Malory Towers on TV – Episodes nine and ten

Malory Towers went on the iPlayer very early in the lock down, so early April and here I am just getting to episodes nine and ten (of thirteen). I know a lot of people binged it but I watch two episodes and make notes, then it takes me a few days to turn those notes into a review. If I watched more than two I’d forget even more than I already do – I already frequently have to re watch bits and pieces to get the details. Then I go through for screen grabs to add, so it’s not a quick process. And as I said on Monday I’ve got so many ideas I have to alternate them.

Anyway, previous reviews are below:

Episodes one and two
Episodes three and four
Episodes five and six
Episodes seven and eight

Episode nine

This episode opens with more ghostly goings-on. Sally’s still in the san and she sees a figure in a dark cloak cross the room and go through a door. Yet in the morning Margaret and Matron reveal that the door is just a cupboard and is devoid of any figures ghostly or otherwise. Sally insists she saw the person and that they never came out again. As the viewers saw the (presumably real) person too, I’m intrigued as to where they disappeared to.

The main story line of the episode then revolves around Sally and her future at Malory Towers.

Her parents intend for her to go home and not return to the school. Naturally Darrell thinks it’s all her fault as she interfered and wrote a letter to Mrs Hope telling her how unhappy Sally was, and she goes to see Sally. Sally is pretty annoyed that Darrell wrote, and admits she does have a sister. She reveals that she was sent to boarding school the day her mother and sister came home from the hospital and that they don’t want her at home. However she also says that she doesn’t want to go home because she loves Malory Towers.

In fact she wants to stay so badly that she runs off to hide with the intention that her parents can’t take her home if they can’t find her.

Matron carries on being absolutely awful and instead of informing Miss Potts who seems to be in charge during Miss Grayling’s absence she has the other first formers search for Sally. Alicia and Katherine find Gwen loitering about with something in her hands, at first I thought it was perhaps Darrell’s work book taken from Pamela’s desk, but it could be a magazine. She’s certainly hiding but I couldn’t work out the significance.

Anyway, Mrs Hope arrives and still nobody apart from Matron and a few girls know that Sally’s missing until Irene puts her foot in it, in a rather funny farcical conversation with Miss Potts.

Darrell finds Sally who is hiding… down by her bed in her dorm. Mrs Hope and Miss Potts then come to the dorm and the girls hide under Sally’s bed. They then listen to the conversation where Mrs Hope admits that she was very ill after the birth and wanted Sally to go to school so that she didn’t get stuck being a carer. This is a bit kinder than in the book where Mrs Hope admits that when Sally became withdrawn and difficult after her sister was born that they sent her away to make things easier!

They have a touching reunion and Sally declares she wants to stay.

The second plot is an advancement on Darrell’s reading/writing problems.

In remedial she says the text is jumping over the page and uses that as an excuse to see Matron (and Sally) as above. Pamela discovers that Darrell writes everything out twice, a rough draft then a tidier second version. Darrell says she’s just “slow” and has always been that way but Miss Potts says she may have ‘word blindness’ – which we now call dyslexia. The term dyslexia has been around almost as long as word blindness (both date from the late 1800s), but it seems likely that the less medical term of word blindness would have been used in this scenario – it was still heavily used by scientists as late as the mid 1920s at least. (Here’s an interesting history of the discovery of dyslexia and some of the work that went into understanding the condition, which includes a little information on the word blindness v dyslexia).

I still think that it would have been better for another girl to have dyslexia, rather than Darrell who is known for her skill as a writer. I know that dyslexia doesn’t affect someone’s ability to create ideas and stories, but in the books she’s a skilful writer in all respects. Saying that it does show how much resilience and fortitude she has, doing all that extra work and covering up how much she struggles.

The third plot is about Pamela and Gwen and sets us up for the next episode. We suddenly discover that Malory Towers has monitors – but they are not the monitors we know from the Naughtiest Girl books. It’s more like the St Clare’s books where the younger girls are expected to wait on the higher forms. In St Clare’s it isn’t well explained but it seems as if there is a rough sort of rota whereby the girls take it turns to wait on the upper forms.

