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A BBC radio sitcom, written by John Finnemore, about a small charter airline (or 'airdot', as you can't 'put only one aircraft in a line'). There are two pilots, a good one and a safe one, the former played by Roger Allam, the latter by Benedict Cumberbatch. The attendants are Carolyn (Stephanie Cole, Waiting for God), who owns the airline as part of her last divorce settlement, and Arthur (Finnemore), her well-meaning, if dim, late-twenties son.

Much of the humour comes from the tension between the two pilots, Martin and Douglas; Carolyn's penny pinching ways; and Arthur's stupidity.


This work contains examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: Martin is *not* one of these, he is very safety-conscious, and he won't let Douglas be one.
    • Douglas definitely is one of these. He managed to chase polar bears across Qikiqtarjuaq in a really old commerical charter plane, all the while making taka-taka noises.
    • Also Hercules 'Herc' Shipwright, Douglas' old friend.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Subverted in Series 3 episode, 'Paris'. According to John Finnemore's blog, he promised Benedict that he wouldn't put in Sherlock references just for the sake of it. True to his word, in an episode where Martin attempts to track down a missing bottle of whisky with his trusty sidekick Arthur, he is repeatedly likened to... Miss Marple. He also narrowly avoids quoting Sherlock Holmes in the line;

 Martin: The thing is, we've taken away all the things that can't possibly have happened, so I suppose the only thing that's left, even though it seems really weird, must be the thing that did happen in fact!

    • Martin is referred to more than once as rather short. Benedict is 6 feet tall.
  • The Alleged Plane: GERTI. After another pilot correctly identifies what model it is, Douglas replies, "Gosh, well done. Most people would have to stop and think before they said 'aeroplane'..."
  • Audio Erotica: The voice-off between Douglas and Herc.

  Caroline: Stop it, you two, before I drown in syrup!

 Douglas: Answer this question with a lie. What's your name?

Arthur: Arth...nold...man...er...cat...sir...man.

Douglas: Arthnoldmanercatsirman... That's an unusual name. Tell me, is it made up?

Arthur: Yes, it is. Augh!

  • Berserk Button: Arthur loves his mother and woe betide anyone who insults her in his presence. Admittedly his idea of going berserk is putting a cake in someone's face, but by Arthur's standards the merest hint of hostility is an extreme reaction.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: "Arthur, break the emergency glass. I require my Biggles hat."
  • Chain of Deals: Douglas is quite good at this. He started with a half eaten sandwich, and towards series 2 has a couple of bouquets of orchids.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Several, most memorably the freezing cold metal sticking to flesh and Gordon's Gin in 'St Petersburg'
  • Christmas Episode: Featuring an impromptu celebration on the flight deck, with 'turkey' made from bits of a chicken sandwich and a green umbrella in lieu of a tree.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Arthur.
  • Comic Trio: Douglas the schemer, Martin the complainer, Arthur the idiot.
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome: 'St Petersburg'- the engine fire. Suddenly, in their worst ever crisis, the pilots are totally confident, Douglas talks to Martin like a Captain and Martin lands the plane on one engine so well that Arthur and Carolyn "thought Douglas must have done it" (which is a good thing...).
    • Later in the same episode:

 Carolyn: Get off My Jet Now!

    • "Helsinki": Easygoing Arthur throws a bowl of mostly chocolate was-going-to-be-cake straight in his aunt's face because she nearly made Carolyn cry. This is pretty big for someone whose default mood is "obliviously cheerful".
  • Deadpan Snarker: Douglas is a master of this. Martin and Carolyn also go in for it fairly often, but Douglas is the fount of eternal snark.

 Carolyn: Now Douglas, as soon as we get to the motel, I want you to help me write my little speech for tomorrow.

Martin: What about me?

Carolyn: Well, okay, you too, but I want it to be unbearably snide and superior, so obviously Douglas is my primary source.

