The Crown (2016–…): Season 1, Episode 4 - Act of God - full transcript
In December 1952 the country is in the grip of a deadly smog, which causes thousands of deaths, including that of Churchill's secretary Venetia Scott. Elizabeth confronts Churchill with the fact that the smog has been caused by chimney smoke from Conservative-built power stations, and his detractors seize upon this, calling for his resignation. However he rises to the occasion with hospital visits and the promise of a public enquiry, leading to the Clean Air Act, and Elizabeth decides against his dismissal. Afterwards Queen Mary tells her that it is not in the monarch's remit to engage in politics.
- Fuel on. - [Philip] Fuel on.
Chocks are in position. Switches are off.
You sure about this, sir?
When I got married, my in-laws made me marshal of the Royal Air Force,
as a result, I'm the most senior airman in the country and I can't bloody well fly.
- Yes, I'm sure. - Right-o, sir.
- [Townsend] Ready, sir? - Ready!
[Townsend] Here we go. Whoa!
- [Townsend] All right there, sir? - [Philip] Yes, yes, fine.
- Now it's your turn. You have control. - [Philip] I have control.
[Townsend] Now remember what I told you, keep your eye on the altimeter
and the compass heading and keep the stick level.
[Townsend] That's very good. That's balanced.
[Townsend] Stick to the left, then to the right.
- [Townsend] And level. Good. - Noisy, isn't it?
[Townsend] How's this, sir?
[Philip] My God.
- [Townsend] Isn't it wonderful? - Heaven.
[Philip] You fought in the Battle of Britain, didn't you?
[Townsend] I did, sir. Two-five-seven squadron.
- [Philip] Flying what? Spitfires? - Hurricanes, mostly, sir.
- Any kills? - One or two.
[Philip] Shouldn't we get her started now? The ground seems terribly close.
[Townsend] No, it's too low to restart, sir. We'll do a dead-stick landing.
- I have control. - [Philip] You have control.
That was wonderful.
- Same time next week, sir? - How about tomorrow?
[distant traffic noises]
- Latest charts. - Thank you.
[man] Thank you, sir.
Johnson, what do you think of this?
[Johnson] I think you should see these.
[woman] Excuse me, you can't go in there. Excuse me, sir.
Sorry, sir. Thought you should see these.
We must send a warning.
To cover our backs.
Kenneth, it should probably come from you, as chief scientist.
Address it to the PM. He'll never read it, of course.
But the important thing is we sent it.
I'll get it to Downing Street right away.
[policeman] Wait there, please.
If Her Majesty could lean forward.
And deep breath in...
The air's a little stuffy, ma'am. It might help to open the window a crack?
Not while they're rehearsing.
What are they rehearsing?
Oh, there you are. Miss Scott.
- Mr. Thurman. - Mr. Collins.
- This is for you. - Thank you.
I'm not a scientist. I can't say I understand it.
But, what I can tell you is we don't get a weather warning like this every day.
We don't get one every month, either.
In fact, I've never heard of us getting one at all.
Does the name Donora mean anything to you?
Oh, of course I remember Donora. It was a scandal.
A small mill town in America, outside Philadelphia?
They had a smog brought on by a freak anti-cyclone
which trapped the emissions from the local copper work...
- Zinc. - ...in the fog.
- In a few days a number of people died. - Twenty.
And several thousand became seriously ill from the poisonous fog.
After the incident a cross-party delegation was sent to Donora
on an urgent fact-finding mission.
They recommended that clean air zones be set up all round London,
as a precautionary measure.
- I never saw the report. - With good reason.
Our Prime Minister threw it away, claiming it wasn't a priority.
- Can you prove that? - I can, Mr. Atlee.
The Cabinet minutes where it was discussed.
He's insisted the country keep burning coal irresponsibly this winter,
to give the illusion of a solid economy.
- This is great, Clem. - It's interesting, for sure.
What I don't understand is this.
Why a Downing Street employee, working for the government,
should come to me with this information?
I've read the Aeneid, Mr. Thurman.
"Do not trust the horse, Trojans.
I fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts."
Mr. Atlee, I entered the civil service to serve the public
and to serve government, any government.
