I'm again late with my review this week - should be up around Monday ... with any luck! If anyone else feels like posting a review of any of the previous episodes (this is our fifth fortnight of doing these), please do - would be great to hear some other opinions on this great TV series.
The randomiser is not just being random this fortnight - it's proving itself lacking in variety. The number out of the computer gizmo (it's a technical term!) was 88 so the next episode up for review is ...
TAKE OFF WITH T.BAG, EPISODE 4: 'CURSE OF THE MUMMY
As usual, the episode will be up on my photobucket account for the next four weeks - check out the links below:
To get the another episode from the same series as the last review was certainly unexpected, this randomiser is unique to say the least, I wonder what episode it will take us to next time?
Anyway I've had chance to watch this episode and my review is below, hope you all like it and I hope that some of you will join in and write a review too, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this episode. Anyway on to my review...
Take Off With T. Bag Episode 4: The Curse of the Mummy - My Review
The plucky trio arrive in Egypt on the search for T-Bag’s Birthday surprise. Tow-Ling is playing on a wooden flute, but T-Bag tells him to stop it. This innocuous start to the episode plays an important part later on and is another example of the foreshadowing that has been layered in to this series. T-Shirt’s line of ‘She may be hoity but she’ll never see toity again’ guarantees the episode is going to be full of great one-liners and the episode does not disappoint in this respect.
Claude DeTerre, a French explorer, and his guide Gunther Kashbag are trying to find the location of a great tomb. Claude, fed up with Gunther’s lack of being able to find the tomb thus far, decides to sack the useless guide. He then spots some hieroglyphics on the side of a pyramid and declares that Gunther has finally found the tomb. The hieroglyphics look fresh and we see that Gunther drops a chisel and hammer showing he is not the reliable guide he first appears, setting him up as the episode’s rogue character.
Special mention must go the John Savident who plays Claude DeTerre. John Savident is excellent as Claude and returns to T-Bag from his last appearance in Revenge of The T. Set as Monsieur Claude. Again Savident plays a French man but plays it extremely well in a (almost) believable French accent.
Upon landing and in the disguise of Kit Bag and Sir Paisley Shirt, T-Bag and T-Shirt try to divert the attention of Claude DeTerre and Gunther but they end up arguing as Claude thinks they are trying to discover the tomb for themselves. The banter between T-Bag and Claude ‘The Queen, The President, The Queen, The President,’ is one of the highlights of the episode. Bringing back the characters of Kit Bag and Sir Paisley Shirt from Sunstones of Montezuma was a masterstroke by the writers and gives some connection between the series giving avid fans another in-joke that newcomers to the series would miss out on.
Back in the flying saucer, T-Shirt is emptying out sand from his shoe, this indicates that a lot more attention to detail has been put into this episode; this may not be something you notice but shows the layers of depth added to every scene. T-Shirt asks what T-Bag’s plan is but T-Bag has not got one as of yet.
Night falls and we see Claude and Gunther preparing for a decent night sleep in the desert, Claude has his own tent but Gunther makes do with lying on the ground. Later on a large stone block is mysteriously moving through the air and lands on the tent, fortunately for Claude he was elsewhere. They conclude that it must be the English rogues and Claude confronts them, he calls up to the flying saucer but T-Bag throws a bucket of water over him in traditional children’s television style – something T-Bag has always done well.
Later on in the night someone, or something, enters the saucer and leaves a snake in T-Bag’s bed and quickly disappears unnoticed. T-Bag screams for help and T-Shirt and Tow-Ling wake up, quick thinking Tow-Ling plays his flute to charm the snake, linking the story back to the start of the episode when Tow-Ling is first playing the flute.
Thinking that Claude and Gunther are responsible for the snake trick they then confront them outside. Whilst they argue, Tow-Ling wanders off and discovers a small hole in the side of the pyramid. Tow-Ling enters the pyramid and we see the magnificence and splendour of the tomb’s main chamber, decorated with jewels and with statues throughout the chamber. Tow-Ling then finds the exit and tells everyone what he has just discovered.
They all enter the tomb and Gunther starts to steal the jewels, Claude warns him they are scientists and not grave robbers but Gunther is determined to keep the treasure. T-Bag tells him they are not his as they belong to her. Tow-Ling then warns them both about the curse of the Mummy. Gunther walks backwards holding the others to gunpoint but gets caught by a Mummy and is instantly turned into a pile of sand. T-Bag then worried puts a necklace back and the Mummy leaves.
The design of the sets, especially the inside of the tomb, is significantly improved over the past series. The attention to detail is astounding and credit must be given to the designer and the rest of the crew involved. Watching through this episode this time I’ve noticed the same Sarcophagus that was used in C.A.B., another children’s TV series from the late 1980’s.
