Right so, a long time ago at the beginning of time (for this blog) I had this crazy notion that I was going to compare these TV series like for like and side by side. I did give it a go, however it never really got off the ground because doing the first episode was far too complicated. I mean, the 1970’s Famous Five skipped Five on a Treasure Island all together and used Five on Kirrin Island Again as their first episode (something to do with the copyrights still being tied up with the Children’s Film Foundation who shot the black and white cinematic episodes in the 50s).
Regardless I failed to review them even on the second viewing of the series for the blog, and for that I should be told off and denied any of Joan’s lovely cakes and biscuits (that’s ok, cause I’m on a diet!) Anyway, I think we should start. Let’s see how the 1970s lot managed to make Five on Kirrin Island Again their first episode.
Can book 6 be the beginning?
The initial reaction to this question is one of pure puzzlement – I mean why would anyone assume that the sixth book in the series could make a decent foray into a world we all love and adore.
Surprisingly Kirrin Island Again does lend itself to an introductory episode. It’s strange but if you take away the familiarity of the Five, any episode could be considered the first one. Richard Sparks was the writer on this one, and I think he managed to create a well balanced episode that introduces all the characters very clearly.
Elements of the first book are visible in this adaptation especially at the beginning where Aunt Fanny is trying to introduce Julian, Dick and Anne to George and the fact that Rodgers the gardener doesn’t know who they are when they arrive, just shows how each adventure could have been the first adventure for the Five.
I only watched the first episode of the two-parter just to be able to look at the episodes properly and deeply. The attention to detail is interesting because there is so much of Kirrin Island Again that can be used and adapted and strangely accurately. I would love to know if it was one of Richard Sparks favourite books while he was growing up, which would account for the accuracy of the details.
There were added details however, back stories on the bad guys, and very much a product of their time. The chap playing Curton is seemingly known to the to the authorities and seems to be some form of double agent because, Johnson knows who is on the other end of the transmitter.
Johnson seems to come from some environmental government body which is why he knows about Uncle Quentin’s work, but turns rogue and decides to make his fortune by stealing the professor’s ideas. According to the books I think it’s something to do with renewable energy, which seems leaps and bounds ahead of the time that Blyton was writing these stories. It’s amazing really how forward thinking she could be!
Once the children start working together the whole episode very quickly falls into the familiar Famous Five format and they begin to work together well as a team. Little things like the adoration of Timmy cements the relationship, and the discovery of tunnels and lunch on the island with Uncle Quentin, all fit into the story very nicely.
We finish the episode on a cliffhanger however because it is in two parts and, as the first episode you do need to keep the audience glued to their seats. Johnson is parachuted onto Kirrin Island and surprises Uncle Quentin with a gun and a threat. We are left to wonder what will happen next as the credits starts to roll. It will be interesting to see with the next episode how much of the book is once again carried through, if George immediately realises that something is the matter, for example.
If you remember correctly with me, Timmy gets left on the island with Uncle Quentin at one point because he thinks he isn’t alone, but with this being the first episode of the series Timmy is still banned from being in George’s possession and thus is unable to guard his mistress’s father. I can’t remember how the next episode goes, which will be interesting for me because I clearly haven’t watched it enough to remember much about it. Please don’t spoil it for me – I want to be pleasantly surprised.
The long and the short of it all is that the transition to make Kirrin Island Again the starting episode worked really well, and Richard Sparks does very well in working all those details between story one and story six in together. I think this would have received the thumbs up from Enid Blyton herself!
To some extent the changes to the story are necessary, even if they are to just make the whole thing work, but its not as weak an episode as I would have once pegged it to be. Worth another look if you can, and see if there’s anything I’ve missed out!