Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Fourteen

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 17th February 1989

Gonch and Mandy’s relationship hits a slightly rocky bump after he asks to borrow a fiver. That he does so immediately after giving her a birthday present can be marked down as very bad timing indeed.

She soon bounces back though and is full of ideas (whether they’re good or not is debatable). She muses on the possibility of Grange Hill throwing an American style Prom (do we have Grange Hill to blame for introducing this horror to the UK?) whilst she doesn’t think much of Gonch’s computer homework scheme. Mandy believes that computer dating will be a much more profitable venture ….

The episode has some incidental pleasures, most notably the revelation that Mauler is afraid of cows. Maybe one mooed at him when he was a small lad. Whatever the reason, when a group of bovines begin to stare at him in a threatening way, he falls over (straight into a cowpat). Shame.

The main dramatic beat of the episode is Trev’s fall and rise. It’s lunchtime and Trev’s drunk once again, so the well-meaning Vince and Fiona leave him to sleep it off behind a rock on the beach. The only problem is that the tide quickly goes out and before Trev knows what’s happening he’s been swept out to sea with only a rubber tyre for company.

Mr Bronson (lovely bobble hat, sir) has nipped into town to a local estate agent, clearly keen on buying a holiday (or retirement?) home. But the main reason for this scene becomes clear when the estate agent has to quickly proffer his apologies and leave – he’s one of the lifeboat crew.

Having the cooperation of RNLI Bembridge helps to give this part of the story considerable verisimilitude, as we follow the crew each step of the way – from the launching of the lifeboat to the rescue of a rather sodden Trev.

Sometimes Grange Hill‘s moral messages were subtle, other times they were rather forcibly hammered home.  Today’s is a rather forcible one, as a deeply contrite Trev promises to lay off the booze from now on.

Recovering in the dorm, Helen pays him a visit and the pair have a measured and quiet conversation. For Trevor this is something of a novelty, since he’s been unpleasant and bolshy for so long. To hear him speak with a measure of self awareness was certainly unexpected, but if a near death experience couldn’t shake him up, then I daresay nothing could.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Thirteen

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 14th February 1989

The fifth formers are off to the Isle of Wight, although Trev’s trip gets off to a bad start after Mr Mackenzie discovers his not so secret stash of beer. Initially I thought Trev was being cunning by hiding it in Vince’s bag, but it seems that their labels were just mixed up. Which leaves Vince shouldering the blame and Trev wondering where the next off licence might be ….

Mandy arrives without her glasses (she’s trying out a pair of contact lenses). Gonch, who’s been interested in her anyway, perks up even more at this new, improved model. Quite what message this gives out to spectacle wearers I’m not sure, but it’s not really a positive one.

After learning that it’s Mandy’s birthday tomorrow, Gonch is desperate to buy her a present. He has a brief window of opportunity – ten minutes – before the ferry departs, so nips off rather smartish to the shops.  He doesn’t make it back in time though and so the ferry sails without him.

Odd that he didn’t think that the ferry (or indeed the island) might have a suitable present. There’s no real damage done though as Gonch – ever resourceful – simply hops onto the next catamaran and then takes a taxi to the outdoor centre. Mr Mackenzie, left behind to locate the missing boy, is far less impressed with Gonch’s antics.

If Gonch and Mandy are drawing ever closer, then Calley and Robbie seem to be somewhat fracturing. His attempt to place a friendly hand on her leg meets with icy disapproval (Robbie, of course, reacts in the only way he knows how – he gets angry).  I can’t really blame Calley, I think she’d be well shot of him.

Ronnie now goes into extra catty mode whenever Gonch and Mandy appear whilst the fine Isle of Wight air seems to have done Mr Bronson the world of good. He’s very avuncular, particularly with Joan Hamilton (Rita Davies), the head of the outdoor centre. Indeed he’s so smitten that he even elects to take a dip with her in what clearly is a rather chilly swimming pool. Love knows no greater sacrifice than that.

There’s another school party nearby and it doesn’t take Calley and the other girls long before they’ve got very pally with the boys. Can you guess how Robbie reacts to this? Yes, he’s pretty much apoplectic. Some geezer trying to steal his bird? They’re taking real liberties.

I like the way Trev keeps buying beer and Vince keeps throwing it away. Especially when Vince starts to mess with Trev’s mind by telling him that he must have drunk it all and then forgotten! Poor old Trev’s so addled at this point that he might even begin to believe it.

Another of those mysteries which never really was a mystery is solved. Trev was the one sending Georgina notes, so she decides to take offensive action – giving him a good kicking. Presumably she’s picked up some decent tips from the self awareness class.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Twelve

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Written by David Angus. Tx 10th February 1989

Georgina receives a disturbing phone call – a heavy breather. Who can it be? Trev’s been pestering her all year, making him fhe most likely suspect, but Helen decides that Ziggy is the guilty party. Nope, don’t understand that. I’m undecided whether we’re seriously supposed to think that Ziggy might be a phone pest or whether this is just another slightly misfiring plot point.

Helen’s all dolled up as she’s off to start her work experience. The affable Mr Aldridge (Jack Galloway) gives her a whistle-stop tour of the engineering plant. She takes in the drawing office, the accounts department and the C.A.D. (computer aided design) room before finally ending up on the works floor.

There’s a vague hint of sexism along the way. A computer chap gives her a wink (steady on fella, she’s underage) whilst we’re also set up to expect some shop-floor dissent from her fellow workers next time. However, I’ve the feeling that Helen will easily wipe the floor with the bolshy lad who thinks that women and heavy machinery shouldn’t mix ….

Susi finally confesses to her mother about her catalogue borrowing habits, which is good news as it means we can draw this storyline to a conclusion. You have to feel a little sorry for Lynne Radford (Susi). Her two years on the show were drawing to an close and this was her most substantial contribution.

Possibly it was her decision to drop out after series twelve or maybe the production team felt Susi was unlikely to develop much further. With both Justine and Chrissy already established as strong characters, it’s easy to imagine that Susi would have been pushed even more to the sidelines next year.

Calley continues to be something of a lone voice in support of Mr Bronson. She makes the very reasonable point that Danny was no saint (and quickly dismisses Fiona’s rather feeble defence that Danny only acted like he did because of his illness).

A slight plot contrivance later finds Calley and Mr Bronson alone in the classroom. She attempts to breech the awkward silence, but her well meaning comment of “we don’t all hate you” possibly wasn’t the most tactful remark ever! This encounter, whether indirectly or directly, does seem to spark Mr Bronson back into life though.

Later, he decides that he will attend the Isle of Wight field trip after all (which was in jeopardy after he decided to pull out).  The way he doesn’t react when Mrs McClusky mentions that she’s thinking of allowing the pupils to bring their motorbikes into school is also interesting.

