Several people have told me that The Adventure Series got a better adaptation than The Secret Series did, so here I am about to test that theory.
FIRST UP: THE THEME SONG
This sounds like it should be part of a classic 80s film montage, but it is actually quite catchy too. It makes marginally more sense than the one from the Secret Series as well. (My boyfriend did complain about the lack of secret encoooounters!)
Wherever we go only the brave will follow.
Together we stand, that’s what friends are for.
Forever we try, we know the final sacrifice.
Whatever the price,
And when the night falls – don’t be afraid.
But whisper that forever you’ll stay,
Whatever the danger you gotta be strong
So trust in your heart
You can’t go wrong, be true
I’ll always stand by you x 2
I’ll always be true
I’ll always stand by you
THE PRE-CREDIT SCENE
As with all the Secret Series episodes this one opens with a short dramatic scene. A man runs along dark, dramatic cliffs carrying a bag. Hulk Hogan, with grey hair badly in need of a cut, is chasing him. The man trips, his bag explodes sending money flying everywhere. Hulk Hogan laughs.
Can’t you just tell this is a baddie?
MEETING THE CHILDREN
They are playing paintball in the woods when we first see them. Kiki startles them and Jack falls from the tree to get shot at. Jack, Lucy-Ann and Philip already know each other from being at this summer activity camp together.
As a token nod to Philip’s animal taming abilities he rescues a ferret from those plastic rings you get on beer cans. “Careful – it’s liable to bite!” Jack warns in a lovely piece of stiff dialogue, but Philip says he’s good with animals. Not that he encounters another animal for the entire episode.
Lucy-Ann is played by the same actress as Laura from the Secret Series, so if I start talking about Laura, I mean Lucy-Ann. Jack is faintly red-haired and so Lucy-Ann is nothing like him – she also doesn’t look any younger than he is.
The reason for the Trents not being able to go home is that their Uncle Peter has chicken pox and can’t fly home, their Auntie Steph is stuck in quarantine with him. I suppose that’s sort of Blytonesque. He could just have broken his leg, though!
Philip has ‘just moved into a massive house’ so instead of the Trents being stuck with an awful neighbour he invites them to stay with him.
Over at Craggy Tops is a blonde woman who must be Mrs Mannering. I suspect there will be no Uncle Jocelyn and no poor Aunt Polly, then. Joe is a pleasant seeming white man who even offers to pick Philip up from the station, and is helping with the opening of the Mannering gallery.
Philip phones and Mrs M is disconcerted to know he’s bringing ‘two orphans and a parrot’. Joe asks, jokingly, if he won the raffle. And there in an uncle – ‘ancient’ Uncle Joss! I suppose there has to be someone to produce old maps still, unless Jack could have downloaded them to the tablet-type device he has. Uncle Joss is British and a war veteran who is always talking about what fever he had in Rangoon (a little Blyton reference?) and so on. He’s described as seeming grumpy but a good laugh, really.
Surprisingly Dinah runs and hugs Philip – his lack of animals clearly means she likes him more. A somewhat conspicuous open top roadster has been following the Mannerings around – could this be a full-head-of-haired Bill Smugs?
Craggy Tops is naturally a bit of a let-down. OK, it’s by the sea but it’s a regular large house – extremely similar to Spiggy Holes. It may actually be the exact same house. It’s neither crumbling nor built into the rocks. I suspect there will be no mattress on the floor of a window-less tower. There IS a cellar at least, which was supposed to be an old smuggler’s house.
“Craggy Tops” and a less than gloomy island.
The Isle of Gloom is rather long and near, and only slightly obscured by fog. Joe openly tells them that it’s no longer inhabited, but there were copper mines over there. He does decline to take them over, though, saying the tides and rocks are too dangerous. I really can’t figure him out. Is he a criminal mastermind? Is he a good guy? Is he a good guy who is being forced into doing bad things?
So Bill comes to the gallery opening and introduces himself as Bill Cunningham – not very good secret agent behaviour! He wants to buy a painting of the Isle of Gloom, but Joe tries to tell him it isn’t for sale. Bill charms Mrs M into having the painting now, instead of at the end of the month after the gallery display ends. He takes it back to his shack and lifts the back to reveal… a load of banknotes! I think I see Joe’s part in the illicit goings on now.
Bill, Joe and Allie
Oh Bill… what sort of secret agent opens the front door in the dark and lets himself get cracked over the head? And then lets all the money get stolen! Uncle Joss apparently went out in the night mysteriously… but as I suspected the person who attacked Bill was a woman.
