The Demon Headmaster: the Complete Series,
Directed by Roger Singleton-Turner,
Starring Terrence Hardiman, Frances Amey, Gunnar Cauthery, Thomas Szekeres, Tessa Peake-Jones
Well, for all you younger folks out there. While I was aware of the series being on when it first aired in 1996, I was past the age of watching children’s television. I caught a few repeated episodes when my own children where younger, but that was about it.
So, this DVD release contains all three seasons of the show, a lot of which is a first time viewing for me. It was surprising to me that the few episodes I had seen were from the first half of the first series, where our brave young heroine Dinah (Frances Amey) starts a new school which has some very strange rules, with Prefects who seem to have an awful lot of control over their fellow pupils.
This all, of course, is because of the titular Headmaster (Terrence Hardiman), who is using his hypnotic powers to control the pupils. At first I was puzzled by the smallness of his ambition – why just take over a school if you had those powers? But the Headmaster was one step ahead of me, for he has a bigger plan… And surprisingly, this plan was revealed and came to a head a lot quicker than I expected, halfway through the series. The second half of the series picks up a short time later with an all new adventure.
I found this jarring, and when I read up on it, it confirmed my suspicions that the series was adapted from the first two books in Gillian Cross’ series of novels. Apparently Cross wrote the plot outlines for the two following seasons, then wrote her novels afterwards. The second half is bonkers, but in a good way – although it suffers from the same thing any show from this era does when using computer technology, in that it has not aged very well in this respect, but that’s often the case when revisiting older productions, they were made with what they had at the time.
The next seasons follow in much the same vein, with the Headmaster coming up with ever more over-elaborate schemes to take over the world, only to be (spoilers!) foiled by our plucky group of young adventurers. As with all dramas featuring child actors, the levels of acting talent range from the very good to the clearly-reading-from-a-board level. But, like with things like Blake’s 7 and classic Who, this, along with the sometimes ropey sets and SFX, is all part of the charm.
So, is this any good? I reckon it’s a no-brainer if you’re right in the nostalgia bracket and will make for a lot of fun for you to revisit. As I said earlier, I didn’t have this nostalgia element going into it, but I still had a lot of fun watching it, so for those of you who do have fond memories of it from your childhood viewing are likely to enjoy it even more. It’s worth it alone just to see how much fun Terrence Hardiman is clearly having in the title role.
The Demon Headmaster: the Complete Series is available on DVD now from Simply Media