Mandy has devised a plan, which Mrs McClusky is considering, re the bikes. Ronnie seems less than impressed when she finds out though (but I think we can chalk this down to the fact that Mandy and Gonch are increasingly becoming an item). Does Ronnie still pine for Gonch? It seems hard to credit, but this is Grange Hill – where strange things happen every day.

Speaking of strange things, we learn who’s been hiding out in the school. It’s Tegs of course, and now he has Justine for company. But this storyline suddenly becomes a little less predictable when the camera reveals that there’s someone else left in school besides the two of them. It can’t be Mr Griffiths, as we’ve already seen him leave, so who is it?

Hopefully it won’t be the Grange Hill ghost.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Eleven

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Written by David Angus. Tx 7th February 1989

The episode opens with Mr Griffiths arriving to open up the school. Not terribly exciting you might think, but it serves to establish that someone is already there, hiding out. I wonder who it could be? Wait a minute, we’ve already been told last time that Tegs has disappeared (he didn’t want to be taken into care). Puzzle solved then.

Ziggy and Robbie are lounging around, watching the girls go by. Robbie has a brief letch at a few passing extras (bad boy, what would Calley say?) but Ziggy only has eyes for Georgina. Some GH relationships are rather on/off – whereas Ziggy/Georgina seems to have been stuck in the ‘off’ position for ages.

Another long-running plotline – boozy old Trev – is briefly touched upon as we see him swigging from a can of lager in the playground. He’s either bolder (or drunker) than he used to be, or maybe the teachers very rarely patrol the playground these days.

The chief attraction at the start of this episode is Mr Bronson though. Arriving in his car (yes, the one where Danny met his end) he receives the silent treatment from a bunch of extras and a fair few regulars. When a pile of papers blows off the top of his car there’s an uncomfortable few minutes as he picks them up (all the time numerous pairs of eyes are watching him reproachfully).

Kind-hearted Calley retrieves one of the papers, but Fiona makes her put it back. So the scene continues in silence as Mr Bronson is forced to collect it himself and sadly walk away. Michael Sheard suffers in silence quite beautifully here.

Calley and Fiona’s difference of opinion is later replicated by Helen and Georgina. Helen is touched by how hurt Mr Bronson looks in class, whilst Georgina (displaying a rare burst of hardness) counters that he asked for it.

Mr Griffiths later shares the strange tale of the mysterious noises in the school with Miss Booth. She’s a sympathetic listener, congratulating him on his bravery (after all, if there had been a break-in, he might have been attacked). Mr Griffiths looks a little perturbed when this finally sinks in!

Gonch finally explains the ins and outs of his homework service to Mandy. When he declares that he’s doing it purely to help others (money is not a consideration, oh no) she’s delightfully deadpan. Both John McMahon and Melanie Hiscock have good comic timing in this scene. Had Gonch returned for S13 presumably Mandy would as well. What we see here suggests that both characters could have been developed quite nicely over the next few years, but it wasn’t to be.

If you watch the series long enough then some storylines will eventually repeat themselves (which is fair enough, since the target audience for the show would tend to refresh itself every five years or so). Back in 1981, Andrew Stanton was overcome with booze and had to be frantically hidden by Tucker, Alan, Tommy and Justin.

Today, Robbie and Ziggy have taken charge of an alcohol-sodden Trev. The same problems still exist – such as the odd close shave (Mr Mackenzie and Mr Griffiths pass them by but luckily Trevor was able to stay upright and fairly presentable for those precious few seconds). They leave him to sleep it off in a small anti-room next to the gym. I like the fact that Trev sleeps with his thumb in his mouth – it’s a small, but very telling, character touch.

Back in 1981 it formed a large part of the episode. That doesn’t happen here – instead it’s mainly a device to get Robbie and Ziggy back in the gym at the same time that the self awareness course (which seems to be connected to Miss Booth’s self defence course) is taking place. It’s a largely female environment, although there are a few males like Mr Robson scattered about. He gets the chance to do a spot of roleplay with Helen (both are waiting for a lift) and acts the role of a sex pest with a certain amount of relish.

The episode closes as it began. With a mysterious shadow in what should be an empty school ….

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Grange Hill – Series Nine and Ten to be released on DVD by Eureka Entertainment (19/10/20)

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The 19th of October will see Eureka Entertainment releasing series nine and ten of Grange Hill on DVD. There’s plenty to chew over during these two series – from Zammo’s heroin addiction to Harriet the Donkey. I’ve written about series nine here and series ten here, As the release date gets a little closer hopefully I’ll be able to revisit this era of the programme both here on the blog and over on my Twitter feed.

Below is an extract from the press release.

Series 9

New pupils Eric ‘Ziggy’ Greaves, Danny Kendall, Georgina Hayes & Ant Jones are amongst the fresh faces piling through the Grange Hill gates & Zammo makes some bad decisions when he should ‘Just Say No’.  Zammo’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic & It’s Roland who eventually discovers the shocking truth. The thorny subject of smoking is tackled with new student Danny Kendall taking every opportunity for a crafty cigarette. This leads pupils to set up an anti-smoking campaign, which also targets the teachers!!  In other news the ever entrepreneurial Gonch serves up his latest money-making scheme, anyone for a slice of toast?

Series 10

Imelda Davis continues her campaign of carnage & bullying, creating difficulties for pupils & teachers alike. It’s a tough year for Danny Kendall as he battles Cancer. Roland starts up a School Fund to help pay for his treatment.   A sixth form barge trip is certainly eventful as Gonch, Ziggy, Rob & Trevor first manage to crash the boat, then send it floating off on its own with stowaway (& former Grange Hill pupil) Ant Jones inside. The school gets its own Radio station, Zammo & Jackie get Engaged; & what will happen to Harriett the Donkey…?

DVD EXTRA Feature: 1985 Christmas Special Episode (First aired 27th December 1985)

The School Christmas Fayre preparations are underway. Roland faces Christmas alone & Calley can’t decide which of her parents to spend the festive season with.

At the Fayre Zammo & Banksie’s “shaky hand” machine proves popular, as does the wet sponge stall (especially with Mr Baxter as the target!!). Gonch & Hollo unwittingly unleash pandemonium when they unlock a storeroom & a Donkey runs out. Merry Christmas everyone!!

 DVD Boxed Set Details

  • Release date 19th October 2020
  • BBFC : 12
  • RRP: £34.99
  • Series 9 x 4 Discs
  • Series 10 x 4 Discs
  • Series 9 -24 Episodes
  • Series 10 – 24 Episodes
  • Running time Series 9: – 579.41
  • Running time Series 10: – 576.47
  • Christmas Special: 29.10 (TX 27/12/85)
  • Series 9 & 10 Broadcast 1st April 1986/6th January 1987
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

 

Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Ten

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 3rd February 1989

So Danny Kendall joins the list of the Grange Hill fallen.

Antoni Karamanopolis was the first pupil to bite the dust, all the way back in 1980. His sad demise (falling from a great height after a dare went wrong) barely raised a ripple of interest or sorrow amongst his classmates. Poor Antoni.  But at least his death did serve a moral story purpose – hammering home the risks about accepting foolish dares.