The only monitor we know of at Malory Towers is Sally, who waits on Pamela. With Sally supposed to be going home Miss Potts asks for a volunteer to replace her as monitor and Gwen eagerly volunteers. Now we know that Gwen is only ever out for herself and it seems she has volunteered at least partly because Mary-Lou says that Darrell would love to be a monitor, but isn’t there to put herself forward.

Surprisingly Miss Potts agrees and Gwen begins her new role and is immediately useless. I’m sure in St Clare’s there’s a minor story where one of the younger girls is deliberately terrible (spreading boot polish on toast for example) to get out of the chores, but Gwen is genuinely hopeless. She obviously isn’t pleased at being asked to make cocoa (perhaps she saw herself as more of a companion than a maid) and has to admit she doesn’t know how to make cocoa. We get a tiny glimpse at a not-so-awful Gwen as she says she didn’t want to admit she couldn’t do it.

The episode ends with the ghost again as Darrell finds the cloak – proving it is indeed a real person.

Episode ten

I don’t think there is a single thing in this episode from the books and that’s why it is the weakest one so far.

It’s called “The Dress” and that’s what it revolves around. There is a debutante in the sixth form about to be, well, debuted. (I can’t help but think that Miss Grayling would not hold with such nonsense in her school!)

Gwen has obviously learned from the St Clare’s story line and brings Pamela burnt toast, hoping to get out of being her monitor so that she could be the debutante’s monitor instead (surely the debutante already has one?) and Darrell becomes Pamela’s monitor instead.

Meanwhile Darrell discovers that Pamela is planning to leave Malory Towers despite only being in the lower sixth. She assumes it is financial problems and talks to Miss Potts but, not exactly a big shock, it turns out that Pamela is the debutante.

It may have been pretty obviously telegraphed but I did enjoy seeing Gwen’s face when she realises she’s entirely messed up.

Pamela clearly isn’t very happy about being a debutante – perhaps that’s why she looks far prettier as a schoolgirl than when she is done up in her dress. (I don’t know if that was an intentional thing done with makeup etc or purely her well acted misery showing through). I get a bit rage-y thinking about the pure misogyny involved in all this – Pamela explains it’s her responsibility to be debuted into society as she needs to find a husband in order to provide an heir and to help her run her family’s estate when it comes to her. (I’m disappointed to see that debutantes are still a ‘thing’ even without the royal connections. I also think it’s very weird that girls of 16-20 essentially dress as brides for their debut).

Anyway, Darrell can’t resist interfering and books Pamela a place on the open day at the teacher training college she had wanted to go to. Understandably Pamela is furious – she’s clearly unhappy but has made up her mind that debuting is the right thing to do. Darrell only makes things worse by then trying on Pamela’s dress and getting caught in the act. Pamela is also furious about this, but really, how silly is it to store a couture dress in an unlocked classroom?

My notes for this scene basically read “DARRELL, NO!” It’s such an idiotic thing to do. It’s such a non-Darrell thing to do. Far more up Gwen’s street.

And of course the zip gets stuck and of course they rip the sash and scatter the beads as Gwen tries to help her out of it. Obviously they scramble to fix this and persuade Emily into helping, only one of the pearls is missing. Gwen has a pearl hair pin (she mentioned this before) and so goes to fetch it, only she’s wearing the flipping dress as she insisted it would be easier for Emily to fix if it was on a person, despite there being a mannequin bust there for the dress. Yes, Gwen, wearing a debutante dress several sizes too big goes all the way through the school to fetch a hair pin which Darrell could have gone for.

It’s obvious they had two dresses made as although it’s clearly too big on the chest for both Darrell and Gwen, that a dress that reaches the floor when Pamela wears it is only trailing an inch on the floor when the first formers wear it.

There’s a reason, though, because they needed Gwen to scare Alicia, Irene and Mary-Lou when they think she’s the ghost. In further inexplicable silliness she then wears the pin back and then dithers over whether or not to let Emily take it to fix the dress.

