Father Ted – the Lost Episodes

Yes! – they're back. The lads from Craggy Island re-appear in a new episode/

Just doodling with a few ideas in the Ted continuum.

(Cut to opening credits and Songs of Love).

(Opening scene: the living room, the Parochial House. TED CRILLY puts down a volume of the Catholic Encyclopedia, atop some other books. He looks weary. An earnest DOUGAL MAGUIRE is looking up at him, evidently having just received some paternal guidance on a point of Church doctrine.)

FATHER DOUGAL MAGUIRE:- I think I get it now, Ted. So when the first traders from Spain and Portugal got across the Pacific from Mexico, they made landfall in Japan. And there was priests with them. And they started to convert the natives.

FATHER TED CRILLY:- (smiles. Has he finally got an abstract concept into Dougal's head, first go?) Exactly correct, Dougal. The Church has been established in Japan since the old fifteen-hundreds.. All those goings-on on the old television the other night were exaggerated, you know how these television people like making a sensation, so. (He giggles, nervously). And we have some of the great warrior-priests to thank. Like the great Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier, who realised that to live and work and preach the faith to the Japanese, we had to live like them, dress like them, learn their language, teach by example.

FATHER DOUGAL MAGUIRE picks up a book from the table. The cover is a garish illustration of a Catholic priest – at least he is wearing a cross – in orange Shinto kimono, striking a kung-fu pose. The title is lurid, in red letters: St Francis Xavier, warrior monk, stars in Death Fist of Christ: EXIT THE DRAGON! In smaller letters beneath: Soon to be a movie featuring Bruce Lee as St Francis Xavier!1(1)

FATHER DOUGAL:- Cool, Ted! I can't wait for the video!

The phone rings. There is a scramble as Ted and Dougal both go for it. Mrs Doyle beats them both and answers it.

MRS DOYLE:- Craggy Island Parochial House, Mrs Doyle, priests' housekeeper, speaking? (she nearly drops the phone in agitation, the raises it to her ear again.) Yes, your grace, your holiness, sir. (to Ted, with one hand over the mouthpiece.) It's himself! The bishop! (Ted takes the phone just in time to hear…)

BISHOP LEN BRENNAN (for it is he) Just get off the phone, will you, you daft old trout, and get me Crilly!

FATHER TED:- (greasily unctuous as always) I'm here, your grace.

BISHOP LEN BRENNAN:- (There is music playing in the background. His surroundings are uncertain. We hear him in sound only? It sounds vaguely dance or disco.) Crilly, I'll be brief, as I'm interviewing for the position of a new bishop's housekeeper. You have been falling down on one of your parochial duties, Crilly, which is religious education in schools in your parish!

FATHER TED:- (stung by the accusation, but visibly guilty) In what ways, your grace: I send Father Dougal to the big schools to lead religious education classes and as you know, I handle the catechism for the little ones at the first school. And Father Jack is barred from going within a mile of any school after the unfortunate incident in Castlebar…(He looks over at FATHER JACK HACKETT, who is leering into the TV screen and engrossed in some sort of shoot-em-up computer game. He is handling the control as deftly as any ten-year-old. And swearing incoherently)

BISHOP LEN (impatiently):- Yes, Crilly, we all know about the little incident in Castlebar, don't we? The Diocese is still paying compensation to the families involved! No, Crilly, you have got a problem here!

FATHER TED(nervous):- Is it the way we teach, your Grace? Is the message not getting through? (horror and sudden realisation crosses his face). Is it Dougal? What's he done now?

BISHOP LEN (more conciliatory):- No, nothing like that, Crilly. You're getting them to First Communion in a fit state, and even Forrest Gump isn't fecking it up as he is wont to. I'm concerned about the general level of education on Craggy Island and I want it sorting out before the Board of Education take an interest and send a fella out from Dublin to inspect. Good God, I want it sorting out before the Cardinal Archbishop sends a fella down from Armagh to investigate! Crilly, the Board of Education subsidises Catholic education in this country. The last thing we as a Church want is to end up paying for it ourselves!

(Brief silence. The out-of place disco/dance music continues in the background.)