You can’t say the same about Jeremy Irvine’s swimming pool demise in 1984 though, which seemed to have been written as pure sensationalism. The adult soaps do it all the time (a death is good for ratings) although it’s difficult to imagine GH received much of a boost.

What’s even odder is that originally Jonah was the one supposed to die (actor Lee Sparke declined to return when he learnt that Jonah’s time was up). Killing off a regular for no good reason is difficult to fathom – especially as the partnership of Jonah and Zammo worked so well (Jonah’s replacement – Kevin – never clicked in quite the same way).

Five years on and Danny Kendall was the third pupil to perish. This is something of a watershed moment as he was the first long-running character (present since 1986) to depart feet first.  Although given that Danny would have left school shortly, it’s possible he was something of a sacrificial pawn. Although his death casts a shadow over the whole school, it’s Mr Bronson who especially suffers.

This was Michael Sheard’s fifth and final year with the series. Whilst I don’t know for sure, it seems likely that this storyline – Danny’s death, Mr Bronson’s fall and eventual rather surprising rebirth – was created in order to give Sheard something especially meaty to get his teeth into. It makes sense – Michael Sheard was an excellent actor, so you may as well make full use of him.

By now, most people seem to be aware of the sad news – although Mauler and Ted are still in the dark. That’s a little hard to swallow, considering that they were hot on the heels of Ziggy, Robbie and Gonch at the end of the previous episode. Are we supposed to assume they just slunk away? A little tighter script-editing was probably called for here.

Life goes on though, as does the rumbling saga of Susi and the clothes from her mother’s catalogue (alas). Along with Clarke’s missing bike, it’s vying as the least involving plotline of the year.

A brief assembly sees Mrs McClusky confirm the news about Danny. Miss Booth is in tears whilst Mr Bronson remains stony-faced. Afterwards he attempts to regain order the only way he knows how – by bellowing at the pupils not to hang around the corridor – but it’s the wrong move at the wrong time.  The way Miss Booth silently walks past him after his outburst makes this clear – as does the way he falteringly attempts but fails to speak to her.

Most of the fifth formers are in a reflective mood. All apart from Trev, who decides that he’s won the sweepstake (he put on a bet for next year which, he reasons, is as close to never as possible).

Mr Bronson doesn’t react well to the news of a memorial service for Danny. “I do not think that a delinquent pupil should be given the same treatment as that reserved for sound and cooperative members of the school community”.  That doesn’t go down well with Mrs McClusky …

Later she’s able to tell Mr Bronson that Danny died of natural causes and therefore no further investigation will occur. Once again, there’s a real tinge of icy distaste on her part (it’s a nicely played scene from both of them).

Having schemed for a while in order to get close to Mandy (although all his plans tended to end in disaster), a plainly distressed Gonch now finds she’s the perfect shoulder to cry on. Mandy makes a nice bit of toast too (albeit slightly burnt) and has a good suggestion – use the sweepstake money to buy a memorial tree for Danny.

The tree planting scene was a tricky one to pull off as it could easily have teetered over the edge into maudlin sentimentality. This doesn’t happen and the final shot of the episode – a slow crane pullback of the planting – is effective. Especially since the credits are allowed to run silently apart from some ambient noise (the toiling of what I assume to be a church bell).

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Nine

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 31st January 1989

Vince appears for the first time since episode five. You’d have thought he would have been present when Trev’s world came crashing down (thanks to Vince’s less than precise horse prediction) but for some reason he’s been held back until now. No matter, the plotline will still play out the same – Vince doing his best to hide with Ziggy relishing describing exactly how Trev will tear him limb from limb ….

Danny’s continuing absence is still a hot topic. Although his attendance record has always been patchy, it’s the fact that Mr Bronson’s car disappeared at the same time as Danny that strikes a discordant note. Gonch – in order to prevent Trev from noticing Vince cowering under a desk – mentions that he’s starting a sweepstake about when Danny will return. This off-hand remark soon snowballs into a real venture – Gonch can never resist the opportunity to make a bit of money.

Mauler and Ted debate the best way to get the keys to Ronnie’s moped.  Since they’re both very definite anti-social types, it’s slightly odd to see them with shiny briefcases.  In the past, only swotty types – like Justin Bennett – tended to carry them.

Helen’s been given the opportunity of work experience at a local garage. It’s not what she wants to do, but it’s better than working in an office.  Only just though. There’s a faint air that she’s breached a male dominated area, although this point isn’t hammered home (a muttered “women” after Helen admits she doesn’t know a head gasket from a spark-plug is enough to make the point).

Mauler and Ted put the frighteners on Gonch, intent on nabbing half of the sweepstake money. Or maybe their real plan was to pinch the keys from Ronnie’s bag. If so, then they’ve done very well and proceed to have a fine old time with the moped, much to Ronnie’s horror.

The episode concludes with Robbie, Ziggy and Gonch being pursued by Trevor, Mauler and Ted. Trev’s the first to drop out (he’s built for comfort not speed) but Mauler and Ted have more speed endurance. It’s a frantic chase through a grimy inner-city milieu, which comes to an abrupt stop when Ziggy discovers Danny’s lifeless body in the back of Mr Bronson’s car ….

Cue ominous music over the first part of the closing credits before the more jaunty ‘Chicken Man’ returns.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Eight

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Written by Chris Ellis. Tx 27th January 1989

Robbie’s grumbling about the stake money he paid to Trevor for the horse that didn’t win – he wants it back (Mauler is also keen to recover his funds). This suggests that the concept of betting isn’t particularly understood round Grange Hill way. Since nobody forced them to make the bets, for once I’ve a smidgen of sympathy for Trev.

Mr Bronson’s on his bike (nice cap, sir). He attracts the derision of Ziggy, Calley and Robbie (and just about everyone else) en route to school. But one person who remains totally oblivious to his mode of transport is Ronnie, which is a little unfortunate as she, riding her new moped, has a slight collision with him.

The fact she doesn’t have any recollection of breezing past him does rather suggest that she’s going to be a menace on the roads. So I have to sympathise with Mr Bronson on this, although we’re plainly meant to be on Ronnie’s side.

I get the feeling Mr Bronson isn’t in a very good mood today. The next person to feel his wrath is Mr Griffiths, who politely tells him that bicycles aren’t allowed in the school. This cuts no ice with Mr B who bellows at him to move aside. There’s a nice bit of comic business from George A. Cooper in this scene –  the way he recoils ever so slightly when he’s verbally attacked is a decent touch.

When telling Mr Robson about the way Mr Bronson sabotaged Danny’s job prospects, Mrs McClusky is very subdued and emotional.  Whether this was played as scripted or Gwyneth Powell made an acting choice, I’m not sure. It’s rather odd either way though – especially since at present nothing is known about Danny’s whereabouts.