Pamela forgives Darrell and explains to her the deal with her family’s estate and so on.

“I love that there are girls out there that are breaking with tradition, who’ll make new paths for the rest of us to follow. We can’t all be pioneers, Darrell Rivers.”

I can’t help but feel that’s a cop out.

Apart from nothing in this episode being from the books I can’t see anything that was necessary for the advancement of the plot of the series. Darrell is to lose Pamela as a coach and mentor but that could have been dealt with in thirty seconds, it did not need a full episode! Obviously I haven’t seen the remaining three episodes but I imagine you could skip this one entirely and not miss anything.

Random thoughts

It strikes me as odd some of the things they change. Why does Matron (or Miss Potts) come and wake them every day? In the books there is a bell rung, so presumably a maid would go to each tower and ring it from a spot where each dorm could hear it. Here you’ve got a matron or teacher having to go to each dorm, or four of them sharing the towers, to wake the girls. Who’s got time for that?

The benefit in this episode was that we got this little conversation:

“The early bird catches the worm.”

“Yeah but the early worm gets eaten.”

“Interesting you see yourself as the worm in this, Alicia”

The whole monitor thing made no sense, as I said above it has never been mentioned before and I’m not sire that the term ‘monitor’ fits the role. In the books the girls take it in turns to be (class)room monitor each week which means changing the water in the flower vases, wiping down the blackboard, tidying up, restocking chalk and dusters and so on. So they monitor the readiness of the classroom for the next lesson. At Whyteleaf monitors are a panel who monitor behaviour at the school and provide advice.

At St Clare’s the similar role is just called ‘waiting on’ the girls, while Roald Dahl talks about ‘fagging’ at his public school – clearly not a term I’d expect to hear now (then again one of the roles of the fags was warming the seats of the outdoor toilets, how very un-Blyton).

The name of the role aside, why when Gwen fails does Darrell get the job? Surely as Sally isn’t leaving she could go back to it.

It’s a shame that Miss Grayling is missing from these two episodes. Miss Potts is brilliant as always but Miss Grayling adds a little more gravitas. I wonder if the actress simply wasn’t available?

Sally’s plan strikes me as really stupid. Her mother was hardly going to leave while she was missing – and even if she did, as soon as Sally reappeared the school would ship her on home! It’s also ludicrous that she and Darrell hide under the very bed Mrs Hope sits on and have a conversation without Mrs Hope or Miss Potts hearing them.

On a positive note, we get a few glimpses of the grounds (not sure if some of these are actually the grounds of where it was filmed) but they are beautiful.

I’m particularly intrigued by the doorway into the slope in the last screen grab.

Lastly, they do nothing to make the forms less confusing in the show! Blyton was always very vague and girls moved up and down, and then suddenly we had upper and lower forms… Pamela is in the lower sixth, and expected to move up to the upper sixth the next year so exactly how many years would she spend at the school?

I still recommend the show but it’s clear that the more they deviate from the source material the less believable the story gets!

Next post – Malory Towers on TV – episodes eleven and twelve

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18 Responses to Malory Towers on TV – Episodes nine and ten

  1. Sean J Hagins says:

    Ok, now that I read your review-I admit, there are two things that you are disparaging which we did in school in Canada-and I always thought it CAME FROM THE UK! The first is fagging. It was kind of hazing, but it had to be within boundaries. The freshmen got to wait on the seniors (carrying books, sorting notes and such). I thought this was a British thing formerly, but you seem to poo-poo it. Am I wrong?

    The other is debutantes. I told you that I am a photographer, right? Well, I’ve shot a couple debutante parties, and again, I thought that was a British carryover. I mean you obviously know of it, but you regard it as foolishness. This surprises me (I am not trying to change your opinion, I just want a bit more understanding-I thought this was a beloved thing in the UK)

    Please explain. Thanks


    • Fiona says:

      As far as I know both fagging and debutantes go back quite far in British history and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they had then spread to the colonies. I don’t have a particular problem with junior students waiting on the seniors, though I can absolutely understand why they might hate it! Hazing, however, is just bullying in my eyes.

