Five Go Off to Camp has been split into two parts – good! I say. It’s one of the more mysterious mysteries, and one that I cannot help but be drawn to. The 90s take on the book was unfortunately short because of the time restraints but there are so many levels to it that some were neglected, such as Anne thinking she’s sitting on a volcano. This is why I am so delighted that the 70s adaptations decided to make it a two parter, written by the very talented Gail Renard, who I have had the pleasure to meet on an Enid Blyton Society Day.
The detail in this episode is next to perfect, there are all the signs of a proper Blyton mystery, Mr Luffy being late to pick up the children, the funny old car that he drives with the trailer attached. Its all very true the book. We don’t see much of the jounrey but when they arrive the children get to camp a little way away from Mr Luffy and their adventuring really begins.
Very quickly the Five discover the deserted railway yard with the bricked up tunnel. They also meet the one-legged watchman, Wooden Legged Sam. He is quite a bit more like the description in the book, being tall and gangly, whereas the 90s series casting doesn’t do him justice. John Barrett was a superb piece of casting. Barrett only makes two brief appearances in the first part of Camp, but they’re enough to get the story moving and make an impression. Wooden Leg Sam is the one to tell the children about the spook trains and that starts the adventure.
I enjoy this story a lot because of the ghostly element to it; the feeling that there could be something completely un-explainable about these trains. I mean the first time I heard the story as a child. I was completely entranced in the ghostliness of it. I wanted to go hunting for the spook trains with the Five.
We meet Jock, who in the books I always assume is older than he appears in the episode. In fact he even looks younger than Jennifer Thanisch who plays Anne, but I am pretty sure in the book that he comes across at least as old as Dick. Jock shows them around the farm and they come across the vans in a barn when one of the puppies decides to run inside. This, as avid readers know, has masses to do with the trains but they are rather forgotten by the Five, especially when the idea of food comes into their heads. Over dinner, when telling Jock about the spook trains Mr Andrews turns up. Now he is very much like he appears in the book, but I found that he didn’t have the gravitas of the character. He is supposed to be the ‘cat’s paw’ but still the man is organizing men, he needs to have a spark. It’s not there unfortunately.
Last but not least (as we have another episode to look at next week) the blow up between George and Julian about George accompanying the boys to the railway yard at night and leaving Anne behind on her own. It’s handled well by Marcus Harris and Michele Gallagher who both know how to act out an argument convincingly. The only thing I didn’t like about this argument is that it took place at the lunch table, and I’m pretty sure in the book it takes place without the possibility of grownups overhearing. Its always an argument that bugs me because common sense dictates that really, they should either pair off, or all go. Now Anne won’t go, and that’s fine, but George could really do with being gracious enough to realize that. However without her hot temper and attempts to follow the boys we wouldn’t have the second part of the adventure really.
Overall, it’s a positive adaptation from the book for Camp, well the first part anyway. We shall see what happens with the next part next week, but so far the 70s series is really coming off as the better adaption of Blyton’s books than the 90s series. Let’s hope the praise continues.