt to spirit Sarah upstairs (all the while hoping that their guests don’t spot that anything is amiss).

The obvious question to ask is why they take her up the main stairs rather than the servants’ back stairs? The obvious answers would be that had they done so the episode would have fallen a little flat not to mention running about five minutes shorter.

When it’s all over, Rose returns downstairs to tell the others that Sarah’s all right and the child was a little boy. The use of the past tense makes it plain what’s occurred and Hudson – after a beat – comments that it might have been for the best (in series terms I’d agree, as Sarah is now freed from any familial obligations).

It’s quite striking that both Hudson and Mrs Bridges (neither of whom have been that sympathetically inclined towards Sarah in the past) now seem to have rather more consideration for her. Although Hudson can’t resist opining a homily about how Sarah is a good example of the dangers which occur when you attempt to exceed your station in life.

It’s left to the ever mournful Roberts to cast a late discordant note. The other members of staff are happy for Sarah to take her meals with them, but Roberts most certainly isn’t. She begins by labelling her a “slut” before launching a fuller tirade.

She’s a stuck-up, lying minx! Huh! Thinks she’s better than all of us… puts on airs! Gets Captain James into such trouble that he has to be sent to India. Then she thinks she can walk in here as though nothing has happened!

But eventually, seeing that hers is the minority opinion, Roberts relents and a delighted Rose is able to tell Sarah that she’s been welcomed back into the “family”. It’ll be just like old times, Rose says, although this time Sarah will need to behave. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that score though ….

Guest of Honour is an interesting episode. One of the best remembered from the entire run of Upstairs Downstairs, as touched upon before it’s very much a game of two halves. The upstairs portion seems to be the bit that most people remember, which is surprising as nothing really happens. Once again downstairs is where all the action is.

Upstairs Downstairs – Married Love (4th November 1972)

Relations between Elizabeth and Lawrence are worsening due to his inability to consummate their marriage. Shuddering at the thought of such gross physical activity, he turns to his publisher and mentor – Sir Edwin Partridge (Charles Gray) – who may be able to assist ….

The opening of this episode feels a bit abrupt (the UpDown website confirms that the first few lines are inexplicably missing from all copies currently in circulation). Thomas’ incredulity that bootlaces and newspapers need to be ironed raises a smile (as does his suggestion that he could do the same to the bacon). The truculent cook, Mrs. Fellowes, also helps to create an air of sour comic relief – it’s all to do with her leg you know.

Laughs are thin on the ground when we move upstairs to Elizabeth and Lawrence’s bedroom. His total disinterest in that side of their relationship (as a poet he apparently finds it too ghastly to contemplate) is made plain – which launches Elizabeth into the realms of deepest despair. Matters get no better over the breakfast table and they part – he to visit Sir Edwin – on the worst of terms.

Elizabeth has very few role models to turn to. It would be impossible to speak to her mother about such a delicate subject, so instead she sounds out Rose. This is a gloriously uncomfortable scene – the pure and innocent Rose is just about the last person to advise anyone on sexual matters (all she can do is pass on second hand information about her aunt and uncle’s strained relationship and how all working men are only after one thing).

Given that the first half of the episode is claustrophobic and rather unhappy, it’s a jarring (but not unpleasant) change of pace when the action switches to Thomas and Elizabeth taking a drive. The wily Thomas has persuaded the Kirkbridges that buying a car would be a wise move – he, of course, will be more than happy to act as chauffeur.  Although the OB VT makes things look a little cheap, it still must have been quite an expensive scene to mount as there’s a fair number of extras dotted about the park.

Whilst Elizabeth is getting the colour back in her cheeks, Lawrence is unburdening his soul to Sir Edwin. Charles Gray is on typically mesmerising form throughout – purring like a particularly well-fed cat as Sir Edwin elects (with Lawrence’s blessing) to try and lift Elizabeth’s spirits by any means necessary.

By seducing her? During a party held by Lawrence to celebrate the publication of his new book, Sir Edwin and a rather tiddly Elizabeth do visit her bedroom, but it’s not specified in this episode exactly what they get up to.  Sir Edwin does look satisfied when he later bids Lawrence farewell, but then that seems to be his default setting.

Elizabeth and Sir Edwin’s conversation during the party is fascinating. Although he toys with her, Elizabeth does possess some intellectual tools of her own (even though, as events during previous episodes have proved, she still has a strong streak of naivety).

The champagne flows freely at the party, which is just as well as the sample we have of Lawrence’s poetry (all doom laden stuff) would no doubt sound a little better after a few stiff drinks.

In some ways Married Love serves as a prologue to the drama of the next episode, but John Harrison’s script (the second of his two UpDown efforts) is still a strong vehicle for Elizabeth. Since Harrison’s previous effort was The Path of Duty (Elizabeth’s debut in the series) it’s possibly not surprising he was chosen to move her character on to the next stage.

Upstairs Downstairs – A Pair of Exiles (28th October 1972)

UpDown was rarely the sort of series to indulge itself with showy directorial flourishes, but the opening shot of this episode – we see a worried Lady Marjorie through a rain-soaked window – is quite nice.

