Four months ago, we watched the first episode of Catweazle and our son wasn’t crazy about it. I figured he needed a little time, and while I’d planned to wait until 2018 for more, it actually works pretty well for our schedule to start it up now.
“Castle Saburac” is set the day after the silly events of the first episode, and sees Catweazle further flummoxed by the weird world of 1970. Baths horrify him, and he catches sight of an airplane – a winged fish that roars – with intense worry. I think most of this episode might have been scripted around the available location, because there’s a fun game of hide and seek around a really unsafe-looking abandoned house that’s missing most of its upper floor.
Our son was more pleased with this outing. I think he realizes that Catweazle is in no real danger from anybody, but there are silly chases and magic spells. He makes himself invisible to the maid, which is handy because she’s one of those only-on-television females who start screaming whenever she sees a nearly naked man. It ends with Catweazle and Carrot finding a new and safe place for him to live, an old and abandoned military water tower which he coins Castle Saburac, after the apparent name of the spirit who sent him to the 20th Century. Its strong walls can withstand a barrage of enemy arrows. Our son says that he’d like an abandoned water tower of his own to make a castle, which means he’s probably going to handle the next eleven episodes just fine.
Catweazle is a much-loved children’s series that ran for two series in 1970 and 1971. A wizard called Catweazle, played by Geoffrey Bayldon, fumbles a spell and, instead of flying, transports himself 904 years into his future, when all sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Hiding in a small barn, he is flummoxed by the power of “elec-trickery.”
I watched the first episode of the show on YouTube a few weeks back and showed it to our son this evening. To my huge surprise, he wasn’t really taken with it. I thought it had all the ingredients for a hit with him, including a kid protagonist, played by Robin Davies, who helps Catweazle hide out, some silly wordplay, slapstick, and the great comedy of the tramp-like wizard encountering tractors, windows, and orange juice and thinking they’re all terribly dangerous. It’s also got Neil McCarthy, who we’ll see in Doctor Who in a couple of months, as the amiable farmhand who needs the kid to fix the TV set when the picture goes all wobbly.
I also enjoyed the glimpse of one aspect of British life in late 1969 when this was made. When the kid pours Catweazle orange juice, he pours it about one part straight orange to three parts water. I have never seen that done before.
Sadly, our son didn’t like it as much as we hoped. He giggled a few times, but the threat of Catweazle being discovered by either the dad or the farmhand had him more worried than entertained. I’d planned to order the Network DVD set and add it to our rotation later this summer, but in light of his reaction, we’ll table it for now and try again next year.
I’m very sorry to read of the death of actor Geoffrey Bayldon yesterday at the age of 93. He had a really interesting career, with a huge number of guest star roles in all kinds of British television comedies and dramas. He appeared in several Hammer and Amicus horror films, and played Q in the 1960s Casino Royale, which I probably enjoy more than you do. But he’s best known for two iconic roles in children’s TV dramas. In the early seventies, he starred for two seasons as the timelost wizard Catweazle. At the other end of the decade, he was the Crowman, creating scarecrows and trying to keep some order in their fields for four years of Worzel Gummidge.
I’d recently decided that we’ll watch the first episode of Catweazle for the blog in a few weeks, after this season of Who, as a sample to see whether our son enjoys it and if I should buy the series. I hope that he likes it and we can give it a little spotlight. Our condolences to Bayldon’s family and friends.
Photo credit: Memorable TV.