Hello, and welcome back to your bi-weekly GUST review, currently being written by yours truly, your friendly neighbourhood Z. And also a welcome back to our current on-going GUST series looking at the many incarnations of The Worst Witch, originally by Jill Murphy. First things first, before I actually start this next part of the review, I thought I should inform you Wanderers who may remember the books from their childhood and feeling like checking them out again, that there is a new Worst Witch book set to come out this October, called The Worst Witch and the Wishing Star. Right – announcements out of the way, let’s get into the actual review portion of this article because that’s what you came to read, after all.
Now, this is the version of the show that your dear Z holds dearest to her heart, as it is the version of the show which she grew up with. Yeah, this is probably me giving away my age here, but you know what, this show was just plain fun when I was growing up, and made the characters feel like old friends. Yes, I’m talking about the TV series that started in 1998; The Worst Witch. Now, this series was shown in the UK on CITV, a children’s programming block that celebrated its 30th birthday earlier this year. The show was a co-production with Granada and YTV in Canada, and thus was able to use the Canadian countryside for some episodes that took place outside of the grounds of the school.
The first series does its best at striking an even balance between adapting the books and providing original material which which to expand the material we already know. We are introduced to all the characters in particularly memorable ways, and the casting of the show has to be amongst one of the best done I’ve personally ever seen for a small scale adaptation. (…Okay, Game of Thrones might actually win that competition, but stay with me here.) Of particular highlight, without a doubt, has to be Kate Duchene as the terrifying and formidable Miss Hardbroom. In my personal opinion, I have to say that Duchene’s performance is frankly unbeatable. She is Miss Hardbroom, bringing life and more awesomeness to the role than could ever be thought. Many an older fan will state dear old HB as among their favourite of the characters shown to us in the television series.
So, I’ve mentioned the first series, and it needs to be said that at the time that this show was made, there were only four books for the franchise, and they’re not exactly tomes of adventures. That’s not to say the books are bad – I mentioned in their review that they’re enjoyable little reads – but it means that there’s not exactly a lot of canon material that can be used for a 12- to 13- episode TV show, especially not by the time you get to the third season and have already adapted the only four books that are out.
Well, clearly the answer is come up with your own content which is exactly what the series did. And it was good. Okay, so that may be the heavy fog of nostalgia talking, but even during the recent rewatch I did of the series in order to make this review, well, I never exactly felt let down by an episode. They were always an enjoyable half hour per episode to sit through, and that feeling still remains today. Along with some awe at how surprisingly decent the special effects were for a 90s tv show. I find, being older now and looking back at the show, that the teachers are often the providers of the best moments per episode – Una Stubbs as Miss Bat is just hilarious!
And it’s as we’re nearing the end of this review that I realise I haven’t spoken much about the content of the series. Well, to be honest, it’s a typical school type series, except less high school romance, and more of an emphasis on friendship between the girls. Mildred Hubble is still our lead and Georgina Sherrington provided a very adorable take on the character. As mentioned, the casting is really well done for this show, and it adds another layer of enjoyment to the whole thing.
The show didn’t just stop after three series though. No – there was a fourth, or should we call it a spin-off? But that, dear readers, is for next issue.
Z McAspurren (late for potions)