She’s concerned about a bill that’s been forwarded onto her from a jewellers – James has run up quite a debt with them. Lady Marjorie – always keen to think the best of her son – worries that he’s fallen into bad company, gambling with his brother officers (who can easily afford to shrug off substantial losses as matters of no consequence).

But Richard points out that these aren’t gambling debts – jewels suggest a young woman. Richard goes on to surmise that he’s fallen into the clutches of an unprincipled female who intends to take him for every penny that he’s got.

Just to hammer this point home, the action then cuts to Sarah (wearing a hat that certainly catches the eye). She fits the bill of a gold-digger, but it’s interesting how the episode is quick to turn this idea on its head. James has got large gambling debts and he obtained the jewels in order to pawn them (thereby raising a little money). Sarah is doing her best to help him, but it’s plain that he’s in a desperate situation.

James’ commanding officer, Colonel Winter (Moray Watson), pays a visit to 165 Eaton Place. Watson could play this sort of role in his sleep, but he’s still very watchable – Winter makes polite smalltalk with Lady Marjorie and Richard for a few minutes before breaking the bad news. James is drinking far too much and running up debts at a rate of knots.

That would be enough to generate a decent episode’s worth of drama by itself, but everything then moves up several notches after Sarah tells James that she’s pregnant (“there’s a little captain on the way” as she puts it). Thankfully, this bombshell means that Sarah stops acting in a manic manner (when Pauline Collins is in full flight it’s a little difficult to take).

Rose has arrived to take tea in the servants hall and has a letter waiting for her from Sarah. Mr Hudson and Mrs Bridges are incensed that she has the nerve to write (following the scene she made at Miss Elizabeth’s wedding) but the younger servants, like Edward, are much more indulgent.

Rose later visits Sarah and she shares her news. After a moment of shock, Rose decides that James has to do the right thing by her. Despite Rose’s obvious affection for Mr James, all of her sympathy lies with Sarah (who begins to wail in a rather over the top manner).

James meets with his parents and comes clean. As you might expect, Lady Marjorie doesn’t react kindly to the news that James has fathered a child with their former parlour maid. She’s too far well bred to make a scene though – instead her features simply set into immobility.

Mrs Bridges isn’t surprised to learn about James’ gambling debts. She mutters darkly about James’ Uncle Bertie, which helps to fill in another chink of the Southwold family tree (they seem to be mainly comprised of dissolute spendthrifts, at least according to her occasional reminiscences).

The arrival of Sarah sets the servants’ tongues a wagging – especially when she’s invited upstairs. If there’s a problem to be fixed, then Sir Geoffrey Dillon (Raymond Huntley) is your man. He’s got it all worked out – Sarah moves down to Southwold and eventually – after the child is born – will be found a suitable job, in the laundry maybe.  Sarah doesn’t react very well to this ….

James comes over as rather spineless in this scene. Whilst Sir Geoffrey intones, James says very little – unable to meet Sarah’s eye or respond to her pleas. Eventually he does speak a few words to her (“I’ll write to you”). This comment is greeted with a faint smile and a nod of the head. For all that Pauline Collins can go over the top at the drop of a hat, this is a subtle moment.

James is banished to India – which writes out Simon Williams until the final episode of series two.  That’s a shame, but by the time he finally returns he does become more of a central character.

The final line of the episode (Sarah’s “Rose, I’m frightened”) manages to strip away all of Sarah’s brittle bravado to reveal a more vulnerable woman underneath. Mind you, I’ve a feeling that she’ll bounce back ….

Upstairs Downstairs – The New Man (21st October 1972)

Elizabeth and Lawrence are back from their honeymoon. Already there’s a air of brittleness between them – it’s noticeable that when they pay a visit to Lady Marjorie the pair don’t sit together. Elizabeth sits closest to Lady Marjorie whilst Lawrence lurks in the background, only able to see Elizabeth’s back. Presumably this was an intentional script or directorial touch, as it suggests – despite their brave chatter – they’ve already become isolated from each other.

Ruby makes her debut (a little over five minutes in, Mrs Bridges utters her first “oh Ruby” – the first of many).  Mrs Bridges is on especially fine form at the start of the episode, uttering meaningless comments such as “handsome is as handsome does” whilst Mr Hudson continues to wonder about Lawrence’s character.

Despite the fact that Hudson always tells the others not to gossip, today he can’t help himself. He concedes that Lawrence is a very charming young man, but only Hudson could make this sound like a deadly insult. It’s plain that he’s still not taken with him – which is in sharp contrast to Rose, who’s been won over by his superficial charm and his not so superficial good looks.

Shortly after, there’s a lovely scene when Elizabeth goes downstairs to give the servants a present (a musical box). She waltzes around the kitchen, almost bumping into Hudson (both are slightly discomforted by this). As Elizabeth departs with Rose for her new home in Greenwich, Hudson explains to Ruby that Miss Elizabeth’s behaviour can be explained away by the fact that she grew up in Eaton Place. Mrs Bridges tenderly responds that in some ways Miss Elizabeth will never grow up.

