The Box of Delights Episode 3

The Box of Delights Opening TitlesIn Darkest Cellars Underneath”

If you thought there was a weak cliffhanger to the end of the previous episode, it does at least lead to a very important scene at the beginning of the third. There are a couple of revelations here, one of which makes more sense if you have read The Midnight Folk. Most children watching this at the time, myself included, wouldn’t have realised they were actually watching a sequel, in terms of the original novels. Like many children who saw this, I was inspired to buy John Masefield’s original books. So when Kay sees Sylvia Daisy Pouncer and says, “she used to be my governess and she’s a witch”, it might seem like an odd info dump, but it’s a consequence of The Box of Delights being a sequel to The Midnight Folk, in which Sylvia was the antagonist. Abner featured too, but was of lesser importance. It seems a little odd that this information was even included here, as Sylvia is re-established as Abner’s lover, so why do we need to know about any past history beyond that? It’s possible that Alan Seymour was keen to keep his script as close to the original as possible (and it is a very faithful adaptation), although he didn’t bother explaining the backstory with Rat, who used to be Kay’s ally in The Midnight Folk and has now turned traitor.

The more important revelation here is that Abner and Sylvia have got hold of Maria, and are thinking of bringing her into their gang. She does seem a likely candidate, something of a rebel who has been expelled from school three times, and when we first saw her she was expressing her disdain at just about everything, including choir singers putting on a lovely performance. The question from now on will be whether she is in danger or is a traitor, neither of which are good options. The children’s worries about Maria hang over the episode like a dark cloud, fitting for an episode where the snow turns to rain. Her absence casts a shadow over the otherwise happy proceedings later in the episode, with presents, dancing and pulling crackers at the Bishop’s party. This might seem like padding, but it’s building a festive atmosphere, tinged with danger always lurking in the background. Less essential is the scene of Ellen making a posset for Kay, and it does seem like the writer didn’t have quite enough story to stretch between his two cliffhangers. Similarly unnecessary is the dream sequence, which really gives us nothing in the way of new information, apart from the “wolves under a fleecy skin” metaphor, which presumably refers to villains dressed as clergyman, something the viewers (and Kay) are already well aware of.

Towards the end of the episode we get into The Borrowers territory, with Kay and the Joneses shrinking down to a tiny size so they can escape from their pursuers in a toy boat. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s firmly in the tradition of Blyton-esque children’s adventure fiction with a gang of kids having an exciting adventure. That’s unsurprising, as Enid Blyton was Masefield’s contemporary. It’s also worth recognising that The Borrowers could be accused of being derivative, but not The Box of Delights, the publication of which pre-dated The Borrowers by 17 years. As for the television shows, The Box of Delights and The Borrowers bookended something of a golden age for BBC adaptations of children’s literature for a certain generation of kids, which also included The Chronicles of Narnia, The Children of Green Knowe and Tom’s Midnight Garden. I’m not sure if children’s television has ever inspired so much reading as those magic-filled days of the late 1980s.   RP

Read next in the Junkyard… The Box of Delights Episode 4

About Roger Pocock

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

4 Responses to The Box of Delights Episode 3

  1. scifimike70 says:

    I can vaguely remember being inspired read a bit thanks to shows and films of this nature. It was a great time to be a kid in the 80s when the atmosphere for reading could work so harmoniously with the atmosphere of films and TV. Nowadays I don’t read as much as I used to I’m sorry to say. But I’ll always fondly remember the 80s for being probably the best impacts for my childhood imagination. Thanks, RP.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Russ says:

    The posset scene is a little odd in the light of the scrobbling but as a child it always felt magical… Like a drink you should aspire to if you were to be treated like a prince. I did get it once too. It was great 🤣👍

    I did get to read the Midnight Folk so enjoyed the link with further watching but – like you said – this would have been right over most watchers’ heads when they first saw it.

    Another great review thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

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