I am going to watch the third episode from The Adventure Series this week – and thankfully we are back to a familiar title and hopefully a more familiar plot!
THE ALWAYS MYSTERIOUS PRECREDITS SCENE
This time we are on an unassuming street in “London”. We see a Dumbledore-type briefly before an old and somewhat homeless looking man is abducted into a van by two other men, one with a gun.
The men are ‘Uncle’ Tel and Boris. Well, Tel calls him Boris but it turns out his name is really Ivan. ‘Vot ve do?’ Boris/Ivan asks, as they have been seen by a policeman and now cannot go to the ferry as planned. Obviously, the solution is to gag the old man with a giant chicken’s head they just happen to have in the van and head for the nearest private airport…
UNCLE BILL V UNCLE TEL
Bill, who’s not really an uncle either, is taking the kids and Allie up to Scotland to do some hiking. Since they are pretending to be in England, and not New Zealand, this would only facilitate a short flight in the sort of small, private plane Bill could manage. Can you see where this is leading?
Yes. Exactly as the episode telegraphs it, the kids plus Tel and Boris end up on the same plane together. It’s a bit different from the book though. Bill is off arguing with the air traffic controller (the only staff member in the airport it seems, there’s certainly no security!) about taking off with a storm approaching. That way Tel, Boris and their BLANK get into a plane which the children are already on. They hide because they’ve seen the gun that Tel flashes around all the time.
Allie’s the one to notice the plane taxiing down the runway without them, but it’s Bill who rushes down to the Land Rover to try to prevent the plane taking off. Tel the pilot-without-a-licence manages a rather sharp takeoff however.
FLYING UNDER THE RADAR
The plane ride is actually quite well done, surprisingly! Saying that, Tel sounds like an over-enthusiastic rodeo rider most of the way. The other portion of the flight he spends threatening their hostage, and holding him out the plane’s door.
They are flying low to avoid radar detection, and so manage to get far away without anyone knowing where they’ve gone.
FRITZ AKA OTTO
At first Tel calls the old man Fritz, but it seems he just has a habit of making up names for people. As the man declares, my name is Otto you Cockney clown!
As an aside, Tel is played by a New Zealand actor putting on a (mostly) reasonable Cockney accent. Not that you’d be likely to recognise him but it’s William Kircher who played Bifur in the three Hobbit films. And, the actor playing Otto also plays Lord Foggo in the Secret Series.
Anyway, Bill explains to Allie that Otto (Speir, not Engler) is a gangster who looted church treasures in Eastern Europe in the last war. He is the only survivor of a plane crash (presumably the other passengers were looters too) and has lost his memory. He hasn’t been able to tell anyone where the treasure is hidden, and so it has remained unfound.
The above-mentioned threats of being thrown out a moving plane is enough for Otto to guide them to the Black Mountains and to a valley with no road.
Boris/Ivan, Otto/Fritz and ‘Uncle’ Tel
IN THE VALLEY
There is a big burnt out shed near the place, so far so good! It’s missing great chunks however, so Otto has to be tied to a chair.
The children sneak off and find an old barn to hide in. The valley and the buildings lack the eerie quality you get from the book – it doesn’t convey the same story of families being burnt out of their homes to never return.
Lucy-Ann likes the barn so much, in fact, that she tosses straw up in the air and laughs. Meanwhile, Jack makes his first big mistake and climbs up to the upper floor where he goes to the big loading door and lets himself be seen by Tel and Boris.
He then makes his second (and probably third) big mistake. Despite this being their third adventure he leaves his rucksack behind. Then, saying ‘they’ll know we’ve been there’ he goes back to retrieve it! They already know you were there, Jack, they saw you with their own eyes!
The others aren’t much more use as they decide to ‘hide’ within ten feet of the rear of the barn. Otherwise it’s vaguely familiar to the book. Jack hides in the rafters while Kiki distracts the men. He’s lucky not to be shot to pieces as he then hides up on the roof right before Tel shoots wildly at Kiki.
Meanwhile, Philip finds a lizard. He and the others ooh and ahh over it for about a minute before he abandons it. Nice to know they were so worried about Jack after the gunshots!
Jack gets himself caught by Tel and ends up tied up back-to-back with Otto, so he’s there when Tel makes Otto draw a treasure map for them – Otto saying he’ll tell them the way if he gets a share of the reward for returning the treasures to their rightful owners. Jack also gets let in on the secret that the treasure map is fake, and the real location is near a bear-shaped rock.
