Synopsis: Two children (brother and sister John and Susan) in the foster-care system are sent to a farm. There, the life they are used to isn’t available. Both wonder how they will cope without the basics in life, such as wi-fi, much of a town centre or youth activities, and distinct lack of others their own age. They soon discover something that they could never have imagined possible, and are thrust into an unexpected adventure; their boring time is soon long-gone, as they adapt to their new surrondings, including a strange new friend . . .
Episode one begins by the arrival of Susan and John. Them being on the farm under the care of Farmer Braithwaite and his wife is quite a good way to start them at the beginning of their journey. The two children discover Worzel Gummidgeas the audience do, too. Perhaps this is a little formulaic, and the fact they have no parents of their own to care for them is brushed over leaves a gap. Saying that, it’s not a drama about the effects of living in care. This explanation works, and does what’s required. Brings the characters together.
Once the stage has been set, the plot of the first episode gets under way. Worzel knows that something just isn’t right. What’s meant to be happening isn’t. The summer won’t advance. As well as other serious consequences for the farm and the entire ecosystem relying on nature to operate efficiently, the result is an even more grumpy Farmer Braithwaite than usual.Thsi helps add to the drama, as on top of having to find a way to set things right, the two children and Worzel must stay clear of Farmer Braithwaite.
Folklore is certainly as rife in popular culture as it was when the original books were written. This updated show manages to bridge the gapy, by explaining what an Aunt Sally is, as well as showing that the research has been done, and many of the pagan traditions are based on commonly known ideas and accepted cultural traits, that may still hold some sway in the most rural parts of the country.
As episode two starts things are ticking along on the farm. The children have adapted to the way of life and are now happy to be a part of things. John is encouraged to get stuck in, by Farmer Braithwaite. they are used to having fun and games with Worzel now, and he is getting used to having them around, too. Everything should be perfect then; it is, almost . . .
Michael Palin’s Green Man forbids Worzel to talk to the children; his reasoning is that humanity is not accustomed to the delicate balance of nature, so getting them involved only makes matters worse. To some extent, that idea is proved to be right. The lack of respect that humanity as a whole shows Mother Nature is the overarching narrative that drives the plot forward, with lots of silliness along the way, and a visit from some of the supporting characters that always made the show funny.
A series of sketches might be a good way to describe episode two, that differed lots from the first installment. As a self-contained story, the second part left a little to be desired, but did make use of what was otherwise some good writing in parts. The sense of tension from the first episode was notably absent.
The title character doesn’t always steal the show; in this case, Mackenzie Crook absolutely does. What stands out is the time taken to get into the part. A role such as this requires some expert physical comedic skills. Fortunately, Crook was more than up to the role. hr looked rehearsed, and it was made his own, by everything from the clumsy movements he made, to the impeccable voice. he absolutely nailed the legendary sulk, that did Jon Pertwee proud.
The two parts that were so key top the show working, John and Susan, were well cast. India Brown was believable as the slightly more cynical eldest sibling; she didnt over do it, and it was plausible that she was perhaps two or three years older than John, played by Thierry Wickens. Both did a good job of not seeming to be too twee, or too far the other way — overly grumpy or a bad stereotype of a teen-pre/teen. As the show played out both grew into the roles and were increasingly more receptive to the miracle of nature.
A good supporting cast in Rosie Cavaliero and Steve Pemberton helped to provide some commentary about the ongoing division between the generations. These weren’t complex characters, and that was important to remember, for a show like this. Others who chipped in with solid performances were Zoe Wannamaker, who captured the quintessential upper-class English country bumpkin, that so many think of when they think about those whom are landowners in that part of the country.
Francesca Mills deserves a mention too, for the side-kick role, of Earthy Mangold. With fair slice of the screen time in episode two, that was a role that needed to bring a sense of individuality to the proceedings. Mills captured the hearts of the audience, with her whimsical manner.
Michael Palin brings a sense of the wisdom that comes with age with him, as the mysterious Green Man. He has an easy presence on screen, commanding respect through a quiet dignity, as opposed to a booming declaration.
The introduction was a nice touch. The animated backdrop kept things firmly in storybook mode, for what otherwise looked like some very clever magical realism. The way the nature as a mystical force scenes worked was believable.With some breathtaking scenery the look of the show really helped to remind audiences that there is magic to experienced within a few minutes walk, for most of us. things were understated in a way that worked. The birds were not anthropomorphic in a sense that looked clumsy or as if Worzel was a Wizard of some sort. Nature as as idea was the result, and it worked really well.
Characters looking “home-made” isn’t easy to achieve, as if not enough is done then it may appear as if an oversight is responsible;conversely, if a character with a marrow for a head looks too animated, then the element that keeps the realistic look is adversely affected. A good balance is the final result. The team responsible clearly had a good vision and were able to pull off what they wanted to achieve.
Taking the essence of something that is treasured can be a very dicey business. Nostalgia tends to be a very sensitive topic for some. Things change, times do too. What was either acceptable or relevant in some ways stops being so. What this adaptation captures is the magic of a light-hearted show, and manages to make it have an important message. Climate change is real. With such a world-renowned countryside, the threat of that becoming diminished, or worse, is one that must be taken seriously by Brits. This aspect didn’t feel forced either; the children weren’t depicted as Eco warriors or there was no huge corporation to battle against. Everyone knows what’s happening and who Greta Thunberg is. This show made a very British job of highlighting what will likely be the single biggest theat/issue of the next fifty or so years. Subtle, charming and with the gentleness of a family-friendly setting.
Having the drama of the first episode stretched out over the two installments might have been a better idea, than leaving with part two with no real tension. It seemed like it was an effort to match episode one,that was the stronger of the two. The slight weaknesses didn’t stop it from being silly in the right way, amusing and offering some folk-lore music, too, as well as reviving the ancient traditions of the country. Great to see an icon back on the television. A good, strong message, some brilliant character acting and the door left open for some more, which would certainly be welcomed. Welcome home Worzel, we’ve missed you.
- Incidental Music8.2