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“Nothing works...” - Catweazle

Catweazle is a rather shabby and slightly mad magician who lives in a quiet cave with his ‘familiar’, a toad named Touchwood, in Eleventh-Century England. However, Catweazle’s peaceful life is soon shattered when he is forced to flee from a gang of attacking Norman soldiers; in desperation he casts a spell of flight in order to escape his pursuers – only to find himself transported through time, nine-hundred years into the future. Terrified by the sights and sounds of an strange new world, Catweazle stumbles across Hexwood Farm, where he befriends a young boy named Carrot; an unlikely friendship is soon forged, as over the course of thirteen episodes Catweazle attempts to find a way back to his proper time, whilst coming to terms with the wonders of the unfamiliar world in which he finds himself, such as “electrickery” (electricity), the “sun in a bottle” (a light-bulb), and a “telling bone” (telephone”).

Created by Richard Carpenter, one of television’s most imaginative writers, and the man responsible for such classics as ‘Robin of Sherwood’, ‘The Ghosts of Motley Hall’ and ‘The Adventures of Black Beauty’, ‘Catweazle’ is a delightfully quirky series, with its innovative scripts, comedic escapades and larger-than-life characters. Carpenter saw the name ‘Catweasel’ whilst on holiday in darkest Surrey, and filed it away in the back of his mind until, some time later, he and producer Joy Whitby were looking for inspiration for a new children’s documentary series; recalling the name, Carpenter changed its spelling slightly and invented a magician to go with it, looking to an old painting for inspiration on his ragged appearance. When the story ideas Carpenter and Whitby developed proved to be far more entertaining for use as a simple documentary series, the show quickly transformed into the wild mix of comedy and fantasy that makes it one of television’s most fondly-remembered shows.

As well as the delights of seeing familiar Twentieth-Century objects through the eyes of a displaced Eleventh-Century citizen, the interaction between Carrot (keenly played by Robin Davies) and our eponymous anti-hero, and the effects of Catweazle’s magic (which doesn’t always go to plan!), the show sparkles from the superbly eccentric performance of Geoffrey Bayldon as Catweazle. Ironically Bayldon turned down the title role of ‘Doctor Who’ in 1963, stating that the character was too old; in the aged Catweazle he proves to be an inspired choice of casting, with his shabby outfit, unkempt hair and wild beard, puffing and ‘fizzing’ and generally acting as mad as a balloon, while still managing to win over the audience’s love and their concern that one day he really will get back home.

At the end of the first series Catweazle bids goodbye to Carrot and returns to his own time. But when we rejoin him in the second season, we find that instead of returning to his quiet cave, Catweazle has been imprisoned in a castle dungeon by an unscrupulous lord, and forced to work on a spell to turn lead into gold. Luckily, our wily wizard is able to escape, and he once more ‘flies’ into the future, this time arriving in the Twentieth Century near Kings Farthing, the stately home of Lord and Lady Collingford. After meeting the Collingfords’ son, Cedric (played by the spoddy, nasally-bunged-up Gary Warren, previously seen in ‘The Railway Children’), Catweazle makes his home in an abandoned railway station named ‘Duck Halt, and sets about collecting objects representing the signs of the zodiac in order to cast the one spell that has always eluded him: flight. For this second series of thirteen episodes the television executives decreed that there would be a change in cast, as it was felt that the upper-class Collingford family would appeal more to the overseas market (i.e. America); although these stories are played much more for laughs, particularly with the inclusion of ‘Carry On’ stalwart Peter Butterworth as regular lackey Groome, they still make for some highly entertaining viewing.

Sadly, a third series was never made, despite the fact that Carpenter has stated that he had enough ideas for another three series (season three was to have started with Catweazle - in his hot-air a balloon – returning to Hexwood farm once more, where he is reunited with Carrot). However, I’m sure that Catweazle is still out there somewhere, alive and well and creating his usual mayhem – and you can bet he’s still as mad as ever…

Note: Episode synopses are taken from the original 'TV Times' listings.

Catweazle - Season 1
Catweazle - Season 2

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Legal Bit: 'Catweazle' is a registered trademark of Carlton International Media Ltd.; the 'Catweazle' logo and all images from the television series are copyright Carlton International Media Ltd. unless otherwise stated; music is copyright the original composers and producers; no copyright infringement is intended. All specially created images and text are copyright © Clive Banks; please do not use these without my permission. All rights reserved. No profit is made from this website, and any revenue made from using the banner-links featured goes straight back into the costs of maintaining it, which comes out of my own pocket in the first place. No profit advertising is accepted. This website was created purely to entertain and amuse, and any references to persons living, dead, comatose, in suspended animation, not born yet, or a figment of someone's imagination is purely coincidental. All opinions expressed are my own, so there...

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