Dad’s Army episode A Stripe for Frazer first aired at 7pm on Saturday 29th March 1969 and was watched by 11.3 million viewers.
Although the story was wiped – a standard BBC practice to save money – an amateur audio recording came to light in 2008. The tape was digitally restored, animators have worked round the clock to provide the visuals and the result is now available from BBC Store.
Producer Charles Norton and his team have been remarkably faithful to the spirit of this early episode – only the 11th to air – in which Jones and Frazer battle it out to be made up to the rank of corporal.
They’ve cleaned up the audio (in some places having to suppress leakage from a previous recording), captured the likenesses and expressions of these well-loved characters, and helped emphasise visual jokes. As Norton told Radio Times, “It’s amazing how many little things come together just by listening to the soundtrack and trying to figure out exactly what a particular bang or thump was.”
A series of publicity shots taken during the studio recording by Radio Times photographer Don Smith (see below) proved invaluable as source material to get the sets and costumes correct.
A Stripe for Frazer is an important story to have in the public domain once again for a number of reasons. It provides intriguing back story for Private Frazer, shows Captain Mainwaring finally taking delivery of his cap, features the first appearance of John Ringham as Captain Bailey after he had first appeared as platoon member Private Bracewell, and preserves vital continuity with the preceding episode.
In that story, Sergeant Arthur Wilson was all set to marry Mavis Pike, believing her to be pregnant, only to discover the truth and call the whole thing off. And here, Mainwaring berates his sergeant for leaving her “stranded at the altar”.
A Stripe for Frazer could also be said to make the case, once again, for “Uncle Arthur” being Private Pike’s father. Though it was often hinted, writers Jimmy Perry and David Croft never spelt it out. When Wilson and Mainwaring list the various attributes of the platoon members while considering who deserves promotion, Wilson says, “I’m always in favour of the younger man, Sir… I simply think that Pike would make a good NCO.”
The script is a strong one, full of great gags: there’s an especially funny riposte from Walker and a polished innuendo from Jones, and see how well the animators have ramped up a running gag about Captain Mainwaring being surrounded by decorating equipment.
The animation is in black and white – just as this second-series episode was – and even the credits and fonts are as they should be. It’s an extraordinary achievement – and a priceless new addition for Dad’s Army fans.