Famous Five 70s Style: Five Go Down to the Sea, part 1

As far as I am concerned Five go Down to the Sea comes in three different stories. The premise is the same in each, there is something going on in this quiet Cornish village that the Five stumble across and try to solve. The book captured my imagination when I read it for the first time, it was thrilling and full of suspense and twists and turns, such a super read and I remember being disappointed when the 90s TV adaptation of it didn’t live up to the book, and now I am aware of how much was changed in the 70s adaption so the story is barely recognizable. Come with me and take a look at why I think that.

The Changes

lusttmjuwusyazax_o_rupert-graves-as-yan-in-five-go-down-to-the-sea-1979At the very beginning for example, Uncle Quentin drives Timmy to the train station while the Five go on their bikes and then pushes to the front of the queue to get the children and Timmy their train tickets. I mean talk about unable to do it for themselves! In the book they just make it to the station, get their tickets and get onto the platform for the train arrives. In this version they stand looking for the train for a good two minutes (which could be longer depending on how you interpret the time). It then becomes apparent that Uncle Quentin is meeting the Five down there – so why didn’t they all go by car or train? The answer to this question comes when Uncle Quentin leaves the Five at Tremannon farm in the car because he has a conference to go to. Does he not know that they can’t not get into trouble?

Anyway, before the Five arrive at the farm they decided to take a look at one of the coves, and possibly swim. During this exploration they see a boy down by the rocks, very close to the edge and they remark that the tide is coming in. Then comes a distraction in a big military plane flying overheard. Now the mystery appears to have some background to it; seasoned Famous Five fans can spot this plot twist a mile away, at least I can. Of course I may be wrong, its been a while since I saw the second part of the 1970s Five Go Down to the Sea.

The boy who was on the rocks has apparently disappeared in the waves and the Five are worried that he has drowned. The boys send the girls back to get help while they dive in to the swirling water (at a particularly dangerous point of the coast) to try and save the boy, who as I am sure you have guessed is Yan. The girls reach the farm and explain everything to Uncle Quentin and Mrs Penruthlan. Mrs Penruthlan however dismisses their fears as the boy from the beach walks in, perfectly fine and sits down to food (maybe he’s been adopted by the Penruthlans because he is on his own? I don’t know). The boys are less than impressed when they arrive, soaking wet to find him eating at the table in the kitchen.

rupertgravesYan, played by a young Rupert Graves (as many will know from Sherlock fame), immediately starts getting chatty with the boys after lunch, telling them about the ‘pirates’ who used to lure ships onto the rocks in the olden days and how his great-grandfather used to light the light to guide ships onto the rocks. He’s quite free with his information and seems to trust the boys right away. He also doesn’t follow them aorund like he does in the book and fawn over Timmy. I wonder how this will play out in the next part?

The Barnies

So this will just be a short piece on the Barnies, just looking at the differences between the book and TV episode.

The Barnies are not expected at Tremannon Farm in this universe and are a surprise to the  Penruthlans  and in fact Mr  Penruthlan is very rude to the Guvnor about letting the Barnies stay the night on his land. His wife is the one who over rides her husband and tells the travelling show that they can stay. Grateful for a chance to rest their clapped out bus, the Barnies’ Guvnor declares that they will put on a show for free due to the hospitality shown then. That in itself is a change from the book as the Barnies are supposed to be frequent visitors to the Tremannon Farm and charge for their shows.

One other change I want to bring to your attention is the apparent personality swap between the Guvnor and Mr Binks, who is in charge the Clopper the horse. The Guvnor is jovial and light-hearted whereas Binks is surly and unlikable. Now I don’t know if this is a ploy to lead us into a Red Herring as to who the bad guy really is. I don’t know, but we’ll have to see next episode.


A promising episode, but things are niggling again, like always. The story needed some more padding and exploration – I do not think we got very far into the children actually being in the middle of a mystery, and even the tussle at the end with Dick on the beach being caught by a ‘pirate’ is rather underwhelming.

In fact the episode is hardly laugh out loud like the book and even the 90s version. However it has its moments, the bad jokes from the Barnies’ Guvnor for example are quite a giggle. I must admit though, even with his approximate five minutes on screen, Rupert Graves does make a lasting impression as Yan. Its easy to see how he managed to build up such a successful career in television; he just takes over the whole screen. Even in his role as Lestrade in Sherlock, Graves gives Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman a run for their money because he makes them work, trying to act them off screen.

I look forward to the next episode and finding out how this adaptation has been rounded off. Also, another look at a baby Rupert Graves wouldn’t go amiss.



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2 Responses to Famous Five 70s Style: Five Go Down to the Sea, part 1

  1. Francis says:

    Really good review, Stef – looking forward to part 2.


  2. Dale Vincero, Brisbane, Australia says:

    Yep, have always enjoyed Five Go Down to the Sea – the book more than the TV show.


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