Thomas & Sarah

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). This interleaving of episodes in two genres that don't mix is the main downfall of this series. However, at least the producers don't try to mix the two genres within the same episode, which would have been a complete disaster. Of the two groups of episodes, it's the "class barriers" set that works the best by far.

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 relatively recently, was almost unheard of, even in territories like America where the original Upstairs, Downstairs was a runaway success. After many such years of neglect, the series now runs from time to time on UK 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.

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.

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. Extras and walk-ons are credited 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). Thanks to all those who have contributed goofs and observations to the Factfiles.

A short story for TV Times magazine

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.)

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

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)

Birds Of A Feather
UK: 14th January 1979

Studio: 27th September 1978 (Auntie Em scenes rec. 26th 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 chauffeur. 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 Charlotte Bingham
Designer: John Emery
Director: Christopher Hodson
Regular cast: Sarah, Thomas, Madge, Tubby
Guest cast: Jessica Benton (Grace Laughton), Sally Home (Lady Selina Wellingham), Ian Thompson (The Reverend Horkesly), Barbara Bolton (Edna), Gillian Hawser (Nanny), Maxwell Shaw (Monsieur Defarge), Ursula Hirst (Auntie Em), Susan Field (Mrs Monger), Verne Morgan (Villager), Ben Runciman (Baby John)

The Silver Ghost
UK: 21st January 1979

Studio: 11th 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
Designer: Frank Nerini
Director: John Davies
Rolls Royce Silver Ghost provided by Manx Motor Museum, Crosby, Isle of Man
Regular cast: Sarah, Thomas, Madge, Tubby, Charlie
Guest cast: John Castle (Sid Pollitzer), John Bryans (Louis Pollitzer), Richard Steele (Embarkation Officer), Richard Grant (Lord Pendleton), Barbara Keogh (Lady Pendleton), Helen Keating (Maggie), Dave Carter (Fred)

The Biters Bit
UK: 28th January 1979

Studio: 8th 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
Choreographer: Geraldine Stephenson
Musical Direction: Harry Rabinowitz
Designer: Gordon Melhuish
Director: David Askey
Rolls Royce provided by Manx Motor Museum
Regular cast: Sarah, Thomas
Guest cast: Sarah Badel (Filly/Felicity Stokeleigh-Pomeroy), Rupert Frazer (Lord Peter Purley), Georgina Melville (Lady Victoria Arlington), Christopher Godwin (Sir Roger Arlington), Norman Ettlinger (Duke of Lindfield), Kevin Stoney (George Aston), Stacy Davies (Van Driver), David Rolfe* (Bennet the Chauffeur), Prudence Rennick (Duchess Of Lindfield), Lucinda Macdonald (Lady Emma Barking), Timothy Vaughan-Hughes (Lord Edward Barking), Maurice Quick (Davis the Butler), Kathryn Pogson (Doris the Maid), Martin Gower (Footman)

* TV Times and some internal LWT paperwork credit John Rolfe.

The Vanishing Lady
UK: 4th February 1979

Studio: 8th 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.

Writer: Jeremy Paul
Magic Supervised by: Malcolm D.Y. Treen
Designer: John Emery
Director: Christopher Hodson
Regular cast: Thomas, Sarah, Madge, Gilbert, Tubby, Charlie
Guest cast: Peter Gordon (Maurice), Andy Ho (Chang Le Yen), Jacqui Chan (Naomi), Sally Sanders (Carlotta), Stephen Greif (Pocock), Charles Cork (Bert), Frank Lee (Barnaby), Peter Thornton (Charlie/Publican), Wally Goodman (Pianist), Graham Chinn (First Sailor), Kevin White (Second Sailor), Zoe Bright (First Southern Belle), Christina Green (Second Southern Belle), Jimmy Mac (Comic)

Made In Heaven
UK: 11th February 1979

Studio: 24th 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.

