Malory Towers on TV series two – Episode thirteen

Series three has been online for some time now, but here I am just getting to the end of series two. I don’t think that I’ve made any secret that I haven’t found this series as compelling as the first, but I will save my thoughts on the series as a whole for another post.

The Lost Treasure

All of a sudden it is the very last day of term, and Miss Grayling announces that she is selling Malory Towers – Mr Thomas is arriving at 11 to sign the contract and then the school will be knocked down. Oddly she only announces this to Darrell’s class who already know the plans for the school. Perhaps she goes class to class telling them one at a time – but it just highlights the tiny cast they have to work with most of the time.

She also brings up the issue of the thefts, admitting she has let the girls down with the school but they’ve also let her down with those. Wow she’s really packing in a lot for a last day of term speech. A bit like Voldemort generally waiting until the end of the school year to attack Harry. Miss Grayling demands the thief own up – if only she’d looked at Gwen at that moment she’d have seen the conflicting emotions on her face and known something was up. But she doesn’t, leaving Gwen to escape (for now). She does go up to Miss Grayling’s door later to confess but she chickens out.

The other girls, although disheartened, decide to go for a swim as it’s their last chance. I was muttering at the TV at this point reminding them that they have an 11am deadline to save the school!

Thank god for Ron the gardener’s boy who brings along Georgina’s mirror and Alicia’s pen which he’s found on the beach.

Darrell and Sally go back along the beach with him and find a necklace and the rest of Gwen’s parcel.

Why would our stolen things be in Gwen’s parcel to her mother?

As the viewer of course we know exactly why. In the books the reader doesn’t know and we get to make the same leap of logic as the girls do – though they ruminate for a while about how Daphne got hold of the things they are so sure Ellen stole. Having seen Gwen do all the thieving on screen it makes Sally’s question seem that little bit more stupid.

On screen they go to tackle Gwen having presumably figured it out, whereas in the book they go to Miss Grayling. Gwen – rather unbelievably even for her – denies being the thief. When the girls press her she comes up with one of the worst excuses ever –

I acquired them yes, but I didn’t steal. I planned to give them back to you.

If that was even remotely true she would have slipped the stolen things back into the owner’s trunks or drawers, or left them somewhere they’d be found like she did with Mary-Lou’s coin.

That aside, she also denies knowing about the necklace they found – which turns out to have Lady Jane Malory’s picture inside. Darrell and Sally rush off to check the inventory (I love Gwen’s eager statement about it being something they should definitely check out – hoping to distract them!) and only Alicia remembers about Gwen, dragging her along to confess.

Miss Grayling is nowhere to be found but they confirm the necklace came from the treasure and make their plan. Darrell and Sally are to go looking for the rest of the treasure while Alicia and Gwen are to stall Miss Grayling to stop her signing the sale papers.

For a minute it’s as if they’ve all forgotten about Gwen’s thefts as she says she’s never wheedled in her life and they all burst out laughing. I mean they are of course happy that they are on the track of the treasure and could save the school, but Gwen has not only stolen from just about every girl in their dorm but also let another take the blame. Surely it’s too soon for them to be so friendly?

On the beach Darrell and Sally find a big heavy wooden box which has somehow tumbled from the cliff and travelled twenty or more feet away from the cliff across the sand to land amongst the rocks. I think it would have been much better if it was still sticking in the cliff a short way up and Mary-Lou’s scrabbling around had uncovered it, causing the necklace to fall from a rotten corner of the wood.

In a nice Blytonian twist the seemingly empty box has a false bottom which opens to reveal some rather cheap-looking costume jewellery. Interestingly it is Ron who finds the false bottom after Sally and Darrell turn to walk way, making him the true hero of the story!

They rush back to the school where Mr Thomas remarks that Someone’s raided the costume trunk – only in his fictional world it’s valuable stuff. They have made it just in time, and prevent Miss Grayling from signing the contract. Sadly she doesn’t exactly tell Mr Thomas where to stuff it in the way I’d have liked her to, she’s too polite for that. I know he’s not a true villain – he hasn’t really schemed or plotted to force Miss Grayling into selling but he’s not a nice character and I wish he’d gotten worse than “I’ve changed my mind… I apologise with all my heart.” She even offers to pay all his legal bills!

And finally Gwen gets her comeuppance – or does she? I’ve said all along that making it Gwen is a problematic choice. Miss Grayling gives her a serious talk – though I feel like her serious thief voice is the same as her serious voice for cheating at a quiz, and I know which one that I think is far worse.

She asks Gwen if she has the qualities needed to be a Malory Towers girl, to which I shouted NO at the screen. Gwen says sometimes, like when she rescued Mary-Lou. It’s hard to watch as Gwen is so upset – admitting that she doesn’t belong there and isn’t really a Malory Towers girl. Danya Griver’s acting is really the only thing that keeps this plot from being a total disaster.

Miss Grayling says she would like to give Gwen a second chance but then drops the bombshell – It must be in the hands of your form.

Oh no says Gwen.

Of course we know what the outcome has to be, as we know that Gwen is a main character who is in all the rest of the books. I just find it harder to believe that they would forgive Gwen than Daphne. Daphne obviously has problems as she has stolen before but you can believe that a real fresh start could work for her. Gwen, on the other hand, has stolen, lied, played dirty tricks and engineered others to take the blame and so on.

