For me, where it all began
For many, Enid Blyton’s books were the beginning of their journey into the world of Blyton’s Famous Five, Secret Seven, Five Find-Outers and Adventure series and, yes, I did read Five Go to Mystery Moor before I even realised as a five year old that there was a TV series, and a brand new one being filmed.
Naturally when I was informed that there was a TV series being aired – I think on CITV (channel three) because I remember adverts – I was desperate to watch it. A lot of the time it was videoed from the telly for me to watch it, as I was usually at my childminders after school so had no chance to watch them live.
However Five on a Treasure Island was the first one I watched and I fell in love with the series, actors and stories. I must admit a lot of the details went over my head. Re-visiting it in my late teens and now, as an adult, the details are what makes this particular series so good. For a start it begins with the right story for a start, so shall we take a look at it properly this time?
We start with a bit more of a back story to the Kirrin history, the story to the ship wreck and seeing the box being hidden in the captain’s cabin and then the ship going down. Then we are shown what life at Kirrin cottage is like before Julian, Dick and Anne arrive. It’s a little different from the book, because in the book we start off with Julian Dick and Anne and their parents talking about what they’re going to do for the holidays.
We have a glimpse of life at the three-way dynamic between Aunt Frances, Uncle Quentin, and George, not to mention Timmy. We are shown Uncle Quentin banishing him because he almost trips over Timmy in the house, when it’s really not Timmy’s fault.
The story is split up into two parts, probably to cover all the relevant details included in the book. The first part establishes the relationships between the Five, the secret of Timmy and the wreck being raised from the seabed and being thrown onto the beach on Kirrin Island.
It’s rather a slow beginning, I suppose, the action really doesn’t take off at all, with the exception of the wreck being lifted from the seabed and the box being found. We do not even get an introduction to the villains in this part of the story. So by all means its a slow starter, but given that its set in the ‘correct’ time frame it makes all the difference to the 70s version.
The fun bits
While the 90s version keeps closely to the book, the attention to detail is fantastic. We even have added extras, bits that make this series so hilarious, and maybe outdated now-a-days. The joshing between the siblings, the poking fun at Dick when he’s hungry, teasing Anne about her teddy bears. This quote below, is one of my all favourites, something that endears me to the young girl.
This exchange between Anne and her mother, not only makes an instant humorous situation, but also endears her to the audience. She’s instantly recognisable as the youngest, in the same way the Julian is recognised as the eldest.
Having been utterly devoted to this cast, and really believed that their portrayals were the definitive Famous Five, I can see now where others came from when they say they were a bit tongue in cheek. I honestly do not think its so bad with the first series when the actors were younger and suited their roles more, but in the second series we can absolutely see the more grownup side of things coming out of them and the writing got sillier and sillier.
Nevertheless, in this episode when we’re sitting comfortably on a bed of nostalgia, the wondering interweaving of light-hearted childish joking and teasing, accompanied by the strong emotions from all parties at one point or another really really make this episode one of the best. I forget how good Five on a Treasure Island is on TV, because it’s not one of my favourite books, but it’s pure. That’s what this adaptation seemingly started off as, it was pure, trying to move Blyton away from the Five Go Mad series that took Blyton’s work and made it into a very tongue in cheek thing to like, something to laugh at more like.
Once more with the 90’s series it’s our actors who really make the show. Christopher Good as Uncle Quentin, serious, brainy and stormy with his temper is quite the show stealer, and his interactions with Jemima Rooper as George are simply quite amazing. Even at the age she was during filming you could tell that Rooper was going on to amazing things!
Mary Waterhouse as Aunt Frances as well, is particularly gentle and contrasts the two strong characters of George and Quentin well. She does however, we later discover, have quite an amusing side, long eye rolls at her husband when he’s not listening to what she’s saying and revealing a temper of her own. Its a nice side of Aunt Fanny to see because she can somewhat fade into the background.
Paul Child, Marco Williamson and Laura Petela all work well as that functioning family unit, at least to begin with. The boys bicker, as boys should but most of all, they both look out for Anne. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing to each as long as she’s safe. I think many of you will agree that when they got older, Child and Williamson out grew their roles quite significantly and had to make their roles more grown up than was needed for a children’s show. However in this first episode they encapture the youth, liveliness and joy of the children to their best ability.
So do we like this episode? You can bet we do! Even though I had forgotten how brilliant it was, I can see it now, and it might also inspire me to watch all the others again. It has the added bonus of actually being the first Famous Five that Blyton wrote so the meeting of the Five is more natural. Yes there are a few iffy moments, that can’t really be explained, like the editing and where George is suddenly best buddies with her cousins, but in a 25 minute slot you can’t really go into the time and depth that it takes to have that sort of relationship.
That aside, the episode truly does work well and if you haven’t watched, I suggest you do!