Writer: Anthony Skene
Designer: Frank Nerini
Director: John Davies
Regular cast: Sarah, Thomas
Guest cast: Thora Hird (Mrs Entwistle), Helen Lindsay (Lady Rudge), Hilary Mason (Mrs Sedley), Raymond Francis (Captain Dooley), Anne Jameson (Miss Pike), Anne Blake (Mrs Hoo-Fung), Leon Eagles (Potter), Lucinda Gane (Emily Rudge), Hugh Waters (Harold Entwistle), Valerie Phillips (Miss Webster), Sharon Morgan (Alice Williams), Anthony Woodruff (Mr Crichley), Joan Scott (Mrs Humble), Daphne Anderson (Mrs Armitage), Nina Thomas (Hilda Armitage), Peter Spraggon (PC Bodkin), Arthur Whybrow (Postman), David Ashton (Captain Derwent), Kay Tremblay (Mrs Derwent), Pat Beckett (Lady With Three Daughters), Neville Phillips (Client) [Uncredited: Percy Edwards (Parrot Imitation)]

Alma Mater
UK: 18th February 1979

Studio: 21st & 22nd December 1978 (7/13)

Thomas gets an unlikely job as a teacher at a school and exposes a scandal perpetuated by the headmaster...

Writer: Alick Rowe
Designer: John Emery
Director: David Askey
Regular cast: Sarah, Thomas
Guest cast: Derek Godfrey (Dr Groom-Crombie), John Welsh (Mr Chater), Pat Keen (Mrs Battersby), Norman Scace (Bishop), Geoffrey Toone (General), John Saunders (Mr Drew), Matthew Ryan (Talbot), Adam Godley (Tomlinson), Paul Davies-Prowles (Mason), Grant Bardsley (Burton), Adam Armstrong (Fisher), Dean McMillan (Jenkins), John Lowit (Stockdale), Angus Rorison (Oldfield), Benedict Beddard (Frisby), Alastair Kerr (Brocklebank), and Stephen Bennett, Adrian Breeze, Timothy Breeze, Jonathan Browne, Robbie Crow, Sean Gascoine, James Gunn, Timothy Hart, Ranse Howell, Colin McDonagh, Ian McGlashan, Mark Manning, Nicolas Mardon, Stormont Murray, Danny O'Neill, Philip Poole, David Savage, Stephen White (Schoolboys)

A Day At The Metropole
UK: 25th February 1979

Studio: 25th 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.

Writer: Jeremy Paul
Designer: Gordon Melhuish
Director: David Askey
Regular cast: Sarah, Thomas
Guest cast: Geoffrey Whitehead (Sir George Truscott), Yvonne Antrobus (Lady Elise Truscott), Ruby Head (Madame Gladwin), Jill Hellerman (Ronnie), Victor Brooks (Phelps), Elena Secota (Mathilde), Pam St Clement (Family On Train: Mrs Hill), Phil Ryan (Family On Train: Mr Hill), Ian Barker (Family On Train: Freddy Hill), John Owens (Desk Clerk), Diana Mahony (Lady In Lift), Norman Hartley (Liftman), Esmond Webb (Higgins)

The Poor Young Widow Of Peckham
UK: 4th March 1979

Studio: 18th & 19th 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
Designer: Vic Symonds
Director: Marek Kanievska
Regular cast: Sarah, Thomas
Guest cast: Norman Jones (Cyril Warboys), Rosemary Martin (Mrs Burridge), Eve Pearce (Sister Teresa), Hilary Gasson (Nurse Cecilia), Charles Lamb (Arthur Dooley), John Moore (Mr Irvine), Heather Canning (Mrs Green), James Taylor (Mr Green), Mary Maddox (Violet), Jeanne Doree (Old Woman/Biddy), Julia Bond (The Maid), Evan Ross (Father Rafferty)

There Is A Happy Land
UK: 11th March 1979

Studio: 26th 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.

