The Archers: Stirred but not shaken. Boing!

The brooch goes nicely with this cape.

After all the anticipation, the weeks of speculation, the outlandish yet exciting theories: did it live up to the hype? No. It did not. And what’s more, Hell-en is still with us.

The unusually large cast spread out languorously across the half hour, confirming that what’s perky in fifteen minutes can be a complete dog at twice the length. We began with the much-trailed conclusion to the Hell-en drama, in which everyone who’s ever given birth – and many who haven’t – yelled ‘It’s pre-eclampsia!’ at the radio. The clues were obvious. Swollen ankles? Check. Headache? Check. Need for dramatic finale to a pregnancy during a special anniversary edition? Check.

And so a nation pinned their hopes on a perfect end to this sorry saga: Hell-en pegs it but the baby survives. Actually I was perfectly prepared to give up on the baby too if it meant binning Hell-en. In hospital Tony reprised the teary-scene from when he found poor John under the Massey Ferguson. He had a horrible reversal and started blubbing that Hell-en had been right all along and it was All. His. Fault. How very irritating. I think FanofLinda, a mental health professional, will back me up when I say that this is a classic case of someone with Personality Disorder (Hell-en) gradually sucking those around her (eg Tony) into their twisted world and making them see things all distorted. Tony mate; you were and are still right, and you have been way more supportive than the silly moo deserves. Take it from one who knows someone who knows.

The red herrings came thick and herring-y. Tony’s driving too fast and they’re all gonna die! Oh. They’ve arrived safely. Hell-en’s not going to make it through the Caesarean! Oh. She’s fine. (Damn.) The baby’s going to be touch and go! Oh. He’s doing well. Lizzie’s going to remember she has a heart condition and collapses on the banqueting table, accidentally stabbing herself in the heart with that Art Deco brooch as she falls! Oh. She’s hale and hearty. Kenton’s going to over-excite the children into a frenzy in which they go all Lord of the Flies and kill off the adults. Oh. They’re eating crisps.

Then there was all the will-they-won’t-they teeth-clench of whether Nige and Dave would go up on the ROOF, that’s THE ROOF, yes THE ROOF, with everyone shouting don’t do it don’t do it it’s the special extra-long Sword of Damacles episode you damn fools. But eventually up they went, and there being only five minutes to go we knew one – or both – would do a Rod Hull. The smart money was on Nigel; dear Mummy-lovin’ brooch-cleanin’ dame-starrin’ public-school attendin’ poshly-softly-spoken Nige. And so it was, proving that being too loved up with your spouse in the days leading up to a big-story edition is just asking for trouble.

Though of course, we don’t know for sure that Nigel has actually ceased to be. Just how high is the Lower Loxley roof anyway? It does have ‘lower’ in its name after all; perhaps it’s a bungalow. I can think of dozens of with-one-bound-he-was-free scenarios that would allow his friendly little chinless face to re-appear once more, the most likely being:

  • Nigel is alive but badly injured. I won’t be able to bear this: the painful acting as he hovers between life and death – like Tony Hancock’s brave Joshua Merriweather after he was caught in the threshing machine – will mean I have to take an Archers sabbatical until he is out of the full-body cast.
  • Nigel is caught up in the unfurled banner which breaks his fall, or…
  • The banner, strung across two ramparts, acts as a trampoline and Nigel boings up again, inadvertently knocking David off the roof and resulting in one/two deaths/boings.
  • Nigel lands on someone, saving him but killing them. It can’t be Hell-en so it might as well be Ruth. Some good must surely come out of this.

I'm going, Dan. Doris. I'm going.

But let’s assume that Nigel is gone, gone to join Mummy and Daddy (about whom he was reminiscing seconds before the Great Tumble) in the south wing of the Celestial Lower Loxley. What does this mean for those left behind in Core Shaken Ambridge?

