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Six months after the pilot episode for 'A Sharp Intake Of Breath' was broadcast on I.T.V. on 29/7/77 ( as part of 'The Sound Of Laughter' anthology ), a full series appeared, with David Jason once more playing 'Peter Barnes', middle-aged, happily married, a good man in an insane world. Replacing Patricia Brake as his wife Sheila was Jacqueline Clarke, best remembered for her appearances on the B.B.C.'s 'Dave Allen At Large'.
'Your Life In Their Hands' is therefore the earliest surviving episode ( the pilot unfortunately having been wiped ).
It begins when Peter refuses to eat the scrambled eggs Sheila has made for his breakfast. She thinks he must be ill. But it is really because she is not a very good cook.
At her insistence, he goes to his local surgery, which is comfortless, noisy, packed to capacity. Peter sits between a man ( Malcolm Storry ) whose foot is in plaster ( which he accidentally treads on - twice ) and Arthur Clegg ( Alun Armstrong ), a flat-capped Northerner who blathers on about the state of the N.H.S. and this surgery in particular. "By the time you get to see a doctor in this place, you forget what it was you came in for!".
Peter remembers to tell the receptionist ( Margaret Courtenay ) he is there. The buzzer on her window is so loud it nearly gives him a heart attack. Worse, her window is low so he has to speak to her while crouched. If he is not ill before he certainly must be now...
Peter and Arthur swap doctors - the latter does not like the one he has been given - and immediately Peter sees why. The doctor ( Richard Wilson ) is so inept as to make 'Doc Morrissey' from the 'Reggie Perrin' series look like 'Dr.Kildare'....
Good opening episode, and one that has not dated ( apart from a fleeting reference to Hughie Green's 'Opportunity Knocks!' ) too much. Surgeries look much the same today ( and are if anything worse, with television sets blaring away constantly ). As the moaning 'Clegg', Armstrong put me a little in mind of 'Figgis' from 'Only When I Laugh', while Richard Wilson's doctor could have been a distant relative of 'Thorpe' from the same show.
Funniest moment - dropping his stethoscope, the doctor bends to pick it up - and his back locks!
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