The Adventure Series on TV: The Castle of Adventure, part 5

We ended on a less-dramatic scene in the last episode (I hesitate to call it a cliff-hanger, actually) with someone – Bill? MOD man? Sam? someone from the castle? prowling around Spring Cottage.


Whoever he is, he has incurred the wrath of Kiki (who is caged!) and the geese outside. They wake Philip who has a look out of the window, causing our prowler to get a warning from his partner waiting in a van.

And I was right. The prowler is Bill. Goodness knows what he’s doing sniffing around Spring Cottage in the dead of night. It would certainly make someone unfamiliar with the books suspicious of him.

He then turns up in town the next day and bumps into Allie, telling her he’s just doing some business, but would like to visit them at Spring Cottage soon.


The children plan for Jack to secretly stay at the castle overnight (how they thought Allie wouldn’t notice, I don’t know) and for that he needs food.

They therefore sneak all the slices of bread from the breakfast table and hide them in their waterproof coats… and then the boys raid the kitchen while Dinah keeps Allie occupied. But then Allie says she’ll make them a picnic and they have to sneak all the food back practically under her nose…

Tassie has similarly bad luck, she is caught by Sam when she tries to meet the children and we don’t see her again in this episode.

And the worst time is for Allie as she get another call from Jane – her mother has collapsed and is in intensive care.


Curious for the children is how Buttons turns up without Tassie, and manages to get inside the castle again.

Curious for me is where the children have found what look like ready-made panels for Jack’s hide.


And finally, we get to the good stuff.

Jack is left overnight and has a chat with himself that if he can’t get out of the castle then no-one can get in. Unless they find the plank. Which they won’t, in the dark. So that’s all fine, clearly.

Being the 90s the children can’t possibly be left alone, so Aunt Jane (I assume from Mannering side, or perhaps she’s an honorary aunt) comes to Spring Cottage to let Allie go to her mother

Jane is not at all happy that Jack is camping out overnight, but she is persuaded into waiting for the 10pm flashes with the children. The signal comes in, exactly as promised, and they reply… but ten minutes later we see Jack going to signal.

So… someone else in the castle just happened to need to signal with the same pattern at the same time as Jack should have? It’s pretty pointless, really, as Jack’s OK at this point. It’s not like he’s already been captured and prevented from signalling or anything. The children getting the wrong signal, and Jack not getting a reply to his, doesn’t have any impact on the story whatsoever.

Anyway. There’s then some strange noises in the castle and Jack finds an open cellar. There are suits of armour down there, which gives me hope for later in the story. There’s also a whole lot of high-tech things there too, though. None of this old-fashioned  ‘table of blueprints is all we need’ attitude.

We meet a couple more of our enemies now, one of whom is the chap who escaped Bill’s colleagues by going into the ladies. Their presence means Jack has to hide, and gets shut in the cellar. Unfortunately it is not a charming grating stone operated by a hidden lever. It’s a hydraulic door which you wonder how the children missed – though you do pull an axe on the wall to operate it.

Next to appear is Allie’s friend from the MOD. No surprise that he’s a baddie, really.

Jack lets himself out of the cellar and decides it’s time to make his getaway. Fair enough. But instead of quietly sneaking out he does it in a pell-mell fashion, and just about breaks his neck when he knocks the plank down. Yes, the plank they securely tied onto the tree because one of them nearly fell first time they entered the castle.

And we’re left on another cliff (castle) hanger, as Jack dangles out of the window.

I’m glad that things finally start to happen in this episode, but bearing in mind that we are now 120 minutes into a 200 minute adaptation, we’ve had to wade through a lot of padding to get here. I wonder how rushed the remaining 80 minutes will be, or whether they plan to greatly simplify everything.

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5 Responses to The Adventure Series on TV: The Castle of Adventure, part 5

  1. Francis says:

    These books were packed with action so it is disappointing that they have padded it out. Thank you Fiona.
    Regards Francis


  2. I think this series (which, as with the same production company’s ‘Mr Majeika’, I regret not seeing more of at the time) was one of the last that can be classified as “classical British television” – something which died in the early 1990s as classical Hollywood cinema died in the early 1960s, in both cases through the breakup of a particular settled studio system – and within that system, series often took several episodes really to build up and for things really to start to happen in a way that simply wouldn’t be possible or tenable in a multichannel set-up where the hook is needed much quicker. So to that extent several fairly slow episodes before things really get going was a luxury of the pre-multichannel era (this series went out on ITV as Sky, on air for just over a year, was losing vast amounts of money and BSB was finally getting on air having already doomed itself by spending millions of pounds which it didn’t have, so while new channels were being established it was far from guaranteed that they would work); it was unremarkably common then in a way that seems odd now. But in that respect it’s at the other end from both Famous Five series which had to edit down the books very considerably, sometimes into only one 25-minute episode and never into more than two parts.

    I’ve added some material to Wikipedia recently re. this series including an article from the Guardian at the time where they talk about how the children’s relationship with Allie was less formal and Dinah was a much stronger and more assertive character than in the book, and a comment from a book on British children’s TV (by one of its most prominent producers) which suggests that it failed through being caught between “period” and “modern” stools. I don’t have any proof of this, but I wonder if they decided not to play it in period very largely out of fear that, if they did, it would come over too much like Five Go Mad in Dorset/on Mescalin?

    Of course the book is set in Scotland but a southern English ITV company clearly wouldn’t be doing with that (you need to know about the divides within ITV in the 1980s to get the context for that). Interesting how some details were kept which have themselves become more dated since 1990; the boys and girls are depicted at separate boarding schools, which although not as universal as in 1946 was still much more common in 1990 than now (today, a much higher percentage of those who board do so in mixed schools – I’m still against it, but it’s clearly a more natural environment in that respect).


    • fiona says:

      Thanks for the interesting comment, you raise some very good points. I can appreciate that in the 90s series could take more time to get to the truly exciting parts – but unfortunately, for me, this one hasn’t provided us with anything else of substance in the lead up. Sinister Sam is actually starting to grow on me as at least he is interesting and providing some sort of mystery to keep me interested. I’ll have a look at the Wikipedia entry and Guardian article before I post my next episode review.


      • Well, I only make a brief citation of the Guardian article on Wikipedia, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to upload it, plus two other articles from that paper on related subjects:

        Click to access Guardian_19.04.1990.pdf

        Click to access Guardian_20.04.1990.pdf

        Click to access Guardian_07.05.1996.pdf


      • In terms of consciously trying to be up to date and rapidly being overtaken, the best example I can think of from my reading youth is Jan Mark’s ‘Man in Motion’, which I read less than four years after the publication date given on Amazon but which already seemed antique and distant, from its very title – redolent of the Brat Pack and John Parr, never more despised than in their immediate aftermath – to its emphasis on American football, seen as the way ahead and the way out at the time but instantly thrown on the scrapheap here after Gazza’s tears …

        Only *very* tangentially related to all this stuff, of course, but it shows the perils of riding trends in what is going to be in libraries for quite some time and is, presumably, intended to last longer than other parts of popular culture. I was way over the target age by the time I read her ‘Thunder and Lightnings’ but that seemed to me to be “other” in all the right ways and none of the wrong ways, and I doubt I’d revise that verdict now.


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