And here, dear Wanderers, we come to our final installment of our looking at how a franchise can be adapted many times for the same general audience group. I know, it’s sad isn’t it? Shall we take a moment of silence to think on that which came before? Or shall we crank up the Spell Girls and rock it out till Hardbroom comes to zap away our electrical equipment to the land of gods-knows-where? The latter does sound far more fun… Let’s go with the latter, Wanderers, cheesy late 90s-early 2000s pop music it is! (Understand I am making a big sacrifice for you. I’ve had to turn off my beloved Queen for this. Queen. I hope you all appreciate this.)
So this next installment is the final – apart from the new book – piece of The Worst Witch tapest… No, second thoughts I don’t like that word. Final piece of the picture, we’ll say instead. I am, of course, talking about The New Worst Witch and if you just groaned on hearing that, I can’t say I blame you. Of course, if you cheered on hearing it, then well done to you, childhood nostalgia winning out!
Yeah, I’ll need to be honest with you here Wanderers, the original show, well, The New Worst Witch certainly isn’t it. That’s not to say its necessarily bad, I’m sure there’s readers out there with very fond memories of the show and watching it during its initial airing. But as taking it as part of this franchise, I’d need to be honest and say it’s definitely the weakest part. That’s not to say that the show doesn’t have its own charm, it’s just that when comparing it to what came before, it really does come off weaker. Which, actually, I was a bit sad to discover in my rewatching, but more on that later.
The first thing I have to admit to is that The New Worst Witch no longer has the same adult cast as the original series, barring of course Clare Coulter as Miss Cackle. And yes, you read that right, Kate Duchene did not sign on to be Hardbroom in this series, meaning that the character was recast. And I will give credit where credit is due, Caroline O’Neil does a decent enough job in the role, it’s just that Duchene perfected the character, and rather left her mark on dear old Cackles. But enough about casting at the moment, what is this show actually about?
Well, it was another CITV production, running for two series between 2005-2006. In it, we follow Henrietta Hubble – better known as Hettie – who happens to be Mildred’s adoring younger cousin. She is coming to Cackle’s to start her magical education, and Cousin Mildred is there on the first day to give her good advice – the only cameo of Georgina Sherrington in the series. Once at Cackle’s, Hettie quickly befriends Mona Hallow, youngest of the Hallow sisters, and hedge witch Crescent Moon Winterchild, or Cressie as her friends call her. Since a Hallow is on the team of allies this time, the role of antagonist is fufilled character wise by a rather full of herself girl named Belladonna Bindweed, who gains her own sidekick in Cynthia Horrocks earlier in the series. New staff members include Dee Swoop, Miss Nightingale (in the first series only, a pity as I rather liked that character), Miss Widget, and Caspian Blood, wizard in residence and librarian for the series.
So what can I say for the series? Well, it certainly tries it’s hardest to be it’s own thing, and not just a spin-off of its older cousin. Hettie, unlike Mildred, is actually quite naturally brilliant at all things magical – including flying – but is definitely more of a deliberate trouble maker, if only through her intentions to always do something good. She thinks she is far more capable than she is, thus leading to problems, and that’s pretty much the formula of each episode right there. Predictable, but occasionally fun.
And … that’s what I can say about the series in general, and I’m telling you honestly Wanderers, I do not mean it in any sort of bad way. It’s just that, well, the original series had used the formula so well, and what with King Harry Potter taking over the magical school genre at the time, there wasn’t much that could be said for this little series that really did try its best to make its mark. Oh, don’t get me wrong. During the rewatch I discovered complete gems of episodes, in which it was easy to laugh at the jokes, get sucked into the drama – for the standard of drama the show has – and really connect to the characters. But coming at the end of a re-examination of the entire franchise it feels a little … hollow.
And that’s all I can say about it really. It tries, it occasionally gets it right, but then it doesn’t. Feel free to check it out for yourself and come to your own conclusions though, s’only right, after all.
Z McAspurren (Next week: back to your reguarly scheduled GUST)