Updated: Oct 21, 2021
Warning: This is a nerd-rant. File this under ‘I don’t wish to know that’.
A few days ago I wrote of Roger Wilmut’s Goonography. I’m astonished by how much effort he put in to compiling an accurate list of all episodes, when they were recorded and when they were broadcast, as well as repeats and related Goon and Goon-ish material.
One of the issues he ran into was the correct title of each episode.
“The chaos which surrounds the fictional characters in ‘The Goon Show’ has had a tendency to spill over into real life and affect anyone associated with the shows,” Wilmut writes. “The history of the show is confused and often contradictory.”
While the BBC keeps a lot of files to this day in its Written Archives, its records of the Goons were “thoroughly complicated” by changes made to casts, scripts, and titles. The ‘official’ title was often different to the one announced on the show itself, and there were occasional mistakes in listings or last-minute changes.
Wilmut’s effort, aided by Tim Smith and Peter Copeland (as well as a number of backstage staff at Goon Show recordings), is widely regarded as the definitive list of episodes, recording dates, transmission dates, and other info.
The Goon Show Scripts, published in 1972, is an example. As an ‘official’ Goon Show book endorsed by Milligan, you’d think it was the final word on accuracy. But I am willing to bet several leather guineas that Spike (a) didn’t write this particular list and (b) didn’t care.
But I’m nothing if not a pedant, and an editor, so I can’t help but be a bit miffed that nobody noticed the glaring errors in this list. For example:
‘The Terrible Blasting of Moreton’s Bank’ is listed as the 23rd episode of the fifth series, broadcast on 1 March 1955. This was indeed the title listed in the Radio Times. However, this episode never materialised. Instead on this date ‘The Six Ingots of Leadenhall Street’ was broadcast as episode 23, having been postponed from episode 21. (That’s another story.)
The first episode of the seventh series is listed in this book as ‘The Bahrann Oasis’, but the episode is actually called ‘The Nasty Affair at the Burami Oasis’ – named after an actual event.
‘I’ll Meet By Goonlight’ – this one’s just sloppy. Episode 23 of the seventh series was, of course, called ‘Ill Met By Goonlight’ and is a parody of the wartime film and book, Ill Met By Moonlight.
Edit, 21 October 2021: I previously incorrectly stated that ‘Ill Met By Goonlight’ was a parody of Beau Geste. My thanks to Tyler Adams, host of the excellent Goon Pod podcast, who corrected me.
And there’s more where that came from!
It’s here I must also voice an annoyance with Alfred Draper’s The Story of the Goons, published by Everest Books in 1976. It’s an entertaining book full of interesting anecdotes, but I can’t help but question his editor’s attention to detail when he refers to the third episode of the fifth series as ‘The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler of Brighton’, when we all know the Hurler actually terrorised Bexhill-on-Sea. It was the Phantom Head Shaver that lurked in the streets of Brighton.
It’s high time I got out more.
It’s all rather confusing, really.