  • Death in the Clouds
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose In Life: Carolyn has put (lost) most of her share of her ex-husband's fortune into the airline, which has been running at a deficit for years. She holds on because being the CEO of MJN Air is "a good thing to be. Better than ... a little old lady."
  • Determinator: Martin. It took him seven goes to get his pilots' licence, but he managed it eventually!
  • Expospeak Gag: A "rabbit of negative euphoria" (not a happy bunny) among others.
  • Friendship Moment: At the end of series two, Douglas and Martin have a chat that's less vitriolic than usual. Also the Christmas celebration in the special. ... Sort of.
    • Fitton, while not a crowning example, is the only episode where Martin and Douglas are shown actually laughing at the same joke. And it's a joke partially at Martin's expense, to boot.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Martin in Series 3, Episode 5, of the actor Carolyn hires to do the safety video – also called Martin.

  Martin: See, you look more like a captain than me, you sound more like a captain than me, you've got a better uniform than me, and even a better name than me, you must be very pleased.

    • And later:

 Martin: How tall are you?

Other Martin: Oh, er... 6'2...

Martin: Ha! (to Douglas) Told you so – Are you married? Oh, of course you are, kids too, I expect?

Other Martin: Yes, two.

Martin: Boy and a girl?

Other Martin: How did you know...?

Martin: Oh, just a hunch.

    • Although eventually the two bond, when Captain Martin realises they are Not So Different.
  • Good Looking Pilots: Douglas has, apparently, put his pilot's uniform to very good use. He advises Martin to do the same, but Martin is too inept.
  • Hey, It's That Voice!: Besides the main cast, there are rather a lot of guest stars, including Anthony Head of Buffy fame who gets in a warm fuzzy voice contest with Douglas.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each episode is the name of a city the crew is flying to, and the city names start with each letter of the alphabet in order: Abu Dhabi, Boston, Cremona...
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: Douglas's reaction to Helsinki, in the episode of the same name: "I've always thought it sounds like a sink in hell."
  • Insufferable Genius: Douglas.
    • To date, he skills include -- aircraft piloting, cooking, piano playing.

 Douglas: I'm very good at cooking.

Martin: Is there anything you're not 'very good' at? (Beat) Douglas?

Douglas: I'm thinking. There are things I haven't tried yet. I suppose it's possible I'm not very good at some of those. Theoretically.

 Martin: How was your soggy...brown...thing?'

Douglas: It lived up to its promise. How was your "bowl of grey"?

    • also comes up with coffee earlier in the episode.

 Arthur: Here you are, Skip. Nice hot cup of coffee.

Martin: Augh. It´s cold.

Arthur: Nice cup of coffee.

Martin: It´s horrible.

Arthur: Cup of coffee.

Martin: Not even sure it is coffee...

Arthur: Cup.

  • Just Plane Wrong: Averted, Finnemore does extensive research. His father was actually an airline pilot.
  • Kick the Dog: Gordon Shappey.
  • Lethal Chef: Arthur, inventor of such dishes as "surprising rice" and "fizzy yoghurt". (The recipe for the latter is "yoghurt plus time.")
  • Locked Room Mystery: A plane in flight, and a disappearing bottle of premium whiskey, make for a classic example of this in 'Paris'.
  • Man Child: Arthur.
  • Mistaken for Gay: After Martin gets over his animosity for the other Martin, his friendliness is misinterpreted. His frenzied reaction is quite priceless.

 Martin: Do you live in Fitton, Martin?

Other Martin: Yes

Martin: You want to... go for a drink some time?

Other Martin: Martin... look, I'm really sorry I'm not...

Martin: (realising) Oh no! No!!

    • Also, Linda in 'Newcastle'.
  • Momma's Boy: Arthur
  • Mood Whiplash: St Petersburg goes from word games to an impending crash and sirens going off.
  • No Social Skills: Martin. Uptight, borderline neurotic, and utterly incapable of being "one of the blokes", even when he desperately tries.
  • Odd Couple: Martin and Douglas.
  • Oddly Small Organisation: Although there is a ground crew, the only cabin crew MJN Airlines employs are the regular cast of two pilots and one steward.
  • Older Sidekick: A humorous variation. Douglas is first officer to Martin, who is younger (and less experienced). Everyone always assumes Douglas must be the captain, which drives Martin crazy.
  • One Steve Limit: Subverted in 'Rotterdam', with the two Martins.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Carolyn speaks with a Received Pronunciation accent. Most of the time. In series two episode one, when her Lancastrian sister turns up, Carolyn's accent gradually drifts back to her natural Lancastrian as she and Ruth spend more and more time bickering.
  • Out of Order: Each episode's title is in alphabetical order (see Idiosyncratic Episode Naming above). In series 2 "Helsinki" and "Gdansk" are swapped around, and series 3 goes Q-P-N-O (on account of Benedict Cumberbatch losing his voice for the "Newcastle" episode).
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: Douglas reacts this way to an examiner's use of "glid", an archaic but otherwise legitimate past tense form of "glide".
  • Perpetual Poverty: Poor Martin. Sometimes, for a treat, he has a baked potato.
    • MJN, too.
  • Sexy Stewardess: Averted.

