One of the many things we’ve been busy doing the last few days was a trip to the BBC. And like every other visitor to Broadcasting House ever, we just had to take a picture of Reuben standing in front of the TARDIS. And there was also a dalek that got him quite excited, but I’m a bit short of pictures for this one so you can see the dalek later.
The reason we were at the Beeb was to catch a preview of the new season of “Old Jack’s Boat”, including the Christmas special, which is showing on Christmas Day at 9:40 but not on CBeebies. No, this one has hit the big time and will be on BBC 1 itself (but appearing on CBeebies first on 19th December). It’s written by Doctor Who supremo Russell T. Davies and it’s a bit special…but more on that later.
First off, producer Dominic explained the changes in the new season – Freema Agyeman wasn’t available to reprise her role as Shelley Periwinkle, so the cafe is now being run by Captain Periwinkle, Shelley’s dad (who doesn’t look old enough to be her dad but never mind). He addressed the kids in the audience, at which point Reuben waved and called out “I’m a kid! I’m one of those kids”. He likes to make his presence known.
And then we watched “Monkey me”, a cute tale about a lonely monkey. There were some nice moments of humour in it, and Roo particularly enjoyed the idea of a “monkey party”… But he also needed the loo, so we had to barge our way out and missed the start of the second episode. Every Cbeebies show does a “hare and the tortoise” story at some point and this was the Old Jack take on it. It was also particularly similar to “The Great Penguin Race” from Octonauts a few Christmasses back so I’m afraid this one didn’t quite win my heart because or felt a bit similar to other shows. It was perfectly nicely done, just not very original.
Talking of Christmasses, it was almost time for the special. . But first there was a quick break for anyone who hadn’t “done a Reuben” already and me and Roo took that time to go and go to chat to Pui, of “Show Me, Show Me” fame. She wasn’t there on meet and greet duties (she’s a producer of the show and was there with her family) but I figured she wouldn’t mind saying hello to a fan. And Reuben too, although he stood there shyly, not saying much. I think he gets tongue tied in the presence of cbeebies celebrities. Which was a pity because a few minutes later we met Old Jack himself. As someone who grew up watching “The Railway Children”, it was a big moment for me. Adding another Doctor Who companion to my record never hurts either. He was very nice, although he did say that Reuben needed a haircut (it was the way Roo kept holding his hair out of his eyes that made him think that). While we were chatting, we also learnt that Paul Hawkyard was the real owner of Salty Dog and that she was actually called Scuzz (yes, after the alt music channel but apparently it suits her).
And then it was time for the Christmas special. I hesitate to spoiler it too much, because it is a thing of beauty. But the story is one of Jack’s past (that’s not a spoiler because there is a “Young Jack” in the credits) and the ending will probably have you in tears unless, of course, you’re slightly dead inside. I cried. Most people cried. I think Bernard Cribbens cried. Even Dominic the Producer was wiping a tear away as he wrapped the screening up, and he must have seen the footage a fair few times now. There’s an appearance from the Harrogate Band as the cast sing together and just a remarkable performance from Bernard as well. It’s quite typical Russell T.Davies style – putting backstory into something previously backstoryless – but it works well and leaves questions unanswered that hopefully will be answered one day.
So, watch out for the new series and set a reminder to be watching BBC1 on Christmas morning at 9:40. Expect to feel saddened but also heart-warmed and keep tissues handy. Oh, and as promised here’s an entirely arbitrary picture of a dalek: