Monday, 7 December 2009

335: Five Go Mad in Dorset

“Five Go Mad in Dorset”
2 November 1982
Written by Peter Richardson and Peter Richens

Adrian Edmondson as Dick
Peter Richardson as Julian
Dawn French as George
Jennifer Saunders as Anne
Daniel Peacock as Toby
Ronald Allen as Uncle Quentin

English viewers can watch “Five Go Mad in Dorset at

American viewers can watch it on some sort of licensed Youtube deal at

“Five Go Mad in Dorset” is a parody of the long-running “Famous Five” detective stories for children by Enid Blyton. The books always featured the same four (upper-middle class) children, two boys and two girls, with their pet dog, who go camping or visiting some deserted spot, and in the process uncover some criminal plot, which they promptly feel compelled to put to rights.
“Five Go Mad in Dorset” isn’t just a parody of the shortcomings and reliance on formulae of the books, but also an assault on the political and social attitudes they embodied. The intrepid independent juvenile detectives of Enid Blyton’s childrens books are revealed to be greedy, sexist, racist, neo-fascists.

On holiday visiting their Aunty Fanny (fnarr-fnarr) the children are informed that their scientist uncle Quintin has been kidnapped yet again. The children resolve to rescue him. Eventually, after all the typical exploits, they discover yet another deserted castle where they are captured by henchmen and brought to the mysterious villain’s headquarters. In the villain’s chamber, they are surprised to encounter Toby a crass American schoolboy whom they had snubbed earlier on grounds of class and chauvinism. They ask if he’s alright.

Toby: (knowingly) It was a bit hair-raising at first. But now I’ve come to quite enjoy it

Dick: Spill the beans at once. There’s something very unnatural happening here, and that’s for sure.

(Someone comes in behind the children)

Uncle Quentin (dry, weary Noel Coward type tones): I think I can explain everything, children

The Famous Five turn around, and say as one: Uncle Quentin!

UQ: Do sit down children

Julian: What’s going on Uncle Quentin?

Dick: Yes we thought you’d been kidnapped

(children sit down as Uncle Quentin rests himself against mantelpiece)

UQ: That was all . . . part of my plan

Julian: What exactly do you mean, uncle?

UQ: Now you dreadful children have found out my little secret, I suppose I may as well “Spill the Beans”

Dick: You mean the kidnap was all a hoax? Whatever for?

UQ: For many years now, your Aunt Fanny and I have not had a proper marital relationship. She’s an unrelenting nymphomaniac. And I’m a screaming homosexual.

(Children all look quizzically at each other)

UQ: It seems pointless trying to explain it to you . . . you little prigs. So we concocted this story to save your aunt from any . . further embarrassment. Now it’s too late. Toby and I are fleeing the country tonight

(Toby cample exhales cigarette smoke through his nostrils as he winks at Uncle Quentin)

UQ: In a fishing boat

Julian (leaps up irate): Well you’re wrong about one thing Uncle Quentin. There is something we can still do. And that is call the police. Homosexuality is still against the law in this country, as well you know it.

UQ: Oh dear. I thought even you Julian might find a morsel of sympathy for your poor old uncle . . . for old times sake.

Dick (leaping up irate): It’s no good uncle Quentin. You’re a Queer, and that’s the end of it.

(Bells are heard, as Uncle Quentin looks pained)

Girls: Hoorah! The police!

(The police congratulate the Famous Five and usher Uncle Quentin and Toby into police car. As the car drives off Uncle Quentin casts his buttonhole out of the window)

Dick: Well, that was an adventure and a half!

George: Yes. Who would have thought That of UQ

Anne: Uurgh! I’m glad he’s safely locked up. I never liked him one bit anyway

Uncle Quentin is only a brief cameo, to top all the subversion of Blyton’s precious wholesome clichés. Having the villain turn out to be their uncle cuts through all the standard expectations of the “Famous Five” stories. Making him gay is the final twist. Quentin’s homosexuality isn’t laughable, it’s its appearance in a Blyton novel that supplies the shock of comedy. Any homosexual revelation is totally alien to Enid Blyton’s fictional world and that’s the real joke, the small-minded conformity of her nostalgic world. Quentin is a bit of a stereotype: the high class pervert, dry, louche refined and world-weary. However this sort of gay criminal mastermind does have some pedigree dating back to the more stylish thrillers and crime capers of the late 1960s. One or two reviewers have felt that the use of Quentin and his portrayal might be a bit homophobic. But it’s obvious that the episode is really satirising homophobia. The four children are so obnoxious in their conservative prejudices, that their contemptuous homophobia is laughable. So the mild stereotype of Uncle Quentin is used as the bait for more of their smug, self-congratulatory declarations about society.

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