  Martin: "For two very different reasons, neither Arthur nor Carolyn quite float my boat."

  • Shout-Out: In episode 5 of series 2, during a "Mystery Passenger" roleplay, Arthur refers to a Scottish passenger he has created as Mrs. Badcrumble.
    • In episode 2 of series one, a passenger named Mr. Leeman dies and is inspected by a Dr. Price. In episode 4 of series two of Fawlty Towers , a guest named Mr. Leeman dies and is inspected by Dr. Price.
    • In episode 4 of series one, as they're taking the plane out of Douze airport, Martin tells Douglas "Right hand down a bit, Number One."
    • Episode 2 of series 3 was basically one big shout out to BBC's Sherlock, on which Benedict Cumberbatch stars.
  • Spanner in the Works: Arthur. "It has long been a maxim of MJN Air that when Arthur stops helping, we can do anything."
  • Tall, Dark and Snarky: First Officer Douglas Richardson. If the cast picture is canon, Roger Allam's Douglas is certainly dark-haired, and in dialogue he is described as much taller than Martin. And Douglas's snark is well-documented.
  • The Other Darrin: In series 3, episode 3, Benedict Cumberbatch was ill with Laryngitis. As there was no time to re-record the episode when he was well, Tom Goodman-Hill filled in as Martin. Although he didn't sound exactly the same, he did an excellent job of mimicking Cumberbatch's speech patterns. This is heavily lampshaded in the pre-credits opening scene.

 Carolyn: Where's Martin?

Douglas: He's not in yet.

Arthur: What's the job, Mum?

Carolyn: For Air Caledonian, the wee Scottish Airline. One of their pilots has gone sick in Newcastle, they want us to fly out the covering crew.

...

Arthur: Mum, we've only got two pilots. What would we do if one of them went sick?

Carolyn: They wouldn't dare.

Arthur: But what if they did?

Carolyn: Well, I'm sure we'd think of something.

(Door opens and Martin enters - played by Tom Goodman-Hill)

Carolyn: Ah, there you are, Martin.

Martin: Hello Carolyn, what have I missed?

Arthur: Hi Skip, you're looking very well.

Martin: Oh, thank you Arthur.

Arthur: Don't you think, Douglas?

Douglas: Not 'specially. I think he looks exactly the same as always.

  • Throw the Dog a Bone:
    • At the end of an episode in which Arthur's stupidity has been repeatedly and particularly cruelly pointed out to him, it's revealed that he has right about giving a set of keys back to Douglas, thus making the majority of the episode's hijinks Douglas' fault.
    • A couple of in-universe examples;
      • At the end of series 2 Douglas actually lets Martin win one of their games. However, the alarm of Martin's "genuine" Patek Philippe kind of ruins the moment.
      • After winning a whole series of bets to Martin, Douglas gives Martin a hint to a quiz, letting him come in second to Carolyn.
  • The Unfavourite: Martin's brother and sister got five grand each in inheritance. Martin got ... a van.
  • The Unpronounceable: Carolyn is really proud of herself for being able to say "Qikiqtarjuaq" in the episode of the same name.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Understated (it's a comedy after all), but Martin harbors some angst over the fact that his father, who was frustrated with his son for "wasting" thousands of pounds re-taking failed aviation training and exams, died a scant four months before Martin qualified and got his first job as a pilot.
  • Woman Scorned: The tone of the messages Carolyn leaves for her ex-husband definitely ring of this trope. And the airline is called "My Jet Now."
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