But I am also a responsible citizen
and I cannot stand by while chaos reigns around me.
This is not a government.
Mr. Attlee, this is a collection of hesitant, frightened, old men
unable to unseat a tyrannical, delusional even older one.
Yours was the most radical,
forward-thinking government this country has ever seen.
How you lost the election escapes me.
Escapes us all.
I believe I would be doing the British public and this country a service
if I helped to usher him out of the door, and you back in.
And to that end you come to me with a "master plan"
that involves me crucifying the Tories for their failure to deal with a fog
which as yet shows no sign of appearing.
At present I can see stars.
- [man] Good night. - [Venetia] Good night.
[Churchill] Miss Scott.
Thank you for your conscientiousness, but it's late.
- Go home. - I am, sir.
You're no good to me tired. Good evening to you.
- Scott, still here? - Good night, sir.
[Venetia] Good night.
- [Venetia] Evening, Pat. - [chuckles]
[Mary] You haven't moved.
I suppose it's still a "no"?
- To what? - Coming out.
Oh, you mean going to the Lamb and Flag with you, sitting at the bar,
twinkling our ankles at every unremarkable young man in the room.
Then letting those men buy us drinks for us to bring them home,
only to have their unremarkability confirmed to us again?
Goodness. And what will you be doing in the meantime?
Spend time in the company of someone remarkable.
[Venetia] "Hear this, young men and women everywhere, and proclaim it far and wide.
The earth is yours and the fullness thereof."
[Venetia & Churchill] "Be kind but be fierce.
You're needed now more than ever before.
Take up the mantle of change..."
[Churchill] "...for this is your time."
[reporter] Good morning.
The time is eight o'clock on the 6th of December and here is the news.
London has been brought to a halt by dense fog,
which has descended overnight.
Long queues have formed on main roads. There are reports of motorists
abandoning their vehicles and continuing on foot.
London Airport is expected to be closed.
The meteorological office has issued a statement
saying that a persistent anti-cyclone over London is to blame.
Smoke from the capital's chimneys is being trapped at street level
which is aggravating the fog.
The windless conditions mean it is expected to last for some time.
Be careful out there, it's a real pea souper.
Ah. Is the car ready?
I'm afraid the visibility is too poor to drive, ma'am.
It's what, 200 yards?
It's been judged too hazardous, ma'am.
I have an appointment to see my grandmother.
I intend to keep that appointment.
If it's too hazardous to drive... then there's only one thing to be done.
[knocking on door]
I saw that.
Might it be possible for you to pretend that you haven't?
And the Queen is here, Your Majesty.
- Could you be more specific? - Ma'am?
- Which queen? - Queen Elizabeth, ma'am.
- Which one? There are two. - The young one.
Oh, the Queen.
I thought you was all queens. They gave me a sheet.
I was the queen so long as my husband the king was alive, but since he died,
I am no longer the queen, I am simply Queen Mary.
My late son's widow was also the queen, but upon the death of her husband,
she became Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
Her daughter, Queen Elizabeth, is now queen, so she is...
- The Queen. - Bravo.
Nurses and nuns have the same problem.
- We're all called Sister. - So you are.
Well, she's outside. The Queen.
Then let her in. Sister.
- Bad time? - Not at all.
- How are you? - I'm always happy to see you,
and my mood will improve yet further if you promise me one thing.
- Name it. - Not to ask me how I am.
It's all anyone ever does.
Forget death by lung disease, it's death by bad conversation.
All right. I promise.
But if you are feeling up to it,
there was something I wanted to talk to you about.
I was listening to the wireless this morning,
where they described this fog as an act of God.
Now, in your letter that you sent me,
"Loyalty to the ideal you have inherited is your duty above everything else,
because the calling comes from the highest source.
From God himself."
Do you really believe that?
Monarchy is God's sacred mission to grace and dignify the earth.
To give ordinary people an ideal to strive towards,
an example of nobility and duty to raise them in their wretched lives.
Monarchy is a calling from God.
That is why you are crowned in an abbey, not a government building.
Why you are anointed, not appointed.
