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The new ensemble brought a different complexion to the show, which whilst neither improving upon the first series, nor selling to America, did nevertheless prove successful, reaching out across Europe, Australia and even Japan, and is still fondly remembered by devotees around the world. Robin Davies however, unaware of the reasons why he was not asked to return, mistakenly believed it was because he had in some way been substandard. Ever perceptive, Carpenter wrote to Robin in an attempt to explain, telling him that it would never be the same without him. Upon reflection, Carpenter’s prediction was true beyond a doubt.
The second series commenced with Catweazle once again jumping into water whilst escaping captivity from the Normans — this time in a leap from battlements into a castle moat. He surfaced — again in the twentieth century — at a place called ‘Kings Farthing’, the ancestral home of the Collingford family. The premise for the series, although simple, was yet again ingenious. Knowing from the start this time that the series would run to its quarterly term of thirteen weeks, Carpenter crafted his storyline around Catweazle searching for the twelve signs of the Zodiac, finding a different sign in each weekly instalment, and culminating in the discovery of an elusive thirteenth sign in the final episode. The signs link-in with a cryptic inscription left by Cedric’s great, great grandfather, which fuels both Catweazle’s quest for the power to fly and Cedric’s quest to find the lost family treasure.
Having lost the artistic eye of director Quentin Lawrence, for the greater part, the second series lacked the finesse of the first. At low points it was permitted to descend into uncharacteristic slapstick — clearly at odds with Carpenter’s earlier wishes asserted in a February 1970 edition of TV Times, in which he declared: ‘In Catweazle there won’t be any custard pies.’ However, viewers who were hooked by the prospect of a fruitful climax were not disappointed. With an ingenious storyline on a par with works by even the most pre-eminent authors of English children’s literature, the final episode — in common with the first series’ conclusion — remains a beautiful piece of television. In a setting of blue skies and autumn leaves, Cedric finally solves the cryptic riddle left by his ancestor, after discovering ‘where the thirteenth [sign] lies’ whilst gazing at the Kings Farthing clock tower through a telescope. Aided by Catweazle, he breaks into the spire — significantly capped with an effigy of ‘Old Father Time’ himself in the form of a weather vane — and finds the treasure, hence saving the Collingfords’ ancestral home.
Some memorable and strangely melancholic scenes ensue, in which Catweazle — despondent by the discovery that, ‘the one who flies’ is not to be him, but is in fact Father Time — denounces magic. The scene with Touchwood in which he beseeches his amphibious companion to ‘find thee a true magician’ before sending him on his lonesome way, advising: ‘hide from hungry crows’ and ‘swallow no bees’ is a real tearjerker, particularly when viewed through the eyes of a child.
As if like a messenger however, Touchwood soon returns, leading to the final scenes in which Catweazle discovers a hot air balloon in a field, prompting a new belief that the thirteenth sign is in fact a circle. Again, Carpenter’s writing excels, as Catweazle — exultant at his discovery — exclaims: ‘No beginning — no end; nothing — and everything … ‘tis the moon.’ The symbolism even extends to the circular life-ring attached to the balloon’s basket, ingeniously emblazoned with the name ‘Zodiac’. The final scene sees Catweazle ascending into the sky, and at last, he flies. The usual closing signature tune is thoughtfully replaced with a most haunting theme (akin to Vaughn Williams or Ravel in style) as Catweazle flies over the beautiful English countryside and recedes into the distance, never to return again.
And so it is, that with hardly a repeat screening in almost forty years, people from far and near come together in a pastoral Surrey setting to pay homage to a time-travel classic, which some might say is peculiarly closer to Enid Blyton than H. G. Wells. This could indeed account for the somewhat eclectic mix of admirers who come back to this tranquil location year after year. One only needs to glance across the crowds to realise the mass appeal — from enthusiastic children as young as five, to equally enthusiastic children in their fifties!
The event has been made possible by the farm’s owners, who together with the people of East Clandon, have shown such noble understanding in their willingness to open up the village fete held at the farm each year to this group of like-minded, and surprisingly level-headed interlopers (no ‘Klingons’ here). The sustained and burgeoning success of the event however, can be safely laid at the feet of Carol Barnes who runs the official Catweazle Fan Club, with co-founder Gary Bowers and her army of helpers who work enthusiastically throughout the year — and throughout the fete — towards making the event a success. This particular occasion marked an exceptionally triumphant feat of organisation, as arrivals to the Catweazle tent were greeted with a spectacle to exceed their greatest expectations; a line-up to bring a Catweazle 'curl' to the hair of many a fan.