The Death of Aslan and Assassination of Mrs. Beaver | Talking Beasts

Podcast Discussion

In this episode, the podcasters discuss parts 3 and 4 of BBC’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe television serial (1988). Is the journey to the Stone Table too slow? Was Father Christmas’s controversial line altered for the better? Is Aslan a tame lion? Do the makeup and effects ultimately get the job done? Does the death of Aslan hit the right emotional note? There’s a lot to unpack here.

Glumpuddle, Gymfan

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16 Responses

  1. Fraser Jackson says:

    Regarding the lack of photo-realism, one reason why this was so disappointing was that the producers really talked it up beforehand. On all sorts of BBC shows, they were talking about the new computer techniques they were utilising to bring the fantastical elements to the screen – then we watched the show and saw two people waddling about in beaver suits!

  2. Col Klink says:

    It’s interesting that you guys disliked episode 4 and liked episode 5. (Relatively speaking anyway.) For me, it was vice versa. I do agree though about Mrs. Beaver though. It’s weird how both this serial and the Walden movie make her seem ditzy for spending so much time packing when in the book she seems so cool and confident. (And why was she cradling a flower pot in that one shot?) I get what they were trying to do with intercutting the wolves and the packing. On paper, it sounds exciting. But in practice, it made Mrs. Beaver look nuts.

    Intercutting the White Witch turning the Christmas party to stone with Father Christmas worked really well for me on the other hand. I thought it was really clever the way they cut from the White Witch saying, “what have we here?” to the kids and the beavers, making it seem like she’d found their hiding place. In the other episodes, when they intercut scenes with each other, it comes across like padding. But I feel that it mostly worked in this episode.

    This is also the only episode thus far which I can understand people liking this adaptation better than the movie one. (Well, I can understand it with every episode on a theoretical level but I can understand it in a more emotional way with this one.) I like the actor who plays Father Christmas a little better in this version because he seems more serious. And I like that this one spends more time with spring. I think if the movie had spent more time on that part of the story, they’d have done better. But as they didn’t, I prefer this.

    In the scene at the Witch’s house, I was genuinely liking Kellermann’s performance. It fit the character for that scene. But as the story went on, I’m afraid she really annoyed me. (Especially during the Christmas party scene and her summoning-evil-people monologue.) It was fun the way she hissed every line in the first few episodes. But in these two, I really wanted the director to tell her to tone it down.

    I think I’m going to write about episode 6 in another comment because I have a lot harsher things to say about it and that way people who are really attached to this series can just read this comment and not that one, saving themselves any hurt feelings. 🙂

  3. Col Klink says:

    I know everyone makes fun of the beaver costumes and we should probably stop at this point….but here’s one more crack for the road. 😉 Did anyone notice that they didn’t bow to Aslan when the Pevensies did? I kept imagining them trying and falling flat on their stomachs. “Help! I can’t get up! Help!” LOL.
    It was interesting the way they had Aslan growl when told Edmund betrayed them. I like that they were trying to make him scary but I’m not sure it quite works since he never seems overtly angry with Edmund in any other scene. I like Pickup’s voice better this last viewing better than previously. I don’t think his voice really fits Aslan’s character but it is a pleasant voice in its own right.

    I get what they were trying to do in the Peter vs Maugrim scene. Since it’s a fairly minor action scene, they wanted to show how exciting it was for the people actually involved. But there’s always the possibility that viewers will just find that overdramatic. I can see both sides.

    Aslan’s death “Made mine eyes water; but more merry tears the passion of loud laughter never shed.” The masks for some of the Witch’s underlings, like the Toad guy and the minotaurs, reminded me of old Power Rangers episodes. Their actors were also really one notes. They didn’t start out scared of Aslan and then become more confident when he didn’t resist. They just cheered and shrieked throughout the whole thing. The White Witch’s line readings were probably her worst and simultaneously best in this series. When she said, “let him first be shaved,” it sounded like she was…how do I put this in a kid appropriate way?…physically attracted to him. I kept expecting her to start hugging and kissing his corpse. LOL. That whole scene was a blast to watch.

    Before I’d have said that this adaptation was “meh.” Not really good. Not really bad. Now I’m leaning more toward it being bad since Aslan’s death scene is such an important scene and they really messed it up here. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy that part. I kind of recommend it for riffing on.

