Top critical review
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on 28 January 2017
'The Worst Witch' was a childhood television favourite of mine, and at the age of 24, when I discovered that the BBC had decided to remake this enchanting series, I just knew that I would have to see it, whether or not it's good or bad. To my surprise, this is quite a nicely done revival and is sure to delight a new generation of children. I say surprised, because after the 2005 reboot, 'The New Worst Witch', I was not impressed.
Based on the classic Seventies books by Jill Murphy, 'The Worst Witch' centres around Mildred Hubble, a kind-natured, but terribly unlucky pupil at Cackles Academy for Witches. She's a constant source of irritation to the school's authoritarian Miss. Hardbroom, but is always supported by her best friend Maud, and this outsider, whose abilities are always doubted due to her belonging to a non-witch family, somehow always manages to save the day.
The acting here is generally rather good. 'Game of Thrones' Child actress Bella Ramsey makes a passable Mildred (who is shockingly, seen on screen without her trademark plats!), and her friendship with best mate Maud, played by a girl called Meibh Campbell is very touching, as these two girls stick together through everything, and never let the other down. Mildred's cocky, stuck-up arch enemy Ethel, played well by Jenny Richardson, is still out for the girl and displays as much spitefulness as ever, and Raquel Cassidy, although her Miss. Hardbroom characterisation is nowhere near as scary as the great Kate Duchêne's, is still pretty sinister. Lots of other well-known older British actresses take on roles as the academy's staff, including Clare Higgins as the kindly headmistress Miss. Cackle, and Wendy Craigg as Miss Batt, who is disappointedly portrayed as a rather straight lady, and not at all eccentric. I have to say that I think that former 'EastEnders' star Kacey Ainsworth (the soap's mousey Little Mo) looks very out of place, and her character of the cockney teacher doesn't quite work.
The writing of this series is equally good, and the setting is wonderful. On the negative side, the special-effects are pretty naff, as well as the unmemorable theme music. There are also a few changes that have been, going against the original books and TV series, but by and large it remains faithful to the franchise. By the second half-hour episode (the first is a feature length), we are introduced to the troublesome new girl Enid Nightshade, who has been expelled from a string of schools, but soon becomes a friend of Mildred's. I look forward to seeing the rest of the episodes in this series, and when I do, I'll add my thoughts to this review.
Predictably, I favour the old CITV series from 1998, but I don't think that's down to nostalgic filter completely, as I do believe it to have been a better series on so many levels, but 'The Worst Witch' of 2017 isn't bad at all. Although only four episodes have been shown on the BBC thus far, I have to say that I felt compelled to write a review of the upcoming DVD release, to inform people that this is one of those remakes which will appeal to fans of the original, as well as the younger people. 'The Worst Witch' is not on par with the Nineties version, but it could have been a whole lot worse. Ultimately, I found it all rather charming.