have placed ‘A B and C’ before ‘The General.’ I suppose that’s fair enough as it goes, however both of these episodes do contradict one another.
It is possible to pair up two episodes ‘The Chimes of Big Ben,’ and ‘Once Upon A Time’ with Leo McKern as No. 2, so it would be reasonable to pair up ‘A B and C’ and ‘The General’ with Colin Gordon as No.2. However to be able to do this, or indeed to place these two episodes is any screening order, one first has to decide which to place before the other! The opening sequence should be able to decide the matter for us. ‘A B and C,’ written by Anthony Skene, has No. 2 saying most definitely “I am Number Two.” While on the other hand Lewis Greifer, scriptwriter of ‘The General,’ has No.2 telling us “I am the new Number Two,” which tells us that ‘The General’ precedes ‘A B and C.’ This appears to be confirmed by the headline of The Tally Ho which asks the question “Is No.2 Fit For Further Term?” That “further term” would suggest ‘The General.’ And that would appear to be that, however, although screened after ‘A B and C,’ ‘The General’ was in fact filmed before ‘A B and C,’ so that Colin Gordon makes his return appearance five weeks before his debut! "I've never been so flattered" was Colin Gordon's comment "Especially as this is the first time I've played a part quite like this.” The story-line of ‘The General’ was altered so as to allow for this, although the provision was not needed as the episodes were screened in the reverse order to their filming. No. 2 in ‘The General’ was originally to have met his death at the end of the episode, a victim of "the Generals" short circuiting, and explosive self-destruction. But Colin Gordon's performance as Number 2 was admired so much, that he was reprieved, simply to pave the way for his appearance in the later episode of ‘A B and C.’ And that would appear to clear up the matter, well it would if it wasn’t for that one line in ‘The General’ when No.2 tells Madam Professor “Number Six and I are old friends,” how can that be if ‘The General’ should precede
‘A B and C?’ These are the difficulties faced with these two episodes. I myself have entered this debate although not in The Tally Ho, and if I
have leaned anything from the exercise, one simply has to ignore certain things in favour of others. Which means ‘The General’ precedes ‘A B and C’ simply on the evidence spoken by Number 2 in both opening sequences to these episodes, and that they run consecutively. That in turn creates the notion that together ‘The General’ and ‘A B and C’ serve as one term in office. After what this No.2 has experienced it’s no wonder The Tally Ho headline questioned whether or not this No.2 was fit for a second term in office, and a third episode for Colin Gordon! And as to the fitness of No.2, both mentally and physically, whereas at the commencement of ‘The General, and for much of the episode, he is confident, a man not to be underestimated, and ruthless with it. But by the end of the episode his confidence has taken a bashing, he has failed and cannot understand why. Yet he is not quite the broken man that we see at the end of ‘A B and C.’ As No.2’s term in office turns away from educational experimentation, in ‘A B and C’ he finds himself involved in an experiment of a different kind. No more the confident, ruthless No.2, he’s nervous, afraid, frightened and with good reason. What’s more he’s been given that ridiculous telephone to use! No.2 told No.1 that he’s doing his best, that No.6 is very difficult. I should imagine No.2 found it very difficult this time round! But this time he’s not alone, there’s the doctor-No.14 whom he can kick when No.1 has kicked him! He’ll hold No.14 responsible if the drug doesn’t work, or if No.6 is damaged he’ll see that the drugged is proved on her. Thus the idea of shifting the blame of any possible failure has already occurred to an unconfident No.2. He has three last chances, his term in office has boiled down to three people, A B and C, and he has three shorts acts to see played out in which to determine the reason behind No.6’s resignation. Once No.2 was a man not to be underestimated, he underestimated No.6 once, but did not learn by that lesson. At the end this No.2 is no longer fit for a further term, the events of ‘The General’ have been compounded by the failure of ‘A B and C’ leaving No.2 an exhausted and broken man. And hammers home the reason why ‘The General’ should precede ‘A B and C.’
Be seeing you