Thomas & Sarah
|1 Birds Of A Feather
2 The Silver Ghost
3 The Biters Bit
4 The Vanishing Lady
5 Made In Heaven
|6 Alma Mater
7 A Day At The Metropole
8 The Poor Young Widow Of Peckham
9 There Is A Happy Land
|10 Return To Gethyn
11 Putting On The Ritz
12 The New Rich
13 Love Into Three Won't Go
Thomas & Sarah was mooted as an idea many years before it eventually hit the TV screen in January 1979, almost exactly three years after the last episode of Upstairs, Downstairs. Pauline Collins and John Alderton reprised their roles from the original series as we followed their adventures after leaving Eaton Place in 1910. The fact stated in the Upstairs, Downstairs episode A Family Gathering that the couple had got married is disregarded - they appear in Thomas & Sarah as having "never got around to it".
There has been much written about the merits of this series, some of it true and some of it unfair. What seems certain is that Thomas & Sarah is more enjoyable if you come to it with a completely open mind or, indeed, if you've never even seen the original Upstairs, Downstairs. The people most disappointed with this spin-off are those expecting UpDown all over again. Pains were taken to distance it very much from the original programme - it would have been easy to have had Rose or Edward stop by for a cup of tea, but it seems the absence of this sort of nostalgia was deliberate.
Having said that, the hostility of many Upstairs, Downstairs fans to this series is well-founded. The main problem is that there are conflicting ideas of what the direction of the series actually is or which genre it falls into. One set of episodes consists of the larger-than-life adventure/heist type of tales (among them, The Silver Ghost, The Vanishing Lady, Made in Heaven, Alma Mater, and Putting On The Ritz) and these sit uneasily beside the other group of plays which are more along the lines of the down-to-earth "class-barrier, social differences" kind of idea of the original series (for example, There Is A Happy Land, Return To Gethyn, and The New Rich). By far, it's the latter set of episodes that work the best.
The problem with the differing natures of the episodes tends to slosh over into the characterisations as well, particularly Thomas. One the one hand we have a nice chap who prays for the well-being of his employer in Love Into Three Won't Go, and who public-spiritedly unmasks a headmaster guilty of minor-league fiddling in Alma Mater. On the other hand we have a nasty drunken brute who takes his belt to Sarah in There Is A Happy Land, and who indulges in his own fiddles and deceptions at the drop of a hat!
The blame for the schizophrenic nature of the series must ultimately rest with the producer, Christopher Hodson, who failed to stamp his own mark on the production, instead letting the main creative opponents (Alfred Shaughnessy and John Alderton) fight things out behind the scenes to the detriment of the programme. These arguments even boiled over into the newspapers of the day, which cannot have helped public expectations of the series when it finally aired.
All in all, "The Essential Thomas & Sarah" really boils down to just three episodes: There Is A Happy Land, Return To Gethyn and The New Rich (with, perhaps, Birds Of A Feather chucked in for continuity reasons). Whilst I'm quite sure any UpDown fan would enjoy these selected episodes, the only single play really worthy of the original series is The New Rich, the highlight of which is a great performance from Nigel Hawthorne as upright butler Wilson who would rather lose his job than work in Thomas and Sarah's household which continually fails to achieve his standards of "correctness".
This series was never repeated on terrestrial British TV and, until quite recently, was almost unheard of, even in territories like America where the original Upstairs, Downstairs was a runaway success. After many such years of being neglected, the series now runs regularly on UK satellite TV, as well as being available on DVD in both the UK and USA.
For a legend/key to the episode guide click here.
Factfiles have been added for each episode. These detail character backgrounds, continuity points, and bloopers. Click on the icon on the left of each episode's entry.
Additional notes for the episode guides and Factfiles...
Most plot synopses are taken directly from the original issues of the TV Times. Sometimes these might contain spoilers.
In addition to the listed writer/s, it should be assumed that the script-editor, Alfred Shaughnessy, also had story input into each episode to a greater or lesser extent.
Location recording locations and dates for Thomas & Sarah are, in general, not known.
Names in square brackets are uncredited on the episode's on-screen titles.
The cast lists credit extras and walk-ons where the information is available, but these details should not be considered exhaustive. Spellings of names in these cases is sometimes uncertain!
All timings are from the UK DVDs of the show as released by Network - these will vary slightly on other releases of the show (e.g. US DVDs). Timings are given as mm'ss". All the Factfiile notes are drawn from what was actually shown on the screen - additional or contradictory material from the novelisations (etc) is not included. To print a Factfile, press CTRL-P.