      I have a problem with the whole debutante thing because I’m a feminist. I think it’s ridiculous for young women – especially today – to be paraded at a ball like it was a meat market in the hope of luring a husband. I suspect (and very much hope) that many debutante balls now are on a more equal footing for men and women,(though I read an account of a ball in 2013 which had the young women held in a gilded cage and then released by the male attendees…) but that is the history of them. A history of women having no opportunities in life other than to marry well and provide heirs (whether or not she could stand her husband was often irrelevant). Women didn’t have a right to an education, they were often the property of their husbands and a husband could not legally be held accountable for raping his wife. Why on earth anyone would want to continue to celebrate that sort of tradition is beyond me.
      There’s also a class problem whereby only the rich – and the rich with the right connections to make them eligible – could attend, and despite reading various articles on the modern debutante balls in America where “anyone can attend” they often still require sponsorship from the host club which most likely requires contacts, money, social status or all three.
      From what I can see the few deb balls that still occur in the UK are primarily foreign affairs for women from Russia and China amongst others. None of the younger members of the royal family were presented. True debutante balls, where the women were presented at court to royalty were abolished in 1958 by Queen Elizabeth (I would say good on her, but she stopped them because people who otherwise weren’t eligible were buying their way in so it had become “too corrupt”…)
      There’s some interesting history here including how different Australian deb balls are to the original idea.
      Hope that explains things a little.


      • Sean J Hagins says:

        Well, I too totally disagree with things being exclusively for the rich. (The job I photographed was-and yes, that was wrong) As a Jehovah’s Witness, we don’t believe in spotlighting people, or making a show.

        So, I do see what you are getting at there.

        I’m not sure how you define feminism, but we do not believe in putting women down. We do believe though that men are the head of a household and responsible for certain things-although, they should never be a dictator.


        • Fiona says:

          I would define feminism as the belief that men and women are equal, and should be treated as such. That would include there being absolutely no logical reason for a man to be the head of a household simply because he is a man. (In fact why would anyone need to be head of a household? Surely two adults of any gender should be equal partners with an equal say in decision making.) I’m not married to my partner but we share the responsibilities and decision making (as well as housework and childcare equally).

          Liked by 1 person

          • Sean J Hagins says:

            I see. Well, as a Christian, I follow the standards in the bible. One of which is the basic principle of headship as set out at 1 Corinthians 11:3: “The head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.”

            Man’s Place. The first part of this counsel on headship applied to the man; he is not independent and without need to recognize a “head.” Rather, he is obliged to follow the directions and pattern provided by his head, Christ. (1Jo 2:6) This is so not only in regard to his religious activities (Mt 28:19, 20) but also in his personal activities. For instance, if he is a family man, then out of respect for his own head, Christ, he should comply with the counsel to dwell with his wife according to knowledge, ‘assigning her honor as to a weaker vessel,’ and he should put forth an earnest effort to train his children properly. (1Pe 3:7; Eph 6:4) This counsel was provided in the Bible for all in Christ’s congregation; so respect for headship is involved in a man’s heeding it.​—Eph 5:23.

            As man had priority in human creation, he is given priority of position over the woman. (1Ti 2:12, 13) The woman was made from a rib taken from the man and was bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh. (Ge 2:22, 23) She was created for the sake of the man, not the man for her sake. (1Co 11:9) Therefore, the woman, in God’s arrangement for the family, was always to be in subjection to her husband and was not to usurp his authority. (Eph 5:22, 23; 1Pe 3:1) Also, in the Christian congregation the woman is not to teach other dedicated men nor to exercise authority over them.​—1Ti 2:12.

