Episode 10. "Mettle"

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"Skip to the end..."

The one where Tim and Mike are in Robot Wars, Daisy gets a job in a kitchen and Brian does an installation.


Reese Shearsmith as Dexter
('The League of Gentlemen' 'Shaun of the Dead')

Joanna Scanlan as Tina
('Doctors and Nurses' 'Girl with a Pearl Earing' 'Smack the Pony')

Daniel Ainsleigh as Billy
('Quills' 'Club Le Monde' 'Casualty')

Paul Mark Elliot as Marty Berghouse
('Comic Strip' 'Murder Most Horrid' 'The Bill' 'All Quiet on the Western Front')

Jonathan Ryland as Cromwell
('Snapshots' 'The Calcium Kid' 'The Bill' 'Strumpet')

Kevin Cecil as the MC at 'Roboclub'
(Kevin has written for 'Black Books', 'Big Train', 'Smack the Pony' and several Armando Iannucci productions)


'Robocop' 'Robot Wars' 'Grease' (Daisy's conflicting characters) 'One Flew over the Cuckoo's nest' Paul Roget champagne The territorial army 'Saving Private Ryan' (the robot is called 'Private Iron') 'Bottle Rocket' (Tim and Mike's yellow boilersuits) 'Big Track' Phillipa Forrester 'Waterworld' 'Fight Club' Damien Hurst 'Juicy Fruit' chewing gum.

First appearance of...

Private Iron 'Roboclub' Daisy holding down a job for more than one day Tim and Daisy flirting.

"...thumping tunes, kicking bass..."

  • The theme from 'Blind Date'.
  • The opening few bars from 'You're the one that I want' from the soundtrack to Grease.
  • 'Smash it' by Fuzz Townshend.

"...a super race of mice-spiders..."

Daisy imagines the two conflicting sides to her character (although one suspects that this is yet another aspect of Daisy's over-exaggerative faux character which she likes to invent from time to time), one is a sweet schoolgirl and the other is Olivia Newton John in 'Grease'. See 'How's that for some fried gold' below.

And I quote...

Mike: "We'll find a way, we'll use every contact we'll pull every favour we'll work every hour. We're gonna fix him and then we're gonna kick-some-arse. Timmy; fetch me my tools."

Tim: "All's fair in love and robot wars."

Marsha is on the phone to Amber: "Oh god it's always me me me init; you've left home remember, I'm not a bloody bank! Anyway, give us a call love. Oh, it's your mum by the way."

Tim: "Let's pub."

Tim: "How was work?"
Daisy: "Awful."
Tim: "Did you get fired?"
Daisy: "Not yet."
Tim: "That's good."

Man: "The first rule of Roboclub is that you don't talk about Roboclub, the second rule of Roboclub is you don't talk about ... wait a minute I got that wrong. The second rule of Roboclub is no smoking."
Tim: "Why aren't we allowed to smoke?"
Mike "Shhh! We're not allowed to talk about it."

"What a bitch".

Tina (the ultimate bitch) tells the staff at Neo-nachos to "... stop gawping you retards!" Billy tells Daisy about all the different ways Tina antagonises the staff at Neo nachos, she keeps all the locker keys herself and sacks people at whim. One wonders if any of these people have ever heard of unions or industrial tribunals. Daisy does an impression of Tina which involves her pulling her shirt out in mocking of Tina's large breasts and going "OOH, I'm Tina!" Witty.

Give that man a BAFTA

There are some great sound effects when Tim meets Mike at the TA, the production team have overlaid a soundtrack of a school playground emptying as the guys at the TA leave the site. It's a good job that none of those TA soldiers (as the scene was filmed at a real TA centre) knew what they were going to do with the footage.

The episode's plot builds nicely up to a montage in which each of the main characters struggles through adversary to achieve a goal. The sequence is brilliantly led into by Mike's "... fetch me my tools!" speech (see above) and is accompanied by a quality dance beat.

There are three quick cuts to the 'TFU 2' rockets mounted on the side of Private Iron when Tim and Mike unveil them in the finale. Simple but effective.

"Do you rent downstairs?"

