Into the Dark
by Jack Ronder and John Finch
Episode Number: 27
Director: Baz Taylor
NOTE: During the making of this episode, there was a trade union dispute,
which resulted in "Into the Dark" being produced in black and white.
|Edwin Ashton||Colin Douglas|
|Jean Ashton||Shelagh Fraser|
|Sheila Ashton||Coral Atkins|
|Margaret Porter||Lesley Nunnerley|
|John Porter||Ian Thompson|
|Philip Ashton||Keith Drinkel|
|Freda Ashton||Barbara Flynn|
|Sefton Briggs||John McKelvey|
|Michael Armstrong||Mark Jones|
|Doris Jackson||Diana Davies|
|Corporal Grant||Ian Stirling|
|Lance Corporal Reynolds||Tom Conti|
|The Hospital Doctor||Roger Heathcott|
|Mess Sergeant Smith||Paul Luty|
|The Family Doctor||Derek Hockridge|
|John George Porter||Ben Grieve|
|A Movie Theatre||Margaret and Michael are watching a film, but they take a moment to glance amusedly at a sailor "necking" with his girlfriend. |
They are aware that Freda and Sheila are in the same theatre, sitting almost directly behind them.
|The Ashton Home||Sefton is at the table, reading the newspaper, while John is lounging on the sofa, reading a book. |
Edwin comes into the living room, and Sefton begins talking about the latest German victories, contending, "There's no stopping them."
When Sefton asks John if he has seen any German soldiers, John answers that he has encountered one or two of them.
Sefton tells Edwin that Germans are funny chaps—different from Englishmen because they do not know where to stop.
John tires of the conversation and decides to go to bed early, prompting Sefton to say, "An early night, eh? That's the stuff for invalids."
After John leaves the room, Sefton asks Edwin if Margaret is "out with that other chap," and Edwin responds, "I just don't know. I'm past the point of asking her."
Edwin tells Sefton that he does not understand what is plaguing Jean, but he suspects that it is the death of Robert and various worries about her other children (and grandchildren).
|A Movie Theatre||A newsreel about the war in North Africa comes on, and Michael notices that it seems to upset Margaret. |
Michael tells her that Freda and Sheila have left the theatre, and Margaret assures him that it does not matter to her if they saw her and him sitting together.
Finally, Margaret and Michael decide to go, though Margaret says that there is not enough time to return to the flat.
|A Military Field Hospital||Orderlies have wheeled out a dead soldier, who had been lying in the bed between Corporal Grant and Lance Corporal Reynolds. |
While Jumbo is making up the middle bed for its next patient, Grant asks, without success, if he can move to that one, to keep an eye on his friend, Reynolds.
The new patient in the ward, occupying the middle bed, becomes Philip Ashton, who is unable to see, due to shell fragment wounds to his eyes.
|The Ashton Home||Freda and Sheila return from the pictures, and Sheila tells Edwin that Margaret and Michael were sitting in front of them. |
Edwin says that Jean came back from Ladies' Comforts (knitting for soldiers) with a headache and went up to bed.
Sheila apologises for compounding Jean's worries, though Edwin assures her it is more David's fault than hers.
When Sheila asks if Philip will be coming home on leave anytime soon, Edwin sadly answers that he may be away for the duration of the war.
He confesses that sometimes he wishes that Philip might get a "blighty one"—an insignificant injury—to render him unfit for duty and thus a candidate for discharge.
|A Military Field Hospital||The doctor and nurse are examining Philip, and they say his vital signs are good, though he continues to be blind. |
Grant tells Philip that both he and Reynolds were wounded at Tobruk, and Philip says he was as well.
Reynolds seems to be very taciturn, almost surly, and Grant tells the doctor that is just his normal way of speaking.
The doctor informs Philip that the eye surgeon will remove the shell fragment from his right eye tomorrow, and when the eyes' internal bleeding subsides, there is every reason to believe that his sight will return over the course of the next few weeks.
Still not convinced, Philip asks if he is going to be blind, and the doctor replies, "I don't think so, sergeant."
|The Ashton Home||Freda and Doris are sitting on the living room sofa, chatting and alternating puffs on the same cigarette. |
On a whim, Freda suggests that Doris apply for a nurse's position, stating it would be fun working together again.
Edwin comes in to tell Freda that she will be sharing the boys' bedroom with Margaret, adding that this sleeping arrangement was John's idea, not Margaret's.
|A Military Field Hospital||Grant returns to bed and begins a conversation with Philip. |
He explains that a German tank injured both him and Reynolds.
When he tries to prop Philip up in bed, the head orderly, Jumbo, steps in to do it instead.
Philip asks Jumbo if he might have permission to walk to the end of the ward and back, with Jumbo steering him along.
While Jumbo is away, seeking doctor's permission, Grant tells Philip that he has been talking in his sleep the past two days.
The orderly returns and helps to guide the wobbly-legged Sergeant Ashton on his blind tour.