It's an archbishop that puts the crown on your head,
not a minister or public servant.
Which means that you are answerable to God in your duty, not the public.
I'm not sure that my husband would agree with that.
He would argue that in any equitable modern society,
that church and state should be separated.
That if God has servants they're priests not kings.
He would also say that he watched his own family destroyed,
because they were seen by the people to embody indefensible
and unreasonable ideas.
Yes, but he represents a royal family of carpetbaggers and parvenus,
that goes back what? Ninety years?
What would he know of Alfred the Great, the Rod of Equity and Mercy,
Edward the Confessor,
William the Conqueror or Henry the Eighth?
It's the Church of England, dear, not the Church of Denmark or Greece.
[Collins] It's chaos out there. Trains disrupted, air services cancelled.
At Richmond Bridge this morning,
visibility was officially measured at one yard.
That's a record low, incidentally.
Our Trojan friend in Downing Street has been speaking
to his friends at the Met office.
They say this is just the beginning. They expect it to get worse.
I know you would have me call a vote of no confidence,
and will doubtless call me over-cautious for not doing so.
But the Prime Minister needs to be given a chance.
Even if it's only to hang himself.
Let's see how the old fool responds.
- [horse whickers] - [man] There you go. There you go.
[man 2] Hey! Get out the way!
Oh. I'm glad to see someone else made it in. No one saw this coming, did they?
Prime Minister? Sir?
- Ah, you made it? Bravo! - Oh, I'm so sorry, sir.
- I was just... - No, no. You did well to get here.
I gather half the Downing Street staff didn't?
It wasn't easy. Just crossing the road you take your life in your hands.
Well, then don't. You are too important to all of us.
All I do is bring you things to sign. Then take them away again.
And so the wheels keep turning, and the business gets done,
and the country is governed.
But what's my personal contribution?
You improve the quality of life for all that deal with you.
An ornament. A flower.
By comparison at my age you were a published writer,
and a cavalry officer, posted to India,
fighting local tribesmen on the north west frontier.
Who told you that?
You asked me to engage in a relationship with a young man, my own age.
So I have been reading your autobiography.
[chuckles] Oh, yes. That's not quite what I had in mind.
"Hear this, young men and women everywhere, and proclaim it far and wide.
The earth is yours and the fullness thereof.
Be kind but be fierce.
You are needed now more than ever before.
- Take up the mantle of change... - Stop.
...for this is your time."
You were 24.
All energy and hope and passion and fire.
You found something you liked in that young man?
[alarm clock rings]
[reporter] Good morning.
The time is eight o'clock on the 7th of December, and here is the news.
The serious fog that brought much of the capital to a standstill yesterday
continues this morning, with emergency services struggling to cope
and widespread disruption reported across the nation.
Flares are being used to guide motorists in parts of the capital.
Trains are stopped or running hours behind schedule
from major London railway stations.
- [church bell chimes] - The Prime Minister is facing criticism
for failure to deal with the mounting crisis.
London Airport is closed again today, with all flights grounded.
- Piss. - The unmoving fog,
which has spread to over 30 miles wide, is likely to cause complete darkness
by two o'clock this afternoon.
Are you all right?
- Come on, let's get you up. - No, no. I'm fine. I promise.
It's just because the window was open. Now go to work. You've got a job to do.
Let us start with the unrest in Egypt,
where anti-colonial passions continue to run high,
and where our soldiers continue to come under fire from nationalist insurgents.
It is vital that we remain and successfully defend the Suez Canal,
a point that I will be making in person to the Commonwealth Heads,
when I host them for the weekend at Chequers.
[Elizabeth] Weather permitting.
What is the latest information that you have?
About the weather? It's fog, ma'am. It will lift eventually.
I was hoping for something more scientific.
Then I will ensure that a barometric report
is included in your box tomorrow,
complete with isobars and isohumes.
It has been an unusually cold winter,
and there are only so many things that I, as Prime Minister,
am prepared to inflict on your subjects as a reward for winning a World War
and prevailing over fascism, evil and tyranny.
Letting them freeze is not one of them.
- You do not seem unduly concerned. - I'm not.
