No sooner do I get up to date, than another randomnly picked episode comes along!
The number out of the randomiser for this fortnight was 7, so we have variety both in what number episode and what series was chosen ... isn't it nice to have a bit of change?! OK, so we're going way back in the mists of time for this one - this fortnight's pick is ...
WONDERS IN LETTERLAND (a.k.a. TROUBLE WITH T.BAG) Episode 7: 'Debbie in the Land of V'
As usual, a low-resolution copy of the episode will be posted on photobucket for the next four weeks -- you can find it, in four parts, at the following links:
I know it has been quite a while since reviewing one of the remaining episodes but I've finally gotten around to posting my review for this episode and I hope to catch up on the other two episodes over the next few weeks. Anyway I hope you enjoy my review and it would be wonderful to see what you think of the episode too.
Wonders In Letterland Episode 7 – Debbie In The Land Of V – My Review
The episode starts with Debbie and T-Shirt running away from T-Bag and Rascally Roger who realise they are running towards the land of V. T-Shirt is scared of the land of V but Debbie reassures him that he is brave and asks for help finding the golden letter V. They split up to look and Debbie enters the cave where she meets Vic the Vampire, unexpectedly a friendly vampire. Debbie asks him if he is lonely but he says he has many friends in the cave and shows Debbie his friends, Valerie and Vivienne. Debbie tells him about her quest to find the golden letter V, and Vic tells her to go see the wise old vulture.
T-Shirt is outside the cave looking for the golden letter V but is downhearted he can not find it. He pulls an arrow from a tree and discovers the golden letter V on the point of the arrow. He is overjoyed but drops it in a patch of flowers. The simple placement of the golden letter is to be applauded as it doesn’t interfere with the basic plot, the interaction of characters and the introduction of Vic the Vampire.
Debbie is walking through the cave and finds the wise old vulture, who is not that wise when it comes to helping Debbie and golden letters. He mishears Debbie and thinks she is talking about lettuce; he then talks about him being a vegetarian vulture and his love for vegetables. Debbie gives up any hope of the vulture helping and leaves.
This is the first episode of T-Bag to use puppets, operated by the excellent John Thirtle. The puppets fit in very well in the board game plotline and also make a change of pace from ‘real’ actors. The Wise old vulture is very amusing but for such a small segment of the episode that bears no relation to the rest of the plot, with hindsight it seems the Vulture was only included to have something else starting with the letter V, maybe vampires, vegetables and violets was just not enough. The segment of Valerie and Vivienne is basically padding for the story, and re-watching this episode the ‘padding of the episode’ is very clear as the story is quite limited. The limitations of the script can be expected from the first series but the basic premise is solid and as a young child, basic storytelling does not alienate the audience. The first series may have been ‘less involved’ than the latter series but to get the audience hooked at a young age it was superbly done – I for one was hooked after watching the end of this series!
T-Shirt is outside trying to find the golden letter V in the patches of flowers, but when he gets too close they start to make him fall asleep, this is foreshadowing the end to the episode but at first is seemingly insignificant. T-Bag appears and thinks that Vic the Vampire would have found and dealt with Debbie by now, she also wants to find T-Shirt. T-Bag enters the cave on the search for T-Shirt, she runs into Vic and realises he is no threat as he does not have any fangs. Vic wants her to stay to have a chinwag but T-Bag asks him if he has seen a little boy in the cave, he says he hasn’t and asks her to stay, when he does not let her pass she clicks her fingers and he vanishes.
T-Bag leaves the cave and calls out for T-Shirt; she finds him asleep in the flowers but then hears Debbie call out to him, and she hides behind the trees. Debbie and Vic walk out the cave but Debbie is worried that T-Shirt isn’t there to meet her. T-Bag overhears this and disguises herself as T-Shirt. T-Bag (disguised as T-Shirt) tries to get the golden letters from Debbie but Debbie keeps them safe in her bag and he disappears. They follow the path and find the real T-Shirt asleep in the flowers, Debbie is concerned but Vic realises that he has smelled the sleeping violets and will sleep for a hundred years. Vic tells her that if she kisses him he’ll reawaken which she does. Debbie questions him about trying to take the letters but he doesn’t understand what she is talking about. T-Bag appears (still as T-Shirt) and says that he is not the real T-Shirt, Debbie realises that one is T-Bag in disguise, she tries to trick them by asking what they think of the old T-Bag, but when both of them say she is horrible she doesn’t know who to believe. Then the real T-Shirt gives Debbie the golden letter V and she then realises that he must be the real T-Shirt.
The doppelganger T-Shirt pre-empts the double characters that followed in later series (i.e. T-Shirt and Prince Ivan in Bounces Back and T-Shirt and Prince Toots in Pearls of Wisdom). Although both T-Shirt’s are never on the screen at the same time this gives an indication into the imagination of the production. The editing of the ‘magic’ of the transformation makes this a first of many magical moments with many more to come. The editing improves as the T-Bag series progresses into the 1990’s but as this is from almost 25 years ago this is a clever bit of camera trickery.
T-Bag changes back into herself and says she almost got Debbie then she casts T-Shirt back to the T-Square. T-Bag demands Debbie give her the satchel with the letters but Vic steps in and offers a bunch of the violets to T-Bag, she smells them and starts to yawn, she magics herself back to the T-Square. Debbie thinks that will be the end of T-Bag as she will sleep for a hundred years but things are never going to be that simple.
Back at the T-Square T-Bag asks T-Shirt for help but she falls asleep before she can explain. We only see the T-Square at the end of this episode and this is a pity as I like the T-Square set, although the set is small it usually has scenes of tea drinking therefore reinforcing the dependency of tea for T-Bag’s magic powers.
Debbie is saying goodbye to Vic as he asks her to visit again. Maybe this is foreshadowing the ‘running through the different lands of the board game’ in episode ten as we hear Vic’s voice once again but maybe I’m over analysing.
T-Shirt is overjoyed that T-Bag is asleep and he kisses her hand, she wakes up and tells him not to call her T-Bag again. She then screams and everywhere thunders which Debbie hears in the land of V.
With the shortage of actor’s as guest stars, Jim Norton does a wonder vampire performance and shows his versatility perfectly, from a pirate to a vampire in only one episode, quite a feat indeed. Vic is one of my top three favourite characters from this series, alongside Indiana Inkpot (from episode 4) and Skipper McKipper (from episode 3). Jim Norton is one of the many reasons why this first series proved to be so popular which established a blueprint for a further eight series.
I’ve given this episode a seven out of ten; although the basic premise of the episode is simple it is carried off with aplomb making this episode one worth watching – and after almost 25 years that is quite a feat.
To sum up….this episode is V for Vegetables and Vampires, and this episode is worth taking a bite out of!