Five Have a Wonderful Time was one of the Fives that brought my attention back to Enid Blyton when I was about eleven or twelve. I remember coming across the Millennium editions in the local library and loving that they were in colour. I fell straight back in love and I must had gotten my mother to renew those books for weeks and weeks and weeks in the beginning. So as you might be able to tell, Five Have a Wonderful Time is a book that is close to my heart, and here’s what I think of the 1970s adaption.
As we all know the 90s version of Five have a Wonderful Time has some flaws, largely due to Marco Williamson’s broken leg demanding plot be changed to accommodate him. The 70s episode however has none of these problems, and for the most part the episode sticks right to the script, but as with most of Richard Sparks (one of the writers, the other being Gail Renard) adaptations the episode doesn’t tend to always keep to the story. More about that later, however.
To start with, we have George’s illness which is why she is late joining the others to the caravans they’re staying in at Faynights Castle, which is by the book and we’re treated to a joyous reunion a few minutes later when George and Timmy arrive with Rogers. From this bit forward we do tend to skip a lot of what I think of as ‘action’ but in fact it’s more setting the scene. It does turn it into a fast-paced episode, and even though that is no bad thing, we’re moved very quickly from one scene to another. However the key points of the story are accurately portrayed such as Uncle Quentin ending up locked in a caravan by the fair folk, and Buffalo with all his amazing tricks with his whip.
The fair folk are nicely portrayed, with their bright clothes, amazing tricks and dancing. I always wonder if the people used in these sorts of scenes are just amazing actors who have these talents that remind us of fair folk or whether they are actually are fair folk. If someone can clarify for me, I would be grateful.
The rescue mission of Professor Terry-Kane and the children is quite amazing, even though the dark filter offers a little awkward viewing when we can’t quite see what’s going on. However, the rope ladder tied onto a strong string thats tied onto a knife is a fantastic scene to see, and the escape is very well choreographed.
What I really do like is the last line of the episode being an exchange between Uncle Quentin and George where Uncle Quentin asks her what he should tell her mother about what has been going on and she says “Just tell her, the five are having a wonderful time.”
The Not so Good
First off the bat; Where is Jo? Or even Sniffer? (See my review of the 1990s adaption here) We have no companion for the Five, which in itself is not a bad thing by any means. They are perfectly capable of solving a mystery without help, but its in the book, and there is no hint that there might have been someone else, given how easily they seem to be working with the fair folk. In fact because he is a stranger, Rogers is the one who comes in for some flack. Now in the book, the fair folk aren’t nice to anyone, let alone the children because they don’t know them. The moment Jo arrives however, there is a shift in their attitude and they embrace the children. So the lack of Jo, bothers me, not just from a plot development point of view, but from a character interaction point of view. There was a lot in that book that the Five couldn’t sort out just because they were decent children, it had to be someone from the same background who came to their rescue and actually that’s what makes this book stand out from the others, because for once, the Five can’t charm their way through the situation.
During the rescue of Terry-Kane, due to the lack of Jo or Sniffer, Anne is the one who gets away from Pottersham and runs off to get help. Now, I guess I don’t mind Anne being the free one, but as it comes down to tying in with the lack of Jo it jars. Its not a natural split all for a candle that might not hurt Terry-Kane’s eyes so much. You also need to remember that when Pottersham gives chase to Anne in the episode, she’s only a slip of a girl, usually thought of to be quite weak so what was the likilhood of her being able to get away from him? Surely Dick should have been the one to slip out, or George which would make more sense in the chase.
The other major bug bear with this episode is that the entire adventure takes place in ONE WHOLE DAY! George arrives early in the morning and by the evening her father had turned up and they have rescued Professor Terry-Kane. Now I know they only had a twenty-five minute slot to fill but still they could have made it last more than one day! This isn’t one of Blyton’s usual quick endings and rushed adventures, this one is more of a pot boiler and it doesn’t come through. I know its a niggly little thing to pick on, but it annoys me; if you can make it work in other episodes, why change it?
One last thing, the main cast didn’t seem to have much spark in them during this episode. There were a few interesting pieces about the binoculars George has with her being a birthday and Christmas present, and towards Dick about letting everyone else have some breakfast, but there doesn’t feel like there is a spark in this episode between them at all. I don’t know what could have caused it, but its something that makes me wonder what might have been going on behind the scenes. It may have been as simple as the cast were tired or the script wasn’t as good as usual. Will we ever know? I don’t know, not unless we get told.
Overall, not the best episode, or maybe I’m being too picky. There are some really good little bits, like when Aunt Fanny’s dressing gown almost matches the wallpaper in George’s room, and everyone teasing Dick about breakfast, but its too rushed, too hurried and the script just doesn’t shine on this one. Unfortunately that happens sometimes, and the fact that the cast seem rather flat doesn’t help it at all. Still, its a good episode if you want to introduce someone to the story on a basic level, and parts are still joyful to watch.
Why not tell me what you think?