Licensed to Drill

"Licensed to Drill"
Only Fools and Horses episode
Directed by Malcolm Taylor
Written by John Sullivan, though sometimes credited erroneously to Brian Hague
Produced by Malcolm Taylor
Production code Educational Special
Running time 19 mins and 15 seconds

"Licensed to Drill" is an educational episode of the sit-com, Only Fools and Horses. Even though it was shown in various schools throughout the UK from 1984 onwards (mainly in science lessons), it was never broadcast commercially and has only recently been rediscovered. There was some confusion as to who wrote this episode, as the writing credit at the end is to Brian Hague, and not John Sullivan. This credit, however, refers to the documentary clip that the Trotters watched on the television during the episode. John Sullivan wrote the script, as well as writing and singing the theme song, "Licensed to Drill". This short episode was the final appearance of Grandad.


As Rodney and Grandad watch a war movie, Del Boy who had earlier returned from the cafe with a magazine about oil and is now reading it while lying on the couch, begins educating his younger brother and grandfather, explaining all the products which would not exist without oil. He then insists that they watch a short film being shown on TV about the Maureen off shore oil rig. When the film is over, Del goes to bed after insisting that Rodney reads the magazine in time for an important business meeting which will occur the next day.

When Rodney wakes up the following morning, he finds a strange man in the flat, and it emerges that Del has just concluded a deal with him. He explains that he has bought an oil rig for £400, intending for them to drill for oil themselves. However, Rodney points out to a seemingly unaware Del that offshore oil rigs are located hundreds of miles offshore (not hundreds of yards as Del appeared to presume), and Del suddenly realises that he has been conned.

Del attempts to give chase to the mysterious man he called "Paddy" who has, in Rodney's words "done you up like a kipper" but is prevented from doing so when Rodney informs him that the van is out of petrol. On this ironic note Del, jaw agape, stares into the camera before attempting to throttle his younger brother as the credits begin to roll. We briefly see the "Paddy" character smoking a cigar and laughing triumphantly in his car outside the flat before he drives off.


This special features a one-off theme song composed and performed by series creator John Sullivan.

Interestingly Grandad points out during this episode that he was a member of the RAF in the war. Rodney tells Del that Grandad was known as the "Grey Baron" in his air force days. Grandad then states "It's the kids, don't know nothing." This hints at the main characteristic of Uncle Albert who would replace Grandad after this one-off as the older generation character. Uncle Albert was a member of the Royal Navy during the war and constantly regales the family with stories of his war heroics after bemoaning the contemporary generation's ignorance of previous events.

The one-off episode was produced by the Maureen Oilfield Consortium as an educational video to be shown in British schools.

The character who cons Del is played by Scottish actor Iain Blair.

The film does not feature a laugh track unlike most episodes of the show but similarly to several other one-off specials which were made.

The character of Grandad, played by Lennard Pearce, wears a new hazel coloured cardigan and his neck scarf and undershirt are uncharacteristically clean and bright looking in this episode. Ironically, as this was his final outing before his death, he also looks much healthier than in previous episodes though this could be the result of toning down the makeup used as the film is not as dependent on lighting techniques as it uses a much higher quality film stock than the one deployed in the television series episodes. This appearance of health may also be helped by the unusual cleanliness of his garments which are always stained and unkempt in his previous appearances.

One of Grandad's last significant lines is in response to Del telling him to wake up during the oil film as the film is "exciting". He says "I know. I'm getting excited with my eyes shut." Lennard Pearce's last lines of dialogue in the role of Grandad are in response to Del asking if he thinks he had been conned "Of course not.....He had an honest face. In fact, he reminded me of you Del."

Episode cast

Actor Role
David Jason Del Boy
Nicholas Lyndhurst Rodney
Lennard Pearce Grandad
Iain Blair Oil man

External links

Preceded by
"Thicker than Water"
Only Fools and Horses
1984 (Special edition for schools)
Succeeded by
"Happy Returns"
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