This episode is one I remembered from my childhood, I think it was one that I had on video with Five on a Hike Together. I don’t remember a lot of the episode as a rule, but I certainly remember the beginning with Anne and the house! Let’s see now, with hindsight, if the episode is close to the book.
What really strikes me about this episode is the way it actually seems to stick to the story in the book. Obviously we skip ahead a little to Anne joining her cousin on the moor, where she is staying because Timmy was being laughed at for having a cone over his head where he had hurt his ear. So far so good, the girls are on the moor, camping with Timmy and they go to look at the Roman ruins and get introduced to Guy and his dog Jet.
After mentioning that there is a lake they can swim in, George and Anne leave Guy and walk straight into his unknown twin brother, Harry, who is perplexed by the girls familiarity and rebuffs them sharply.
The whole plot then takes off, with the girls sheltering inside the ruined cottage during the storm, and being woken by Timmy barking. At first they believe it down to the thunder, but then they see a silhouette at the window and get very scared, agreeing to pack up and go home the next morning. On cue the boys turn up and a plan starts to unfold.
The details are whats important in episodes like this; the book, Secret Trail starts off quite slowly, mostly because the boys don’t arrive until chapter eight it takes me ages to get through the faff of the girls’ first chapters, but then the interesting stuff begins to happen and the whole adventure takes off. Weaving in and out of the mystery people trying to scare them out of the cottage and trying to work out what the bad guys are looking for. In a strange twist we don’t find out what the Five plus the twins Harry and Guy manage to find until right at the end, which also happens in the book. Usually we found out early whats been stolen but this is a nice twist. Maybe Blyton was trying something new?
Richard Sparks, the writer of this episode, has stuck pretty close to the book, just the few odd lines where you can definitely tell that Blyton hadn’t wrote that, but otherwise a successful adaptation.
The Not So Good
Really there is very little wrong with this episode, it doesn’t differ from the book too badly, but just the odd placement of dialogue and random words. For example right at the beginning where George and Anne meet up, and George is telling Anne about Timmy’s cone of shame, she almost immediately takes it off. I mean obviously for Toddy, the dog who played Timmy, it must have been uncomfortable or he was unable to understand why he was wearing it; so realistically it would have to be removed as soon as possible.
Basically we come down to my own pedantic opinions and feelings on certain things for this episode, it really is hard for me to fault. However, we are again stuck with a comic villain, dark beard, hair, and a foreign accent provided by an actor called Gertan Klauber (who I have now found out played Mr Slither in the 90s Famous Five; Five have a Wonderful Time).
One last peeve, and this time it comes down to the filming and the use of the dark filters instead of letting the children film at nighttime. Even with the digitally remastered DVDs this episode’s nighttime scenes with the children are extremely hard to view and almost come close to making a great episode unwatchable.
Five on a Secret Trail has to be one of the best adaptations of a Famous Five novel. All the key components of the novel are there and with the shorter time frame we actually seem to get a slow novel moving fairly quickly, efficiently, and effectively. Richard Sparks did us proud on this episode so if you haven’t watched it, I suggest you do!
As always don’t forget to let me know what you think of the episode!
And from me that’s all until over Christmas, so let me wish you a happy one and I’ll see you on the other side! Merry Christmas!