The thing is that Gwen’s story really isn’t all that sympathy inducing. It boils down to having no pocket money and nobody liking her. She has no pocket money as she’s disappointed her father with her poor school results and she has no friends as she’s been awful to everyone! It’s not as if she’s truly deprived, either. She has plenty of nice things to begin with and half the things she has taken aren’t ‘nice’ either – Darrell’s hanky, a pen, a sewing kit. Even the nicer things she took aren’t the sort of things she’d be likely to buy with her pocket money. If she’d been stealing sweets I’d have understood!

The girls are, of course, the most decent sort. They are kind to a fault, asking Gwen to explain why she did it, saying they’d have helped her out if she’d told them her pocket money was stopped. And of course they give Gwen her second (or rather third, or fourth?) chance, so we know she will be back. Only time will tell if she comes back as bad as ever or if she has learned from this year.

The random sub-plot of this episode is the girls thinking that Mr Parker and Matron are getting married. They overhear him mentioning ‘popping the question’ and using the chapel, and later he’s seen kneeling on the floor in front of her.

Of course it’s all a misunderstanding – he was talking about his girlfriend who we see at the end of term as he leaves for a new job, and he was looking for Ellen’s cat under the furniture.

A couple of additional points that didn’t fit anywhere else.

Mr Thomas flounces off and takes Georgina with him, carrying just her over-night case. I wonder if he will have to come down off his high-horse to arrange her trunk to be collected or delivered later. (It wasn’t going to fit in his sporty little car anyway, so maybe that was already arranged.)

There’s a nice little scene with Matron in the garden and she has a blanket over her lap. Is the school closing mid-year or is it just a very cold July? Also, surely she should be busy handing back the girls health certificates and making sure everyone packs and takes all their belongings etc.

At one point Ellen and Jean say they must find the cat and run into the bathroom just off their dorm. It seemed as if they were running through there to get elsewhere but the door out of the dorm is not in the bathroom, and the cat has never been brought up into the dorm.

Lastly, Alicia tells them that she has been given a trial for a Canadian skating team so she won’t be back for a year. I had heard that the actress didn’t return for series 3 so this is how she is written out, obviously, though it seems to be leaving the door open for her to return in the future.


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5 Responses to Malory Towers on TV series two – Episode thirteen

  1. Sean J Hagins says:

    I’ve asked this some time ago, but I will again here: does anyone know if this is available on DVD, or some other means where I can purchase it? Thanks–Sean


  2. Lapsed Blyton Fan says:

    Danya Griver’s acting is definitely the star of the stealing plot, especially how she finally crumples when realising the impact on Ellen. I actually felt in the book they let Daphne off a bit too easily – it was all about the money, she didn’t even seem that sorry, and it was just her saving Mary-Lou that turned her instantly into a hero. Here they made it more psychological: I think it’s quite common in a boarding school or summer camp setting that someone who feels excluded will start acting out in weird ways, sabotaging possessions or facilities. For Gwen, I don’t think it was really ever about the money.

    I liked that earlier in the series, Darrell and Alicia fell out because Alicia refused to confess to something, and never does. Now here, Alicia is the one determined that Gwen must confess in front of everyone and be shown no mercy. That might even be what edges the other girls into showing Gwen kindness, while – in a handy bit of deus ex machina – it’s Alicia who gets punished, by being written out of the next series.

    I guess the point of the “wheedling” reaction is that Gwen’s inability to laugh at herself is what cuts her off from the others (this develops a bit in Series 3).

    I actually had rather more trouble suspending disbelief for the treasure plot. In real life there would be a lengthy legal battle just to prove the school was the rightful owner, rather than all its financial problems being solved with a snap of the fingers!

    I’ll await your article on the series overall for more general thoughts.


  3. Anonymous says:

    It’s interesting how everyone feels unconvinced by different bits of the plot!

    I thought the stealing plot was really well done, and another vote here for Danya Griver’s acting prowess; she stands out even in a very strong cast. Can’t comment on the book version, but I do think there’s a ‘Malory Towers Girl’ in there- we see flashes of her joining in, being a genuine friend and realising that she often treats others badly (seeing her on the receiving end of the same treatment from Georgina was funny to watch), but she’s tragically self-destructive and keeps making the same mistakes.

    The treasure plot resolved itself quite well (and to be fair treasure appearing at the climax and magically saving the day is a common Blyton trope) though I agree they could’ve done with a better set of props.

    I think I fall more on Miss Grayling’s side with Ellen cheating. It’s the principle that matters, rather than the potential gain. Also, had she taken part and then been found out, it would have damaged Malory Tower’s reputation with other schools even if it was a friendly match.

    My main issue with this episode was writing Mr Parker out by marrying him off; it’s even implied that he’ll be staying local (Miss Grayling offers to put a word in at the local church). That scene with him felt as if it was written for a Miss Parker who was stopping working because she was getting married (as was generally expected in those days), so playing it like that with a man made no sense.

    I’ll follow LBF’s precedent and save my series-as-a-whole comments for another post.


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