FATHER TED(nervous):- I can't see the problem, your Grace… look, is it that the kids are a little bit… you know. Thick? Bad at exams? To be honest with you, your Grace, I see their parents every day and they're not exactly Trinity College material. They aren't even Sesame Street graduates, to be honest…

BISHOP LEN (impatient again):- No, no, no, Crilly. You have the wrong end of the stick firmly in your hand, as usual. We've been monitoring and we've noticed the kids on that fecking island of yours are getting too bright! That's bad news for the Church.

FATHER TED (perplexed):- But if they're passing their exams with flying colours that proves the education system is working, surely so?

BISHOP LEN (snorts with derision):- I said they're too bright, Crilly. The last thing the Church needs is young people who've been taught how to analyze an argument and critically assess what's put in front of them. If that sort of thing gets about there won't be a bloody Church! Besides, the Board wants Irish education to be what it always was. To turn out people just bright enough to cope and work a decent day's labour, but not bright enough to ask questions. The last thing this country needs is an educated proletariat! See to it, Crilly. Find out what's going wrong and dumb it down a bit! That should be WELL within your abilities! I'll be watching, Crilly!

The phone slams down. We see that while all this has been going on, LEN BRENNAN has been entertained with a succession of young women, none younger than about thirty and respectable Catholic widows all, who have been lap-dancing for him in minimal clothing.

BISHOP LEN:- Thank you, Mrs Mulligan. I've a lot of people to see, so send in the next candidate, would you?

MRS MULLIGAN (A comely wench in her late twenties, who is down to bra and knickers) Thank you, your Grace. (She clatters off on high-heeled shoes. An equally comely Catholic widow woman enters the room).

BISHOP LEN:- (consults list) Ah, Mrs O'Docherty. What makes you think you are suitable for the position of Bishop's housekeeper?

Mrs O'Docherty smiles, switches on the tape deck, and begins gyrating and stripping. Len grins. Cut to…

Craggy island High Street. FATHER TED and FATHER DOUGAL are out walking the parish. The main street of Craggy Island's main town is as always shabby and desperate. Litter blows in the wind, and not even the Board of Tourism at its most desperate would use photographs of it to depict a typical unspoilt Irish village. Not to mince words, the town has been spoilt by something, or just spoilt, on general principles.

FATHER DOUGAL:- So Len wants us to look at this education thing and to stop the kids turning out so clever. I don't know, Ted. Tall order.

FATHER TED:- It's perfectly simple, Dougal. Just watch and see if you can identify reasons for the kids suddenly galloping up in IQ points all of a sudden, so. By the way, how are you getting on at Saint Rosemary's?

FATHER DOUGAL (eyes light up) :-Oh, it's great, Ted, so! The girls are really clever!

TED nods. Perhaps Dougal is getting it right after all and conveying the essentials of a Catholic religious education to the pupils.

FATHER DOUGAL :- You just would not believe some of the things they're teaching me!

TED sighs. The fantasy of a late-blossoming competent Dougal evaporates.

FATHER TED:- Dougal. You are supposed to teach them… never mind, we'll go into the essentials back at the Parochial House. Ah, Mr McArdle! Mrs McArdle. And the little ones. How sweet!

The MCARDLES are a typical Craggy Island family. Layers of scruffy Aran wool and scarves, shapeless trousers, Wellington boots and bobble hats. Facially, the parents are the usual sort of none-too-bright Craggy Islander, colshies just off the bog. But the children… their son and daughter are immaculately turned out in fresh and crisp school uniform, with neat slicked-back hair and not a detail out of place, except for intently focused eyes. About six and seven, think of them as the Stepford Kids.

SHAMIE McARDLE: - (a typical bluff Craggy Islander, thick and enthusiastic) A fine morning to you, Fathers! It's a fecking good morning for once, so!

MAUREEN McARDLE (a female version of Shamie with a hint of bovine):- Nice to meet you, Fathers! (She simpers, as per Mary in the shop or a younger Mrs Doyle).

The children are indefinably - different.

FRANCIS XAVIER McARDLE:- (through an unsmiling face and large unblinking eyes):- It is indeed a clement morning consistent with early summer in a northern Atlantic island warmed by the Gulf Stream, is it not?

