Worzel Gummidge

Worzel Gummidge 2019The adaptation of Barbara Euphan Todd’s Worzel Gummidge books starring Jon Pertwee was a big part of my childhood, so in the normal course of events I would probably have approached a new version with some trepidation. But I didn’t, and that was because of one important fact: it is written by and starring Mackenzie Crook. Being as Detectorists, which was also a Mackenzie Crook project, is one of the greatest television shows I have seen in my lifetime, I had a pretty good idea he wouldn’t screw this up. I was right.

It would have been the worst thing in the world to copy Pertwee’s performance as Worzel, and of course Crook doesn’t do that. He puts his own stamp on the role, a little gentler than Pertwee, particularly in the moments where Worzel is unhappy about something. He still has the innocence that is essential to the character, but lacks quite so much of the childish petulance. The two children are both well cast and entertaining. Only Aunt Sally fails to make so much of an impression as the previous adaptation, but the casting is actually truer to the source material. I suspect the supporting character who is more likely to stick in the minds of children from this adaptation is Earthy Mangold, the most important of the other scarecrows so far, played with charm and serenity by Francesca Mills. Making somebody with a sack for a face so loveable is quite a skill.

We are two episodes in so far, and both of them have been very enjoyable. In the first, the seasons are not behaving like they should, and that means the fields can’t be harvested and the birds aren’t leaving the nest. You could read this as an ecological message, especially as the tree Worzel uses to get word out to the other scarecrows and ask for help first needs to be cleared of plastic bags, but it’s subtle enough that it doesn’t feel like a forced message. The same applies to the littering in the second episode. If it makes some people stop and think about what they are doing then that’s a bonus, but I don’t think the intention is to preach. In the second episode Worzel risks being seen by too many humans, and the Green Man (Michael Palin!) arrives to try to set him back on the right path.

Crook knows how to balance out the different elements of a television series, and that really shines through this adaptation. There is just enough humour, but it is never forced. There are moments of drama but always appropriate to the family audience. Like the original adaptation, the series is at times quite visually scary, playing with the uncanny valley response and other traditional fears, but never overstepping the mark. In the first episode there is a visually memorable moment with the scarecrows assembling from all around, travelling across a field in darkness. It might serve as a scene from a horror movie, but here it is a safe fear in the context of a family show. Perhaps most importantly, this series serves as a showcase for the beauty of the British countryside, just like Detectorists did, with joyous aerial shots panning across gorgeous countryside on glorious summer days. It shows us how lucky we are with the country we live in, and how important it is not to spoil it. Mackenzie Crook has done it again: made another series that makes us laugh, makes us think, and most of all makes us feel blessed to live on the most beautiful island in the world.   RP

About Roger Pocock

Co-writer on junkyard.blog. Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com. Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in Entertainment, Reviews, Television and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Worzel Gummidge

  1. scifimike70 says:

    It’s interesting having shared many reviews of Dr. Who on the Junkyard in recent years to now have reviews on a post-Dr. Who classic involving a Dr. Who star like Jon Pertwee. It enhances the sense of everything being connected and with British TV classics, it’s even more notable today for post-Dr. Who actors from Peter Davison in Law & Order UK to David Tennant in Broadchurch.

    Because the fact that Worzel Gummidge is an entirely new fictional universe than Dr. Who gives us the same challenge as the Dr. Who stars. I remember when I first saw Leonard Nimoy in a post-Mr. Spock role which was in the first Invasion Of The Body Snatchers remake. I was old enough at the time to understand it even though I was still a kid. So it’s like a rite of passage for the children fans of Pertwee’s Dr. Who to from their perspective understand him more as a versatile actor, not just in the SF-adventure stardom that had such an original impact on their childhoods.

    So thank you, RP, for sharing this special memory from your childhood. It’s a nice way to put more reviewing energy into the Junkyard and into the New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • scifimike70 says:

      Also thank you for making the point on how Worzel Gummidge served as a showcase for the beauties of the British countryside. I always appreciated British shows that did so like Children Of The Stones, Dr. Who’s The Sontaran Experiment & The Stones Of Blood and The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy: Part 6.

      Liked by 1 person

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