    • Larry W. says:

      The death scene did very well in showing how the witch and those who worked for her mocked and tried to humiliate Aslan before he died. It showed the witch’s cruelty in wanting to make Aslan suffer. “Let him first be shaved” was the ultimate humiliation for a lion to have his mane shaved off. That has nothing to do with physical attraction. The demeaning was quite accurate to the book as Aslan was made to suffer in that way before dying (he was Christlike). One cannot be critical of the series for being faithful to the book at least in this important scene.

      • Col Klink says:

        That’s what the line is supposed to convey in the book. But the actress’s delivery didn’t really convey that to me. I feel that she should have been given more specific direction, mainly that she was relieved that she doesn’t have to be scared of Aslan anymore and nothing stands in her way (as far as she can see.) If you have a screencap of the BBC White Witch specifically looking relieved in this scene, I’d be happy to take a look at it.

      • Larry W. says:

        I thought she looked kind of sadistic in the scene. She may have been relieved (overly confident) in the scene in which she says to Aslan, “you have not saved your own life or his (Edmund’s) What is to prevent me from killing him as well (referring to Edmund) ?. “ She does seem to be cruelly mocking Aslan, which is consistent with her evil nature. I thought the delivery there was quite good, although she may have shouted too much. It does show her arrogance, which according to Lewis, was one of the worst sins. She thought she was more powerful than she was. She had an exaggerated attitude toward herself and her ability to do evil.

  4. Geekicheep says:

    I’m so glad you brought out that line, “battles are ugly when women fight”. The trend these days is to do what I like to call “political correction” on lines like that – hiding lines that have the potential to be seen as {whatever}ist (sexist in this case). I found it disappointing that they felt the need to do that here. Why? Because it’s interesting, funny, and sometimes true! And if it’s sexist, it’s probably not in the way you may think.

    I’m speaking from experience here. I’ve played hockey and soccer against women, and I’ve sparred in dojos against women, and in general my experience has been they’re a lot more intense, threatening, and intimidating than the guys. And in fights I’ve seen on TV and stuff, it’s even worse. A guy may knock you down, and if he’s a total jerk he may kick you, but with a woman that’s just the beginning. I don’t know if it’s because they feel they have to prove something to the guys, or they just get crazy adrenaline rushes in scary situations or what, but I’d rather fight two goons than a lady who knows how to fight. Battles are ugly when women fight – because they do it better! IMO the ladies should be high-fiving on that line! Girl power! 😀 Of course I’m sure I’m one of the few guys to admit it, and not all women are like that, but it’s just not a bad line. There are far worse things that could be said (and have been said) in movies. Not to mention, it was a woman (sort of) who killed Aslan! That scene when she tried to kill Edmund scared the heck out of me as a kid! Even in the Walden version, I saw the Minotaur and thought “awesome”; I looked at the Witch with her wand and two swords, wearing Aslan’s chopped-off mane to the battle, and thought, “look out, Peter!” 😀

    And I agree about the lack of music and the Witch’s performance in the scene at the Stone Table. It’s dark, it’s horrible, and it gets the reaction they wanted. In the book, Lewis called that chapter “the triumph of the Witch” and that’s what it felt like!

    Also, the thing about Mrs. Beaver was extremely funny – and extremely true! I read the title of the podcast and was like, “wait, what? It’s not like she got turned into stone, or taken down by Maugrim or something!” 😀 Seriously though, I used to think, “What the heck are you doing?! Get out of there!!” She’s worried about the stupid sewing machine, when she should be worried about death by petrification!

  5. Larry W. says:

    The death of Aslan really worked well in the BBC series. It has much more of a feeling of sadness about it than the movies— especially with the reaction of devastation of the girls. Georgie Henley and Anna Popplewell are really good actors and I think they could have made this scene much better and deeply emotional than it was. I think Geoffrey Burgon’s music really was great here. I liked the Walden’s movie music, but I don’t think it captured the serious tone of the story as well here or elsewhere, although it is quite beautiful at times. I liked “Wunderkind “, but maybe it was a little too modern for Narnia. Burgon’s music has both majesty and grief (sorrow) in it, which I think is the best for Narnia. 🙂

  6. Cleander says:

    It might be just because I like wolves, but I can’t stand Maugrim’s costume. It makes him look like a giant rat. That being said, I think the actor had a better voice for the part than the Walden one did
    His fight scene with Peter was completely overdone though in my opinion.
    And yes, Aslan sounds like he’s had about ten sodas before he “roars” at the witch. Dude sounds like he’s burping.
    My biggest hope for the Netflix Aslan is that he’s played with at least some sense of danger and mystery. So far both BBC and Walden have done the wise old grandfather thing with him, and it is definitely time for something new.
    I must say, even though the witch’s followers (who aren’t animated) look like they’re about to do trick or treat, the overall look of the Stone Table scene was pretty good. They seemed to recognize that when you have bad props or effects, you can compensate by having lighting that’s even worse. The darkness helped it feel much more real, and also the fact that they cut away before the knife fell lent the scene a little more emotional punch.
    The scene with the kids worrying in the tent felt a little forced- but so is almost everything else in these shows, so I guess it’s not a huge deal.

