This book is one of the more complex books when you get down to the characters and in a ways, although thrilling, the plot is sort of secondary. The characters and their interactions are what makes up for most of the story.
Especially with the introduction of the bothersome Richard Kent. Richard Kent is one of my least favourite characters in the series and he comes across just as badly in the 90s TV series. In fact, even though I’m sure the actor, Stuart Piper, tried his absolute best, there is no way to stop Richard Kent from being an odious little tick. Undoubtedly he does a marvelous job of making Richard so believably unlikeable that he must be commended. It is not a job I would have wanted. I wonder if Piper had read the books before he got the part because he really does a good job, if at times a little cringey at playing the spineless Richard.
This episode is very much one where Julian’s reputation for bossiness comes from, but also his humanity because he wants to give the spineless Richard a blooming great shake, but restrains himself. This doesn’t really come across with Williamson; Julian just comes across as an impatient school boy, and his attitude towards Richard is mostly one that reminds me of bullying. Dick and George don’t have much patience with him either, and Anne is the only one who might have a modicum of patience with him. There is a sense that Richard is the same age as Anne or younger, which may explain his arrogance, but doesn’t excuse the Five’s impatience with him.
I feel especially sorry for Richard during the scene just after Dick is kidnapped (outstanding fighting from Paul Child there, really looked like he got a few good bruises on those nasty villains), and asks to be taken home. He is genuinely terrified of Rooky and the others pay him no heed. Unfortunately emotions are running high because Dick has just been carted off to God knows where, but there is still a lack of understanding for Richard.
The rest of the story plays out very well in a way, most of the details are there, such as Timmy getting locked out of the house, and the discovery of the secret room are all nice touches. However when Julian sneaks out of the room the children have been sent to sleep in, and creeps off to find Dick and doesn’t explain to him how he came to be there is frustrating. I know its all down to the timing again, and its different in the book when you can skate over all the little facts and things, but still, all that effort not even to tell your brother how clever you were to find him? That’s a very un-Julianish thing to do!
Anyway I’ve come this far and not said a word about our villians. Like many of the other episodes they have come out comedic. The smooth, dangerous Perton is reduced to a sniveling, cack-handed idiot who can’t really form a plan and just seems to be more muscle. He doesn’t really seem dangerous, which is what Perton is in the book. His book alter-ego really gives the ideas that he is the brains of the outfit and Rooky is the brawn. This gets swapped around in the TV episode. Rooky manages to become the brains of the outfit, deciding that Richard’s kidnap will help them blackmail his father into helping them get rid of the diamonds they have stolen.
So overall, its a fairly decent episode, apart from the points I’ve mentioned. Some of them are purely down to time, and some are down to how well certain things would translate onto the screen and for a young audience and in those circumstances you can’t really complain. Still it would be nice, once again to have a little longer than 25 minutes for the episode. Its not my favourite one, mostly because its one of the ones that makes me cringe the most, but well worth a watch, even just for the eye-rolling at the holes in the plot!