As we’ve seen in the previous few weeks, The Worst Witch has managed to span not only books, but a made-for-television movie, and a television series that lasted three whole series; which can be a long time for a show aimed at the children’s age group. Now, we’re coming to the wind up of our look at the franchise, this being the second to last article I’ll write on the series. But what else, I hear you ask, can there be? Well, what usually comes after high school? That’s right, college. Originally entitled in promotional material as The Worst Witch at College, this week we’re going to be taking a look at Weirdsister College – the further adventures of the Worst Witch.
First things first, sorry to all Miss Hardbroom fans but apart from a brief but brilliant cameo in the first episode of this new series, she doesn’t appear. Actually a lot of the Cackles gang are AWOL; surely more than Mildred and Ethel would have gotten into what – in universe – is considered one of the finest colleges for further and advanced magical education. Ah yes, good old Ethel Hallow is back to plague our dear Millie forever and a day, here played by original actress Felicity Jones. Except, well, she’s not exactly bothering Mildred as such. Oh, they have their disagreements, but college seems to be doing the girls good, as they are both getting along – for the most part.
New characters are many, and highlights include old Professor Shakeshaft and the dark and mysterious Nick Hobbes, who plays an odd mix of antagonist, and secondary protagonist role within the series. It makes sense when you see it, sort of. Anyway, at its basic core the show is about following dear Mildred Hubble as she tries to make her way in the world of college, being independent, and all that it brings. Which is, predictably, a whole mess of trouble for our favourite worst witch. Not that she’s exactly the worst witch anymore; no, Mildred Hubble at college appears to have learnt some things from her time at dear old Cackle’s Academy and is actually on her way to becoming quite the learned little witch. Now that the characters were older, it could be said that there was an overall darker feel to the long term plot of Weirdsister College, with evil creatures being a regular occurrence, and the very possible threat of a magical doomsday.
Of course, with the characters now being older, there comes the expected romantic sub-plot and here is where my own shipper tendencies start to show. I’ll do my best to keep it as simple as I can. Plenty of build up is made between Mildred and resident possible psychopath Nick Hobbes – who is very fond of the girl and is noted at the end of the series to have an exploitable soft spot for her – and yet Mildred ends up with the nice – if a bit bland – boy at the café, who happens to hate magic. Yeah, I’m not kidding about that. No, I don’t get how it makes sense either, but it’s a part of the show and it needed to be addressed and so I’ve addressed it. Now, let’s move on to far more pleasant topics to speak of.
Again, we have a fantastic supporting cast in the form of the tutors and professors of the college. The personal favourite of your dear Z is the venerable Professor Shakeshaft, who claims to have been around since the Middle Ages, and remembers it like it was only yesterday. Okay, so his claims actually have some validity, as we discover later in the series, but I’m trying not to give away too many spoilers here, as sometimes it’s better to discover the storyline for yourself.
As for the storyline of the series, well, what can I say? The first four episodes are very much world building episodes, letting us know the new status quo of the series, and how each character will react to certain situations, and just what magic they are capable of now. From there, we get the slow build of Hobbes’ quest for power, but there may be more to his ambition than meets the eye…
Overall, Weirdsister College is most definitely not The Worst Witch. Arguably there is a drop in quality of writing but having recently rewatched for this review I would say that no, the enjoyability factor is still there. It is simply that you would need to adjust your expectations. We can’t have Mildred in college making the same mistakes that Mildred in school did; and it’s good to see the growth of the characters. Of course, it is sadly lacking the fantastic adult cast of the Worst Witch, whose presence can be sorely missed at times, but the adult cast of the newer show is not to be sniffed at – Jenny Galloway’s presence as the Beetle is a treat to watch.
So, would I recommend Weirdsister College as a GUST? Well, it’s hard to say. Personally, I found myself enjoying the series, but am very aware that the lack of certain characters would put others off. The best thing I can recommend is that people check it out themselves, and come to their own conclusions.
It’s just a pity, really, that it never got a second series; the last episode sets up what could have been a very interesting plotline.
Z McAspurren (Next week: The New Worst Witch, and then back to your regularly scheduled reading)