This is Grant's chance to talk to Reynolds in private, asking him how he feels.
Reynolds responds gloomily that they are going to operate on him tomorrow, if he has enough strength.
Grant, who seems to be hiding something of a self-incriminating nature, informs Reynolds that he expects to be back in the fighting soon, but Reynolds argues that he will be incarcerated for a long time.
Later, as incoming wounded arrive at the hospital, Philip requests that Grant write a letter home for him to let his parents know that he is temporarily blind.
Reynolds has been wheeled away for observation, but now orderlies return him to his bed, and Grant hobbles over to ask him about his condition.
"I've had it," says Reynolds, explaining that they will not even bother to operate.
As Grant tries to find an airgraph (micro-photographic template) for Philip, Reynolds announces that Grant has shot off the toes of his left foot and will be going home.
This Grant categorically denies, which upsets Reynolds so much that he begins gasping for air until the nurse is able to calm him down.
Reynolds offers his airgraph sheet to Philip, and Grant starts transcribing Philip's dictation.
Philip cannot bring himself to disclose that he is blind, so he instructs Grant to write, "This is being written by a friend because I have some bandages on. They will be off by next week."
|The Ashton Home||Jean and Margaret are in the kitchen with John George, and Jean informs her daughter that John's tablets do not seem to work anymore—that he came downstairs during the night and had some tea with her. |
Margaret goes to answer the doorbell, and it is Michael, who insists on talking with her here and now—not later, down the road somewhere.
They go to the living room, where he loudly scolds her for not meeting him last night.
He adds that two months have elapsed, and still she has not informed John, to which Margaret responds that her husband is far too ill to handle such news.
Jean looks through the hatchway and then, seeing Michael, angrily slams it shut.
Margaret pleads for Michael to leave before their argument awakens John, but it is already too late, as John is coming down the stairway.
Jean tries in vain to have him return upstairs, but he proceeds into the living room.
John sees Margaret with a stranger but thinks nothing of it, intent on finding his tablets, which Margaret has put in the kitchen.
When Margaret rushes after her husband, Jean confronts Michael and says, "I think you'd better go, don't you?"
John's nerves are shattered from sleeplessness, so Margaret accompanies him upstairs.
|A Military Field Hospital||Grant is eating with some other patients at a table, so Reynolds—who is on intravenous drip—talks candidly with Philip. |
He tells him that he was an apprentice painter, which he hated so much that he was happy when he got called up to fight.
Reynolds adds that his father was killed in the last war, and now he has been killed in this one.
"You know Grant?" he asks Philip. "He killed me."
To this startling revelation, Reynolds adds that Grant shot off his own toes, so he could return home to his wife.
Then Reynolds explains that their unit could see German tanks, but the Germans could not see them.
Grant was lying there, holding his rifle to his foot, and he pulled the trigger—alerting the unsuspecting Germans, who then approached and killed most of the British troops.
"If I tell," says Reynolds, "he'll get ten years."
|The Ashton Home||Freda rushes off to her hospital lodgings, but not until she chats for a moment with her mother. |
Claiming that Margaret is away at "Marjorie's," Jean confesses that she is having difficulty looking poor John in the eye.
John, meanwhile, is in the kitchen, taking some sleeping tablets, and Jean comes in to bid him goodnight.
He starts to tell his mother-in-law something but thinks better of it.
Instead, he walks over to the cabinet and grasps the tablet container, surrendering to his exhaustion and seriously considering the unthinkable.
|Michael Armstrong's Flat||Margaret and Michael are lying in bed, but Michael is worried, stating, "Something's happening to us." |
Margaret apologises, but it is obvious to Michael that part of her will never be his—"The part I barged in on this morning."
He says he is sorry for having done that, which leads Margaret to suggest that perhaps now he can better understand her dilemma.
She always wanted a normal marriage and life, Margaret explains, so now she fears how she will feel in ten years' time if she abandons her husband for another love.
Margaret sobs that she is being torn in two directions, leaving her nothing real, not even the baby that died and now walks between them like a little ghost for the rest of their lives.
|A Military Field Hospital||It is nighttime, and Reynolds is wheezing badly, a sound that awakens Philip. |
Grant, however, insists to the blinded soldier that Reynolds is snoring peacefully.
Reynolds's condition worsens, but Grant still tells Philip that his friend is fast asleep.
When Grant walks over to have a closer look at Reynolds, Philip jumps out of bed to intercept him, but Grant remains calm and convinces Philip that nothing is wrong.
Finally, Philip hears what seems to be a death gurgle and calls for the nurse.
Moments later, the orderlies wheel Reynolds's lifeless body away, and Grant admits to Philip that he was wrong about his friend's condition.
Grant continues telling falsehoods about Reynolds until Philip can take it no longer, confronting him with the late soldier's allegations.
