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Oh! Dr. Beeching was written by David Croft and Richard Spendlove and following the pilot, ran for two series from July 1996 to September 1997. It was the last in a line of sitcoms penned by co writer David Croft in which many of the cast members overlapped from previous series. For Jeff, Paul Shane and Su Pollard, nicknamed the A Team, it was a dream come true to be cast together for a third time some 16 years after Hi de Hi and something they never dreamt would happen again.


Set in the early 60's on the small fictional branch line railway station of Hatley under threat of Beeching's axe, the programme was filmed on the Severn Valley Railway. Jeff describes his character of the stern station master Cecil Parkin as 'lovelorn frustrated and something of a control freak' as he arrives at the station determined to get everything spik and span and in apple pie order to avoid the closure of the branch line. His lot was not helped by the discovery that the cafe was being run by May (Julia Deakin) a former sweetheart with whom he had had a passionate fling years earlier and who had subsequently married the station porter Jack Skinner (Paul Shane).

Much of the series gave rise to opportunities for Parkin to pursue his lost love and indeed youth and for the first time to pull rank in character over that of Paul Shane. Not surprisingly the series holds many happy memories for Jeff not least at the little mishaps in filming along the way. 'We had a lot of laughs', he explains. 'Often at my expense. I'm as blind as a bat without my glasses but never wear them to act. There was one scene when I was supposed to unlock the station master's office but couldn't see the keyhole. Eventually I had to admit I couldn't see what I was doing. Everyone thought it was hilarious, I'm still waiting for it to pop up on one of those outtake shows. Another time during a chase scene I was required to slip over in some mud. I fell heavily on my face and from the amount of pain, I was convinced I had broken my nose. Everyone else thought it was hysterical.'


Regular cast members included Su Pollard as Ethel the booking clerk, Stephen Lewis as the ever complaining signalman Harry, Barbara New as Vera Plumtree of Railway Cottages, Paul Aspen as Ethel's witless son Wilfred, Ivor Roberts as Arnold the engine driver and Perry Benson as Ralph his fireman. It is of particular note that both Ivor and Perry were required to learn the rudiments of how to actually drive the LMS Ivatt Class 22-6-0 No 46521 locomotive which was used on the film set.


Despite favourable viewing figures the programme came to an abrupt halt, no pun intended, at the end of the second series for no apparent reason leaving the fate of the station and its occupants unanswered. It is interesting to note however that the show's demise came at the time when television focus began to shift away from family comedy and drift towards the dawn of the soap era.

Oh Dr Beeching

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