Any comments/additions, please email me (address in pink on the front page).
The Spin Of The Wheel (short story)
In the TV Times issues dated December 23rd 1978-January 5th 1979 and January 6th-12th 1979, a two-part short story entitled The Spin Of The Wheel was presented. This was written by Upstairs, Downstairs script editor Alfred Shaughnessy and was designed to bridge the gap between the original show and Thomas & Sarah. It concerned a motoring accident between the pair and a young scrap-merchant called Tubwell, or Tubby for short, who featured as a semi-regular in the new series. (The story can be found on my Odds and Ends page).
Regular cast: Pauline Collins (Sarah), John Alderton (Thomas), Graham Cull (Tubby), Maria Charles (Madge), Peter Thornton (Charlie), Norman Bird (Gilbert), Charles West (Sir Joseph Weidler)
Casting Director: Diana Parry
Make Up Supervisor: Sabina Cowen
Costume Designers: Jane Bond, Sheila Jackson, Penny Lowe, Robin Pidcock, Sue Thomson
Floor Managers: Eric Cooper, Simon Holder, Ken Hounsom, Brian Kelly, Julian Meers, Michael Mollan, John West
Production Managers: Mike McLoughlin, Brian Penny
Location Supervisors: Martin Brierley, Jeremy Canney
Stage Managers: Rodney Figaro, Laurence Rooke, Jill Wellington
Production Assistants: Karen Adamson, Philippa Feller, Sarah King, Anne Mason, Pat Morgan, Angela Owen, Jill Powell
Photographic Title Effects: Brian Harper
Graphic Designer: Pat Gavin
Vision Mixers: Michael Elliott, Anne Gurney, Barbara Hicks
Video Tape Editors: Geoff Beames, Graham Roberts, Michael Williams
Senior Cameramen: Martin Bond, Derek Doe, Tony Maynard, John Morgan, Nigel Reynolds, Ian Stanley
Vision Controllers: Richard Cooper, Don Furness, Frank Parker, Terry Pyrke, Peter Stephenson
Lighting Directors: Terry Davis, Trevor Saunders
Sound Supervisors: Bob Bell, Mike Fairman, Paul Faraday, Keith Green, Graham Thor-Straten
Script Editor: Alfred Shaughnessy
Theme Music: Harry Rabinowitz
Executive Producer: Tony Wharmby
Producer: Christopher Hodson
Series created by Sagitta Productions Ltd in association with Alfred Shaughnessy
A London Weekend Television Production
Of A Feather
UK: 14 January 1979
Studio rec: 27 September 1978 (Auntie Em scenes rec 26 September) (1/13)
|Major new drama series featuring two
characters from the award-winning Upstairs, Downstairs.
Sarah was the pert little cockney parlourmaid in the
Bellamy household, while Thomas was the devious chaffeur.
By 1911 both had left the Bellamys to carve out a life
for themselves. The couple have split and Sarah has moved
to a village in Surrey and it is there that a car
suddenly alters the course of her life... Thomas has
returned - but why?
Writers: Terence Brady and
UK: 21 January 1979
Studio rec: 11 October 1978 (2/13)
|Tonight, Thomas embarks on a dangerous
journey after a smart limousine is brought to the Watkins'
garage for service.
Writer: Alfred Shaughnessy
UK: 28 January 1979
Studio rec: 8 December 1978 (6/13)
|The relationship between Thomas and
Sarah comes under stress when they accidentally becomes
guests at a house-party.
Writers: Terence Brady
and Charlotte Bingham
* TV Times and some internal LWT paperwork credit John Rolfe.
UK: 4 February 1979
Studio rec: 8 November 1978 (4/13)
|Thomas goes in search of Sarah, and
enters a world of fantasy and illusion when the couple
buy a magic trick from an elderly conjurer.
|Made In Heaven
UK: 11 February 1979
Studio rec: 24 November 1978 (5/13)
|Thomas gets a job as a caretaker in an
empty house. A chance meeting in a teashop gives him and
Sarah the chance to take advantage of their surroundings
when they open a marriage bureau.
UK: 18 February 1979
Studio rec (rehearse/record): 21 & 22 December 1978 (7/13)
|Thomas gets an unlikely job as a teacher at a school
and exposes a scandal perpetuated by the headmaster...