Lizzie will do widow-hood very well; she can mooch about mysteriously in a black cape like the Scottish Widows lady. Much better her to be left than the other way round. Imagine how gruesome Nigel would be as a widower. She will be sad for a while, sure. Maybe for about as long as Jill was over Phil (approx four weeks). But she is a cool resilient type who pre-Nigel was rather a goer and will soon be finding comfort with the gentlemen of the Ambridge Gingerbread set. Freddie and Lily will be devastated but I’ve never really warmed to them; and it does mean they can go to the local comp and get the plebby education their father never wanted. David will have survivor’s guilt, and relations between him and Lizzie will be frostier than ever. Ruth will be sickeningly understanding about David’s guilt for a few episodes, then she will force him to seek counselling, which we will hear in all its implausible glory. Oh god I don’t think I can stand hearing David in therapy. Shula will use Nigel’s death as a chance to be even more sanctimonious than before (start annoying her again please Jim, we need you more than ever). And Kenton will use it as a sign that life is to be lived and shag Jolene within a fortnight.

So. RIP Nigel. Possibly. And thank you for that useful life lesson. Be careful when going on the roof, or standing on a ladder, or going downstairs, or reaching for a book on a high shelf or even standing up too quickly from your computer… AAAAARRRGGGHHHHH….

Posted by Qwerty

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “The Archers: Stirred but not shaken. Boing!

  1. Paul

    Thank you for confirming my own view about poor Tony. Obviously, we all know that if the SATTC event wasn’t Helen’s death, the increasingly bitter relations between them MUST presage a birth re-union. But I was deeply annoyed at Tony totally caving rather than just being there LIKE HE ALWAYS HAS BEEN – and as for Helen responding “Don’t worry about it Dad” why not an “I’m sorry too” as the very least she owes him for her poisonous behaviour towards that man over the last two or three weeks.

  2. arialbold

    Nigel clearly had never read the HSE guidance or the 2005 Work at Height Regulations 2005:
    http://www.hse.gov.uk/falls/regulations.htm
    I think this was HSE-inspired development – much as the Archers began as a MAFF-inspired farming programme. We can expect more such plot lines in future: safety footware incidents in the cowsheds; a necktie caught up in yoghurt machinery; an unsecured load coming loose at Grange Farm.

    But yes, this was all pretty rubbish. The twitter comments and feed were actually the bit that worked in all this – and the subsequent #songsfornigelsfuneral were especially funny.

    I will happily not listen again for the next 60 years – unless they scrap the writers and replace them with a twitter generated plotting and script.

  3. jasmine

    Whooppee!!!!! Thank you BBC for giving me such a good laugh with the earth-shattering events which SHOOK AMBRIDGE TO THE CORE! Listening to Nigel the wimp twittering away on the roof we were only left in suspense momentarily, wondering ‘Will it be Nigel?’ or ‘Will it be David?’ That one of them would fall off the roof was inevitable and Nigel’s weird never-ending scream was quite hilarious! Who will Lizzie boss about now? Oh, I forgot, she still has the little ones to be po-faced with – I hope they’re prepared for a life with a mother who was born middle-aged. How did she ever manage to have children in the first place? Bit of a messy business I’d have thought for the likes of her and the delicate Nigel who still refers to his parents as Mummy and Daddy! The Hell-en and baby story was a great red herring – had me going for a bit I must admit.

  4. Holly

    Sorry if this seems really random, but I really like your posts on The Archers.

    I don’t know if you’ve read this article about the special edition, http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/archers-marks-60-years-with-a-happy-ending-ndash-and-a-sticky-one-2174654.html , but I thought it was interesting, particularly near the bottom where VW seems extremely pleased with the fact they managed to keep a story about Tony losing his glasses going for two years. Two years. Dear Lord.

    Anyway, keep up the posting! 🙂

  5. MrB

    Nicely put. The whole Hell-en thing was the reddest of herrings, and I agree – Tony’s reaction was predictable. Of course he’ll love the baby – it’s Helen who’s hard to love, the self obsessed old bag. And poor old Nige-but-dim – well we saw that coming. All that loved up-ness with darling Lizzie last week meant the writing was on the wall for one of them, and as soon as the roof was mentioned, it was in the bag for the chinless blunder. I just listened again to that scream on the iPlayer. It went on far too long for him to come out of it as anything other than a pizza impersonator, in my professional opinion. David will be racked with guilt, fuelled by Lizzies recriminations, and though he’ll try to deflect attention in the direction of Kenton’s sailors knot, it’ll spoil Christmases for the Archers for years to come. I can’t imagine David under usual circumstances going up on the roof in the dark and with a rising wind, so something didn’t ring true. And has that ‘traditional’ banner ever been mentioned in any previous year? I don’t recall it.