Matthew and Clarke continue the hunt for Clarke’s missing bike. Now they have flags and lights to signal to each other over great distances. Ho hum. Every day I pine a little more for the days of missing clarinets ….

Mr Bronson has bad news for Helen. Her work experience at the engineers is off, instead he’s got her a placement at an insurance brokers. The action quickly moves away from this though, as Mr Bronson hears the roar of a moped engine and angrily sets off in pursuit.

Ronnie, earlier forced to park her moped outside, has now brought her damaged bike into school in order to make running repairs, with the affable Mr Mackenzie on hand to proffer some useful suggestions.

Mr Bronson doesn’t spot his fellow teacher when he comes blazing into the workshop though. Oh, and you have to say that Mr Bronson must have very acute hearing to pick out the faint roar of an engine from his office (since it’s quite a distance from the workshop). Mr B and Mr Mac have a brief but highly entertaining slanging match, which only strengthens my suspicion that Mr Bronson is teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Seven

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Written by Chris Ellis. Tx 24th January 1989

Outside of Grange Hill, Chris Ellis’ cv is somewhat slight, but he (I’m assuming he’s a he, although I’m happy to be corrected) was rather chucked in at the deep end when starting work on the series. He began by writing the last two episodes of series ten, followed by the opening two from series eleven. Ellis also contributed just two episodes this year, but his ones – seven and eight – are key. After a faltering start, this is where the drama really begins to ramp up.

We begin in a slightly subdued way though. Suzi is becoming extremely agitated about the clothes she’s received on trial from her mother’s catalogue whilst Tegs continues to live in extreme squalor, something which concerns his new social worker. Tegs is encouraged to clean up his act (and his body and his shirts) by Justine, who gives him some top cleaning tips. Although he balks at her offer to come into the bathroom and scrub his back!

Trevor’s put a bundle of his and other people’s money on Lucky Shark (the horsey picked out by Vince). In one of the most predictable story outcomes ever, it fails to win.

Mrs McClusky gets the chance to demonstrate her skills as an organiser after she directs the traffic down both sides of a particularly gloomy corridor. The school is still in something of a state of disrepair, which makes safe navigation a tad tricky. As touched upon before, it’s unusual to see Grange Hill looking quite so shabby – although this isn’t a major plot point.

It’s simply an excuse to demonstrate a couple of things – first that Mrs McClusky can still bellow with the best of them and secondly that Mr Bronson is far from pleased about Danny’s new school contract. The fact that he chooses this congested spot to argue the toss with her speaks volumes about him.

He quickly runs into Danny and airs his grievances. “School is not a restaurant where you can pick and choose from the menu”.  The problem is that Mr Bronson now appears to be totally powerless where Danny is concerned. Mind you, maybe Mr Bronson had a point when he earlier told Mrs McClusky that as deputy head he should have been consulted. Was this an oversight on her part, or did she simply not bother because she knew Danny wouldn’t get a fair hearing from him?

Mr Bronson has his revenge though – by warning Danny’s potential employers about the sort of person he is (or who Mr Bronson thinks he is). Cue a scene where both Mr Bronson and Danny berate each other at maximum volume. Given that Mr Bronson has been set to simmer for a number of episodes, his explosion is especially noteworthy.

This would make a reasonable but not terribly original episode ending. The fact that Danny appears to have stolen Mr Bronson’s car adds a little extra spice, but at present it’s still not clear how this part of the story will conclude ….

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Six

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Written by Kay Trainor. Tx 20th January 1989

Gonch is keen to use the computer before school. Ziggy is a lot less keen, but Gonch exercises his powers of persuasion and Ziggy meekly agrees, even though he hasn’t had his breakfast (this is slightly hard to believe, but no matter). Also in school early is superswot Mandy – which is the cue for some outrageous physical comedy from George Christopher. Ziggy attempts to peek at her notes (all in a good cause though, beefing up GHS – Gonch’s Homework Service) before being rumbled and beating a hasty and undignified retreat.

Gonch, Ziggy and Robbie discuss GHS’ current travails. Robbie’s contribution is to explode angrily (no change there then) whilst Gonch has his eye on the main prize – Mandy Freemont. If only he can woo her, then her intellect will be on tap to enrich their faltering business venture. His plan is a subtle one – plonk down a cheap copy of Les Miserables on the desk and wait for her to spot that he’s a kindred spirit. How can it fail?

Mr MacKenzie gets his first decent chunk of dialogue for a good few episodes (chatting with Danny about the swimming pool competition). He then spots Gonch’s Les Mis at exactly the same time as Mandy does. Curses!

Helen still wants to be an engineer, but her lack of correct options is a problem. It will also be difficult to make her way in a profession that’s still very male dominated, but it looks likely that Helen has enough drive to make a go of it. Trev is in full mocking mode when he finds out, physically giving her a hard time and casting aspersions about her sexuality (wearing braces and interested in engineering? He’s convinced she’s turning into a man).

The hunt for Clarke’s bike is on. Long term viewers will have to decide for themselves whether this is a more thrilling storyline than the search for Belinda’s lost clarinet. Personally I don’t think there’s much to choose between them.

Today they spot it from the top of a towerblock but when they get downstairs the bike has gone.  We’re not quite in Harriet the Donkey territory yet, but it’s getting close.

It’s a been a while since we’ve had a staffroom scene. Miss Booth is still attempting to get support for her self defence class, but has one major problem – Mrs McClusky wants it done on a voluntary basis which is against union rules.  It’s interesting that Grange Hill didn’t do more with the theme of union unrest (anyone who went to school in Britain during the mid to late eighties will no doubt recall that strikes were common) but presumably it was either felt to be a topic too tricky for teatime or simply something that the kids wouldn’t find interesting.

It’s girls versus boys in the roller hockey. The whole class is an expert on skates, apart from Ziggy (which is the excuse for some more pratfalls from Mr Greaves). That fact that everybody possesses excellent rollerblade skills feels unlikely to me, unless there’s been a lot of off-screen practice.

Les Diapositives de Bretagne is tonight’s attraction at the local Community Centre. Ziggy and Robbie spot Mandy outside and tell her that Gonch is a big fan, so a Mandy/Gonch date is quickly arranged. It’s not a band though – instead Gonch has to sit through a terrible ordeal. Mr Bronson and his holiday slides from Brittany ….

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Five

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Written by Kay Trainor. Tx 17th January 1989

Mauler McCall, along with his willing gang of stooges, is behaving in time-honoured GH bully fashion – extracting money with menaces (a ten pence levy for anyone using the bike sheds).  Clarke and Matthew are two of his potential victims, but have managed to escape his clutches. For now ….

It’ll be interesting to see how these two characters develop this year. Matthew had a good chunk of screentime in S11, but it was all centered around a plotline that appears to have been resolved. Clarke has yet to emerge as a character in his own right – so far he’s served as little more than a line feed for his friend.