(Ted blinks).

TERESA OF THE CROSS McARDLE (a smaller version of her brother but no less un-nerving):- Father Crilly, when you have time I would very much welcome a chance to talk to you about issues raised in your Catechism class last Thursday.

FATHER TED (relaxes, gets patronising):- Ah, well now. The Catechism is a very hard book for a little girl to properly understand, but I'm sure we can fit in a wee session of revision, so, before your First Communion.

TERESA OF THE CROSS McARDLE (stares at TED in a reptilian and unblinking way):- What I mean is, Father Crilly, where it says the purpose of human existence is to know God and to love Him, does it mean in the sense of agapae or cariteas? I mean, it can hardly be eros!

FATHER TED (gobsmacked):- Errr…

TERESA OF THE CROSS McARDLE (speaking in a dull mechanical monotone, like a computer):- As Saint Paul outlines the three types of love in the First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter thirteen, it's clear that there's more than one interpretation of the Catechism. And as for knowing God, how can we define knowledge? The Greek word is gnosis, which is defined by Professor Huenger as…

(She is cut short by a good-natured clip round the ear by her father. )

SHAMIE McARDLE: - Will you not prattle on so at the good Father! (To TED) I'm sorry about that, Father. Little girls do go on, so!

FATHER TED (relieved) :- Perfectly alright, Shamie. (he giggles, nervously). We have Catechism classes to answer these questions. I trust I'll be seeing you in school?

TERESA OF THE CROSS McARDLE (does not howl or cry, but looks up at her father as if trying to decide what to do, then at TED):- I look forward to it, Father Crilly. Working out theological questions can be so rewarding, do you not agree?

FATHER TED (nervous):- Indeed so!

(As the McArdles walk on, he turns to DOUGAL, who has been an interested spectator of these events.)

FATHER TED:- Do you know, Dougal, I didn't understand a bloody word of that!

DOUGAL (nods, sagely):- I'm with you there, Ted. She lost me at that agapay business.

Ted turns and watches the family walk on. Something, somewhere, is deeply wrong. He frowns.

We cut to the next scene in the Parochial House. Ted is sweating over a book of Definitions and Interpretations in Roman Catholic Theology. A book on the table among many others is in the familar black-and-yellow cover and is called Catholicism for Dummies. He is frantically taking notes. A full ashtray and Mrs Doyle's attention to the teapot display his desperation.

MRS DOYLE (pours teacup):- So you're taking the tinies for their First Communion class tomorrow, Father? Ah, all the dear little children and their happy smiling faces. It takes me back!

(FATHER JACK HACKETT is still in his usual foul armchair. Drink temporarily set aside, he is engrossed in a violent computer game, manipulating the control like a pro. We hear shouts and screams and loud car noises, as well as the backlight from the TV set).

FATHER JACK HACKETT:- Drink! Girls! Fast cars! Arse! Grand Theft Auto! Feck!

MRS DOYLE (indulgent):- Ah, he does love his Grand Theft Auto so! And when he's bored with that, we've got him the Independence Day one, you know, where he has to fight the little grey fellas from outer space.

FATHER JACK HACKETT:- Girls! Little grey feckers must die! Arse! All your base are belong to us! Arsebiscuits!

TED sighs and shakes his head. A thought strikes him.

FATHER TED:- Where's Dougal?

MRS DOYLE:- He's up at the girls' school doing a Religious Education lesson. You know, the one where Sergeant Thornton last arrested Father Jack.

Ted nods, understanding.

FATHER TED:- I wonder how he's getting on? Ah well.

Cut to a classroom scene. FATHER DOUGAL is surrounded by a group of interestingly nubile young ladies in the full St Trinians' rig, all short skirts, tight blouses and suspendered hosiery. He is listening, intently.

JANICE O'FLAHERTY (she is sitting cross-legged on the desk) :- And on the festival of Imbolc, we offer a Wicker Man to the Old Gods to beseech fertility in the crops and the people for the coming season.

As the camera pans, we see a large pentagram is drawn on the blackboard and there are random notes there about the symbolic use of the athame and the ceremonial crucible.