The appearance of The Mummy is certainly scary (to children anyway) and quite a surprise as later in the episode you do not expect another ‘character’ to appear. With ‘The Mummy’ this is another episode with three guest actors, this is certainly a rarity but worthwhile for the episode.
T-Bag quips that Kashbag will now be ‘Sandbag now’, and they part company with Claude. Outside of the tomb T-Bag is scared and wants to leave but all of a sudden Tow-Ling finds a chest in the sand containing ‘another golden envelope’. T-Bag cries ‘I want my Mummy, I want my Mummy’, the last Egyptian joke of the episode. The golden envelope discovery seems hastily added to the end of the episode to give the episode continuity into the next episode but this is necessary for the plot to continue throughout the series. The lack of urgency finding the envelope gives the writers more freedom within the episode to tell the story and I think this episode in particular benefits from this.
There is further foreshadowing to the end of the series when T-Bag assures T-Bag that they will find T-Bag’s Birthday surprise and he winks and smiles knowingly to Tow-Ling. These subtle hints that T-Shirt and Tow-Ling (and Granny Bag in episode one) know all about the ‘greatest gift of all’ are sprinkled throughout the series, these often insignificant moments (that I never noticed back in 1992) make re-watching the episodes even more enjoyable. Episodes of T-Bag have so much depth to them, this depth is essential to the enduring popularity of the series all these years later, the depth is in all the series up to and including this very last series.
Overall this is one of the more enjoyable episodes from this series and I’ll leave you with this classic quote between T-Shirt and Tow-Ling:
Tow-Ling: I’ve just made up my first Egyptian joke. T-Shirt: Well let’s hear it then. Tow-Ling: My Pyramid’s got no nose. T-Shirt: How does it smell? Tow-Ling: It Sphinx!
I just have to tell you this episode certainly doesn’t Sphinx!
Marvellous - I've actually managed to get a review in on time for once! Unfortunately I found this one harder than any of the previous ones, even though it's a much more glowing review than the last - a case of reviewer's block, maybe! It's been a hurried piece of scribbling so it's not the best ... but it is the shortest to date!! Oh well, here we go again ...
TAKE OFF WITH T.BAG, EPISODE 4: ‘CURSE OF THE MUMMY’
A few weeks after our last reviewed episode … the flying saucer takes our intrepid travellers to the deserts of Egypt, where archaeologist Claude Au De Tere and his weasely assistant, Gunther Kash-Bag, are searching for the lost tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankharamesesnebakaneser (or however you spell it!) Spotting the two explorers, T.Bag is convinced the lost tomb holds her birthday surprise, and she and T.Shirt set about sabotaging their plans. A fight between English and French quickly ensues (aided by some truly spooky goings-on), only halting when Tow-Ling discovers the tomb’s entrance, the riches beyond … and the ancient curse fating those who remove anything from within its walls …
After my rather detailed rant in the last review, it’s good to be able to redress the balance somewhat with another episode from the same series. While I have my niggles about the first episode, most of the last episode and the birthday surprise quest as a whole, there is much to recommend Take Off With T.Bag; most of the individual adventures which lie between the opening and closing instalments are crackingly good.
Episode 4 of the series offers us an example of the writers’ recycling some of their old material; It bears striking similarities with Episode 5 of Turn on to T.Bag. In both we find characters in Egypt, seeking the lost tombs of ancient royalty; we have hidden treasures, ancient curses and Mummies. However, put the two together and their differences are striking, giving us a good indicator of how T.Bag evolved and remained relatively fresh over its eight years on screen.
The script ventures into one of the writers’ favourite areas, film spoof, with a comic take on nineteen-thirties/forties horror/adventure movies (of the type Bobbie Jobsworth appears to have been a fan of!) We have a tight mystery thriller with tension building around the secrets of the tomb, the strange supernatural force out to thwart our heroes and the final revelation, the curse of the Mummy. Of course, this being T.Bag, it’s presented with a blend of slapstick humour, sharp one-liners and comic incidental characters.
The conflict between the two leads and the French explorers provides the best material of the episode, with all four actors rising admirably to the occasion. The early face-off, with Hale and Hasler disguised as Kit Bag and Sir Paisley Shirt (making a welcome reappearance after T.Bag and the Sunstones of Montezuma) is a scream from start to finish, especially the waving of flags and cries of allegiance at the end; ‘poppydash and baldercock’ indeed! Even better – and my favourite scene from the episode – is the soaking Professor Claude receives from T.Bag: ‘nighty-night monsieur; looks like the Nile just hit you right on the head’. At the end of the episode, Claude offers T.Bag his hand: ‘do we part as friends?’ he asks warmly; to which he receives the cutting reply: ‘I’m trying to give those up.’ Priceless!
