“Black Orchid” is another story that I could talk about all day. It’s certainly got a flaw or ten, but it’s just so incredibly likable and charming that it doesn’t really matter too much to me. The cricket and the silliness and the fancy dress party at the big country house are enough to paper over most of the story’s problems. Plus I absolutely love Tegan boozing up and dancing the Charleston with Moray Watson. Until there’s a murder, I choose to think this is the sort of thing that usually happens to our heroes when there’s not a disaster: they gatecrash parties, eat well, play some cricket and leave before their cover’s blown. Maybe do some shopping or see a museum.
I like how the closest things to villains in the story are a pair of incredibly rich toffs whose world was upturned when the son they thought had died years before turns up hideously scarred and brain damaged and they just try to keep it quiet and lock him in one of the secret chambers of their huge home. These are people who really don’t deserve our sympathy in the end – their selfishness results in the deaths of three innocent people – but the Doctor chooses to forgive them, and, in what must be a first for the show, he actually chooses to stay on Earth for several days, not leaving until after they have had a small funeral service for George, helping the family heal.
Our son was incredibly surprised that this is just a two-part adventure. “That was short!” he exclaimed. I enjoyed playing compare-and-contrast with him about the state of the big country house that we saw in Adam Adamant Lives! the other night. This story’s set in 1925, forty-one years earlier than “The Last Sacrifice,” and Cranleigh Hall is the center of its community, highlighting that between-the-wars opulence that was recapturing the imagination of British television executives in the eighties. Brideshead Revisited had been shown just a couple of months before this and Love in a Cold Climate the year before. New and reasonably high-profile TV adaptations of Christie, Bowen, Sayers, and Allingham were just around the corner.
To be honest, the final installment of this charming show isn’t anything like some of the laugh-a-minute episodes from earlier in this series. It wraps up all the lingering plot threads about the lost treasure, the thirteenth sign of the Zodiac, and Catweazle’s desire to fly, but it does so with warmth and happiness instead of lunacy. It’s a little more successful than the busy conclusion of series one in that regard.
Our son loved it, and wishes they’d made more. I agree! Catweazle is a hugely entertaining show for kids and adults. It’s been one of the most satisfying purchases that I’ve made to share with my son and absolutely recommend it for anybody with children. You’ll probably like it even without kids around!
Today’s episode really felt like marking time before they wrap up the series. They reintroduce the fact that Lord and Lady Collingford aren’t as wealthy as they appear, and that there’s meant to be hidden treasure on their property somewhere. Catweazle learns that something is trapping him in 1971, and he can’t use water to travel through time. And all the family catches a glimpse of the wizard for the first time. Since I haven’t used a photo to illustrate the supporting cast for this series, here they are!
Our son was so looking forward to this morning’s episode that he started humming the theme tune in anticipation. I wasn’t all that taken with this one, but he completely adored it. Part of the shenanigans involves a huge mob of cyclists racing around the village and everybody else on bikes chasing each other getting caught up in their lanes. I think that when you’re a kid, the sight of Peter Butterworth on a bicycle in his long johns swatting people with his hat because they won’t let him turn around is bound to be much, much funnier. And that’s fine, this is a children’s show and I’m so happy that he loves it.
This one was incredibly funny! We all really enjoyed it. It turns out that Lord Collingford and Groome have been competing with each other for years at a harvest festival to see who can grow the largest marrow. (We eat a lot of zucchini ourselves. Had no idea it’s the same vegetable.) On the day of the festival, both men are intolerable, and that’s before Catweazle unwittingly drops into the middle of things. There’s a ridiculous moment where identical buckets contain Groome’s fertilizer and Catweazle’s disgusting medicine, which seems pretty par for the course, but we weren’t expecting what would happen when the vegetables get a dose of medicine.
Arthur Lovegrove has a small part as the fellow who runs the local nursery and judges the vegetable competition. His character is called Archie Goodwin, and that strikes me as a little silly. Everybody knows the only plants that Archie Goodwin is qualified to judge are orchids.
We all really enjoyed tonight’s episode, in which Catweazle throws some military training exercises into complete chaos while searching for the sign of Capricorn. The main guest star is Tony Selby, who was in between series one and two of Ace of Wands, where he played Tarot’s original sidekick, Sam. Here, Selby plays a sergeant trying very hard to get this supposed “spy” to give up his name, rank, and number. Then Catweazle finds a live grenade and thinks it’s the Philosopher’s Stone. Just start counting the minutes until something explodes.