John Alderton makes his debut as Thomas Watkins (boyo). I’m not sure why they couldn’t have found a Welsh actor to play a Welshman, but there you go. Thomas – interviewed by Elizabeth for the position of Lawrence’s manservant – manages to talk himself into the job. He certainly doesn’t have Hudson’s deference – Thomas favours a brooding, enigmatic style.

His initial meeting with Rose isn’t very favourable, but it’s not soon before she seems to be somewhat smitten. Hearing her singing whilst she works, Lawrence acidly wonders if “the desires of Rose, the virginal nymph, are aroused by the dark masculinity of the Welsh bull?” Thomas begins to win Rose round after he cleans her boots (she’s still wearing them at the time, which gives the scene a mild erotic charge). He then expounds his theory that life is for living and enjoying – something which I don’t think Rose has ever considered before.

Thomas is curious about 165 Eaton Place. Working there, as opposed to being out of the way in Greenwich, would be a step up the ladder. When he calls round for Elizabeth’s trunk, it’s fascinating to see the way he manipulates Mrs Bridges (lavishing praise on her cherry-cake). Mr Hudson reluctantly shakes his hand, but he’s not won over by Thomas’ easy charm.

Elizabeth and Lawrence aren’t exactly settling into domestic bliss. They have arguments over the dinner table (much to Rose’s discomfort). And then there’s the sleeping arrangements – Lawrence doesn’t seem terribly keen to share his wife’s bed.

A slight spot of hanky panky in the pantry between Thomas and Rose irritates Elizabeth no end (she gives them both a week’s notice). She doesn’t mean it of course – it’s only a spasm of annoyance at the fact others are enjoying themselves whilst she has found herself trapped in a frozen marriage. Nicola Pagett then launches into some strange paroxysms of sobbing which closes the episode.

A pity the series didn’t have a more sombre closing theme to use when the stories were sad, as the jolly music crashing in rather spoils the moment.

Upstairs Downstairs – For Love of Love (5th March 1972)

There’s an odd chronology at work here – the caption tells us that some six months have passed since the previous episode (when Miss Elizabeth stormed out of 165 Eaton Place) and yet all the other evidence (Rose bringing Elizabeth a case of clothes, for example) suggests that only a few days could have elapsed.

Elizabeth continues to rail against the conventions of the society she was brought up in – desperate to help the poor on the one hand and break free from the stifling embrace of her parents on the other – although Rosemary Anne Sisson’s script manages to lob a few well-aimed barbs her way. One minute Elizabeth tells Rose that she’s her friend and the next she’s passed over all her dirty washing (brushing away Rose’s complaint that she’ll never be able to get it past Mr Hudson as a matter of no consequence).

Rose, by keeping secrets from the rest of the staff and her employers, incurs the cold wrath of Mr Hudson. He, of course, knows his place and brings Rose back into line. Elizabeth, by disavowing the conventions of respectable society, is positioned as a disruptive element – breaking the harmony that exists between master and servant. This is a theme that’s been touched upon before and will again in the years to come.

Speaking of disruptive elements, Sarah (yet again) returns – this time as a bawdy music hall star (the toast of Camden Town). A pity that the budget didn’t run to filming in a real music hall, but Sarah’s big number (set to the UpDown theme music) is certainly a talking point. Sarah’s relationship with James picks up steam here, although the real pay off won’t occur until series two.

Introduced in the previous episode, the effete poet Lawrence Kirbridge (Ian Ogilvy) continues to loll about, dispensing bon mots in the style of a cut-price Oscar Wilde. A little of Lawrence tends to go a long way, but there is one small moment when his public image wavers and we get to see the real man beneath (a much less confident and far more real person).

Plot-threads in this first series tend to be rather disjointed. In the last episode Elizabeth was infatuated with Lawrence but he only viewed her with indulgent indifference. Now the pair seem to be in love and marriage may be on the cards.

Except that Elizabeth is insistent that there’s no way she’d submit to such an old-fashioned concept as marriage. That is, until after the second ad break when we see her sorting through her wedding presents. Hmm.

Having spent most of the episode reacting with horror at Elizabeth’s actions, Richard and Lady Marjorie are later gifted a few nice comic moments. Slowly warming to the possibility of welcoming Lawrence into the family, Richard can’t help but critique Lawrence’s latest poem whilst the pair visibly cheer up once they realise that he comes of good Tory stock.

There’s plenty of other good character touches scattered throughout the script – Rose’s reminisces of how she sat with her dying mother all night (and how Lady Marjorie also kept vigil with her) or the way Rose gives the cheeky young Edward a hard slap, for example.  A favourite of mine is the arrival of Sarah at the wedding, loudly mixing with the nobs downstairs whilst the servants (kept well out of the way in the upper balcony) look on with a mixture of amazement and horror. Hudson, of course, is horrified ….