Warning: contains spoilers for Inside No. 9 series six episode one
In the time that most television series are still putting their boots on, Inside No. 9 conjures entire narrative worlds, complete with characters, plot, gags, surprises and satisfying endings. Its half-hours are so densely packed, no TV offers better value for money or a more generous time-investment-to-reward ratio.
The series six opener ‘Wuthering Heist’ is no different. In under 30 minutes, it delivers a thriller heist that riffs around a traditional form of masked theatre, without a minute’s let-up in the volley of jokes. That full a script though, must have some casualties, and one was a planned episode ending that had to be scrapped for lack of time.
Speaking on BBC Sounds companion podcast Inside Inside No. 9 (a must-listen for fans), co-creator Steve Pemberton regretted the fact that they came very close to losing the existing ending, in which Kevin Bishop’s hapless servant character Arlo survives the bloodbath and through a twist of fate, ends up with £12 million in diamonds. As Arlo leaves the number nine warehouse where the heist was planned, there’s a call-back to an earlier gag about him mistaking another character for his echo. In a strange foray into the surreal, Arlo’s echo-doppelganger appears, performs an acrobatic routine, and the pair walk away together. After that, the plan was to film a special version of the closing credits.
“We had five days to shoot this [episode],” Pemberton explained. “The last day was really stressful because we had all the blood work, all the shooting, the slitting of the throat, and time just ebbed away. All these special effects take so long, and we knew we had the whole ending to do and we were getting down to the last hour. At one point, Adam [Tandy], our producer came up and said we were going to have to cut the Echo sequence, we’re not going to have time to shoot it, and we were just devastated at that, because what’s your ending otherwise? And it was such a lovely cherry on top.
“But the other thing that we didn’t manage to do is that instead of our usual credits, we were going to take our bows and remove our masks, so that people would see the actor Kevin Bishop underneath and it would have been a really nice flourish at the end. It’s almost like ‘You Have Been Watching…’ like they used to do.”
“That’s such a shame,” said co-creator Reece Shearsmith. “That was what we wanted to do.”
Guest star Kevin Bishop had joked earlier in the conversation about his frustration that, having wanted to appear in Inside No. 9 role for so long, when the opportunity came his character spent the whole episode wearing a mask and was therefore unrecognisable. Ultimately though, Bishop felt the mask-reveal wasn’t a necessary addition, and found that the weird Echo ending works as it is. Shearsmith agreed, calling the Echo moment satisfying, left-field and strange. Much like the show itself!
Inside Inside No. 9 is available to stream on BBC Sounds after every series six episode.