Unusually we are not resuming after a cliff-hanger. Instead we have had time to swallow the reveal that Sam, dodgy pedlar of ‘farm-fresh’ eggs, and eater of snacks uninvited, has actually been Scar all along.
While we’re all surprised at Sam being Scar, Lucy-Ann is simply shocked that Scar is Sam. Dinah whispers this to her, so that they aren’t overheard. But idiotic Lucy-Ann immediately shrieks SAM so that he comes over and opens the curtains on the bed. Where’s the others? he asks right away.
Now we’ve seen Sam behaving pretty threateningly but he really ramps it up as Scar. Holding up a very large gun he says we’ll deal with them later. Though it’s a bit James Bond bad guy-esque, if they intend to leave the girls alone for a while before ‘dealing with them’.
ELSEWHERE THE WORLD’S A VIDEO GAME
At the military compound soldiers are running everywhere as an alarm goes off. Grogan’s only watching but it looks like a video game where you’d have to get inside without being seen.
Even more like a game (perhaps along the lines of the original Tomb Raider etc) Tassie leads Jack down the tunnel (so large you wonder how on earth they missed it from either end before). Anyway, for no reason a load of barrels and boxes fall after they’ve passed. In a game this would give you the challenge of a) staying ahead of the avalanche and b) stopping you going back on yourself. On TV though, they’re fairly oblivious until they dodge a few barrels at the end of the tunnel. As soon as they’re clear of the tunnel exit the game, sorry, script caused a huge boulder to fall and completely block it off.
We then move onto a game more inline with Street Fighter (or my favourite – Streets of Rage!) where Jack and Tassie are pounced on and driven to the floor by a couple of balaclava clad men. Before I/they get carried away they do realise quickly that they’re only a couple of kids and luckily Bill’s right there to ensure their safety a moment later.
Now it’s time for Bill and his men to get into the castle for the big rescue and capturing of the bad guys.
Of course, Button’s tunnel is conveniently blocked. (In the book it’s a narrow pipe/stream and the kids can barely squeeze through so it’s of no good for the adults). There is a door, but like in the book it’s locked.
He doesn’t even mention the plank. Of course the plank is gone, but I’m sure with the might of the MOD behind them a plank of some kind could be rustled up rather quickly. Again, in the book the plank/window would be no use as it’s one of those tall narrow slit windows that the children can only just squeeze through. Bill and his burly men stood no chance. On TV the window’s a decent size (Philip’s a decent sized teenager and he makes it through) and I’m sure they’d manage. It just seems daft to have changed two elements of the story that would have given the men access and then to have to hurriedly block/ignore them.
So to get inside they blast the lock off the door with a machine gun. In the book it’s done fairly quietly with a blow torch type thing. Goodness knows why that had to change – and considering they sneak around cautiously once inside it seems very foolish to have announced their arrival with gunfire!
Then again their discretion also spoiled a bit by Jack’s bright yellow sleeves!
BACK TO SAM/SCAR
I feel the need to add that Sam, as Scar (which I assume is his real identity), loses his amiable country burr. He still had it when he threatened Tassie and Rose all those times so it’s odd to hear him suddenly speaking in a different voice. He’s also a lot quieter which adds to the menace (he does shout a bit but he doesn’t constantly boom). Somehow the fact that our earlier meeting with Scar saw him whisper the whole time made it the more surprising that Sam and Scar are one and the same.
Scar even makes a joke of it himself. He and Grogan meet in the tunnel from the cellar and catch Philip in the middle. Of course Philip doesn’t know that Sam is Scar and so says Sam, in surprise. Scar speaks to Philip and then says oh, wrong accent and tries again with a booming hello young sir.
CUNNINGHAM, BILL CUNNINGHAM
Despite the final capture of the men being a team effort in the book, Bill is rather quickly left alone here. Even with a couple of his colleagues there at first he hands the handcuffs over to Niko and Mannheim and expects them to cuff themselves!
The whole thing’s a bit farcical really. The girls are right in the middle of the fracas as is Jack (Tassie has been sent back to Spring Cottage despite the series obviously trying to put the boys and girls on a more even footing). Jack and the girls are then sent off, with the remaining men escorting them, leaving Bill to find Philip.
