Anticipation was high for Mackenzie Crook’s interpretation of Barbara Euphan Todd’s scarecrow adventures and with many seemingly already making their mind up based on the trailer it was an uphill battle for Crook and Co. Sure Jon Pertwee‘s version of the character is hard to beat, as documented in our recent review, Pertwee’s Worzel entertained a generation but it was Pertwee’s Worzel it strayed greatly from Todd’s initial vision. Now Crook hopes to modernise that vision by introducing elements from the books that have previously been ignored.
In The Scarecrow of Scatterbrook we meet two young foster children Susan (India Brown) and John (Thierry Wickens) who arrive to stay with Mr and Mrs Braithwaite (Steve Pemberton and Rosie Cavaliero). They soon encounter Worzel Gummidge (Crook), the Scarecrow of Ten Acre Field and are introduced to a strange new world that includes Worzel’s Aunt Sally (Vicki Pepperdine),Earthy Mangold (Francesca Mills), and a whole host of other Scarecrows of Albion, as they try to work out what has happened to the weather as it turns out the seasons have been locked.
Crook’s Worzel builds on Todd’s 1930’s version with the scarecrow exhibiting a child like innocence, while equally being sceptical of the human folk around him. This creates a weaving dialogue of humour, imagination, folklore, and nature somewhat reminiscent of Robin of Sherwood. Yes it talks about the environment and damage people do the countryside but these are things that should be talked about. Plus it does it in away where we see how these actions impact the characters and thus make it part of the story rather than just shoe horn it in for the sake of it.
Verdict: 7/10. A solid introduction of a new Worzel Gummidge that sticks closer to the books than it’s predecessor. Once you accept this is not Pertwee’s Wozel and sit back you might just enjoy the ride.
You can watch the episode now on BBCIplayer.