Five Go Down to the Sea is another two part adventure in the 90s Famous Five listing. A lot of the second series were two parters and not usually for the better but that said, Five Go Down to the Sea works quite well in two parts.
We start with joining the Five on a bike ride down a country lane, which Julian (Marco Williamson) proclaims “All these Somerset lanes look the same!” Now in the book we know, being the clever readers that we are, that the Five are actually supposed to be in Cornwall. Now for those of you who don’t know, Somerset isn’t too far from Cornwall, but it is certainly not where the Five are meant to be.
So, locational issues aside as you can almost forget that Somerset isn’t Cornwall for the purpose of these two twenty-five minutes episodes. The story telling is almost spot on during the two parts and the first episode is quite close to the mark, save the Barnies showing up on the Five’s route into Tremannon Farm, they actually get told about them through a poster in a shop, if I remember correctly.
Ian Brimble makes an excellent brooding Mr Penruthlan, and Maggie Wells is the chalk to his cheese as Mrs Penruthlan who makes up for her husband’s silence by chattering on and on and interpreting his grunts. One of the scenes I find fairly cringe worthy in this episode is where Dick tries to mimic Mr Penruthlan’s grunts and ahs and ums. It isn’t something I see a member of the Five doing. However in the book it is said that they wanted to answer the same way as Mr Penruthlan but didn’t dare. The fact is that in the books, the Five are much politer. In the TV series people have to make them feel more ‘normal’, more ‘human’ and relatable, which is where the very un-1950’s behaviour comes in. This was definitely the screenplay writers way of making the Five a little less polished for a more modern audience.
Anyway, after this part, where I always have to mute, you get the Five going down to a beach and musing about wreckers, who play a big part in the whole story. They start to explore some caves and after some very suspicious editing, the beach which was clear of water is suddenly in danger of being cut off from the mainland. I am only nit-picking I know, but that’s what I’m here for! There is still a lot to fit in 25 minutes.
A character who is very present in the books and in the TV series is Yan, a local boy who befriends Timmy and tags after the Five, much to their annoyance. However, Yan’s grandfather is of great interest to the Five and when they visit him he tells them about the wreckers and how the light shines still on a stormy night. The boys make a pact to go and see the light. This scene with Grandad is good because there are lots of nice props to use; a wooden shepherds’ hut, a shepherds’ crook, and of course, lots of sweets. Apparently these ‘props’ kept being eaten in-between scenes. I suspect someone had to do several sweet runs!
The episode draws to a close with a late night stormy stroll with Julian and Dick, who fail to see the light, but find Mr Penruthlan out in the woods, and almost get caught by him. Could this mean he’s up to no good? And then the next night they take the girls out and again almost get caught. We’re left on a cliff hanger, waiting to see whether the Five are discovered in their little hide away. I suppose we shall have to wait for the next episode to find out!