  7. JFG II says:

    Battles are ugly when women fight – (Chronicles of Narnia)
    War is the providence of men –
    (Lord of the Rings, I think)

    I don’t think Netflix should cut that line from the adaptations. If anything they should lean into it: Father Christmas IS LIKE AN ACTUAL FATHER, giving his son a sword (because he’s going to the front line), leaving out the estranged son, and giving his daughters other weapons of defense. He explains his reasoning for giving those gifts, then – moving on. Lucy & Susan can easily procure swords & shields from the Narnians just like Edmund must have.

    Netflix should make Narnia like what the books were – provocative, not for the sake of being provocative, but because that’s just the way things are in the stories.

  8. Monty Jose says:

    I just started the episode and I really need to ask… what exactly is wrong with Walden’s Mrs. Beaver? I thought the Beavers were very refreshing.

    • Col Klink says:

      I think this episode is talking about the scene where the characters leave the beaver dam. In the movie, the wolves arrive before everyone has a chance to escape which makes it look like Mrs. Beaver was dumb for taking so much time packing. In the book, Mrs. Beaver comes across as smart and everyone else looks dumb by contrast for panicking and wanting to run away without taking anything.

      If I remember the audio commentary correctly, Glumpuddle likes the Beavers (though he wishes the movie could have shown some of the more serious aspects of their characters.) I don’t remember what Gymfan’s opinion of them was but I don’t think it was negative.

      Out of curiosity, can you tell me why you find the Walden Beavers refreshing? I actually don’t like them. LOL. I mean I love their voice actors but I didn’t feel like the script adapted them that well.

      • Monty Jose says:

        I see your point. I guess I never thought of her as portrayed as dumb in the Walden version, just that the time table was shifted. She still had a point that leaving without food and supplies was a bad idea. But honestly, since the Beavers knew about the tunnel and the wolves didn’t at first, the scene still plays the same as far as intelligence goes for me.

        I found the Beavers refreshing because of a couple reasons. First, having grown up with the BBC version first, it was nice to see photorealistic beavers instead of the beehive-beavers. I also appreciated the actors’ portrayals. The dialogue felt natural and realistic and gave a little more depth to their characters than the book provided.

  9. Col Klink says:

    I know this is like my fourth comment on this episode but I’ve been thinking about why the death of Aslan doesn’t sadden me in this adaptation (besides the fact that the performances of the Witch and the hags are hilarious) and I think part of it is that I never really felt like Aslan was alive in the first place. So it’s hard to feel bad about him dying.

    To be fair, I think part of this was C. S. Lewis’ fault. Aslan really doesn’t do much in the story prior to his death so there isn’t much time to get attached to his character. I know Glumpuddle has said that the fact that Aslan brought Christmas and Spring back to Narnia is what makes his death devastating. But we never actually saw him do those things. We were just told that he did them. You get the idea that all he had to do was show up.

    But in the book Aslan has this air of menace (for lack of a better word) about him. It’s really powerful and shocking when he just lets the White Witch and her followers kill him in such a brutal and humiliating fashion. Here Aslan just feels like a prop and I kind of wonder why it took so long for the White Witch to kill him. 🙂

  10. JFG II says:

    About this TV film’s pacing:

    One of the things I loved about BBC’s LWW as a child was the slow-paced journey to Aslan’s Table. It felt like following the main characters in real-time, which as a small kid I found enthralling. The movie made it quicker and of course the animated film skipped it all in a 2 minute montage. Whenever I read the book and the siblings and the beavers are stealing quietly threw the night, I always imagine the BBC TV film. It’s just closer to the pacing in the novel.

    Minus the excitement you say? My reply: You can’t really have both. The Lord of the Rings book is quietly exciting but the movie condenses the first 200 pages of Fellowship into 1 hr. It’s exciting on screen but the pacing is starkly different than the book. If LotR were to be made into an episodic series (1 chapter per episode, 1 book per season) the pacing would be much closer to the book, and people would complain that it’s not as exciting.

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