Forced to listen to Reynolds's account of the incident, as repeated through Philip, Grant fabricates an alternative story of what "really" happened—that it was Reynolds who accidentally shot off Grant's toes.
He alleges that Reynolds contrived to shoot off the big toe of his own left foot, so as to return home to his business.
He explains that Reynolds planned to do this during a firefight, so as to avoid any suspicion that the wound was self-inflicted.
Grant tells Philip that he saw Reynolds's intent and tried to stop him, but in the struggle Reynolds’s rifle shot off his toes instead.
Though blind, Philip can see right through Grant's concocted story, declaring, "You shot your own foot off."
Grant insists that it is Reynolds's word against his.
|The Ashton Home||Edwin comes into the living room—after a stuffy evening at the club with Sefton—and sees John sitting on the sofa, still unable to sleep despite the tablets. |
John tells him that Jean has gone to bed, but Margaret is not home.
He wonders aloud whether Margaret's friend ever comes to visit, and Edwin cannot think how to answer.
"Marjorie, isn't it?" asks John, and Edwin says yes, adding that she no longer comes to visit.
Edwin explains that Margaret only stays out all night if she misses the bus, but John can sense the true reason: "I don't blame her. Good heavens, no. I'm not much to come back to, am I?"
"We just want you to get better," says Edwin, fully mindful of why John is feeling sorry for himself.
|Michael Armstrong's Flat||Margaret and Michael are lying in bed together, listening to the Warsaw Concerto. |
Realising that she has missed the last bus, Margaret becomes very tense, fearing that someone might ring Marjorie and discover the truth about her whereabouts.
Michael does not worry about that, seeing it as a positive step: "Then it would all come out, wouldn't it?"
|The Ashton Home||It is seven minutes past two in the morning when John returns upstairs to his bedroom. |
He takes some tablets…then more of them…and then some more.
|A Military Field Hospital||The doctor checks Philip's eyes and tells him that he will be sent to South Africa in about a week to convalesce. |
When Philip asks about his prognosis, the doctor replies that many such cases lead to restored sight, in due course of time.
The doctor cannot give any further assurance, except to tell Philip, "I would say, Ashton, that you would be a little previous if you started to learn brail."
Now occupying the bed where Reynolds died is a new patient, a cheerful cook named Smith, and he agrees to help Philip get around.
The cook explains to his sightless acquaintance that he weighs eighteen stone (252 pounds, avoirdupois) and that he dislocated his shoulder by falling from a ladder when a shelf collapsed upon him.
The nurse comes in to change Philip's eye dressings, and he reveals to her the startling information that Reynolds related before his death—that Grant's "accident" was actually a pre-meditated and self-inflicted wound.
She, however, explains to Philip that she is a nursing sister and does not concern herself with those things.
|The Ashton Home||Doris is rambling on about nursing, confessing that most of what she knows came from the movies, but Jean is preoccupied and only half listening. |
The family doctor has come downstairs after examining John, and he instructs Edwin to make certain that someone is watching John around the clock.
The overdose, whether accidental or deliberate, was not fatal, but Jean resolves to tell Margaret what happened, something Edwin labels as "blackmail."
Edwin argues that John had no reason to kill himself because he does not know about Margaret, Michael, and their stillborn baby.
Jean, though, suspects that John is quite aware of his wife's lack of commitment, saying, "Sometimes people have an instinct about being not wanted."
Despite Edwin's dissent, Jean is determined to tell Margaret the truth.
Just then, Margaret returns home, hears her parents' argument, and stoically joins them in the living room.
Jean tells her that John has taken an overdose of tablets and nearly died.
"You've got to decide now," insists Jean, and Margaret responds, "I already have decided, Mum. I decided on the way home."
When Margaret leaves the room, Jean feels very faint and must sit down, causing Edwin to fear for her health.
Upstairs, Margaret slips into John's room and sits on the bed, smiling compassionately at her sleeping husband.
|A Military Field Hospital||The cheerful cook, Sergeant Smith, is reading aloud to Philip when Grant returns on his crutches. |
Grant has had his medical hearing and will now be heading home to his wife—just as he had schemed all along.
"Funny, the way things turn out," he says, and Philip repeats sarcastically, "Funny."
About Reynolds and himself, Grant ponders how their fates could have been reversed.
Philip discloses that Reynolds told him one other thing prior to his death—that he carried Grant to safety before going back for the others.
Grant tells Philip goodbye and walks away on his crutches, toward the bright sunshine that is streaming through the tent door.
Philip calls out, "Grant!" and the injured soldier stops.
"Come back, Grant!" shouts Philip, and Grant turns around to face him, fearing the worst.
Excitedly, Philip tells him that he can see light in his left eye—blurred vision, to be sure, but still definite gradations of brightness and darkness.
|The Ashton Home||Margaret watches her husband sleep for a moment. |
Then she walks over to the window, pulls aside the curtain, and looks outside into the morning sunlight—the dawning of a new day.
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