Our son absolutely loved this episode. I thought it was pretty funny, but it never quite rises to a great bit early on. Lady Collingford has decided that their house, which has 184 rooms, is haunted, in part because she keeps hearing this peculiar sound. Elspet Gray then gives this hilarious impersonation of Geoffrey Bayldon’s “tch-tch-tch!” noise and I hooted.
This rapidly descends into the sort of “he went thataway” farce perfected on American Saturday morning shows. Lady Collingford hires famous ghost hunters, played by Dudley Foster and David Cook. They’re a couple of scam artists who have wired the house with speakers, and Cedric has decided to try and spook them with a bedsheet, and Catweazle has decided that tonight, of all nights, is the right night to ask the house’s spirits to help him find the hidden gold in the house. Our son was howling with laughter; this was clearly one of his all-time favorites. Moray Watson is playing an upper-class twit in this series, but he defines the term “long suffering” tonight.
Dudley Foster died in early 1973, only 48 years old, but he appeared in just about everything a fellow could possibly do in British film and TV before then. Foster was cast as the villain Caven in a 1969 Doctor Who serial, “The Space Pirates,” which is the last incomplete story of that program’s run. Bizarrely, Foster appears in the five episodes of that serial that are missing, and not in part two, the only episode that survives. That strikes me as a little karmically unfair.
The bulk of this episode is built around twin brothers, played by John Ringham, and an endless game of telephone problems across three locations and one brother’s unfortunate wife, hanging up on each other, calling back before the other has put down the receiver, and so on. Our son absolutely adored it and laughed through the phone silliness, except he was really unhappy when one of the brothers “steals” Catweazle’s familiar, the toad Touchwood. Because Touchwood is not feeling good and not eating, he and Cedric take him to a zoologist in the village. It turns out Touchwood’s species has been extinct for hundreds of years and they think it’s a great discovery.
The phone shenanigans reminded me of a terrific gag about Call Waiting in the second episode of Ellen / These Friends of Mine in 1994. I pulled it up on YouTube to show our son the setup to the gag so he could laugh about how silly and strange landlines and all their “Custom Calling Features” were. I didn’t actually show him the gag itself, in which Ellen unwittingly insults Clea Lewis’s character, because it’s really a crueler humor than I’d like our kid to see so young, but the horrified noise that Ellen makes once she realizes what she’s done is extremely funny! The scene is about two and a half minutes into this clip, if you’re older than our kid.
Tonight’s episode featured just about the best setup for any Catzweazle episode. The Collingfords have left a TV set on to warm up while the picture clears before the match of the day, giving us the chance to explain to our son how oddly fragile TV sets used to be. Catweazle happens by as the set finally rights itself during the pre-match kiddie show, in which a storyteller host, played by Peter Bayliss, reads the latest installment of a story about a king cursed by an evil wizard and turned to stone. Catweazle thinks that this is a demon in his demon box speaking directly to him, and since, in that television way, there’s actually a sculptor in the house a few doors down talking to the Collingfords about turning them into stone…
Our son absolutely loved this episode. It’s pretty terrific even before the slapstick, because this demon box just blows Catweazle’s mind. I’m amazed by Geoffrey Bayldon’s ability to keep making the same gag – surprise at something new and modern – incredibly funny. But before long, Bayldon, Peter Butterworth, and guest star Graham Crowden, as the sculptor, are throwing plaster at each other in a studio, which had our kid howling with laughter. Then there’s another very funny scuffle at the unveiling of a statue, and a delightful coda which suggests that the tomfoolery might have been a rag week prank by students. That gave me the chance to remind him of the Avengers episode that we saw last month which introduced him to the concept of rag week!
Oh, here’s a funny coincidence. Last night, we watched a MacGyver episode that guest starred Christopher Neame, who was the main guest star in the well-known Doctor Who adventure “Shada.” Graham Crowden, in tonight’s episode, was the main guest star in the Who adventure “The Horns of Nimon,” which was the one made immediately before they started work on “Shada.” And the co-writer of tomorrow night’s Who wrote the one right before “Nimon.” If I can find a connection between the MacGyver we’re watching after that and “The Creature From the Pit,” I’ll think somebody’s trying to tell me something.
(And yes, I know Geoffrey Bayldon himself is actually in “Creature.” It’s very close, but you can’t force coincidence.)