Fawlty Towers: The Psychiatrist (BBC2, 26 February 1979, Bob Spiers)


These reviews reveal plot twists.

Basil is flustered by a mental-health professional staying at the hotel, another guest sneaking a woman into his room, and Sybil believing her husband is a sex pest…

Hotel sign: WATERY FOWLS. We even see a young lad rearranging the letters, which was the writers’ justification for the weekly changes.


* Basil is pleased as punch that a pair of guests are doctors. But he freaks out when he learns one is a psychiatrist. Assuming all psychiatrists are sex-obsessed, he misunderstands Dr Abbot’s question about holidays and thinks he’s being asked how often he and Sybil are intimate. “Two or three times a week!” is his affronted answer. Basil later meets, is enamoured with, and accidentally gropes a gorgeous female guest called Rayleene. Sybil catches him doing the latter and accuses him of experiencing the ‘male manopause’. Then, after overhearing alpha-male guest Mr Johnson laughing from his room, Basil suspects a woman has been smuggled into the hotel. So he makes it his mission to catch Johnson out: he walks in on him with no warning, studies the man’s ashtray for clues, and listens through walls. When he falls off a ladder while trying to see into the bedroom, Sybil goes potty. To prove her wrong, Basil resolves to get evidence of the extra guest. He stakes out the room from a nearby cleaning cupboard, but spills black liquid over his hand – so when he bursts out and grabs the girl, she ends up with a handprint on her breast. (To add insult to injury, it’s not even Johnson’s girlfriend: it’s Rayleene.) Furious that Sybil doesn’t believe his story, Basil then confronts Johnson and demands to see the woman in his room. Sadly for Basil, the woman currently in there is Johnson’s elderly mother…

* Sybil is very taken with Mr Johnson, even laughing at his “Pretentious? Moi?” gag. She’s also not phased by Dr Abbot being a psychiatrist – and even shows a sweet side when she humours Basil’s paranoia. However, she then comes to believe that Basil has gone sex-mad for a young female guest. She locks him out of their bedroom for the night, then the next day catches him groping Rayleene and later hiding in her wardrobe.

* Polly more or less gets a week off. She has nothing substantial to do in the whole episode!

* Manuel does some bag-carrying and gets an undeserved smack on the head after Basil drops a tray. He fucks things up, however, when he tells Sybil that Basil is spying on a girl – he means an unauthorised guest, but Sybil assumes he’s referring to sexy Rayleene. When Basil twigs the mistake, he physically attacks Manuel, picking him up and shaking him over his knee.

* Terry tells Basil to take it easy when Basil gets hyper over the psychiatrist, which motivates Basil to tell Terry that he doesn’t pay Terry to tell him to take it easy; he pays him to take it easy; no, he pays him to tell him to take it easy. All right?


* Mr Johnson (Nicky Henson) is a guest with a permanently open shirt and tight trousers. Various women take a shine to him, not least Sybil. He’s witty and charming, which just irritates Basil further. He wears a rhino’s tooth on a chain round his neck, as well as an ancient Egyptian fertility symbol (“That must come in handy,” quips Basil) and a Greek astrological sign (which he got in Colchester). He has his 77-year-old mother coming to stay from Newcastle. Later, Basil and Sybil fail to spot him sneaking a young woman upstairs.

* Dr and Dr Abbott (Basil Henson – no relation to Nicky – and Elspet Gray) are a married couple who check in at the hotel. Both hold PhDs, which initially confuses sexist Basil before he begins fawning all over them. She’s a paediatrician (“Feet?” guesses Basil incorrectly), while he’s a psychiatrist. This latter news stuns Basil, who absentmindedly downs the doctor’s glass of port in shock. The couple are later surprised to find Basil in their room – he’s sneaked in to listen through the wall, and now pretends to be surveying the wall’s quality. They later see him at their first-floor window, and he again pretends to be carrying out some impromptu examination of the building.

* Rayleene Miles (Luan Peters) is an attractive, blonde, Australian guest. Basil can’t fail to spot her cleavage as she checks in. “Very nice,” he says, quickly emphasising that he means the charm hanging in the middle. After Basil feels her up (a genuine accident), she has a nap but wakes to find him in her room (he claims he’s checking the walls – a lie she buys). He later gropes her again (again by accident) then walks in on her while she’s in her bra.