You do know that my late father wrote, many years ago, to your predecessors,
to express his deep concern about the inner city power stations
that your party was building.
And I was sympathetic with your father's concerns at the time.
I also have sympathy with the leader articles in the newspapers today,
baying for blood.
Wanting my head. People have to be angry at someone.
But as leader, one cannot simply react to everything.
We need the power stations, we need the coal.
The people need to burn coal to warm their homes.
- It is weather. It will pass. - Well, I do hope so.
Not least because my husband's mood is intolerable.
Well, being caged in like this. He can't fly.
- Fly where? - Well, nowhere, he is learning to fly.
Have we not enough qualified pilots to take him where he needs to go?
No, he wants to fly himself. It's a boyhood dream.
- It's what he's always wanted. - Why was government not consulted?
Because it's a private matter. And I am in favor.
Nothing you or His Royal Highness do is a private matter.
And the father of the future king of England
risking his life needlessly is...
Please. Do not curtail my husband's personal freedoms any further.
You've taken away his home. You've taken away his name.
There comes a time where one must draw a line in the sand.
And the job of drawing that line falls to Cabinet, ma'am. Not to you.
Something your dear late papa would certainly have taught you
had he been granted more time to complete your education.
And now our time is up.
Until next week.
[Churchill] Meteorological report.
[reporter] Good morning. The time is eight o'clock on the 8th of December
and here is the news.
The choking, eye-watering fog which has already caused two days of chaos
across the capital has worsened overnight.
The great coal-burning electricity stations in Battersea and Fulham,
have attempted to reduce emissions
of poisonous sulphur dioxide from their chimneys.
But we've been told that it is unlikely
they'll be able to make any significant change to the air quality.
The government is expected to make a statement later today.
- Come on, let's get you to hospital. - I'm fine.
You're not. Come on. Let's get you up.
Off we go. Arm in. And the other.
- [Mary] I can't breathe. - Do as I say and hold onto me.
- [Venetia] Come along. - [coughs]
- [glass smashes] - [shouting]
Quick, hold my hand.
[man] Make way!
[man] You all right, lady?
Control of this story is getting away from us.
The opposition's blood is up. We have to respond.
I would suggest by commissioning a public enquiry.
An enquiry would be expensive.
Winston, people are angry. They see us as the culprits.
Culpable for what? It's fog. Fog is fog. It comes and it goes away.
Well, I'm glad that the Prime Minister finds time for levity.
Perhaps I should remind him exactly how serious the situation has now become.
This morning a suburban train collided with a gang of railway workmen,
killing several and injuring a great many more.
In parts of the capital, there is now a total breakdown of law and order.
Hospitals are filling up,
as our citizens are breathing in poisonous sulphur dioxide.
Sometimes we have sunshine.
Too much sunshine and they call it a drought.
Then we have rain.
Too much rain, and they call it a deluge and find a way to blame us for that too.
It's an act of God, Bobbety.
It's weather. And for better or for worse, we get a great deal of it on this island.
Frankly, there are more pressing matters to deal with.
- Like what? - The Duke of Edinburgh.
[butler] Telephone, sir. The Marquis of Salisbury.
Oh, not now.
He asked me to stress the importance of the matter.
- Bobbety. - Thanks for taking my call, Dickie.
- Are you alone? - Yes.
Can anyone overhear what you're saying?
- No. - Good.
- It's chaos. - I know.
Every ward is full. Every corridor too.
Most of the doctors are sick now, and those that are well can't get in.
It was better than this in the war.
What do you need? More equipment? Or masks?
Masks are bloody useless. They're just for show.
To make it look like the government is doing something.
- Then what is needed? - Money. People. Trained staff.
Help is what is needed. Urgently.
Let her rest for now.
Maybe I can put a word in with the people who make a difference.
- Such as? - The Prime Minister, for example.
I see. You're just going to walk into Downing Street and whisper in his ear.
Yes, something like that.
You know, my day is bad enough without some delusional girl playing jokes.
Now, excuse me. Nurse? Nurse.
- [Venetia] I'll show you. - Get out of the way.
- [man] Jim, where are you? - [man 2] Over here.
