8. Scotland


1 October 1971

Series 2 of The Goodies begins with the same brilliant opening credits as seen throughout Series 1—not just the same music but the very same crazy montage. There’s no new footage, no preview of what’s to come, merely a promise of familiarity (albeit that ‘familiar’ in the Goodies’ pocket universe will likely mean something more akin to ‘totally unexpected’). This is a shout-out to the faithful as much as a beckoning to first-time viewers… a shout-out that will continue, sans dialogue, for a further two minutes.

After the long break between series, we meet up with the Goodies again as they ride their trandem past an exceedingly tall, well-dressed man about to jump off a bridge. (As a nice detail, he’s brought his own little ladder to make climbing the guard-wall easier.) Sensing they are ‘needed’ (that music again!), the Goodies backtrack—a literal reversing of footage—and shadow the man in his prevarications, ready to pull him back from the edge. Notably, they don’t try to talk him down (this is silent comedy), instead walking faux-inconspicuously alongside him as he paces the bridge, plucking up his courage… back and forth, up the ladder and back down, back and forth, until, after a few false starts, Bill seemingly loses sight of what the man actually needs help with, and pushes him over!

This, of course, is only the start of the joke. Having brought about the scenario they were trying to forestall, the lads resume pacing, as if now equally unsure as to whether they should mount a rescue! Eventually, Bill is pushed in after the man, whereupon Tim and Graeme dust their hands off (job done!), Tim looks in quick succession sombre then panicked then faintly sickened (face acting at its finest), and the two remaining Goodies scramble down the river bank… only to find both would-be drownees alive and well. The man is tall enough that he can touch the bottom without swimming. In the end, he carries Bill to safety…

…and is still carrying him when we cut to the Goodies’ office and the first words are spoken!

This lofty guest star, it transpires, is 6’ 7” Carry On actor Bernard Bresslaw playing a zookeeper (an occupation of choice throughout the show’s run). His character’s suicidal bent is the result of not having a monster to put in the new Snowdon Monster House (inspired by the real-life mock-iconic Snowdon Aviary). It is in response to this dearth of monstrous attractions (though also thanks to Tim’s burgeoning lust for OBEs) that the Goodies head to Scotland in search of Nessie.

‘Scotland’ thereafter presents as both a re-stating of premise and a catalogue of the lads’ comedic devices. Like ‘Cecily’ in Series 1,[1] it is very much a ‘garnish’ episode. There is no great moral or plot. Instead, we are given a catchy new song (‘The One That Got Away’) and a procession of standard Goodies gags—some hit, some miss, but enough to keep us entertained for the full half-hour!

We have the lads’ instant costume change as they cycle past the Bonnie Scotland sign; the ‘all-round observation post’ (which comprises a centralised pair of binoculars fed into by a Seuss-like array of oddly directed telescopes and cameras); absurd monster-hunting supplies (including a bazooka, boxing gloves, and a regular-sized mouse trap baited with a whole deer); fishing with dynamite (only the dynamite is on a line and the fish swallows it before then exploding); an underwater service station (complete with mermaid) selling oxygen; Graeme’s enormous glasses affixed to the outside of his diving suit; and such quintessentially Goodies scenes as the lads lulling the monster to sleep with cacophonous bagpipe music and singing, only to shush the zookeeper upon his arrival: “Shh, you’ll wake it.”

If ‘Scotland’ is ‘about’ anything, in the sense of providing social commentary, that something is gullibility (most obviously) but also national stereotyping (even more obviously, though also more subtly). The gullibility angle comes into play by way of the Loch Ness Monster and how easily it has become a tourist attraction despite never being seen. When Tim asks how they can recognise the monster, the Tourism Agent (Scottish comedian Stanley Baxter) launches into a fright-night monologue fully 80 seconds in length detailing his own horrifying face-to-face encounter… before cheerfully declaring, “Of course, I could have been mistaken.” He proceeds to sell them various helpful items including a monster recognition chart (a catalogue of everyday items you can legitimately claim to have been Nessie if you see them) and ‘cameras with special lenses for taking fuzzy, out-of-focus pictures’. The Tourism Agent is an unscrupulous grifter—he even tries to pass off slowed-down kitten meows as the monster’s roar (Kitten Kong?)—but the entire tourist-trap phenomenon is perhaps best encapsulated by Bill’s prank with the telescope:

The slightly more serious issue explored in ‘Scotland’ is that of cultural lampoon; specifically, how the English perceive/impersonate/parody the Scottish. This comes by way of made-up Scottish language (‘och aye’, ‘the noo’ and ‘hoots’), iconic misappropriations (the giant bagpipe spider), and of course horrific faux-Scottish accents when Tim, Bill and Graeme (who in fact was born in Scotland) attempt to deceive the Tourism Agent into thinking they are Scots: an over-the-top pretence the lads cannot help taking into a misguided song-and-dance number, the infelicity of which brings them fully unstuck (as later with their sailor impersonation in ‘The Lost Island of Munga’). If one were feeling uncharitable, this travestied bastardisation of all things Scottish could be taken as inappropriate, or at the very least insensitive… but that would be misconstruing the thrust of the humour. Like John Cleese as Basil Fawlty causing offence in ‘The Germans’, the Goodies set out to lampoon themselves; in truth, one only has to look at Stanley Baxter’s reaction shots—the many takes of near-toothless astonishment—to realise that it is the English, not the Scottish, who are being sent up!

Naturally enough when dealing with expectations, the Goodies leave us with a twist in the tale: having been so comprehensively conned, the lads surface from the loch and find themselves treading water on the back of Nessie herself—the first big visual of the new series! They knock the monster unconscious with one of her own eggs and then tow her home in four wheeled baskets behind their trandem. The Loch Ness Monster exists after all!

Granted, they lose her briefly. (Glancing behind, they notice the baskets are empty and then, four seconds later, perform a double-take and stop to look, checking each basket. Nessie has stopped off at a toilet block.) But then the trip home is resumed, this time with Nessie tied to the roofs of four black limousines!

Then comes the twist in the tail. (Quite literally—Nessie has a zip!) The Loch Ness Monster is just the Tourism Agent in a monster suit (another glorious absurdism). But then the final twist of all: having exposed this fraud, thereby dashing the zookeeper’s last hope—indeed, having returned to the bridge from the episode’s beginning so as to help him jump off again[2]—the lads discover that the fake egg they bought is real! It hatches, allowing Graeme to animate a Nessie hand-puppet and nibble at his own glasses…

The moral of the story? There is none really, except that the Goodies are back!

Jacob Edwards, 1 October 2021


[1] The two episodes also share the same spooky background music and scenes of Tim hurtling off grassy banks and into the water.

[2] If one can be at all critical of those Super Chaps Three, it is for their easy acceptance of suicide as a laughing matter.

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