Now the general consensus from Blytonites is that Five Are Together Again is one of the weakest series endings to come from Blyton, and that it really isn’t the best adventure the Five could have ended on. If you think the book is poor, then maybe its easier to understand why there are so many changes to the script in this one. Its almost like a completely new adventure based on the bones of the original – a little like Five Have a Wonderful Time – except no broken leg had to be accommodated this time.
So many of you know that the basis of this book is; the Kirrin cousins go to stay with Tinker Hayling because George’s parents are in quarantine for scarlet fever because Joan the cook has come down with the illness. However in the 90s adaptation the children have just been sent to stay with Tinker while his father stays with the Kirrins as the two professors need to work. The Five and Tinker are left without adult supervision as the Hayling’s cook/housekeeper is no where to be seen! Once again it’s left to Julian to be the responsible one, making Marco Williamson’s Julian even harder to like as he assumes the air of superiority. It really doesn’t help the case for Julian not being seen as a bossy boots at all!
The biggest change to the story line is the introduction of the Japanese garden, where a lot of the action seems to take place in the adaptation. In the book Kirrin Island is the destination chosen by George to hide the papers that had been stolen. The Japanese garden doesn’t seem even half as safe as Kirrin Island does, even if you know the end of the story (I must admit I have a hazy memory of it but I haven’t read it in years) but I suspect the change in story had to come from the fact that the production company Zenith had pulled out of the series by the time the second series came around. So the use of some of the sets was pulled, which obviously made it harder to follow some of the story lines to a T.
The framework of the plot is there, but there is a lot that just doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t really flow, and the weakest book seems to have translated into the weakest TV episode. The use of the chimp Charlie was very well done – he wasn’t over or under used but his comic element wasn’t really there mostly I suppose because of time. Even with a poor plot like Together Again, 25 minutes is not enough to convey the proper comedic timings or various characters. There are some good scenes in the book of flare ups between Tinker and the others, not to mention Jenny the housekeeper and Professor Hayling. Also the discovery of the ransacked study in the tower at the bottom of the Hayling’s garden is much less dramatic than in the books. Instead of an anguished howl from the professor it’s sort of met by flat disbelief from the Five who discover the mess.
Tinker also seems to have lost a few brain cells in this one and starts acting like a child once again, even though he is clearly as old as the rest of the Five. I would like to take a moment here to note that James Tomlinson is one of the only guest stars to return over the two series. He appears once in Demon’s Rocks which is in series one and then again in this episode which is filmed in series two. The rest of the guest stars, if they gave reoccurring episodes are kept within the same series. I wish I knew why! In fact the change in Five Have a Wonderful Time from Jo to Sniffer is still a mystery to me (however, you can see my theory to why that would have taken place here).
There is the added distraction and farce of the two Tapper clowns who just seem to be scene stealers, and though it doesn’t take much, give Anne the creeps until she mysteriously decides that they’re all right at the end of the episode. I’m pretty sure that the clowns don’t appear much in the books (Fiona’ll tell me if I’m wrong I’m sure!) so they seem rather an odd choice to add into an already skewed episode.
As ever the Five come through and it’s all laughs at the end. You may be able to tell I am not a huge fan of this particular episode or book for that matter and that is rare for me. I do feel, however, that you just can’t win them all, and this is one that was possibly better somewhere in the middle of the series than at the end of it. We needed a more dramatic ending I think, something that really sends the series of books and TV shows off with a good shove! Fingers crossed for a still to be discovered hidden book somewhere that rounds it off? I know I’d enjoy that!
So that concludes my Famous Five 90s style blogs. If you’re still interested I may look at the 70s episodes compared to the books. Let me know in the comments if that’s worth me doing!