Mackenzie Crook returns in a new episode of his interpretation of Barbara Euphan Todd’s Worzel Gummidge. Crook already has two episodes under his belt which debuted last Christmas- The Scarecrow of Scatterbrook and The Green Man in which he introduced us to a Worzel more faithful to the books than the excellent Jon Pertwee‘s predecessor. Serving ad writer, director, and star, Crook steered clear of the obvious camparisons to Pertwee and instead created a world mythocal folklore that kept within Todd’s original vision.
In this episode Worzel acquires a £20 note (delivered to him by the wind from an old lady called Peg played by Vanessa Redgrave who is more than she seems) and along with Susan (India Brown) and John (Thierry Wickens) sets out to buy a door at the salvage yard. Instead he runs into his old friend Saucy Nancy (Shirley Henderson), a discarded ship figurehead who needs help getting back to the sea, and decides to use his new found wealth to buy her.
Earthy Mangold (Francesca Mills) helps prepare Wozel for his adventure and soon Worzel, Susan, and Tom are off to fetch Saucy Nancy and take her to the seaside but all does not go to plan! Worzel manages to bump into his old friend Abraham Longshanks (voiced by Brian Blessed) along the way and soon they find themselves on the beach with Peg.
Crook previously noted that this year’s special episode would serve as a tribute to the late Barbara Windsor who played the original Saucy Nancy. Windsor had been living with Alzheimer’s, and passed away earlier this month at the age of 83.
Crook’s Worzel maintains his innocence and bewilderment and Henderson as always absorbs the charcter she is playing – her Saucy Nancy sounds a lot more offensive with her language than she actually is thanks to all the made up swear words she spouts! Her run-in with a bus conductor being a highlight.
A special mention also needs to go to Steve Pemberton and Rosie Cavaliero as Mr. and Mrs. Braithwaite – who serve as the backbone of the show and provide some extra warmth as we are let into how their relationship with Susan and John has developed.
Verdict: 7/10. A touching tale that touches on our sense of belonging in the world. Crook’s again opens up the Gummidge world to us and allows us to see yet another small corner of this crazy folklore world that exists right under our noses. A welcome addition to his growing Worzel Gummidge cannon.