Mr Bronson’s eyesight is very keen. At some distance he’s able to spot Justine was wearing outrageous earrings. Ah well, I suppose this proves that he’s not totally obsessed with Danny – he still has time to give others a hard time as well.

It’s noticeable that the friction between Mrs McClusky and Mr Bronson has been downplayed recently. Compare this to 1986 when they were entertainingly at each others throats for multiple episodes. Maybe it was felt that the teacher’s interactions and relationships should take a back seat for a while? That’s certainly something which ebbs and flows over the course of the series. By the mid to late nineties it was back with a vengeance (Mr Robson’s love-life, for example …)

Calley and Robbie are arguing again. You may not be surprised to learn that Robbie’s acting like an alpha male just for a change.

The latest face off between Danny and Mr Bronson is intriguing. Danny has the chance of a work experience placement with Mr Tilley (Niven Boyd) but doesn’t turn up for the meeting. He can’t be located anywhere in the school (he’s working on the mosaic in the swimming pool).

But Mr Bronson obviously knew this, as after he sees Mr Tilley off he heads straight for the pool. So he could have instructed someone to fetch Danny but seems to have decided that since he had skipped registration and lessons he didn’t deserve any favours. So Danny’s placement chance has evaporated – something which will obviously do nothing to help his tottering relationship with Mr Bronson. Although we don’t witness the fallout in this episode, surprisingly enough.

Last time when Vince picked a winning horse for Trev, Trev didn’t put any money on it. This time he’s going to put a bundle on Vince’s next choice. I really don’t think you have to be a mind-reader to work out what’s going to happen next.

Miss Booth is keen to organise self defence classes for the pupils. I like the way she attempts to make her point by putting both her hands around Mrs McClusky’s throat! A rare moment of levity for Gwyneth Powell.

Clarke continues to be terrorised by a (rather friendly looking, it must be said) Alsatian on his paper round. Matthew – riding Clarke’s bike – attempts to draw him off but crashes the bike. That’s a moment low on excitement and the end of episode cliffhanger – Clarke’s bike has been stolen! – isn’t much better.

But I’m prepared to hang on in there and hope that more engaging fare is just round the corner.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Four

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Written by Margaret Simpson. Tx 13th January 1989

Calley, Ronnie and Fiona are busy planning Ronnie’s sixteenth birthday party. Fiona, the brazen hussy, has no compunction about approaching a group of (gasp!) older boys and offering them an invite – cue much girlish giggling ….

The girls have decided to throw two parties – an ‘A’ party (where all the cool kids will hang out) and an earlier ‘B’ party (where they can leave all the deadbeats and no-hopers). It’s a reasonable idea but is obviously doomed to failure. As if it wasn’t, the episode would no doubt lack a little spark.

Calley is suffering from divided loyalties. Robbie has an invite to the ‘A’ party (his belligerent and obnoxious nature means he’ll be perfect in the role of bouncer) but Ronnie and Fiona aren’t keen for Gonch and Ziggy to tag along. Calley knows that this will upset Robbie but the girls are adamant.  So Calley finds herself slightly excluded – with Fiona usurping her position as Ronnie’s best friend, as she did last year.

Ted and Robbie have a face-off about whether Calley is thick or not. Another episode, another mini-explosion from Robbie. Luckily Gonch is on hand to calm him down and explain that you have to keep a cool head in business.

Mr Griffiths doesn’t take kindly to being told to “shove off” by Danny, which is a fairly mild insult to cause the caretaker to react so strongly.  Mind you, given Grange Hill could never use the sort of language real-life pupils would spout every day, possibly the viewer is supposed to use their imagination and replace “shove” with something a little stronger.

Cue Mr Bronson stalking the corridors for his prey. He finally runs Danny to ground in Mr Robson’s registration class. Whilst a Mr Bronson rant and rave is always good fun there’s nothing more effective and menacing than when Michael Sheard dials it right down to icy calm.

We’re denied a big confrontation scene though as Danny is quickly passed from Mr Bronson to Mrs McClusky. Mrs McClusky attempts to bring Danny into line by dangling the carrot of work experience with a design firm in front of him. Given his general apathetic persona I think that’s a very generous offer. Will there eventually be a happy ending to the Danny story? Ah, best not to hold out too much hope on that score.

There then follows a fade to black as we move to Calley’s ‘B’ party. Geoffrey Beevers makes his second and final appearance as the somewhat hapless Mr Donnington. He doesn’t have a great deal to do but adds a touch of class nonetheless.

Boozy old Trev attempts to woo Georgina in the only way he knows how (this involves a fair amount of dancefloor groping). Thankfully Georgina’s ordeal doesn’t last long as Trev has to step outside for a pitstop and a few more glugs of alcohol. But he manages to make it back inside just in time to destroy Calley’s birthday cake. Throw in an appearance by Mauler and it’s pretty much the perfect evening.

This explains why the girls decide enough is enough and slink off quietly (cancelling the ‘A’ party). The gallant Gonch walks Georgina home and offers her the chance to go to a UB40 gig. She’s not keen (on UB40 anyway) but maybe this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Three

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 10th January 1989

Trevor remains convinced that Vince has savant like powers (maybe the drink has addled what few wits remain in his head). He asks Vince to pick a horse running in one of the afternoon races. Will it romp home, thereby confirming what Trevor already thinks he knows, or will it fall at the first fence, meaning that this plotline will draw to a close? I predict the former ….

Quite a few characters are introduced with character traits which are quickly dropped after a year or two. It’s therefore interesting that five years in Cally still has a firm interest in horoscopes.

Mr Bronson’s obsession with Danny continues apace. This is made clear by the way he remains at the school gate just on the offchance he might turn up, something which doesn’t go unnoticed by both Miss Booth and Mrs McClusky. Is it healthy for a teacher of Mr Bronson’s seniority to have such a mania about one pupil? It seems not (Ant Jones is mentioned) but Mrs McClusky seems disinclined to raise the point with him.

Mauler’s latest act of cartoon villainy sees him insist that Gonch’s fledgling homework service sorts out his French work. I’ve probably said this before, but Gripper Stebson he ‘aint.

Still, at least he gets his comeuppance from Mr Viner, the structural engineer (yes, really). Mr Viner (Danny McCarthy) is on hand to inspect some of the damage in the school and his work intrigues Helen. But Miss Booth can only offer her work placements in childcare or secretarial work, which pales by comparison.

Trevor is desperate to find a television to see the horse race. The only one available is being used by a bunch of swotty kids (you can tell they’re swotty by the fact they’re wearing glasses – a not terribly subtle touch, but it does work). The most vocal of their number is Mandy Freemont (Melanie Hiscock) who makes her debut here.

Gonch, tagging along with Vince and Robbie, looks a little crestfallen at how upset Mandy is by their boorish intrusion. This sows a seed for later on in the season when she removes her glasses, lets down her hair and – gosh! – suddenly blossoms from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan ….

