Time on Our Hands
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"Time on Our Hands" is an episode of the BBC sitcom, Only Fools and Horses. First screened on 29 December 1996, it was the final episode of that year’s Christmas trilogy and the fifteenth Christmas special overall. It attracted a television audience of 24.3 million, a record for a British sitcom. In the episode, the Trotters finally become millionaires and Del decides to invest in the futures market. It had initially been intended to be the last ever episode, but creator John Sullivan wrote three more specials that were screened annually from 2001-03, starting with "If They Could See Us Now".
|"Time on Our Hands"|
|Only Fools and Horses episode|
|Episode no.||Episode 15|
|Directed by||Tony Dow|
|Written by||John Sullivan|
|Produced by||Gareth Gwenlan|
|Original air date||29 December 1996|
(24.3 million viewers)
|Running time||60 minutes|
The episode opens with a nervous Raquel planning the visit of her parents, James and Audrey, for dinner at the flat, and worrying about them meeting Del Boy for the first time. Del and Albert reassure her that they will help out. Del is still worried about Rodney after he and Cassandra had suffered a miscarriage two weeks previously, and Albert suggests that they come up with a "counter-worry" to take his mind off it, which leads to Del pretending to be ill, though Rodney barely notices.
Later that day, Rodney is cataloging stock in the Trotter's garage. Rodney wishes that something good would turn up in their lives. Del says that life is not like that. He picks out an old pocket watch to illustrate his point that their lives will not suddenly get better, out of the blue. Del tosses the watch onto a gas cooker.
Del and Rodney return to their block of flats but the lift breaks down. After being trapped in there for some time, the two brothers have a discussion about Rodney and Cassandra's miscarriage. A distraught Rodney confesses that he has spent too much time feeling sorry for himself since Cassandra lost their baby. Del comforts Rodney by telling him that it is just a dropped stitch in life's tapestry, which their late mother Joan used to say whenever things went wrong, and assures that things will get better. Rodney agrees and is finally at peace with the whole thing, and Del suggests to Rodney to go home and have a heart-to-heart with Cassandra. Once the conversation is over, Del successfully fixes the lift himself, and gets it working again. Only then does Rodney realise that Del had in fact tampered with the controls, in order to force Rodney to talk. The Trotter Brothers share a hearty laugh.
That evening, James and Audrey Turner, Raquel's parents, arrive for the meal, and all appears to be going well. However, whilst moving the coffee that Albert has prepared in the kitchen, Del realises that it is actually gravy, and thus Albert's "gravy" that they are pouring on their dinners is in fact coffee. The dinner ruined, all around the table politely mention that they are full up (apart from young Damien who exclaims, "this is horrible!"). When picking up his car from the Trotters' garage the following day, antiques dealer James spots the old pocket watch. It is engraved "Harrison". After closer examination, he suggests that it may be the work of John Harrison, the man who designed and built the world's first successful maritime clock in the 18th century.
The watch is examined by experts, and all accept it to be the Harrison "lesser watch", a semi-mythical piece for which designs exist but there is no clear evidence the watch was ever made. It goes to auction at Sotheby's and after hearing the opening bid of £150,000 (a full £110,000 higher than Del's highest estimate), Del promptly faints. After recovering, he and Rodney rush back into the auction room, with the bidding still going on. The latest bid is revealed to be £3,250,000; it then goes up to £3,500,000 (which Del thinks is £350,000). It then rises to £4,000,000 and Rodney, too, faints. It emerges that the final bid was £6,200,000 (around £3,100,000 each). When Rodney re-reads the Sotheby's statement in the Reliant van, the two brothers begin whooping hysterically, rocking the van with their overjoyed lunacy as their millionaire dreams finally come true after 15 years of hoping.
Del and Rodney visit Boycie's car showroom and, unaware of their new fortune, he teases them about having their photograph taken next to his 1996 model Rolls Royces. Wanting to pay his older brother back for helping throughout his life (including getting over Cassandra's miscarriage), Rodney pays £70,000 for the car as a gift for Del, stunning Boycie into silence when he shows him proof of their new wealth. Later, the Trotters visit The Nag's Head pub, and receive a round of applause and a standing ovation from all of the characters and regulars.
The final scenes, against a backdrop of the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song "Our House", show the Trotters enjoying their new wealth. Del and Raquel move into a mansion while Rodney and Cassandra buy a luxury apartment on the banks of the River Thames. They buy Uncle Albert an expensive yacht, which he promptly crashes into a bridge on the Thames.
Del returns to their now empty flat in Nelson Mandela House, and recalls the memories from the flat over the years, hearing quotes from their mother Joan (from a specially recorded voiceover), their father Reg (from "Thicker Than Water"), and Grandad (from "Big Brother"). Rodney also returns, and Del reveals that he is already beginning to miss the old life as a market trader. Albert returns to the flat to get some of his belongings as well to have one last look, and the three leave, though not before Del has answered a call from Lenny Norris offering them 250 carpet steamers. Del is initially keen, but Rodney reminds his older brother that they are not in the business any longer. Del reluctantly tells Lenny that "Trotters Independent Traders has ceased trading."
The three men decide to walk to the local Chinese restaurant for a meal. As they set off, Del states that rather than the end for them, it is only just the beginning as they should now invest their new money in the futures market (making one last claim that this was one of the many things his mother Joan said, on her deathbed). The three continue to playfully argue about this as they walk off into an animated sunrise, as Del proclaims that it is their "big chance", and ending with the closing refrain: "This time next year, we could be billionaires!".
The last episode of Only Fools and Horses for five years, was seen by 24.3 million viewers, nearly half the population of the country at the time and the highest viewing record ever for a comedy in the UK. It remains the most recent episode of any programme to have been watched by over 21 million viewers.
- Boyzone: "Together"
- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: "Our House"
- Vince Hill: "Take Me to Your Heart Again"
- Showaddywaddy: "Under the Moon of Love"
- Showaddywaddy: "I Wonder Why"
Note: In the VHS and DVD versions, the track "Our House" is replaced by a cover version by Helen Reddy.