The other children have to hide in some sort of cave as it starts to pour. At first it looked like a real cave with roots trailing down, but later it looks more like a pile of twigs with a tarp across the top! Philip finds a tunnel leading out of the back of it, which is just as well because a rock fall blocks the entrance soon after. Despite being ‘so narrow they can’t turn around and go back’ and so dark they need torches, it’s extremely well-lit and looks plenty large.
Dumbledore is actually Father Paul, the uncle of Ivan who he professes to be too simple to pull off a kidnapping. He’s also the Mad Monk from The Secret Island. After being interviewed by Bill he shaves off the beard and long hair and heads out to the Black Mountains too.
BEHIND THE WATERFALL
Amazingly the tunnel actually comes out behind a waterfall. It isn’t the biggest of waterfalls, but it is a waterfall none the less. It doesn’t have a handy dancing ledge either, but you can’t have everything you want in a TV adaptation.
It’s then a Mars bar for breakfast before letting themselves down a rope to leave the waterfall.
THE USUAL TEN MINUTES OF POINTLESS RUNNING IN THE MIDDLE
To summarise: Otto and Jack escape and run into the others, while Tel and Boris run around after them. Otto wants them to help him get into the treasure cave, mostly to bring him a gun to defend themselves with. I can’t see four kids running round with a gun being a great idea though! Otto has his bad heart from the book so doesn’t run as much as the children.
Still, there’s an awful lot of running about thrown in here for no particular reason.
Boris manages to follow the kids back to their cave without them seeing him (he’s rather big, slow and lumbering) and almost climbs right into up their rope as they leave it dangling until the very last minute.
THE TREASURE CAVE
With Otto recaptured the children set off to find the treasure. It’s not like in the book where they do it because they have found they cannot leave the valley, and are desperate for something to keep their spirits up, though.
They hunt for the bear-shaped rock without a map or guide, and find it fairly easily as soon as they think ‘maybe it fell apart’.
Having found the rock they literally walk right into the treasure cave. It is booby-trapped with giant spiky traps that fall from the roof and padlocked metal doors. Inside, with the treasures is a machine gun.
Otto arrives with Tel, Boris and Father Paul, having struck a deal, but immediately double crosses them by grabbing the machine gun and instigating a stand-off.
They then agree to share again – but in the treasure itself and not in the reward for returning it. Father Paul doesn’t approve at all, and Boris backs up his uncle. Both of them end up locked in with the children while Otto and Tel go off to bring in extra muscle to move the treasure.
DOUBLE CROSSING THE DOUBLE CROSS
Things continue to be over-complicated as Otto immediately double-crosses his double-crossing partner by nabbing his gun. Tel grabs the discarded machine gun, but discovers it doesn’t fire when he tries to kill Otto. Clearly there are going to be trust issues in this tenuous pairing. Despite that, Otto somehow talks Tel into giving him a cuddyback (I believe this is known as a piggyback in other parts of the UK).
To preserve torchlight, Dinah and Lucy-Ann light candles in the extremely bright room, then extinguish a lot of them with no effect on the lighting levels ‘to make them last longer.’
Though they make no impact on the lighting, the candles do provide the clue that there’s a draft coming in. This leads them to a giant grate which opens into a tunnel of flowing water. Flooding issues aside, this seems their only way out.
Boris, their new friend, offers up a torch and Dinah and Philip escape together, riding down a water-slide back to the pool under their waterfall.
Philip then sneaks aboard the plane while Jack and Lucy-Ann start singing with the Russians, because apparently Russians sing when they are sad.
THE FINAL FIGHT
Otto and Tel return again, this time with their men, and expect Boris to help them. A fight then breaks out over the ugliest Madonna statue you ever saw. I’m not kidding, it’s the spitting image of Jesus in the Spanish fresco botched by a well-meaning old lady.
Anyway, that’s when Bill and his mates swoop in to save the day, and the ugly Madonna falls on Otto who has grabbed Jack and Lucy-Ann as hostages. And Boris punches Tel for calling him Boris all the time.
This is probably the episode closest to the book so far, out of both this series and the Secret Series. I still wonder why they made them an hour and twenty minutes long though. They have cut a great many inconsequential moments which added so much to the books, and replaced them with a lot of running around and ‘dramatic’ moments.
This is such a great book and it’s such a shame that the old couple (and Martha) have been omitted. I also missed Juan, Pepe and the real Otto Engler. It was quite unsettling to never know if he was really a misunderstood old man trying to reform or if he was just as bad as the bad guys.
Despite a long run-time it also seemed rather rushed. There was no home-making in the cave, no long walk to find the bombed valley pass. They didn’t spend much time looking for the treasure cave either.
All in all it was a decent episode though, without any ridiculous ghostly additions for once!
P.S. The theme song really grows on you. You can hear it in full here.