JANICE:- And you know, Father Dougal, we've discussed this thing and we're very sure we can get you a seat of honour at the Wicker Man ceremony. After all, you're qualified!

Various girls nod and speak approval.

JANICE:- It all boiled down to ever you or Sergeant Thornton. As traditionally, a Christian police sergeant is the ideal candidate. (She looks innocent for a moment. The girls all go poker-faced.) (2)

FATHER DOUGAL:- Are, now that sounds grand! Front-row seat, you said?

JANICE (nods) Front row seat, Father.

We cut out on Dougal looking happy, much as a lamb might look happy in the middle of a group of lionesses who are, just at the moment, playing with their food. Then we cut to the local Board of Education primary school. Think a very Irish Bash Street, with nuns. FATHER TED is sweating in front of a class part made up of Stepford Children and part made up of Craggy Island scruffs. He is having to pitch a Catechism class at a high enough theological level to meet the needs of the unblinking Stepford Children, knowing that his words are going over the heads of the standard-issue Craggy Island child. This is a sort of educational schizophrenia that teachers of mixed ability classes have to manage every day. TED is aware that he is failing.

As some device counts the days down, we see TED returning to the classroom. We see him blink as, perceptibly, more of the scruffs disappear only to be replaced with near-identical Stepford Children. At the end of lesson, a beaming and benign SISTER MARY ROSE enters the classroom. She is an identikit Irish nun, in her fifties, sexless, in sensible skirt, wimple, and flat-heeled shoes.

SISTER MARY ROSE :- Now aren't we all pleased that the good Father Crilly has found the time to guide you all through the Catechism in time for your first Communion?

STEPFORD CHILD:- It was very interesting, sister. Especially the discussion on the nature of divine love as revealed through the life and works of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

SISTER MARY ROSE (blinks):- Well, I'm going to have to take him away from you now!

The children make the approved disappointed noise, apart from a rebellious seven year old "well, feck off, then", which is almost lost in the clamour.

FATHER TED:- (relieved) I have a parish to run, so.

They leave the classroom. In the school corridor, TED turns to her. He is bewildered and concerned.

FATHER TED:- Sister, you see these kids every day. Do you not detect anything, you know, odd? Out of the ordinary? Strange?

SISTER MARY ROSE (not quite with it):- Such as, Father?

FATHER TED:- Well, Michael O'Rouke there could barely write his name last week. He dressed like a wee version of his father, and you know what that means round here! Would you look at him now, neat and tidy and capable of out-arguing a Vatican canon! Something's going on!

SISTER MARY ROSE:- Well, all the little ones have growth spurts and things, Father. Sometimes they leap up the learning curve, just so, in days, when it all makes sense to them! Now let me show you the nature corner this class set up. It really is something else! We've had to move it into the school greenhouse, it was getting so big!

We watch Ted and the nun pass into a far corner of the school grounds where the greenhouse is. All the time, Sister Mary Rose is excitedly saying

Do you know, Father. We gave them some peas and beans to grow, nice simple things, practically guaranteed, so they could see the miracle of Nature, and they've exceeded all our expectations, so they have! I can only think it's been a good growing year for beans and peas…

We enter the greenhouse. There has most certainly been prodigal growth. The prodigious legumes have grown at least eighteen feet high and the beanpods are large. At least four feet long, some as big as six. The lumps and bumps inside vaguely suggest human shape. TED looks, goggles, and shakes his head. Surely not. But as the school nun beams with pride at the accomplishments of her children, he realises something just is not right here. Not right at all.

We cut further out. The two original Stepford Children are watching from a school window. They look at each other and frown.

And then the End of Part One credits scroll over the screen.

(1) Look for martial arts laughs from Jackie Chan as Father Hong, the first native priest, who tries hard, but can never get it right!

(2) The referent is the sixties' horror movie The Wicker Man, in which a devoutly Christian police sergeant discovers human sacrifice on a remote Scottish island which hasd turned back to paganism. As he is a virgin - he has performed the superhuman feat of turning down a randy Britt Ekland - he is ideal sacrificial material and gets the best seat in the house at the burning of the Wicker Man. A remote island. Paganism. A naive virgin. Hmmm. Posibilitites.