  6. Fanoflinda

    Core shaking or not, this episode has generated several new Archer games. For example, get a point for each time you hear David say ‘ It’s all my fault” or Elizabeth “I told him not to go up there”. Also if like me you have had trouble sleeping after all the Archers excitement, try playing ‘how many Archers characters share a name with am English Monarch.
    Also this thing about Nigel calling his parents mummy and daddy, I know it sounds weird to us, but I think it’s a class/ generational thing. My Dad (definitely not ‘daddy’ ) refers to his mother as ‘mummy’. I always thought that this was therefore a fine bit of writing, rather than a sign of winsomeness.

  7. Fanoflinda

    I also meant to thank you for the mention, hopefully in this way, I will come to the attention of our Vanessa who will offer me the job as mental Health editor. Have to disagree with you about personality disorder however. You are doing people with personality disorder a disservice if you think Helen resembles any aspect of their personality. She suffers from a much more serious condition called spoilt bratedness. Not even sure when it became ok
    to put all people with personality disorders in one box, they are no more similar than you or I. You see they do need me on the Archers.

    On another completely unrelated topic, I found myself shedding my first Archers tear when Pip was talking to David about his possible death. As you share my weakness for crying in the Daddy oh my daddy’ scene in the Railway children, were you affected at all?

  8. Qwerty

    Oh yes Fanoflinda – exactly the same. For the first time since the Great Fall tears sprung to my eyes. Who knew Pip could act? It was – sniff – really moving.

    Holly, thanks for your post and for alerting our attention to that rather good Independent article. Lots of readers of this post have clicked on your link so thanks for finding it.

  9. Well said, Qwerty. Was guiltily expecting something to go amiss with Helen’s baybee; so a bit relieved when both pulled through (hum, so far … ;-)). But the continuing humiliation of Tony? No! You’re right: Helen now going to become even less bearable in her strange, new incarnation as Lady Madonna. ‘orrible!
    Anything that happened on the day was bound to be a let-down after all that hype (living abroad I missed much of it, yet still found it excessive). Still, what a pants episode full of wild signalling à la Yank sitcom. All rather tiring while we sat waiting for whoever-it-was to fall off the roof.
    Getting rid of Nigel leaves an void of warm & innocent merriment that can’t be filled by the machinations of Kenton or the rude mechanicals (whose schemes/antics, unlike NP’s, can often be nasty as well as transparently stupid). Nigel’s character usually served an important purpose in relieving dramatic tension. Allergic to unrelieved doom and gloom (too much of that in own life, thanks). Haven’t listened since The Episode of Doom; may not continue following.

  10. Qwerty

    Hello Minnie and welcome. Yes, Hell-en’s new Lady Madonna riff is already making me gnaw my own ankles. Who are the rude mechanicals which you mention?

    The last couple of epis have been v moving, esp the scene with Pip and David talking (normally can’t stand Pip but this was charming); and when Jill finally broke down I wept like a baby. Recommend you return; the Archers is forever.

  11. Hello again, Qwerty. Am gnawing own knuckles (will be dragging ’em at this rate) at typo in my comment, hem hem (‘an void’ … AN – and me who was once the Subs’ Desk’s Darling: yikes!).
    ‘Rude mechanicals’ = elder Grundies and similar stalwarts of caricature yokelry, yea unto the apparently saintly (tediously self-regarding) Bert Fry.
    Thanks for your encouragement but, as have suffered surfeit of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth in own life for past decade, will continue to give TA a miss for time being. Not a fan of sackcloth & ashes at best of times.
    Might check back in c 2 years’ time to see if The Demon Seed (Spawn of Hell-en) has begun tearing the wings off flies, drowning kittens and attempting strangulation of fellow ickle pritties at the nursery. Now there’s ‘potential’ for you ;-)!
    Bon weekend à toutes et à tous.

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