The general theme of the episode is shortages and hunger. In that sense, it’s similar to an episode in Series 1 in which Charles is so hungry and fed up that officers have much better meals than him, he joins the Bletchley Marxists.
As the writer of the show, I don’t feel all that guilty reprising an episode theme in the second series. Food was in short supply for the whole war and an unpleasant reality for all but the wealthiest. World War Two ration were meagre. Most of us today could eat their weekly ration in a day. So it's good to keep coming back to that.
Quakers, Baptists and Jokes
One last point of interest on this episode. Hopefully my explanation of it will give a small insight into how you sometimes make a joke fit the context. I spotted a comment on someone’s blog about Hut 33. (Clearly as the writer of the show, I’m constantly googling ‘Hut 33’ in order to find out what people think of it). This blogger, a wife of a Baptist minister, blogged about her irritation that the writer of Hut 33 seemed ignorant of certain religious groups and their drinking habits. What am I talking about?
The joke in question is Archie’s joke in response to his discovery that the pub has completely run out of alcohol. He says “So we’re now standing in the world’s first teetotal pub. We expecting a bus-load of Quakers?” And the audience laughed. But the blog pointed out that it is Methodists that refrain from drinking, not Quakers. I knew that. Honestly, I did. I’m a professing Christian myself and have a degree in Theology! But I chose Quakers for the joke. Why?
Comedy relies on shared knowledge and simplicity. If the audience have to think about a joke for too long, or are unsure about any part of it, they can’t laugh. And they don’t laugh. Simplicity and clarity is everything. This partly explains why people get upset about stereotypes. They are a reality in comedy because it relies about compressing information and leaving plenty of things unsaid. In this case, I chose Quakers because I’m not sure how widely know it is that its Methodists don’t drink. It’s also the case that many Baptists don’t drink either. How widely known is that? Less so now than before. However, I judged that the audience would have no problem believing that Quakers don’t drink – partly because in my mind there seems to be some kind of overlap between Quakers, Puritans and the Amish, at least in terms of their public perception. In reality there are vast differences between these groups of Christian believers. The puritans in particular were a remarkable bunch of Christian folk who were nothing like the the adjective named after them - 'puritanical'.
Returning to the joke in question, we have to bear in min that this is a joke for 2008. So I chose Quaker. Even though the joke is set in 1941, when the vast majority would have been clear that Methodists don’t drink.
Add to the equation the fact that characters are the creations of writers – and do not represent the views of the writer, or share their factual knowledge. So Archie, Charles and the team, and especially Josh, say plenty of things that are wrong, or grammatically incorrect. But don’t shoot the writer!
Incidentally, the Quaker website says:
One testimony that Quakers have had to give careful thought to is our testimony on moderation. In the nineteenth century Quakers saw the bad effects that drink and drunkenness had in society. Along with other Non-conformist Christians they campaigned against alcohol. Many Quakers were active in the Temperance Movement - a movement of people who "took the pledge" (promising that they would never drink alcohol) as a witness against the evils it caused.