            Among the Hebrews of ancient times the superior position occupied by the man in the family and in the tribal arrangement was recognized. Sarah was submissive, calling Abraham “lord,” and is favorably mentioned for this recognition of his headship. (Ge 18:12; 1Pe 3:5, 6) Under the Law covenant the preferred position of the male was emphasized. Only the males were required by command to assemble for the three festivals of Jehovah at the place that God chose, although women also attended. (De 16:16) The woman was ceremonially “unclean” twice as long after the birth of a baby girl as after that of a baby boy.​—Le 12:2, 5.

            Woman’s Place. In ancient times, there were circumstances under which a woman put on a head covering to denote subjection. (Ge 24:65) Discussing the headship arrangement in the Christian congregation, the apostle Paul explained that if a woman prays or prophesies in the congregation, occupying a position God has assigned to the man, she should have on a head covering. In temporarily doing these things because no dedicated male Christian is present to do them, even though she may have long hair, the woman should not argue that her long hair is sufficient to denote her subjection. Instead, she should let her own actions demonstrate her submissiveness and her acknowledgment of man’s headship. The Christian woman does this by wearing a head covering as “a sign of authority.” This should be done “because of the angels,” who observe the Christian’s actions and who, as those ministering to the Christian congregation, are concerned with it. By wearing a head covering when necessary for spiritual reasons, the Christian woman acknowledges God’s headship arrangement.​—1Co 11:5-16; Heb 1:14.

            This proper theocratic order in the congregation and in the family arrangement does not hinder the woman in serving God, nor does it impede her efforts in carrying out her family activities and responsibilities. It allows her full and Scriptural freedom to serve in her place, while still being pleasing to God in harmony with the principle: “God has set the members in the body, each one of them, just as he pleased.” (1Co 12:18) Many women of ancient times had fine privileges while recognizing the headship of the man and enjoyed happy and satisfying lives. Among these were Sarah, Rebekah, Abigail, and Christian women such as Priscilla and Phoebe.

            Responsibility. The exercise of authorized headship grants certain rights, but it also involves duties or obligations. ‘Christ is head of the congregation’ and so has the right to make decisions involving it and demonstrate authority over it. (Eph 5:23) But his headship also obliges him to accept the duty of caring for the congregation and bearing responsibility for his decisions. In a similar manner, a husband in exercising his headship has certain rights as to making final decisions and providing oversight. In addition, though, he has the duty to accept responsibility for his family. He has the primary obligation to provide materially and spiritually for his household.​—1Ti 5:8.

            The Christian man is to exercise his headship wisely, loving his wife as himself. (Eph 5:33) Jesus Christ exercises his headship over the Christian congregation in this manner. (Eph 5:28, 29) As head over his children, a father is not to irritate them but is to bring them up “in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Eph 6:4) And as shepherds of the flock of God, “older men” in the Christian congregation are not to lord it over God’s “sheep” but are to remember their subjection to Jesus Christ and Jehovah God. (1Pe 5:1-4) Jesus Christ has always acted in accord with the headship principle, manifesting full recognition of his Father’s headship in word and deed. Even after ruling the earth for a thousand years, he will acknowledge Jehovah’s universal headship by handing the Kingdom over to Jehovah, subjecting “himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.” (1Co 15:24-28; Joh 5:19, 30; 8:28; 14:28; Php 2:5-8) Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, also acknowledge Jehovah’s supreme headship, addressing their prayers to him and recognizing him as Father and God Almighty.​—Mt 6:9; Re 1:8; 11:16, 17

            Liked by 1 person

            • Emily says:

              England isn’t hugely religious, we have a bad history of religious wars, so quoting the bible isn’t going to be helpful. 1947 was changing society, in a completely different world. Education like Malory Towers was only possible for the wealthy. Large parts of the country were in rubble, rationing, children had grown up through the war. Their fathers may have fought. Women had worked during the war, millions of men had died or been injured or traumatised by the war. The country was broke. Women could work until they married, women like Miss Potts was given the choose and wanted to work and have a career, not be married. Pamela chose to be married because she couldn’t have a career and produce an heir which was expected of her. They don’t know what the 60s will bring…
              There is a conflict in Malory Towers with changing values. Darrell and Sally are ambitious for the new world and to seize the opportunities. But many of the girls come from families trying to hold on to the old ways, especially the rich, the grand landowners. Sally who seems to understand people so well, puts it perfectly Pamela is more of a Gwen who wanted to go to Finishing School, than a Darrell who is ambitious to do more. They are bluestockings.