Tegs and Justine spend the afternoon arguing about whether they should turn Mark in or not.  Since the police already know where he is and move in anyway, it’s a moot point and also something of a missed dramatic opportunity. Mark’s story therefore draws to a fairly speedy close, with Detective Bonner having the final word – telling a disbelieving Tegs that his brother wasn’t quite the innocent victim of bullying he claimed to be.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode Two

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 6th January 1989

This episode opens with another look at Teg’s grimy homelife. Bedclothes that look like they haven’t been washed for months (if ever) and barking dogs outside the house help to add to the general feeling of squalor. The question of Teg’s brother, Mark, continues to bubble away.

The conflict between Mr Bronson and Danny Kendall begins to hot up. Danny’s not in class – he’s out in the corridors putting up posters for the forthcoming Mosaic competition – and Mr Bronson, after stalking through the building, eventually runs him to ground. There’s a definite air of menace to Mr Bronson here (although this was punctured when he earlier ran into Mrs Stone and her class). Whenever Michael Sheard drops his voice to a whisper, it’s incredibly effective (much more so than Mr Bronson ranting at full throttle).

Ronnie’s sixteenth birthday party is fast approaching. Who will she invite? Well not Trevor (still acting in an incredibly boorish fashion) or Ziggy (still acting in an incredibly annoying fashion). Robbie, due to his relationship with Calley, has an automatic invite, although it’s amusing that the girls are more interested in using him as a bouncer. He seems happy enough though, so for once Robbie manages to get through a scene without shouting.

Chrissie and Susi plan to order some clothes from Susi’s mother’s mail order catalogue on approval (in order that they can wear them for a while and then send them back). This is a sort of ho-hum plotline which will carry on for a time.

Much more entertaining is the revelation that Vince has psychic powers. Well not really, but when he saves Georgina from serious injury (telling her not to walk down a corridor just seconds before the ceiling collapses) it appears to be so. In the previous episode Mrs McClusky and Mr Griffiths had discussed the state of the school – he contested it was falling down whilst she maintained it was only a little frayed around the edges.

It’s true that the corridors look to have been dirtied down – presumably deliberately in order to create this sort of run down impression. It’s only a small visual touch, but it helps to give the impression that money is tight.

Are Ziggy and Robbie stupid? Time and time again they’ve come off badly thanks to Gonch’s money making schemes but they never seem to learn. And once again they’re drawn, like moths to the flame, to Gonch once more. But now that Gonch is computer savvy, maybe everything will run smoothly ….

Nice to see an old computer chestnut getting an airing here – with just a single button click, Ziggy’s able to wipe all the data on Gonch’s computer.

When Justine discovers that Mark is holed up in Tegs’ house it binds her into their criminal world. And after Tegs and Justine leave the house they run into a policeman called Bonner (Roy Spencer). Bonner is blasé about asking Tegs to empty his pockets (since Tegs complies so rapidly it’s clearly a very common occurrence).

Tegs’ father makes a very brief appearance. He doesn’t return until series thirteen, which is something of a shame as he’s played by Alan Ford, an actor with considerable presence and an impressive track record.

After the police leave, Tegs and Justine discover Mark hiding behind the fireplace (despite the fact it’s a gas fire he’s covered in soot). This amuses them both, which provides us with the episode ending. It also helps to reiterate that Justine is now on the side of the law-breakers, not law-makers, which is interesting to see.

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Grange Hill. Series Twelve – Episode One

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Written by Barry Purchese. Tx 3rd January 1989

Series twelve opens with a sweeping shot tracking through a fairly bleak towerblock environment. The view then switches to an overhead shot. This is Clarke’s paper-round stamping ground (and one which fills him with a sense of despair – having to deliver papers to the top floor of a block of flats isn’t an enticing prospect).

Along the way poor Clarke finds himself berated by several unhappy customers, most notably Alec Wallis (a very familiar television face). He also has to tangle with an unfriendly dog (not the most thrilling of ways to kick off the new series, I have to say).

We’re then gradually reintroduced to the regulars via a series of vignettes. Justine isn’t enjoying breakfast television (“I hate Anne Diamond”) whilst Tegs is spark out in front of his. Meanwhile, Vince confides to Trevor and Ziggy that Grange Hill is just so predictable. “Some little kid’s gonna be in trouble ‘cos they’re wearing the wrong uniforms. Robbie and Calley will be on to each other like an old married couple. Gonch’ll have some new money making racket. Somebody’ll be pining after Georgina Hayes. Bronson will be gunning for Danny Kendall”.

This seems to be a sly – and not totally inaccurate – swipe at the way that the storylines in recent years have become a little predictable. And when we see a grumpy Calley and Robbie taking lumps out of each other, the first of Vince’s predictions have come true . I swear that Robbie gets angrier every time he appears ….

Trevor’s not turned into a more attractive character since last year. Especially since he’s taken to swigging from cans of lager first thing in the morning and lusting after Georgina. Quite why Trev thinks that Georgina would be interested in beery old him is anybody’s guess.

Another familiar theme from last year gets another outing here (Justine’s obsession with flouting the school regulations). Today she’s plastering on the make-up. This exasperates her older sister, Tracey (Penny-Belle Fowler), who’s been left in charge whilst their mother’s away. This absence isn’t expanded upon – it’s simply accepted as natural that parents will sometimes leave their children to fend for themselves.

Gonch is fulfilling his accepted role in Vince’s world by launching GHS (Gonch’s Homework Service). And now he’s entered the computer age (with a bedroom PC) there will be no stopping him. Buckle up, it’s probably going to be a bumpy ride.

Ziggy attempts to start Mr Bronson’s stalled car. He’s remarkably confident of success (which of course turns out to be misplaced). Mauler, ambling by, suggests a jump start. Mr Bronson, isolated in his car, seems a little vulnerable – although it seems to be that the boys only have his best interests at heart.

Teg’s older brother, Mark, was an oft-mentioned but never seen character last year (due to the fact he was banged up in prison). Now (played by Adam Ross) he makes a sudden appearance. Tegs is delighted to see him and equally delighted to learn that he’s escaped from the nick. Tegs and Mark clearly have a close relationship (Mark is appalled, but resigned, to learn that Tegs has been fending for himself whilst Tegs’ hero-worship of his elder sibling is plain to see).

Helen has one of the standout lines of this, or any other GH episode, describing their forthcoming GCSE’s as “General Collapse of Secondary Education”. But Helen, sporting a new haircuit, barely has time to expand on this theme to Ronnie and Fiona before Georgina comes running up to them – desperate to escape Trevor’s lumbering clutches. Their collective response (“ewwwwwwww”) speaks volumes.

One person who’s not acting in a totally predictable manner is Danny, who for once is in school nice and early. But he hasn’t turned over that much of a new leaf because whilst he’s got a good reason to be there (helping Mr MacKenzie) he simply can’t bring himself to submit to the questioning of Mrs McClusky and Mr Griffiths. So he leaves school yet again ….