[man] Someone phone for an ambulance.
How much longer are you going to give the old man?
Their majority is tiny.
A vote of no confidence and he'll be toppled.
You know what he calls you?
Yes, I know. A sheep in sheep's clothing.
Perhaps it's time to prove you're not.
Let's put a motion down on paper and brief the whips.
[man] Thank you, sir.
- Anything interesting? - Yes.
- Care to share it? - No.
I'd be happy to share glide ratios and adiabatic lapse rates with you.
As part of a quid pro quo arrangement.
One glide ratio in return for some cabinet minutes, for example.
No? A dihedral angle or an absolute ceiling.
These are very interesting concepts. You might learn something,
in exchange for a foreign office briefing?
Am I going to have to explain my position again?
- No. - Good.
"Once you have tasted flight,
you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward,
for there you have been and there you will always long to return."
You know what's remarkable about those words?
- Go on. - They were written 300 years
before man first got in a plane.
Leonardo da Vinci.
- Look, Philip, I know... - [knocking on door]
Lord Mountbatten, Your Majesty.
- Uncle Dickie. What's he doing here? - I know as much as you do.
[Equerry] He said it was important, ma'am.
- Hello. - I came as soon as I could.
Oh, is this a meeting with Elizabeth your niece, my wife?
- Or the Queen? - The latter, I'm afraid.
Right, then I know my place.
- What's the matter with him? - Nothing.
He's just feeling a little grounded. Ignore it.
Right, all ears.
I received a telephone call today from Bobbety Salisbury.
It seems that even among his own people the feeling is that our Prime Minister
is not able to deal with a national crisis.
Indeed he could be seen to be responsible for that crisis.
Hospitals are overflowing. People dying.
As sovereign, you have the right to demand
that a government in your name shows effective leadership.
The opposition are now calling for a motion of no confidence.
So, I would say the time has come
for you to... summon Churchill and...
Insist that he go.
- I can't do that. - You can, and should.
But wouldn't that violate the constitution?
you have the right to be consulted.
The right to encourage. The right to warn.
Also, to appoint a new Prime Minister in the event of incapacity
and many would say that Churchill's behavior now constitutes incapacity.
- Then a revolution must come from within. - They are trying.
- Well, then, they must try harder. - They will.
But would prefer it to be bloodless.
So have asked for your help and influence.
I cannot do it. I will not do it.
Let's not forget it was Churchill who denied Philip's children
- his own surname... - Dickie.
...and insisted that you live in Buckingham Palace.
- As, alas, did everyone else. - And now with looters on the street
and hospital corridors stacked with the dead,
he is interested in only one thing.
Stopping Philip flying.
- What? - At a crisis cabinet meeting this morning
when there should've only been one thing on the agenda,
the unfolding national emergency...
all our Prime Minister wanted to discuss was your husband's new hobby.
- I'm so sorry, sir. - Who are her parents?
Her father is a clergyman. From Suffolk.
- They've been notified. - I want to go to the hospital.
There is an emergency meeting at the House. A meeting you must attend.
The House can wait.
- You wished to see me, Your Majesty? - Yes, Tommy.
I know how much my father depended on you.
And how closely you worked together.
Which is why I wanted to ask your advice. Now...
It seems our Prime Minister, a man who's led the country through many crises,
is no longer leading us at all.
Representations have been made to me,
through an intermediary from the heart of the government,
to intercede and bid him stand down. Make way for a younger man.
Which brings me to my question.
What are my responsibilities, as head of state?
What should I do?
When it's in the national interest? How far dare I go?
I'm not sure if her Majesty is aware,
but shortly before your father died the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Eden, came,
begging his late Majesty to intervene,
if not on an official level, then on a personal one.
As a friend. To bid the Prime Minister to resign.
- What did my father say? - Well...
His Majesty was, like his father before him,
a stickler for convention and tradition,
and would never have done anything that violated the constitution,
or overstepped the mark.
- Then I have my answer. - But...
that was His Majesty, not Your Majesty.
And I do read the newspapers, and I do listen to the wireless,
and the situation we're in today is quite different,
than the one we were in when Mr. Eden came to see your father.