Writers: Terence Brady and Charlotte Bingham
Designer: Gordon Melhuish
Director: David Askey
Regular cast: Sarah, Thomas
Guest cast: Marion Mathie (Mrs Bradley-Norton), Doreen Mantle (Mrs Ryder), Mary Macleod (Miss Jenkins), Mia Nadasi (Juli)*, Raymond Adamson (Dr Gordon), Gertan Klauber (Max the Barber), Neville Barber (The Rev Ryder), Harry Walker (Mr Tremaine), Maggie Wilkinson (Rosie Meadows), Jill Graham (Mrs Gilbert), Anthony Roye (Mr Bradley-Norton), John Aron (Signor Bertone), Judith Turner (Pianist) [Uncredited: Nigel Greaves (Waiter)]

* TV Times credits Mia Nadasi incorrectly as "Janine".

Return To Gethyn
UK: 18th March 1979

Studio: 23rd February 1979 (11/13)
Location: 28th January & 13th & 14th February 1979

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?

Writer: Angharad Lloyd
Designer: John Emery
Director: Christopher Hodson
Regular cast: Sarah, Thomas
Guest cast: Gary Raymond (Eli Watkins), Shirley Cain (Mrs Hughes), Aubrey Richards (Byron Jones), Pamela Miles (Olwen Watkins), Nesta Harris (Mrs Watkins), Marged Esli (Bessie Evans), Lee Sparke (Melchior Evans), Jack Walters (Gwynfor Williams), Dafydd Havard (Man In Chapel), Mary Laine (Woman In Chapel), featuring the Ambrosian Singers directed by John McCarthy

Putting On The Ritz
UK: 25th March 1979

Studio: 8th & 9th February 1979 (certain material rec. 6th 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 seems?

Writers: Terence Brady and Charlotte Bingham*
Designer: Frank Nerini
Director: Marek Kanievska
Regular cast: Sarah, Thomas, Gilbert, Sir Joseph Weidler, Tubby
Guest cast: Sheila Gish (Polly)+, Jonathan Hyde (Charles), Michael Lees (Henry), Monica Grey (Lady Andover), Peter Howell (Lord Andover), Frances Bennett (Lady Weidler), Zoe Bright (Dolly), Desmond Cullum-Jones (Ticket Inspector), Michael Earl (Detective/Plain Clothes Policeman)

* 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 halfway 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.

The New Rich
UK: 1st April 1979

Studio: 8th & 9th 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.

Writer: Anthony Skene
Designer: Gordon Melhuish
Director: John Davies
Regular cast: Sarah, Thomas, Sir Joseph Weidler
Guest cast: Nigel Hawthorne (Wilson), Barbara Hicks (Mrs Ambrose), Marjorie Hogan (Mrs Fitzgerald), Sarah Carthy (Ethel), Jonathan Darvill (John The Footman), Linda Robson (Nelly), Kate David (Dot), Morris Perry (Henry Tanby), Mark Elwes (Lord Dawnay), Terence Conoley (Dinner Party Guest), Frank Tregear (Delivery Man) [Uncredited: Gillian Royale (Mrs Sankey)*, Jennifer Daniel (Lady Sawnay)*, Patrick Harvey (Pianist)]

* 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.

Love Into Three Won't Go
UK: 8th April 1979

Studio: 23rd March 1979 (13/13)
Location: 26th-28th March 1979

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...

Writers: Terence Brady and Charlotte Bingham
Designer: Frank Nerini
Director: Christopher Hodson
Regular cast: Thomas, Sarah
Guest cast: Anton Rodgers (Richard De Brassey), William Moore (Dr Savile), George Malpas (Old William), Monty James (Priest) [Uncredited: Raymond Ford (Stunt Double)]

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 for the second season 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 cliffhanger 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 10 weeks.

After the strike was called off on October 24th, with their programming in complete disarray, LWT 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, Harold Goodwin 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.

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