The episode closes with a slow close-up on Mr Bronson, who’s in no doubt that Danny’s comeuppance is long overdue. This sets into motion one of S12’s key themes. “It is time that young man was brought into line”.

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Doctor Who Magazine Flashback – Issue 193

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Recently I’ve been digging through my piles of DWW and DWM. 40+ years of collecting the magazine means that a chronological re-read would be a little impractical (although it would make a good blog project for someone). Instead I’ve decided to use the randomizer (a useful device, even if it lacks true discrimination) to select some issues for me to peruse. First landing spot is issue 193 (November 1992) with Gary Russell in the editors seat.

Top news in the Gallifrey Guardian was the fact that Who would be running six days a week on UK Gold. Hurrah! Difficult to imagine now, but in those far off days access to the series was pretty limited unless you had access to the pirate video network. And even if you did, you may very well have been struggling to make out blobs in a snowstorm (some of those nth generation dubs were very hard on the eyes).

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Marcus Hearn interviewed Roy Castle about his career and specifically his role as big-screen Ian. Castle always came across as a lovely chap and this interview does nothing to dispel this view. He had fond memories of Peter Cushing (another person you never hear a bad word about).

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Controversy Corner tackled the thorny topic of canon. Shudder. That’s a kettle of worms you never really want to open.

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The Android Invasion received a typically thorough archive feature from Andrew Pixley whilst the comic strip featured part one of Pureblood. Slightly squidgy looking Sontarans were the baddies whilst there were a fair few swearwords (well, “cruck”) thrown about – possibly in homage to the New Adventures. After all, this was still at the point when the various spin offs (comics, books) were attempting to live in harmony – hence Benny accompanying the Doctor on his travels.

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There’s an interesting interview with Brian Hodgson which covers all the bases you’d expect (such as how a piano and a key were integral to creating the TARDIS sound).

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The postbag was still mildly fuming at Gary Russell’s review of Earthshock in DWM 191. Although if you really want to read a thorough demolition of the story then you’d be advised to check out Martin Wiggins’ piece in the relevant issue of In Vision.

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And that’s about that for this issue, apart from a back-page plug for issue one of Classic Comics. Which are also probably worth digging out for a re-read ….

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Dempsey & Makepeace – Series 1 DVD Comparisons

The news that Dempsey & Makepeace will shortly be returning to ITV4 has reignited the conversation about the series and cuts. Since it’ll be running in a daytime slot there’s no doubt that the shows will be fairly heavily edited for violence.

Usually this wouldn’t be a problem as you’d be able to watch the series uncut on DVD.  But sadly the Network releases are badly flawed – they seem to comprise cut prints assembled for daytime screenings on Granada Plus.

Not every episode is edited, but around 60 – 70% of the series is affected to a greater or lesser degree.  A decade or so ago it seemed that Portugal were selling virtually uncut DVDs, but those are now long out of print.

The only foreign import I can currently see is this Season 1 release, so I thought it would be interesting to compare the running times of both to work out which offers the best value.

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The import splits the pilot into a two-parter and runs for nearly three extra minutes (some of this may be down to the additional credit sequences though). Given to Acts of Violence is the other episode which is longer on the import – over a minute, compared to the Network DVD.

The other episodes are either the same, or the Network release is slightly longer (although this may be down to Network leaving “dead air” after the episode has finished – something that happened on a fair few of their releases).

So whilst the import DVD looks to be slightly less cut, it still seems not to be quite the whole picture (I find it difficult to believe that Make Peace Not War would have clocked in at under forty five minutes. For an hour long slot in the mid eighties that seems remarkably skimpy).

What’s certain is that the series is crying out for a restored BD release. The masters exist (or at least they did a decade ago) at LWT, but as The Sweeney BDs stalled after series one, I think it’s more than likely that we’ll have to soldier on with what we’ve got …

Robin of Sherwood – Fitzwarren’s Well (audio review)

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Fitzwarren’s Well is the latest welcome addition to Spiteful Puppet’s ever-growing collection of Robin of Sherwood audios and books. Released as a download at the beginning of July 2020, Jennifer Ash’s story manages to perfectly capture the tone and feel of the original series.

Fitzwarren’s Well isn’t simply a slavish recreation though, since Marion is allowed to take centre stage (something which unfortunately never happened on television). Had ROS continued for a fourth series it would have been interesting to see each character take their turn to lead an episode, and maybe Marion’s would have played out something like this.

Listening to audio plays in which actors recreate their famous television roles from decades earlier can occasionally be a slightly uncomfortable experience.  Some sound so different from their youthful television personas that considerable suspension of belief is required. There’s no such problems with Judi Trott though, who seems to have discovered the formula of eternal youth ….

On audio Trott still comes across as the Marion of old, albeit with a touch more steel (which works well in this story, as she’s forced to take charge after a mysterious fever lays most of the Merries low). I love the fact that Judi Trott repurposed the Gypsy caravan which sits in her garden as a makeshift recording studio – that just feels so right somehow.

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Given cryptic pointers by Herne (once again played by Daniel Abineri) Marion sets out for Beeston. On the way she runs into Will (Jon Culshaw) who had been off on an adventure of his own. This is a relief – not only because it means that Marion won’t have to keep talking to herself, but also because the Will/Marion relationship is nicely teased out as they make their way through the forest.

Culshaw might not sound exactly like Ray Winstone did as Will Scarlett, but then Ray Winstone today doesn’t really sound like Will Scarlett either. Culshaw has no problems once again in making the part his own, helped no end by Jennifer Ash’s script (I love the image of the amorous, boot-buying Will).

Ian Oglivy’s role is quite small but it’s also pivotal in teasing out the strands of the story. Sarah Greene has a more substantial part as the Lady of the Well whilst renaissance man Barnaby Eaton-Jones not only produced and directed the play, he also found time to play the boo-hissable villain Fitzwarren. Mind you, it’s impossible not to feel a little sorry for Fitzwarren at the end – not a nice way to go ….

Recorded during lockdown, all the parts were remotely captured and then expertly pieced together by sound designer and editor Joseph Fox. This isn’t an uncommon method of production, but it takes real skill to create the illusion that all the actors were together at the same time.  Fitzwarren’s Well certainly delivers on that score – not once was the spell broken for me.

With Robin of Sherwood beginning a repeat run on ITV4 soon, this audio couldn’t have come at a better time. The 43 minute play was devoured by me in a single sitting and thanks to the efforts of the cast breezed along very merrily (sorry). Along with Spiteful Puppet’s other ROS audios and books it’s well worth checking out.

Fitzwarren’s Well is available for download now from Spiteful Puppet, price £7.99.

Doctor Who – The Myth Makers. Part Four – Horse of Destruction

The massacre begins and the humour disappears. Probably one of the reasons why this feels especially jarring is the way the audience has been invited to feel comfortable in the presence of both Priam and Paris.