Tim gets himself into several double entendres throughout the episode. He talks to Mike about the axe on Private Iron after the pair of them appear bandaged up:
Tim: "I think we should lose the axe."
Mike: "I like the axe"
Tim: "I like my face."
Mike: "I like your face"
Tim looks at Mike for a moment: "Let's keep the axe."

Tim and Daisy flirt in a weird fantasy in which she is Phillipa Forrester (see below). Mike is annoyed because he usually gets to play at being Phillipa; Probably best not to ask any more questions about that.

Marsha: "Hello Brian, you haven't up in my region for a while."

"Today's youth... okay young adults."

The woman at the temping agency (played by Gemma Padley) makes a re-appearance from the previous episode. As already noted, she is the authority figure who looks much younger than Daisy. Daisy gets petty revenge on her youth by sticking two fingers up at her behind a sheet of paper. This act, alongside Daisy's 'large-breasts' impression of Tina, shows the level of wit that Daisy operates at. She should probably avoid comedy writing if she ever gets to be a journalist.

Tim and Daisy sitting in a tree...

They play at 'being Phillipa Forrester'. This is a great scene in which Daisy and Tim get to properly flirt with each other for the first time, even if it is only make believe. Mike bursts in on their fantasy just as Daisy is 'feeling the weight of the axe' on Private Iron. Tim quickly tells him "I was just coming; to the pub with you." Daisy seems a bit put out by Mike's rather jealous reaction, Tim then explains, "He usually likes to be Phillipa" . Whatever that means.

"Ooh Mamma!"

Marsha tells Brian that she has a bottle of Paul Roget "... left over from yesterday." Brian is a little confused over what was so special about yesterday, Marsha re-assures him that it was Sunday. She then says "I'll save the bottle of champers for the big night" [Brian's installation opening]. "I'm sure I can resist its charms till then." Four seconds later (after Marsha has retired to her room) we hear a cork popping and Marsha cheering drunkenly. She then tells Marty Berghouse at the exhibition that "I'm just here for the free booze." He laughs at this before noticing that she has a wine glass in each hand.

"Fuck off Twist!"

There is lots of swearing in this episode, including 7 'shit's, 3 'bitch's (all directed at Tina by Daisy), 2 'fuck's and 1 use of 'bollocks'. Tim's logo on Private Iron is 'TFU', meaning 'the fuckest uppest'.

"Timmy: fetch me my tools!"

Lots and lots of robots means lots and lots of welding, wires and axes. There's a great exchange at the start when Daisy asks Mike "What's that?"
Mike: "An axe."
Daisy: "Bit dangerous isn't it?"
Mike thinks about this for a moment before responding: "Yeah!"

"Get off your arse!"

Daisy says she can't use a mop because she's 'creative'. Tina tells her that all the staff are creative "... not just you! Now get creative with this." She throws the mop at her. It turns out that all the staff at Neo Nachos are either poets or writers of some kind or another.

"...pull my finger..."

"Let's play!"

Mike and Dexter cross aerials like fencing swords when them and their robots meet in the park. The episode's main action sequence revolves around the Roboclub battle at the end, the 'Battle Royale' of the event is Tim and Mike's 'Private Iron' (main weapon: axe) versus Dexter and Cromwell's 'War Bastard' (main weapon: circular saw). This manly contest soon degenerates into a rabble of shouting as battle is joined and grown men become children; Tim hides behind Mike for the duration, unable to look. Eventually Dexter and Cromwell use dynamite to blow Private Iron's motor; Mike then gets out the big guns, revealing a pair of missiles from silos mounted on the side of the Private. Checkmate.

Private Iron's boot-up sequence.

Command .com Load BIOS Axe on / Axe off Fried Gold 75% Crac : Set zen : check 7 zark 7 : on CONTROLLER FAT comspec.exe Bertha.dat log crossover chockabloc-activ Parity set system status OK

There are lots of references in this blurb, the main ones being a reference to 'fried gold' (hence this website) and an 'log crossover' (referring to the fact that the cast of 'The League of Gentlemen' had appeared in this series of Spaced.) There are also references to robots of film and TV, such as 'Bertha' and 'Chockabloc'.

How's that for some Fried Gold?