Georgina Hale and John Hasler deliver reliably solid performances in this episode, particularly the former (T.Bag seems to rub people up the wrong way even more in this series). Of the guest actors, Peter Majer is suitably toadyish as the rather suspect Kashbag; while John Savident, returning to play yet another big-headed Frenchman called Claude, is outstanding and makes a perfect grumpy enemy for T.Bag’s ire. The only weak point is, again, Tow-Ling who gets precious little to do in this episode (not necessarily a bad thing), save from tooting on a pipe and finding the entrance to the tomb; and again his presence is the one thing here which makes me lament the disappearance of the treasure-hunting girl.
Away from the more intricate script, the change in tone and the performances, what really makes this episode so starkly different to its Series 4 counterpart is the massive improvement in production values. This is perhaps most apparent in the set design. Again a bigger studio helps to make the series seem less claustrophobic; and again, Alex Clarke’s design work is first rate. The Egyptian exteriors are magnificent with the pyramid sets, vast in size and beautifully detailed. There’s real sand and rough foliage to compliment it, and the lighting really emphasises a supposed warm climate with orangey-yellow glows. In the night scenes, the shadowy low lighting and dim glow from the camp fire lend themselves to the slightly spooky atmosphere. The tomb interior is truly breathtaking: a gloomily lit cavern, decorated with vast rich Egyptian wall paintings and coverings, various striking sarcophagi, caskets, boxes and treasures.
Director Neville Green, again like Glyn Edwards before him, seems to really get the flavour of the series, especially the spoof elements of this episode. The camera work is as interesting as you could get in a multi-camera television studio with limited time to shoot; we have the usual mix of close-ups, long-shots and mids, quickly cut with pans, zooms and crane shots to keep up the momentum. Have a look at the really interesting stuff he does during the Mummy’s attack on the two groups: we have ‘Mummy-point-of-view’ shots that really crank up the tension. Similarly, the characters’ first glimpse of the tomb is rather interesting with the close-ups on the barely-lit backdrops and haunting faces of the sarcophagi. His choice of stock incidental music, various Egyptian-esque pieces, not only lends itself to the episode’s theme, but also adds to the tension building; notice how we go from a gentle score early on, to the more frenetic pieces as we approach the climax of the episode, culminating in the screeching violins as Kashbag is disposed of at the hands of the Mummy.
As mentioned last time, Green’s penchant seems to be for special effects and his use of them in Take Off With T.Bag is the most prolific in the series history. Never has chromakey (more commonly known these days as ‘green-screen’ … although back then the screen was always blue!), for example, been so widely utilised: the opening shots of the saucer against the desert backdrop in this episode, and the dropping of the heavy stone block on Claude’s tent. Noteworthy here is the climatic appearance of the Mummy and Kashbag’s destruction, with various lightning effects overlaid and treated zoom shots – it’s all very effective.
On the costume front, while the explorers are dressed in typical canvas suits, the Mummy costume is very impressive. With its blackened bandages, it is your typical Mummy; but there’s something very haunting about the design of the face – top marks to Jo Allman on this one.
Now if they’d only had these resources back in 1988 … oh well! Following last fortnight’s disappointment, it’s a pleasure to give this episode an eight out of ten – ripping little yarn, hilariously funny at times and well worth repeat viewings.
Last Edit: Oct 10, 2008 18:28:15 GMT by raggedbone
Cracking review again Jamie, good to read - and I'm glad I could be more positive about this one! Even though I was merely putting down what I felt about Episode 1, it felt a bit weird having a good old whinge about T.Bag ... it doesn't happen very often! Look out Wonders in Letterland ... For all my requests for a good disagreement with someone, feels much better that on this episode, we're again agreeing about a lot of things!
I think in this episode, John Savident is the perfect T.Bag guest star - he's just so very good at playing these pompous, jumped-up potty characters and it's a shame this was one of only two appearances.
Now for things I forgot to mention ... again ... ahem!! How could I forget the discovery of the golden envelope?! Yes, it does feel a bit tacked on, doesn't it; as if the writers would really just love to write a series of self-contained T.Bag adventures with no quest - I wonder if that's the way they were going, had the series continued? And I really will have to have another look at this episode - is it really the sarcophagus from C.A.B?! He he - Thames Television were always infamous for their penny-pinching! Something that you'd probably not be allowed to show on Childrens TV these days: a pistol. That would probably raise more eye-brows in 2008 than the Mummy!
As mentioned in the next thread, Episode 1s and 4s seem to be in favour at the moment - the randomiser might be random, but it certainly lacks variety! I dare say it won't be the only time we get two episodes from the same series in a row.
Anyone else out there want to venture an opinion or two?
Last Edit: Oct 10, 2008 18:53:38 GMT by raggedbone