Porridge: Pilot Episode (Summary)

Prisoner and EscortFletcher (Ronnie Barker) and Godber (Richard Beckinsale) in a scene from Porridge (70s TV Series)

First Aired: 01-04-1973

Written by: Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais


Prisoner and Escort is the pilot episode of the popular 70s TV series, Porridge. It charts Fletcher’s journey from Brixton to Slade Prison, under the watchful eyes of Mr Mackay and Mr Barrowclough.

A lot of the journey is by train and when Mackay goes for some coffee Barrowclough ask Fletcher why he has been sent down. Fletcher explains that he stole a lorry, but the brakes failed. He went through three back gardens, crashed through a brick wall, and ended up in somebody’s tool shed. Barrowclough ask him is they got him for wilful destruction of property for destroying the wall. Fletcher tells him that they did and that he also asked for three more fences to be taken into consideration.

Fletcher is a funny guy and has retained his humour regardless of his situation. Mackay, however, is not a funny guy. He is a strict and thorough prison officer and the perfect nemesis to Fletch’s happy-go-lucky attitude.

Barrowclough, is different. Although obviously a very nice guy, he is probably not best suited for prison work and is so ineffective at the job that he later admits to being a failure who is only just hanging on to the job by the skin of his teeth.

Fulton Mackay, Ronnie Barker, and Brian Wilde in a scene from the pilot of episode of Porridge.After they get off the train, the remainder of the journey across the wild and windy Cumbrian fells has to be done by van, but before they get into the van Fletch asks for permission to relieve himself and Mackay releases him from the handcuffs so that he can go around the back of the van and do his business. The only problem is that Fletch does his business into the petrol tank and it is not long before the prisoner and his two escorts are stranded in the middle of nowhere.

When he is unable to figure out what is wrong with the van Mackay is forced to go for help and leave Fletch in the less than capable hands of Mr Barrowclough. This could easily have been a recipe for disaster, but despite his best efforts Fletch does make it to Slade Prison and although he has by then developed a certain rapport with Mr Barrowclough, there is already a conflict developing between him and Mr Mackay, who has a pretty good idea why the van broke down. He tells Fletch that the van’s petrol tank had more in it when it got back than was inside it when it left, and that inside it certainly wasn’t filled with 5-star.


Norman Stanley Fletcher ~~~ Ronnie Barker
Mr. Barrowclough ~~~ Brian Wilde
Mr. Mackay ~~~ Fulton Mackay
Prison Guard ~~~ Hamish Roughead

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