ON TRIAL is the premiere episode of the first season and the first episode overall of the 1970's period dramatic series, Upstairs, Downstairs.
The episode introduces most of the characters of the series, as the stories begin. The episode was written by Fay Weldon and directed by Raymond Menmuir.
While this was one of the episodes that was originally filmed in black and white because of a technician's strike that paralyzed ITV, it was re-filmed in color, once the strike was ended. It was considered to be the first episode of the series. The original black and white episode was considered to be a lost pilot.
A young woman named Clemence Dumas is shown walking down Eaton Place, a fashionable street located in the London district of Belgravia. She is looking for 165 Eaton Place, where she is to begin employment as the under house parlor maid for the Bellamy family, a family who has considerable power in the Conservative (Tory) party. The house was owned by Lord Southwold, the duke of Westminster, as he owned the entirety of Eaton Place.
The newcomer doesn't make a good first impression with the servants, alienating her new comrades in service, namely Rose Buck, the head house parlor maid and her immediate superior; Maude Roberts the haughty and somewhat snobbish Lady's maid; and Kate Bridges the cook.
She also runs afoul of Angus Hudson, the autocratic butler, although she does befriend Mr. Pearce, the coachman and the sweet-natured but dreadfully lonely Emily the kitchen maid. The other servant, Alfred Harris, the slightly mad footman, frightens her somewhat.
She is brought before Lady Marjorie Bellamy, the mistress of the house, a woman who was the oldest daughter of Lord Southwold, one of the most powerful politicians of the Conservative party. She is impressed with the newcomer and names her Sarah. It was later revealed that Sarah was indeed her real name, Sarah Moffat in fact.
Rose instructs her in her duties, all the while she is not too happy with Sarah even being hired at all. Although, in spite of it, she and Sarah become friends. Sarah also takes to her work with unexpected diligence, which surprises both Rose and Mr. Hudson.
An incident with a plucked chicken almost sends Sarah packing. However, Sarah sobbingly reveals that she could not write (she was asked to write the commandment "Thou shalt not steal." when she revealed that) and did not know how. She is forgiven by all, even Mrs. Bridges, and is allowed to stay. She and Rose really do become friends.