The homage to 'Grease' is totally effortless; Daisy describes the two sides of her nature, the bad side being dressed as Olivia Newton John prowling the streets while her sweet side sits eating a lollipop. When we cut back to the temping agency the woman says to her "You better shape up, you better understand..."

The concept that Neo Nachos' kitchen is a mental asylum is hilarious, there's the stutteringly timid Billy, the silently insane Harris, the strong quiet Chief and the evil master of them all, Tina. All of course lifted straight out of 'One flew over the cuckoo's nest'; or should that be 'pays homage to...'

"Hawk the Slayer's rubbish!"

Tim and Mike are in the quarter finals of robot wars, this is surely the ultimate pinnacle of 'geek'. At least that's what you think until you discover that in fact Mike and Tim are members of some underground robot battling cult (which is a carbon copy of the underground fighting dens seen in the film 'Fight Club'). Is it just me or did Spaced get geekier in its second series?

"I just think he's a bit pretentious".

In Marty Berghouse we finally have a character more pretentious than Brian. His swaggering on-the-mobile style and slow drawling toffee-nosed accent are just the tip of the iceberg. He tells Brian "Paulo Vincenzo shot himself in the foot, terrible mess, very moving though." Brian's installation is of a red-walled room, empty save a green chair and telephone; the phone rings while Brian lies unconscious on the floor. Marty Berghouse says that the piece has "... loneliness, isolation, insecurity..." . I originally thought that the installation was a sort of a homage to the red room of 'Twin Peaks' but the DVD commentary insists that there is no meaning in the art, it's simply a random slice of pretentiousness that has come out of Brian's head.

"That was kind of unbelievable."

The temping woman tells Daisy that one of her problems is that "... you speak when unauthorised..." Where is she working? The French Foreign Legion? Daisy's hair is ragged and her face pale while she works at Neo Nachos, when she gets home she looks like she's been to the salon. Very un-Daisy-like. I'm a little concerned about the missiles that Tim and Mike have installed on Private Iron; do they really have that kind of expertise? Does the local TA office really store missiles? Does the British military really have missiles that small?

"Big's in this year."

Daisy has a great 'journalist' look at the start of the episode wearing big-rimmed glasses as she looks on at 'Private Iron', she also has a really classy leather jacket on just before she does the 'Phillipa Forrester' routine with Tim. She wears two outfits when talking about her "... two opposing forces..." , there's sensible Daisy in her Catholic school girl garb and reckless Daisy who is Olivia Newton John. Tim and Mike wear baggy yellow boiler suits while they repair Private Iron (in homage to the film 'Bottle Rocket') before going topless in classic 'Fight Club' style in the underground robotic battle arena. Tim wears his baseball cap backwards at Roboclub. Mike insists on getting his flak jacket before they go out to the pub. Brian wears his usual brand of functional painters garb

Finally, a word from your author.

'Mettle' is perhaps the most well structured of all 14 Spaced episodes, with three distinct plots all exploring themes of struggling to achieve a goal and overcoming adversity. Be it Brian trying to kick start his artistic endeavours, Tim and Mike working on a project which has taken over their lives or Daisy doing her best to earn a living (we all know how hard this is for her), each of the characters face challenges over which they prevail by persisting and using, as the title of the episode says, a little bit of mettle. When the episode was initially shown on TV the Roboclub plot line was the one that fascinated me. Looking at the episode now I think that although Mike and Tim provide all the best comedy moments it is Daisy's experiences in the world of work that have the most resonance. Besides, if you show 'Mettle' to a 20-something in 10 years time they'll probably never have heard of 'Robot Wars', more likely they will have seen 'One flew over the cuckoo's nest' and have had a rubbish job. In this sense 'Mettle' embodies a criticism and a praise that can be levelled at Spaced, that it is a little too contemporary. While the series has a place in the hearts of those of us who lived through the 80s and 90s, the same may not be the case of a new generation. Doubtless the themes of the series are not limited by the contexts in which they are set, but the continual nodding to contemporary TV and film may give the series a short shelf life. Only time will tell.

If you look closely at Simon Pegg during the 'Phillipa Forrester' scene (just as Daisy lifts the axe) you can tell that he almost cracks up laughing. The phrase 'TFU' was used by one of the artists on the show as a tag for his graffiti.