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

If you missed the first part of Five Go Down to the Sea, you can find it here, and catch up with my thoughts on the adaptation before reading this second part. Now let’s take a look at the second episode.

The Good

So we’re looking at the good things about this episode first and there are a few important things to look at in this episode. The whole episode is a very fast-paced, and the action comes thick and fast. We basically start off with the Five being in the pirates’ tower and their way out being blocked by a crumbling stair case. This forces them up to the top of the tower and across a ledge to another part of the building.

The boys show a lot of sisterly concern for Anne as she doesn’t like the idea of climbing onto the ledge and them making her way across as she is scared she may fall. George is also encouraging which is good because sometimes she can scoff at her young cousin’s ‘wimpy’ ways. Together, they manage to coax Anne along the ledge and even Dick is sympathetic which is nice to see. She’s lifted off the ledge by Julian and no one laughs at her. This means they earn a lot of brownie points here as in the 90s version Dick and George would have scoffed at Anne and Julian certainly wouldn’t have lifted her down. Thumbs up boys!

After they climb down a particularly well-placed but rickety ladder the Five regroup with Timmy who shoots off to show them a tunnel that he’s found and soon they are wandering down the dark passage with their handy torches.True to the book they do get locked in a little cave full of smuggled gold. I do believe that Timmy is the first to enter the cave and get trapped. They don’t seem to be in there very long however before Yan (Rupert Graves) arrives and they all pounce on him thinking he is the chap who locked them in. When they realize it isn’t however they do let him go but I don’t think I heard many apologies.

Anyway, back at the cove where Yan leads them they spot a boat coming into the cove with Mr Penruthlan in it, the Five immediately assume he’s the smuggler which matches up with the book as they assume there as well, causing Mrs Penruthlan to box Julian’s ears, which doesn’t happen in this adaptation (which is a shame cause its one of my favourite parts). However, Yan finally takes them through the pirates’ tunnel which has been changed from the wreckers’ way, and they find out that it comes out at Tremannan farm which they all agree is handy for Mr Penruthlan as they still believe him to be the smuggler.

The ending was quite a spectacle even if it wasn’t quite what happened in the book. The scene where the Five figure out what is going on, is done with Julian being the one to figure things out, instead of Dick and run after the Barnies. It’s a funny piece where Julian is running away from the Barnies with the head of Clopper the horse and he comes across a heard of cows walking down the lane and shouts, “Get out of the way, cows!” It’s quite hilarious when you think about it, because these cows don’t care what’s going on, they just want to get to their new patch of grass.

The Not So Good

Now I know this bit is going to sound like a petulant fangirl but there wasn’t enough Rupert Graves screen time in this episode. It would have been nice to see a bit more of his Yan, and considering that Yan has a big part to play in the middle of the book, it felt like he was barely in it at all. However, what there was of him as excellent and the accent was still very strong and convincing. That’s my only character moan of these episodes is that we don’t get to see enough of Rupert Graves as Yan – even though Yan is one of my least favourite characters Rupter Graves makes him bearable.

The change of the name of the secret passage from wreckers to pirates is a bit of an unnecessary change. I mean why would you change something like that, which really has little overall bearing on the story except the wreckers never set foot on a boat to lure ships into the coves. The change is silly and insignificant and even though it doesn’t make that much difference its the principle of the thing – Blyton wrote wreckers for a reason, that should be honoured. Also, why change it? I mean would children in the 1970s not know what a wrecker was? But then why in the 90s did the word stay in the TV episode? I must admit that script writing is largely beyond me, and these small changes don’t make much sense to me if I am honest. Nitpicking? Perhaps.

The biggest change I want to look at before I wrap up is the Guvnor and Binks. Binks as you will know is in charge of Clopper than horse, and in the book he is a jovial sort of fellow who quite likes the children, even if he doesn’t like them enough to let them play around with Clopper’s head, however in the episodes that were made here, he was a nasty little man, grumpy to the extreme and very rude and as it turns out very cunning. The Guvnor on the other hand has also had a complete one hundred and eighty degrees personality change and is basically Mr Binks from the book. However as it turns out, both of them are up to their necks in the dodgy dealing that Mr Penruthlan was trying to investigate. However, why? Why was this change made – the Guvnor was perfectly capable in the book of doing the dirty on his own, so why change it so Binks was also a bad guy? It doesn’t make any sense!


Whatever I say, how can I not like this episode? Apart from my niggles, the two parts of Five Go Down to the Sea are well done, atmospheric and absorbing. The supporting cast were nice and strong, bouncing along nicely with the Five and Timmy. So here’s to a jolly episode and quite a nice adaptation of a very atmospheric and hard to replicate novel!


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

  1. Francis says:

    Great review, Stef – I must see this again.
    Many thanks.


  2. Dale Vincero, Brisbane, Australia says:

    I know the TV producers do all they can to try to dramatize each FF book, but give me the written word any day! There’s something about the power of the mind -to invent scenes and just conjuncture up visions from the author’s word. Having said that, this 2 part adaption passes ok in my evaluation.


  3. Julian K says:

    Rupert Graves (Yan) looks pleased with himself in the group shot above, Marcus Harris (Julian) less so – doesn’t like completion for Alpha male ? 🤔


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