BBC2 are hitting a rich seam of some of the finest Dad’s Army episodes as they work their way through the third series. Tonight at 17:40 they will show Branded.
After a shambolic parade in which Wilson and Fraser attempt to school the platoon in the art of stalking, Mainwaring shows Wilson a letter from Godfrey resigning from the platoon. Mainwaring, horrified at the loss of the platoon tea-maker calls Godfrey in and quizzes him. He is even more horrified when Godfrey explains that he feels unable to kill and reveals that during WW1 he was a conscientious objector. Wilson defends Godfrey but Mainwaring determines to make an example of him. The rest of the platoon divide in their support for Godfrey, with Pike and Wilson taking his side while Fraser and Jones regard him as a traitor. Swayed by Fraser’s rhetoric the platoon send Godfrey to Coventry, though he continues to do his duties. That includes an exercise in rescuing a straw man from a smoke-filled hut, run by the warden. Mainwaring is the last one to enter the hut and becomes trapped. Godfrey, abandoned by the rest of the platoon, goes back alone to rescue Mainwaring, becoming injured in the process. Later the entire platoon go to Godfrey’s home to visit him at his sick-bed and wish him well. While there Mainwaring spots a picture of Godfrey in WW1 uniform. It transpires that, while never a combatant, Godfrey was in the medical corps in the trenches and was awarded the Military Medal for bravery under fire. An embarrassed Mainwaring promotes Godfrey to medical orderly there and then.
They say that tears and laughter are close companions and that is certainly true of this episode. Branded touches on issues of cowardice, bravery and conscience. As an audience we never lose sympathy for Godfrey and the moment when he goes back into the hut to rescue Mainwaring is genuinely touching. This is the essence of this episode – a simple tale of misunderstanding, prejudice and honour restored.
In fact there is so little to the main storyline that Perry and Croft had to pad it out: the opening sequence, in which Fraser trains the platoon in stalking has nothing whatever to do with the storyline, though it provides some wonderful comedy moments.
Jones: I should like to volunteer to be something to sit on.
Similarly the scene in which Mainwaring addresses the platoon (presumably to tell them the reasons for Godfrey’s departure, though we never see this) and is interrupted by the Warden does not take the story forward at all.
The brevity of the storyline and its padding could have led to this episode failing. Instead Branded stands as one of the most memorable of all Dad’s Army episodes. The reason, is simply, that this platoon takes us deep into the lives of the characters. In Branded, Godfrey ceases to be just a charming, gentle old man with a weak bladder: we learn about his history, his conscience and his bravery. Mainwaring and Fraser reveal themselves to be judgemental and rather small-minded while Pike, Wilson and Walker earn our respect for standing up for Godfrey – if not as strongly as we would like them to.
Next week the platoon return to active duties in Man Hunt.