            • Emily Johnson says:

              Enid Blyton was a fairly progressive writer in many ways, she was feminist in many ways and wrote about schools that gave girls an opportunity, to play sports, find talents and not be a wife and mother. Career women who go to university, art school, nursing school….Characters like George in the Famous Five who didn’t want to wear dresses or have long hair.


      • Millie says:

        I think the debutante balls were realistic for the time….and after the war, with so many sons not coming home, the pressure was on the women to keep up those big estates…There was a desperation to try and protect that life, which was threatened and changing….Pamela was most likely an aristocrat…I hate the idea too of Deb balls and a woman leaving school to get married and throw away her ambition. She didn’t feel she had a choice, she did what her family wanted. I liked the episode because of Gwen and her clear love of beautiful clothes, and the way she lived a dream in the dress. I liked it when Sally pointed out that Pamela is more of a Gwen than a Darrell….and that she can’t change that. Gwen is expected to be ladylike and has traditional views, she can’t imagine having to work. My mother went to boarding school in the 50’s, and also went to a Deb Ball but rejected that life. The difference of 12 years…


  2. Abi Brün says:

    Personally, I think the purpose of Gwen hiding the magazine behind her back was that she wasn’t helping in the search and instead skiiving off and that’s why she didn’t want anyone to see her magazine but I could be wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ellie says:

    We had lower sixth and upper sixth at my (comprehensive) school and it was just years 12 and 13. I have heard though that in the old system in at least some private schools, lower and upper fourth and lower and upper fifth were a year each, meaning that our year 7 would have been Third Form in old money, and the first form (intake from prep school) would have been aged about eight or nine. Is that contradicted by anything in the books do you know?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nakia says:

      Yeah, in Malory Towers, Darrell started first form when she was twelve, and the books said something along the lines of “Malory Towers didn’t accept girls below the age of twelve”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Anonymous says:

    I was watching episode 9 on family channel and when they speek you can’t heard a word they say for the hold episode, their speech his replace with random sound, like laughing children, a pendulum, You can still heard theme close the door, the sound of grabing a piece of paper, hopefully episode 10 does not keep that style. If they going to air an episode that your are force to read the book to found out what his going on, then don’t air the show at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lapsed Blyton fan says:

    Personally I thought Episode 9 the weak one of the series – and also the weak point of the book. OK, the Sally plotline keeps her out of the running as a best friend until Darrell has begun to have doubts about Alicia. But the hiding in the dorm is silly, and the bit with Gwen and the magazine is definitely weird – I can only assume there’s a deleted scene there. It’s also odd that Miss Potts congratulates Darrell for writing to Sally’s mother, when it’s already been established that going over the heads of the teachers and prefects is precisely what she shouldn’t be doing. With the monitor role, I can see why they chose to borrow the idea (a mild, debased form of fagging) from St Clare’s. But the way it’s presented, it just doesn’t make sense that the girls are all fighting to do this. I don’t mind the dyslexia storyline though: for me it complements Darrell’s other issues rather than seeming like overload.

    So help me, I liked Episode 10. Partly because the debutante topic generates such strong audience reactions. But also I think it subtly sets the Darrell-Gwen relationship up for what comes next. Darrell makes a definite mistake – she interferes in Pamela’s life, even after both Pamela and Sally have warned her not to. While Gwen is so in love with the dress that she briefly lets her guard right down. You can see the other girls think this is actually rather sweet and are rolling with it, but Gwen can’t quite cope with that and throws her barriers straight back up.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Millie says:

    Sally being sent to boarding school was a result of bad communication. If she had known her mother was ill, she would have worried about being away…in the book, she was sent away because she was jealous and unhappy, making her even more unhappy.


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