The ninth and final episode of Ripping Yarns, the series of splendid adventures set in the early 1900s created by Terry Jones and Michael Palin. "Roger of the Raj" was first aired on 24th October 1979, and featured Palin as Roger, Richard Vernon as his father Lord Bartlesham, Joan Sanderson as his mother Lady Bartlesham, and John le Mesurier as Colonel Runciman of the regiment.

England, 1914, then once the War started, India, 1914. Roger's parents were typical fabulously wealthy landowners, with large numbers of houses, quite enormous breakfast tables stuffed to overflowing with tantalising dishes, and vast squads of servants to ensure their every wish was met. Out on the grouse moor (the formidable Lady Bartlesham had killed more grouse than any other woman in history) the beaters were so happy being servants that they willing got shot because they carelessly looked too much like grouse.

Or so Roger's kindly father believed. He admired his slaves a lot, he thought the average slave was a wonderful chap, and he liked being kind to them. Once when the toast was particularly good at breakfast and his wife asked the housemaid to find out who had made the toast that morning, and commend her, he looked up from his paper and went further:

LORD BARTLESHAM: Set her free, Mrs Angel.
LADY BARTLESHAM (exchanging a brief glance with Mrs Angel): She is free, dear.
LORD BARTLESHAM: Judy... free? Surely not.
LADY BARTLESHAM: They're all free, dear... all the servants. There's been no slavery in this country for donkey's years.
LORD BARTLESHAM: But Judy -- little slip of a girl, washes floors all day long...
LADY BARTLESHAM (a hint of impatience): She's still free, dear.
LORD BARTLESHAM: Well, I think it's a great shame...
LADY BARTLESHAM: What is a shame, dear?
LORD BARTLESHAM: Not being able to free people. (He lays his paper down and his eyes begin to glisten.) It must have been a wonderful thing to do... just sort of free a chap... some poor miserable wretch in chains... and along you come and say... "You're free! You're a free man... Off you go! Run around wherever you want!" Imagine the new life that's about to open up for him.

Poor Roger is very uncomfortable between his parents and amid such wealth, for his Latin tutor Mr Hopper in fact knows no Latin at all, and all day long he secretly teaches Roger about Marxism, socialism, the state ownership of capital, and the inevitable uprising of the proletariat. When the Bartleshams transfer to India, where they have servants to play their croquet shots for them, Mr Hopper's long-sought social revolution suddenly breaks out, right in the middle of the regiment.

As the ladies withdraw from the dinner table and Lord Bartlesham and his officers prepare to enjoy their port, the handsome young Captain Morrison suavely tells the ladies, "We'll be in to spank you later -- you firm-buttocked young Amazons!" Then he realises the enormity of what he has said, and Bartlesham quietly suggests he knows the right thing to do. Morrison accepts this, and to save the honour of the regiment walks out of the room and shoots himself.

As the remaining officers shake their heads and begin to talk and pass the port, one man tries to pass the port left to right. His neighbour whispers at him not to be a fool, and stop joking. The others notice. The man rises and explains he was passing the port from left to right, and he should be able to, but if the rest don't want to, he'll have no further part in it. Then to save the honour of the regiment after this social error he steps outside and shoots himself. Then his neighbour stands up and says he thinks you should be able to pass the port any way you like, backwards, zigzagging, diagonally... He goes out and shoots himself. Another officer stands up and says he thinks the women should be able to have port too. After his death, Bartlesham's sole remaining companion Colonel Runciman gets up and exclaims that he has always wanted women in here too. And he wanted to abolish the Loyal Toast. And the National Anthem. And set up a socialist republic, and smash the ruling classes. Then he goes out and shoots himself.

Roger was prepared for what to do when the long-foreseen Revolution began: Mr Hopper had wanted to be notified. But Roger has been absorbing other secret doctrines, and wants to set up a little shop with the beautiful and rich Miranda, to whose bedroom window he now ascends. He tries to sway her with the romance of commerce: of profit margins and ledgers and sales projections. She is slowly won over to the grand vision, and they seek to flee the house.

But in the meantime news has come of the Russian Revolution. Mr Hopper is overjoyed: and he is going to foment the revolution here. He has roused the regiment, and they're up in arms, and want Roger to be their leader. Lord Bartlesham mistakes the shouting and shooting for a Pathan uprising, and wants to go out there and treat the Pathans well, perhaps get them some hot soup and blankets. Roger is trying to escape from Mr Hopper and the regiment's insistence; Lady Bartlesham gets a gun and starts shooting at the regiment. Miranda sneaks up behind knocking them out to rescue Roger. Mr Hopper decides it would be convenient to switch sides, and shops Roger as the leader of the mutiny. Roger, forced by the regiment to lead them, tries to get out of it by suggesting that Mr Hopper is seeking to take them over, replacing one ruler with another, and the outraged Mr Hopper says that's not Marxism, that's Bakuninite anarchism! The soldiers debate whether they want an anarchist or socialist solution, and Lady Bartlesham is delighted to find a machine gun so she can attack them. The chaos escalates.

< Golden Gordon -- Ripping Yarns

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.