Day At The Metropole
UK: 25 February 1979
Studio rec: 25 October 1978 (train scene not completed on this date) (3/13)
|Thomas uses his mechanical skill to help
a wealthy motoring enthusiast win a wager.
Poor Young Widow Of Peckham
UK: 4 March 1979
Studio rec (rehearse/record): 18 & 19 January 1979 (8/13)
|A photograph of Sarah taken in the
streets of London brings Thomas to the point of death -
and nationwide acclaim.
Writer: Jeremy Paul
Is A Happy Land
UK: 11 March 1979
Studio rec: 26 January 1979 (9/13)
|Thomas sets out for revenge on Sarah after she has
tricked him into turning his back on his dream of emigrating to
America in favour of suburban respectability.
Terence Brady and Charlotte Bingham
* TV Times credits Mia Nadasi incorrectly as "Janine".
UK: 18 March 1979
Studio rec: 23 February 1979 (11/13)
|Opportunists Thomas and Sarah visit
Thomas's brother and the rest of his devoutly religious family in a
remote Welsh village. The visit enables Sarah to clear up
a mystery. Did Thomas really rape Bessie Evans?
On The Ritz
UK: 25 March 1979
Studio rec (rehearse/record): 8 & 9 February 1979 (certain material rec 6 March) (10/13)
|Thomas and Sarah plan a confidence trick
in the Ritz Hotel and infiltrate high society - but is the head waiter all that he
Writers: Terence Brady and Charlotte
* The original script for this story was by Alfred Shaughnessy but was completely rewritten, with a new plot, by Brady and Bingham when John Alderton refused to play it half-way through rehearsals - nevertheless some LWT paperwork also bears the credit: "From an original story by Alfred Shaughnessy". This original version would have seen Thomas and Sarah helping a young soldier (to have been played by David 'son of Alfred' Shaughnessy) to persuade his parents that the girl he wishes to marry (Suzanne Burden) is not socially beneath him.
** Despite this credit, the character appears to be called Cordelia. See the factfile.
The working title for this story was Puttin' On The Ritz.
UK: 1 April 1979
Studio rec (rehearse/record): 8 & 9 March 1979 (12/13)
|A daring gamble by Thomas results in a
complete change of status for him and Sarah when the pair
become master and mistress to their own set of servants.
The situation soon turns sour when their upright butler
begins to experience 'problems' with his new employers.
* These two roles were credited in the TV Times, but do not seem to appear in the finished episode. In any case, 'Sawnay' is probably supposed to read 'Dawnay' (and indeed does on some paperwork) but some sources say 'Stanway' instead.
Into Three Won't Go
UK: 8 April 1979
Studio rec: 23 March 1979 (13/13)
|The series ends with Thomas and Sarah
forced to return to domestic service and find themselves
engaged by the reclusive and haunted Richard De Brassey,
but their strange employer is not what he first appears
and a strange love blossoms...
Brady and Charlotte Bingham
Although not a critical success, Thomas & Sarah obtained respectable viewing figures amongst the general public and a second season was planned, again of 13 episodes. Proposed titles included: Where There's A Will and For Richer, For Poorer (written by Terence Brady and Charlotte Bingham), and Favours and Flying The Foam (by Jeremy Paul). The remaining nine episodes were likewise split between Brady/Bingham and Paul.
The first batch of location OB work started on 9th July 1979 and went through till 18th July. This consisted of scenes shot in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire showing the aftermath of the fire that viewers had witnessed in the last episode of the first season, Love Into Three Won't Go (and explained the cliff-hanger that story ended with!)
The next batch of location work was from 30th July to 2nd August and featured scenes shot in the seaside resorts of Hastings and St Leonards. This material was intended for use spanning over several episodes - the story arc culminating in Thomas taking part in a competition for man-powered flight at the end of Hastings pier. However a huge strike over pay hit the ITV network on August 10th and technicians pulled the plug - viewers being left with nothing but a static computer-generated caption on their screens for the next ten weeks.
After the strike was called off on October 24th, LWT, with their programming in complete disarray, took the decision to pull the plug on Thomas & Sarah - this being the easiest option for a show which only had a few minutes of material already 'in the can'. Further planned location work was scrapped, and all 13 studio recordings (which were originally to have lasted through till 28th March 1980) were abandoned. The stars, guest stars and semi-regulars (who were to have included Tony Haygarth and Barbara Lott) were paid off and released from their contracts.
Being of little use to LWT, the location material already recorded was junked and no longer exists.