Childhood Horrors

by Kieran Healy on April 26, 2007

Sneaky SnakeSo, in a fit of nostalgia I picked up a DVD of Wanderly Wagon episodes. Although marketed as “Vol 1” it seems to be a slightly haphazard collection of episodes, as these were the days (the 1970s) when most programs were not preserved on videotape. The second scene in the first episode re-introduces us to the character shown here, Sneaky Snake. I had forgotten about his fez. But the tiny rush of adrenaline that I felt as he hoisted himself up on his bench (prehensile tail and all) next to Dr Astro reminded me how much he used to scare the bejaysus out of me when I was a kid. Something about the eyes. Always looking at you they were. On second thoughts, maybe I’ll hold off on making my own kids watch this stuff.

Watching the first couple of episodes, apart from the obvious lack of retakes, the main thing that strikes you is the writing. It’s an odd mix. E.g.,

Dr Astro: I am … Doctor Astro!

O’Brien: Doctor who?

Dr Astro: No, Doctor _Astro_. Doctor Who is BBC, Doctor Astro is RTE.


Godmother (to Oisín): When did you last see your father?


Oisín: Don’t follow too close behind, and don’t make me wobble, because if I fall off this bicycle, we’re all banjaxed.


O’Brien: [Singing about Oisín] He’s Oisín from Tir na n-Óg, and he never grows old …
Judge: He does ballet and go-go, and all different styyyyles …
Mr Crow: He told me himself he does two minute miles …
O’Brien: And he’s good at karate and breaks tons of tiles.

Bonus subtext:

O’Brien: Look, you can have Judge’s bunk, and Judge can share my bunk with me. Can’t you Judge?
Judge: Of course, O’Brien. It won’t be the first time.


Dr Astro [miniaturized]: I may be small, but I’m perfectly formed.



René Daumal 04.27.07 at 4:46 am

It is hard, as an adult, not to develop the suspicion that the writers for these shows have more fun than anybody. How many of these jokes are only for the kids? Jokes about BBC syndication?


Nick Caldwell 04.27.07 at 8:51 am

Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the writers and performers on ??Wanderly Wagon??, Frank Kelly, became better known as Father Jack Hackett in ??Father Ted??.


Katherine 04.27.07 at 8:59 am

This is just another ploy to make readers reveal their age isn’t it? Go go Danger Mouse, where the heroes are stupid and the villains are stupider!


Nigel 04.27.07 at 10:26 am

I loved the documentary on vol 1 about all the Lambert children doing the puppets for the show. Being a large faily, they were always arguing and often weren’t talking to eaxch other except through Mr Crow and the Squirrels.
I saw the Wagon itself at Connolly Barracks a few years ago, and it was a bit sad, because intrinsic to the appeal of the Wanderleys was the indoor set, and that, of course, was not part of the Wagon. It was always cosy and warm and crowded and full of life and magic and chat…sniffle. No, no, I’m okay…just something in my eye…


mollymooly 04.27.07 at 11:56 am

My favourite line from WW:
O’Brien: “Don’t panic! The first thing to do is, don’t panic!”
Space mice [in unison as ever]: “That’s not the first thing to do: that’s the first thing not to do!”
Children’s TV too rarely panders to the pedant’s love of logic.


Backword Dave 04.27.07 at 11:59 am

Re 2: can I be the first to say, ‘Feck!’?


harry b 04.27.07 at 12:59 pm

Pogle’s Wood. That reveals my age — its my first TV memory. Apparently the witch in it was so terrifiying that Oliver Postgate had to drop her.

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