* Miss Tibbs and Miss Gatsby are worried when they hear about the psychiatrist: they fear he’s come for the Major.

* The Major is similarly concerned, assuming the psychiatrist is staying at the hotel incognito.


* Basil can’t get through to the speaking clock. So he calls the operator to complain: “It’s been engaged for 10 minutes – how is this possible? My wife isn’t talking to it.” (She’s rabbiting away on the other line.)

* Sybil flirts with Mr Johnson, telling him, “You’re only single once.” From out of view, we hear Basil shout, “Twice can be arranged.”

* Basil to the male Dr Abbott: “You’re two doctors? Well, how did you become two doctors? Did you take the exam twice?” When it’s pointed out that Abbott’s wife is a doctor, Basil says, “You’re a doctor too! So you’re three doctors?”

* Sybil talking about her worrisome mother, who has a series of morbid fears: “Vans is one. Rats. Doorknobs. Birds. Heights. Open spaces. Confined spaces. It’s very difficult getting the space right for her. Footballs. Bicycles. Cows. And she’s always on about men following her. I don’t know what she thinks they’re going to do. Vomit on her, Basil says.”

* Basil asks Sybil how old she thinks the female Dr Abbot is. “Forty-eight? 50?” Basil scoffs, so Sybil replies: “I really don’t know, Basil, perhaps she’s 12.”

* Mr Johnson asks if there’s anywhere that does French food. Basil says, “Yes. France, I believe. They seem to like it there. And the swim would sharpen your appetite.”

* Basil tells the Abbotts that he once thought about becoming a surgeon. “A tree surgeon,” Sybil interjects, pleased with her joke. “Had to give it up: couldn’t stand the sight of sap!” An annoyed Basil then tries to carry on his patter: “My great-grandfather on my mother’s side was a doctor, so it was always thought I might–” Not missing a beat, Sybil interrupts: “Run a hotel.”

* Sybil: “It’s a relatively new profession, psychiatry, isn’t it?” Dr Abbott: “Well, Freud started about 1880.” Sybil: “Yes, but it’s only now we’re seeing them on the television.”

* The physical-comedy of Basil flicking Rayleen’s nipple as if it were a light switch. (Of course, Sybil walks in just as he’s fiddling with it.)

* Basil dropping a champagne bottle and bucket because he’s tried quickly opening a locked door – and his immediate reaction to blame Manuel.

* Basil’s high-pitched “What the…?” after Sybil slaps him.

* Basil goes to lean against a door – but falls over when Dr Abbott opens it.

* “Who’s this Mrs Johnson, then? The late president’s wife?”

Outside? We get our first night shoot. Basil and Manuel manoeuvre a ladder so Basil can look through Mr Johnson’s window. Sadly they get the wrong window and Basil instead sees into the Abbotts’ room. The ladder then falls backwards and lands on top of Basil. Manuel fetches Sybil but tells her Basil was trying to “see girl”, so she comes outside to slap her husband.

Dated: It’s a good job we don’t have morons who are fearful of psychiatry any more. Just imagine if there were a well-funded global religion that ignored the mountainous peer-reviewed evidence and scare-mongered about a scientifically reasonable process!

Henry Kissinger: According to Sybil, Basil thinks that women should fancy men like 19th-century prime minster William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898), Field Marshall Douglas Haig (1861-1928) and the founder of the Boy Scouts, Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941). Johnson makes a joke about the wit of Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013) forming one of the world’s shortest books. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) is name-checked. The 36th President of the United States, Lyndon Johnson (1908-1973), is referred to – as is his wife, Lady Bird (1912-2007).

Review: A thematic cousin of The Wedding Party from series one. Both episodes are about sexual jealousy and Basil being uptight because, basically, other people are getting some and he’s not. It’s the longest episode of Fawlty Towers (36 minutes), but doesn’t feel flabby. And there are plenty of good gags. However, like The Wedding Party, the story is reliant on Basil making assumptions that maybe don’t stand up to much scrutiny.

Eight bits of game pie out of 10

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