Different situation, different sovereign.
[Churchill] Wait for me here.
Just a child.
A beautiful child.
I just received word from Buckingham Palace.
- The Queen has requested an audience. - When?
At your earliest convenience.
"All energy and hope and passion and fire."
- Do the newspapers know I'm here? - No.
- But it could easily be arranged. - Then do it.
And tell the Queen I'll be there first thing in the morning.
After the papers.
Just come on in, the Prime Minister will be here in a few moments.
- They're ready for you, sir. - Yes, yes. One moment.
[journalist] Quiet. Please. Settle down.
- Mr. Churchill? - I have witnessed scenes here today,
the likes of which we have not seen since the darkest days of the Blitz.
But alongside the suffering, I have also seen heroism.
And where there is heroism there will always be hope.
Only God can lift the fog, but I, as Prime Minister,
am in position to ease the suffering.
To that end, I pledge to make available with immediate effect,
more money for hospital staff, more money for equipment,
and a full and independent public enquiry into the causes of air pollution...
to ensure that such a calamity
may never befall us again.
Thank you all.
[reporters shout questions]
[Philip] "The Prime Minister was alone among senior politicians
to visit hospitals and respond to the crisis in person.
And was rewarded by cheers and applause,
by those suffering through the worst smog this city has ever witnessed."
The headline reads, "True leader in a crisis."
[knocking on door]
Ma'am, the Prime Minister's here.
"The parallels between his appearance yesterday,
and the war time years was striking.
And his personal popularity among the people remains undimmed."
Clem, are you still there? Hello? Clem?
Clem, can you hear me? No, right...
- [bell rings] - [door opens]
The Prime Minister, Your Majesty.
- You asked to see me, ma'am? - I did.
There is a delicate matter which I felt I needed to discuss with you.
- In person. - Concerning what?
Yes. Your position...
as Prime Minister.
[Churchill] At that point she hesitated...
and then she asked me to pick either Khawaja Nazimuddin of Pakistan
or Sidney Holland of New Zealand.
- Whatever for? - To sit next to at dinner!
No, she summoned you for that?
Oh, no, I think she summoned me
to haul me over the coals for my handling of the fog,
but then the fog lifted,
and she had to make a decision right then and there, in the room.
You could see the wheels turning behind her eyes.
And then she switched her tack without so much as a flicker. Clever.
- No, no, not clever. Ingenious. - Why?
Because it disarmed me. And made me switch tack too.
About allowing Philip to learn to fly. He can now.
But he still has to ask Cabinet permission to do rolls and spins.
What, dear girl?
But what if the fog hadn't lifted?
And the government had continued to flounder?
And people had continued to die?
And Churchill had continued to cling to power
and the country had continued to suffer?
It doesn't feel right, as Head of State, to do nothing.
- It is exactly right. - Is it?
But surely doing nothing is no job at all?
To do nothing is the hardest job of all.
And it will take every ounce of energy that you have.
To be impartial is not natural, not human.
People will always want you to smile or agree or frown.
And the minute you do, you will have declared a position. A point of view.
And that is the one thing as sovereign that you are not entitled to do.
The less you do, the less you say or agree or smile...
Or think? Or feel? Or breathe? Or exist?
Well, that's fine for the sovereign.
But where does that leave me?
[Philip] So go on.
How long would it take me to get my wings?
Well, normally, a trainee would spend anything between 100 and 120 hours
in one of these things.
Do you think I could do it in three months?
That would be unusual, sir.
I'm a fast learner, and believe me when I say I've got nothing else to do.
[Philip] I couldn't help notice you filled her right up.
- Starboard and port. Eighteen gallons? - [Townsend] Yes.
- [Philip] Fancy lunch in Edinburgh? - Edinburgh?
[Philip] They made me Duke there, so I should probably show up from time to time.
Unless you have more pressing engagements?
[Townsend] No, sir.
[Philip] All right, I'll adjust RPMs and cruising speed for range flying.
[Townsend] We'll have to land to refuel, sir. RAF Finningley.
- [Philip] Oh, really? Where's that? - Doncaster.
[Philip] Doncaster? Right.