In years gone by, I found a gem in a Norfolk car park. Here’s an aural explanation for the seemingly bizarre title…

Waiting for my son in 2008, I switched on BBC Radio 4 (surely one of the finest achievements of any civilisation) and heard the last five minutes of what seemed like a comedy of competition between pilots.

The Captain was returning a forgotten item to the First Officer at the latter’s home and is surprised to see him wearing a Captain’s jacket, something he did to maintain the illusion to his wife that he hadn’t been demoted. The scene struck me so forcefully that I went home, discovered it was called Cabin Pressure and I had managed to miss the entire six episode run. I’ll say no more than “Internet!” A day later I was utterly hooked. The most famous of the cast was (that’s a big ‘was’) Stephanie Cole, a respected actress who had a two year stint on the most famous UK soap, Coronation Street. The other three regulars were John Finnemore as idiot flight attendant Arthur (not that much of an idiot as he wrote the series too), the ever dependable and honey voiced Roger Allam as Douglas the First Officer (not quite as well known in 2008 but now of course the hapless MP Peter Manyon in The Thick Of It and Morse’s boss in Endeavour. Finally an oddly named chap played Martin, the Captain. A perennial loser in word games and hopelessly lacking in confidence, Martin is the pilot with no natural ability but an overwhelming desire to do the job. Now the tremendous success of all four series of Cabin Pressure can no doubt be attributed to great writing and great performances but the oddly named chap playing Martin may have had something to do with its extraordinary ascent to Radio’s higher plateau. Have I strung this out enough? Martin is of course played by Sherlock himself, Benedict Cumberbatch.

The Cabin Pressure Regulars

The series’ final episode was recorded in February and in its infinite wisdom, the BBC is not airing it until Christmas Eve in a shamefully cynical move to present one of the biggest stars in the world as part of their Christmas package. As soon as I know when it’s on, it’ll be announced very loudly from this site. Incidentally, seek the series out before you listen to the last episode. It’s a stand-alone comedy programme but unlike most sit-coms this has character development by the bucketload. Indulge yourselves. You’re in for a treat.