Farthing Watch – 1.11

‘A Deathly Calm’

Last Time: Useless guide Toad forgot that the animals would have to cross a motorway in order to reach White Deer Park. Getting over was a doddle for some animals (the birds, of course, but also those with longer legs and those able to leap) but obviously the rabbits and hedgehogs were not going to have a great time. The rabbits did well, but the hedgehogs were squashed.

‘For the survivors,’ voiceovers Badger, ‘the final hurdle had been overcome. Now nothing could prevent us from reaching Hwhite Deer Park’. I’d love to know what Badger is basing this on – the Farthing wood animals ALWAYS manage to find new hurdles. Just look at the title of this episode! Even the calm is deathly for these guys! Also, it’s pronounced ‘white’, Badge, we’ve been through this.

Oh look, the animals are on another farm! This time it’s a cabbage farm, though, so hopefully the farmer won’t be quite so bloodthirsty…but knowing this lot they’ll probably land in the middle of some sort of locust swarm Armageddon.

The field is rather exposed, which makes everybody nervous. Well, everybody except Weasel, who is squawking along as usual and annoying everybody else. Mole, predictably, is hungry, but there doesn’t seem to be anything to snack on. The field is eerily deserted. It’s like some sort of…deathly calm…

Mrs Rabbit declares that she has never seen a nicer young cabbage, and gets read to tuck in, but Fox stops her. He doesn’t like the smell of it Something is wrong. Could there be something deathly lurking in the calm?

Mr Rabbit complains that he’ll faint if he doesn’t eat, an eventuality which pleases Hare no end. Fix, Badger, Toad and Vixen are all disquieted – there are no mice, no insects, no flowers, only…’CABBAGES’ says Fox. Owl, meanwhile, spots the root of the problem – a couple of barrels with suspicious purple liquid leaking out and big crosses on them. Ah, of course, they’ve wandered into a pesticide paradise! The crash-zoom on Owl’s face and the dramatic music as she rushes to warn the others isn’t really necessary – by this point, I can’t imagine any of the viewers NOT expecting there to be some sort of catastrophe waiting in the wings.

Owl tells Fox to gather everyone together right away. Badger tells Owl that she can’t tell Fox what to do. Vole, as per usual, decides that this is probably the best moment to mutiny against the carnivores. Seriously, it’s a miracle they ever manage to get anything done!

Owl explains that the land is poisoned – ‘it’s on the ground we walk on, in the air we breathe, and the plants, which seemed so luscious, are probably DEADLY!’.

They make the wise decision to leave the cabbage field, only to find that things aren’t any less toxic elsewhere. A beautiful row of apple trees are covered in sticky pesticide residue.

Mrs Vole is hungry and her son explains that Fox thinks all the animals and plants are poisonous. ‘Except you, of coursssssse’ hisses Adder, earning a telling off from Fox. ‘Jussssst teassssing’ she claims.

With the animals getting hungry, and tensions rising, Owl asks Fox what he plans on doing. Fox asks Kestrel (lovely, dependable Kestrel) what she can see. There’s nothing immediately around them, but there is a town not too far away.

‘Alright,’ Fox decides, ‘So humans have taken away our food…so why don’t we take away theirs?’. He’s proposing a scavenging trip, with the bigger animals going to fetch food to bring back. Mr Rabbit isn’t 100% on board with this (‘I’m a martyr to my indigestion!’) but it seems like the best option.

Fox, Vixen and Whistler head into town, pausing to check the menu at a Chinese restaurant. Owl has been scaring off cats to protect a bin bounty. Back in the fields, tummies are rumbling. We get this nice exchange:

Adder: If Whisssstler doesssn’t get back ssssoon, I’ll eat…


Adder: I’d eat that if it wassss on four legssss…or even two!

Whsitler returns, landing on Adder’s tail for the second time this episode. ‘You’re doing it on purposssse!’ she hisses, but forgives him when she sees that he brought meat.

The smaller animals are moaning about wanting vegetables. Whistler heads back and picks up a garden cabbage that Vixen has uprooted. Fox is still bin-diving, but the clattering lid brings out two vicious dogs that chase him and Vixen. They get close but Fox dashes across a train track – in front of a train – and leaves them dumbfounded.

Rabbit and Vole are happily munch on greenery. Whistler can’t find the foxes, but Vixen returns and tells them about what happened. She wants to go back to look for Fox, but Badger tells her not to. Apparently, they need her help to escape the poisoned fields. Not really sure why…

They find a field where the cabbages seem to be normal, and there is a cabbage white butterfly flapping around – until Adder eats it!

Fox returns unscathed, but Kestrel warns that two crop-dusting vehicles are closing in on Badger and the others. A poor butterfly is struck by their ‘rain’ and drops down dead. The best thing to do, Fox reasons, is go back the way they came, to the fields that have already been treated. The rabbits and hares aren’t happy about this, and OBVIOUSLY Vole takes a moment to reiterate how those smaller animals are ‘shick and tired’ of being pushed around. The time is right for some decisive leadership, and that it just what Fox gives us. ‘You’ll do what I say, or else’ he threatens. Weasel calls his bluff. ‘Or else what?’. ‘Or else I’ll bite your head off!’ snarls Fox. Well, that gets them moving! Well played, Fox. Even Adder compliments him!

The spray gets Rabbit, but he’s totally fine. Fox and Owl share a little joke. Why did they bother running if they knew it wasn’t dangerous? They seem to be inventing problems for themselves. They don’t fancy crossing the field, though it isn’t clear why, so Fox suggests another way out…through the town! At that moment Kestrel arrives and tells them that she has SEEN White Deer Park, conveniently enough on the other side of the town. Everybody rejoices. ‘Waheyy, what did I say mateys?’ says Toad. Well actually, Toad, you didn’t say anything. You always give vague instructions and because of you loads of animals are dead. Anyway…they set off for the last stage of their journey!

What could possibly go wrong? Join us next week to find out!


Wild Wisdom of the Week – ‘There are some things even humans don’t approve of’ Owl

‘Humans have a saying – “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”’ Owl

‘Hunger is stronger than any oath’ Owl

‘The darkest hour is just before the dawn…well IT IS!’ Owl

Deaths – Two poor butterflies – one munched by Adder, one sprayed with pesticide

Other musings – Greenpeace moment of the week when Toad asks if the pesticides won’t kill humans too. ‘Perhaps very slowly’ replies Owl. ‘They’re mad!’ says Vixen. Buy organic, kids!

When he finds out that Moley is okay, Badger says ‘thank the lord!’. Which lord? Some sort of Badger lord? A bit clunky, that.

DO adders eat butterflies? I’m sure they eat toads – maybe she should do them all a favour and eat Toad.