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Doris and Doreen (1978)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Miss Doris Rutter and Mrs Doreen Bidmead work together in Precepts and Invoices. Doreen has just received a green personnel form and asks Doris where to send it - she thinks it goes via Mrs Henstridge but she's not sure. Doris suggests marking it 'misrouted' and sending it down to the second floor.

Doreen wonders what happened to Mrs Henstridge, which leads to a general discussion about rumoured threats to various regional offices and their personnel. Doris believes that her superior grade to Doreen makes her safer, and in any case she doesn't think unemployment really exists. Doreen believes that she can fall back on her husband Clifford, his smallholding and her hairdressing skills.

Doris' day is ruined by the arrival of three PS-104 requisition forms, each representing an hour's work. Mr Cunliffe from Personnel rings in search of pink forms, and Doreen is uncooperative, as he's the one with computer training. He rings off, muttering dire threats about the women having a surprise in store. This is rubbished by Doris, who goes on to deride the firm's faith in computers in general. She has refused training because she doesn't want to move on - 'prospects' means longer hours and unwanted foreign travel, and she has to look after her mother, who has recently had a plastic hip fitted.

Doris examines the PS104s more closely, as their requests for small individual items, while procedurally correct, would significantly increase her workload if everyone in the firm followed suit. She spots that all the forms have the same personnel code - RB57212X. Lomax the messenger walks in and makes sarcastic comments about their productivity when he sees that they have just one misrouted form to give him. He has just joined a union after hearing about severe storm clouds on the horizon.

After he leaves, Doris painstakingly decodes RB57212X as being one Dorothy Binns. She is convinced that she's seen the name before, and wonders wonders how she can find out more about her without going via Personnel, with whom she refuses to speak following an incident over a stolen washbasin plug. Doreen rings Tania Lockwood, who runs the computer at Garstang, and gets, much to her delighted surprise, Mrs Henstridge. But after much lengthy gossip, she fails to glean any useful information.

Doris realises that all the PS104s relate to items missing from their office, the clincher being a request for three Venetian blind slats. Clearly, Dorothy Binns plans to move in with them. Doreen is hysterical with fear, but Doris is baffled - why is a talented and ambitious woman like Dorothy Binns interested in them? Is she some kind of undercover agent, sent in to pinpoint weaknesses in staff before putting the knife in?

Doris starts typing up the pink forms. Doreen asks for a few to give her something to do. Doris refuses, and suggests she tidies up instead. Doreen points out that the mess was made by Doris. Lomax pops in to chase up the pink forms, and reassures Doris by telling her that she can always join the union and come in under the umbrella. Before leaving, he denies all knowledge of Dorothy Binns.

Doris is convinced that Dorothy Binns isn't coming, because all personnel matters go through her, and she hasn't seen a green form. Doreen points out that she rerouted one to the second floor. Doris replies that it hasn't been returned. Lomax duly returns it. The personnel number is indeed RB57212X, and the third desk in the office has been freshly cleaned.

Doris and Doreen nervously walk over to the desk and turn its light on. Clearly, Dorothy Binns has been in already, before they got in at their usual (if late) half past nine. The desk is locked: she doesn't trust them. Doris jimmies the lock with a sliver of Venetian blind. Inside the desk is an apple (i.e. no lunch breaks), an extremely sharp pencil, a nameplate and a framed riddle that begins "I am the foundation of all business. I am the source of all prosperity." The entire riddle is read out, and Dorothy Binns herself appears in the doorway to both answer and embody it: "I Am Work".