Conveniently, or not depending on how you look at it, Philip, Sam and Grogan walk into the cellar a minute later. He does have Philip at gunpoint which isn’t ideal but a swift kick from Philip turns the table and a fight ensues (you can hardly make out what happens as the lights keep going on and off though!) Philip has a nice little collapse for extra drama, and Grogan and Sam escape.
THUNDER, LIGHTENING, RAIN AND MUD
The storm finally brings rain (though before this lots of rocks seem to fall/slide without any help) and Tassie’s mum is now running around getting soaked.
The jeep carrying one soldier, Jack, Dinah, Lucy-Ann and the prisoners gets stuck in the mud. I can’t help but think they’ve really short staffed this mission as Jack has to go off for help while the soldier guards the prisoners.
Meanwhile Scar and Grogan head off in another jeep (slightly more practical in the weather than Sam’s horse and carriage) passes Tassie’s mother as she finally reaches the castle.
A lightening strike has collapsed part of the castle (which is why Bill and Philip are stuck) and then all the equipment in the cellar starts to explode too. Then we’re back to computer game world as the cellar tunnel collapses behind them as they run.
SO WHERE’S EVERYONE NOW?
Sam and Grogan are being followed by an MOD jeep with a siren and flashing light, but Grogan shoots out the tires on it.
Rose returns to the caravan and starts packing a suitcase.
Jack’s path for help takes him directly in the path of Grogan and Sam who are very considerate in trying not to run over him. Jack is not so kind and lobs his rucksack at the windscreen causing them to crash.
Philip and Bill have made it back to the MOD, somehow bypassing Rose, Sam, Grogan, Jack and the stranded jeep and are cosily tucked up with blankets and hot tea.
Something this series thankfully hasn’t done is a lot of aimless running through woods like the New Zealand series was so fond of. There’s a little here as Sam chases Jack but they are quickly intercepted by two military men (in berets, not balaclavas) for a nice bit of wrestling. Sam’s quite the fighter, but as before with Philip, Jack employs the good old ‘jump on his back and be a nuisance’ tactic. The men in berets (a few groups of them I assume) were sent out in search of two men. Armed. What a wonderful and helpful description, though perhaps given the weather the colonel didn’t imagine any other men would be out and about.
I assume the two prisoners and the girls got transferred to another vehicle then, or vehicles, as the prisoners then arrive at the MOD compound.
Bill takes Philip back to Spring Cottage to find the Jack, Dinah, Lucy-Ann and Tassie are safe there, and is quite miffed when they all fall asleep as he tries to explain the science behind the secret weapon. Oh and Tassie is reunited with her mother too.
WHAT DID I THINK THEN?
Well, it was certainly a busy episode!
I’m gutted that they didn’t have Bill and his men clanking off pedestals in suits of armour, scaring the life out of the baddies. It’s also a shame that they didn’t have the escape tunnel flood.
There were also too many ‘convenient’ accidents blocking tunnels and so on. For such a huge military presence on their compound it seemed a really shoddy operation in the end with not enough men in any one place.
On top of all that we never really discover how Allie, Jane and the kids know Bill. There’s hints that Mr Mannering worked for the government, perhaps as one of Bill’s colleagues but it’s not made clear.
One good moment that they added is when Jack goes to check if Sam’s alive and Sam jumps up from the steering wheel, roaring. Worthy of a horror movie, that was.
Oh and I noticed an editing fail when Bill (noticeable for his curly hair) dons his balaclava twice in a row.
THE MAKING OF THE SERIES
There is a three-part article across the Winter 2015, Spring 2016 and Summer 2016 issues of the Enid Blyton Society Journal regarding this series, so I did some reading as I was sure there was some story about why Susan George (Aunt Allie) doesn’t appear again.
What I leaned was that the series was hurriedly written and cast in about two months after the plans to start with Ship (costing 3 million to Castle’s 1) fell through. Writer Lionel Goldstein seems to agree with me that the series is threadbare as only 1/3 of the content is from the book. There were reportedly a ton of rewrites all the way through also.
Susan George is described (perhaps tactfully) as high maintenance. She wanted time off for events, but was told she couldn’t get it due to the tight schedule. She then developed a sore throat. Her doctor’s line said she could work but not talk, thus fulfilling her contract but being absolutely useless to the production, hence why Aunt Jane was written in with some quickly filmed phone calls.
Great review, Fiona – couldn’t have been better.