Five Get Into a Fix is one of my favourite books of the Five series; I love the imagery of the snow-capped Welsh hills, the tobogganing, the skiing and all of that. It’s one of the only Christmas stories and it’s got a properly thrilling mystery. Shall we take a look the 70s adaptation then? I know the 90s version isn’t up to much, so let’s see how well their predecessors did!
The Five have been stopped from going on a pre-planned holiday to Switzerland because they have all had the flu, with the exception of Timmy. So instead of Switzerland they have been packed off to a farm in Wales to recover from the flu. It’s looking promising so far.
Uncle Quentin takes the wrong turn up to the strange house called Old Towers, so no driver, but Uncle Quentin is his usual hapless self, getting then lost and thinking that there was something wrong with their car, even though it had been in for a service recently. Immediately we know there is something wrong with the Old Towers’ hill and Mrs Jones’ reaction says it all when they inform her that is where they ended up after taking the wrong turn.
The son, Morgan Jones, is a much younger, more talkative man than in the books. In fact he actually has conversations with the Five, not necessarily ones to their advantage but he’s a lot more engaging than the book. He is even on the environmental committee who shut down Llewellyn Thomas’ idea of creating a mine under his mother’s house of Old Towers. There is something obviously going on with Old Towers that no one wants to think about, so the children take it upon themselves to go searching which is how they get themselves into that big adventure.
We don’t really get introduced to his dogs and I think we only see three or possibly four, not the seven that he has in the book. I don’t know whether that was something to do with the legalities of having more than a certain number of dogs on the set but anyway, the story works perfectly well without them. We have what I consider to be the two main doggy scenes of the book do take place. The first one is where Timmy gets attacked by the dogs, making the Five relocate up to the shepherds hut on the hill and then again when Morgan calls them from the mine inside Old Towers, hoping they will here him and come to his rescue.
Aily, the young girl who prances around the hills with no coat and no shoes, is possibly the only anomaly in this episode. She’s not as young as she is in the book, so her relationship with Julian isn’t a strong part of the episode and she actually appears quite late on, almost over half way through the episode. She still can’t read or, presumably, write which allows her the ignorance of not knowing that the letter from Mrs Thomas was a cry for help. Once the Five see the note they know something more sinister is going on, and spring into action.
Not having watched this episode much but knowing the book so well, I was quite pleasantly surprised at the attention to detail. The little things such as the shining rocks and the tremors are well placed in the episode, written by Gloria Tors, and the adventure is portrayed very well, the right amount of build up is used, and like the book it keeps you guessing.
Unlike the 90s episode, where Marco Williamson’s Julian rather overwhelmed the screen and the episode, Marcus Harris plays a slightly less bumptious Julian who dominates the screen less and shares it better with the others. Gary Russell’s Dick Kirrin doesn’t get the throw-a-way sarcastic lines as he does in the other episodes, which makes him much more of a quieter character, yet he still has an on screen presence and pulls his own weight. Jennifer Thanisch as Anne understated yet importantly played with the gentility of Anne that you expect from the character, nursing orphaned lambs, helping encourage George to stay after Timmy’s run in with the farm dogs, and gentle guidance throughout is an important part of the episode. Michele Galagher’s George once again lacks the emotion that Jemima Rooper brought to the character, but makes her presence known and well established throughout.
The star of the episode however is Martin Potter, who plays Morgan Jones. His on screen presence, the mood changes and the first class acting in general is a show stealer. Its not often that an adult guest star steals the show, but this is a rare case. I don’t know a lot about Martin Potter apart from what it says on his IMDB page. He seems to have been a successful actor in the day and is one of those actors I think I will be checking out the rest of his work. As far as I am concerned, a brilliant piece of casting by all concerned.
Hard to fault this episode, especially as there are very few niggly things to pin point. The late introduction of Aily is probably one of them, but in the grand scheme of things in the book, she doesn’t provide much help until later on in the story. The fact that this mystery is less to do about people and more to do about a problem in the enivonrment there is less that needs to be covered and looked at. However, even with the lack of snow, I think this episode jolly well comes out on top!
What do you think?