Monday, March 03, 2008
The Curious Incident of the Captain Pugwash Double Entendres
In his 1992 book The Golden Age of Children's Television, Geoff Tibballs mentioned that some of the names in the BBC cartoon Captain Pugwash were a little rude. It was hardly a controversial claim. When I was a student, everyone I knew joked about the nautical double entendres that went over their heads when they were kids.
Little did Tibballs realise that his casual reference would nearly result in the book being pulped within weeks of publication.
Apparently the creator of Pugwash, John Ryan, got wind of Tibballs' anecdote and took great offence. It was, he claimed, completely untrue that there were any sexual innuendos in Captain Pugwash and Ryan was outraged that these rumours were given credence by appearing in print. Ryan decided to take matters further. Legal action was threatened and Titan Books were faced with the prospect of having to withdraw the book and pulp it.
Fortunately a compromise was reached (albeit a rather silly one) and stickers were sent out to every bookshop in the land accompanied by a letter asking for them to be placed in every copy. I kept a spare one and have treasured it ever since!
So apparently we were all wrong. There were no rude names in Captain Pugwash and the rumour must have been an urban myth. How disappointing.
I forgot all about this story until yesterday, when I decided to watch a DVD of Pugwash that came free with a newspaper a few weeks ago. After the opening credits had finished, Captain Pugwash appeared on the ship's deck and started issuing orders to a character called Master Bates.
I pressed rewind just to make sure that I wasn't mis-hearing it.
So was Ryan fibbing when he denied the innuendo, or did he and the crew responsible for Captain Pugwash fail to spot the obvious unfortunate connotations? I know that it was a more innocent age, but even so...
I watched the remaining episodes, desperately hoping that the mythical Seaman Stains would appear, but sadly he didn't exist.
POST SCRIPT - I have informed by more than one source that it is Master Mates, not Bates (although it sounds suspiciously like Bates), so I stand corrected. However, I forgot to mention that one of the other characters was called Pirate Willy, so as far as I'm concerned the jury's still out!