If the Greeks (Agamemnon, Odysseus, Achilles) have been depicted as single-minded warriors, then the Trojans were allowed a little more personality.  This makes their brutal demise all the more shocking.

Donald Cotton later concludes The Gunfighters in a similar orgy of violence, but since the Clantons were positioned throughout that story as “bad” and the likes of Earp, Holliday and Masterton were depicted as “good” it doesn’t have nearly the same impact.

There are some who view the sudden gear-change in Horse of Destruction from comedy to tragedy as a weakness, but to me it’s a clear strength – The Myth Makers shows us that there’s not always a “good” or “bad” side.

Similar themes had been explored in previous historicals, for example The Crusade.  David Whitaker’s script may have been much more straight-laced, but it had a similar sense of ambiguity about which side the viewer should support.

The use of comedy by Donald Cotton throughout this story is revealed in Horse of Destruction to be a dramatic device, designed to lure us into a false sense of security.  It’s a common trick, but not common in Doctor Who, which makes it noteworthy.

Another interesting aspect about the ending of The Myth Makers is just how downbeat it is.  This began a trend (although you could also say that it really started in Galaxy 4, with the Doctor leaving the Drahvins to their fate) which then continued in both The Daleks’ Master Plan and The Massacre.

Normally Doctor Who stories end on an optimistic note – although there’s often been a tremendous loss of life, it’s accepted that the ends justify the means.  Tyranny has been overthrown and the survivors can begin the task of rebuilding their world.

The Myth Makers offers no such comfort as destruction still rages. Steven is injured and Vicki elects to stay in this uncertain world with Trolius, the man she loves.  Possibly the relationship between Vicki and Trolius is the one positive thing we can take from the story (if they can somehow survive).

Vicki, like Susan before her and many companions to come, is shown to have completed a journey by the time she leaves the TARDIS.

When the girl joined the TARDIS crew in The Rescue, her awkwardness with people and her single-minded devotion to the Doctor meant that she spends the next few stories (The RomansThe Web PlanetThe Crusade) virtually glued to his side.

The Space Museum was key in the way that it showed a much more independent Vicki, happy to organise a planet-wide revolution!  After that she seemed much more comfortable by herself or outside of the Doctor’s orbit – which meant that, like Susan before her, she’s now made the transition from child to adult.

The Doctor and Vicki only share a single scene (apart from a few lines in episode one, it’s the only time they talk).  It’s noteworthy that it stops just at the point when Vicki’s preparing to tell the Doctor that she wishes to stay.

Given how both The Dalek Invasion of Earth and some later companion departures would milk the moment of leaving, it’s an odd choice which does leave the audience feeling slightly short-changed.

Whatever Vicki said, it must have been a powerful argument since the Doctor is happy for her to head off alone into the city to try and find Troilus.  This seems uncharacteristic in the extreme, but if writing out Maureen O’Brien was an eleventh hour decision then the options were limited.

An ailing Steven is back in the TARDIS, being tended by Cassandra’s handmaiden Katarina (Adrienne Hill).  The savvy viewer will know by now that as one door closes, another opens – so Katarina must be Vicki’s replacement …..

Doctor Who – The Myth Makers. Part Three – Death of a Spy

When Steven is brought into Vicki’s presence it spells trouble for both of them.  How can Vicki know Steven (alias Diomede) if he’s a Greek warrior?  Cassandra’s convinced that she’s a spy and orders her immediate execution, but the order is countermanded by Paris.  “I will not tolerate interference from a fortune-teller of notorious unreliability.”

Barrie Ingham continues to be the recipient of some first-class lines – Paris then tells his sister to “get back to your temple before you give us all galloping religious mania.”

Priam’s in a quandary.  He likes Vicki, but can’t ignore the fact that she could, as Cassandra says, be a spy.  So he gives her an ultimatum.  “Now if you are what you really say you are, as a pledge of good faith to us, you must either give me information that will lead to our speedy victory, or use your supernatural powers to turn the tide of battle in our favour.”

For all the humour we’ve seen (or rather heard) so far, this is the point in the story where the approaching darkness begins to take hold.  Steven and Vicki are prisoners in the city – locked in the dungeons – with Vicki only given a day to produce a miracle which will bring an end to the ten-year war.  Meanwhile the Doctor, outside the city walls with the Greeks, has been forced to provide a similar solution for them.

Whilst Vicki still has an air of unflappability, Steven can see how perilous their current situation is.  He’s been a member of the TARDIS crew long enough to know that if the Doctor comes up with a successful plan it’ll mean the death of everybody inside the city.

Hartnell’s more centre-stage in this episode, as the Doctor outlines several schemes to Agamemnon.  The first – gliders launched with catapults – is completely ridiculous, but Agamemnon appears to consider it.  He takes the wind out of the Doctor’s sails when he tells him that he (the Doctor) will be the first test pilot!  This is another moment where it’s a pity that Hartnell’s reaction is lost to us.

In desperation the Doctor turns to the wooden horse.  Earlier he’d declared that the horse was a myth (another inspiration for the story title?) invented by Homer, but with time running out he casually mentions to Agamemnon that a hollow wooden horse filled with Greek soldiers should do the trick.

Agamemnon agrees and very quickly it’s built.  Indeed, considering it’s size, it does seem remarkable that it was constructed in a matter of hours.  The Greeks were clearly fast builders.

Apart from the war preparations, another key part of this episode is the relationship between Trolius and Vicki.  As Trolius, James Lynn had a fairly thankless role.  Most of the guest cast were gifted sparkling bon mots, but Trolius was written as young, earnest and a little dull.  However it’s made clear right from the start that he and Vicki are kindred spirits.

VICKI: Well, you’re not in the war, are you? You’re far too young.
TROILUS: I’m seventeen next birthday!
VICKI: That’s hardly any older than me. You shouldn’t be killing people at your age.
TROILUS: Well, between you and me, I don’t honestly enjoy killing at all. But I love adventure.
VICKI: Yes. I know what you mean.

Since all the Greek soldiers appear to have left the plains, Priam is delighted and orders Vicki’s release.  She’s nonplussed, but when Paris pops up to tell them that he’s found the Great Horse of Asia outside, all becomes clear.  Cassandra’s still (correctly) forecasting their doom, which gives Paris my favourite line in the story (the final one below).

CASSANDRA: Yes, ask her! Go on, ask her! She knows what it is. It’s our doom! It’s the death of Troy, brought upon us by that cursed witch!
PARIS: Now understand me, Cassandra. I will not have one word said against that horse.
TROILUS: And neither will I against Cressida.
CASSANDRA: Will you not? Then woe to the House of Priam. Woe to the Trojans.
PARIS: I’m afraid you’re a bit late to say ‘whoa’ to the horse. I’ve just given instructions to have it brought into the city.