Mrs M takes Bill into town to see about repairing his broken painting frame, but he arouses Jack’s suspicions by coming up with a bird that doesn’t exist. Why he didn’t just say ‘a lot of gulls’ or something… in the book they don’t figure out he’s not a real ornithologist for ages.
Bill and Mrs M are getting on very well, their romance seems to have started already. It’s a real shame they have chosen to make it seem like he could be the bad guy as we then miss out on his natural friendship with the children.
Jake – aka Hulk Hogan – is the framer. The mystery deepens.
SECRET PASSAGES AND THINGS ON THE CLIFFS
The children then do some cave exploring, in a cave that has seaweed six feet long hanging from the ceiling. They also use torches despite it being very bright inside. The hole which is extremely well-hidden in the book could not be more obvious here – it’s the size of a Mini. The boys still manage to blunder into it. At least we get a bit of Dinah/Philip arguing here.
The boys follow the tunnel and end up in the cellars of Craggy Tops.
Uncle Joss goes out wandering at night for some reason and the boys go out as well and see Jake unloading boxes from a boat. He chases them into the caves where they are able to escape to the house. This rather falls flat on screen as unlike in the book he just laughs and leaves them. In the book Jo-Jo sits and waits all day then is horrified that they got past him and back to the house without him knowing.
THE ADVENTURE REALLY STARTS
The children are so suspicious of Bill they want to tell Joe all about it, but Bill then takes them out in his boat. He has a huge motor-boat with a cabin, sat-nav and sonar. This wins the children over a little, though they suspect the sonar-lure they have dropped for him is so he can go back to the island alone and do something nefarious.
I suppose it’s fairly clever – making Bill very suspicious and later having Joe seem suss. I’m sure children who hadn’t read the books wouldn’t know who was up to what. But why does Bill use children he hardly knows to set up the sonar? It seems very foolish.
After the trip Dinah overhears Bill on his radio and sees a gun through the window. The children steal his boat (they feel justified as they “know” he is up to no good) and go to the island. In the mines they all see money being printed and get caught by Jake/Hulk Hogan.
The mines seem very modern – all brick walls and proper lighting. They don’t seem at all like old under-sea mines. Jack is the only one to get locked in a room.
The others end up in a mine cart and take a dramatic ride out into the open. The enormous boat is not at all visible or suspicious in broad daylight… no surprise Joe sees them coming back without Jack.
Joe cuts the phone wires at Craggy Tops to stop anyone calling for help. Philip goes off to use Bill’s radio (in the book he goes to get Bill’s help as they trust him, and comes acros the radio by chance). Uncle Joss has been tied up and gagged, and Bill drops bombshell that Joe’s a forger.
So, how to rescue Jack? Joe has stolen Bill’s boat. Nobody has to pore over old maps, and there is no sense of history at all. Dinah just glances at a framed map on the wall (a really bland detail-less one which had been left by previous owners) and sees a dotted line between the island and the house. Then they easily find an enormous trap door in the cellars.
Bill is a poor secret agent again and is very loud in the tunnels, allowing them all to be caught. There is lots more pointless torch pointing in perfectly well-lit areas.
Too little night-filter
Mrs M returns home to find Uncle Joss alone. “You’d better have a ginger nut, my dear,” he says before breaking the news.
The ?army have been drafted in via helicopter to come to the rescue, and the men do plan to blow up the mines. Bill picks the lock and they get out of the room, while Mrs M bravely goes to head down the tunnel. It’s rather late, though, as the explosives have already gone off causing an atrocious CGI flood to rush through the tunnels.
They escape without having to float their way up a mine shaft, to find that most of the men have been caught by the army. Only Joe is missing and he shoots Kiki then runs away and Bill’s first in pursuit… but Joe falls off a cliff in a clumsy moment (think Gaston at the end of Beauty and the Beast).
Don’t worry, by the way, Kiki was fine.
So. That was… ok, really? It was certainly interesting throughout, and enjoyable.
It’s a real pity Bill’s role has been messed with so much, I think that is my biggest problem. I don’t mind having Mrs M in it so much, her gallery being used to hide the forged money was a clever tie-in. Philip’s lack of animals and Dinah’s lack of temper are also disappointing. I may have missed a few details but I was left wondering about the identity of the woman who attacked Bill, and whether Uncle Joss ever did go wandering at night.
The acting was better and there were no creepy monks or strange magics. They did retain a great deal of the original characters and plots even if they had to change them around a fair bit.