Did BBC Get the Undragoning Right? | Talking Beasts

In this episode, the podcasters discuss episode 2 of BBC’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader series. This includes the undragoning of Eustace Scubb, which is one of the most beloved scenes in The Chronicles of Narnia, and also fiendishly difficult to adapt. How did BBC fair?

Watch Part 2 of the discussion.

And, don’t miss NarniaWeb’s interview with Samuel West (Caspian 1990) and Ben Barnes (Caspian 2008)!

Rilian, Gymfan, Glumpuddle

4 Responses

  1. Eustace says:

    BBC did the best job that they could have done with the dragoning. I feel like they understood the dragoning although, I wish they had stuck to the book scene and done the conversation between Edmund and Eustace. It is my favorite scene in the book and no version has done this conversation justice. It is really crucial that Ed and Eustace talk privately and that we hear that conversation.

  2. Col Klink says:

    I’m going to have to do something in this comment I hate to do: defend the undragoning in the Walden Media movie. (Groan) I don’t think it’s fair to say that they didn’t convey the idea that Eustace was reborn at all. It’s true they didn’t focus on it immediately after the transformation but eventually you do get Eustace talking about the experience to the others and apologizing for his previous behavior. And I’m going to have to disagree with Glumpuddle’s mild praise for the undragoning in the BBC serial, which also pains me because I believe I enjoyed this episode more than the podcasters did and I want to defend it a little. But while I can see why Eustace’s tearing off his own scales would look gross to people, that’s actually the part that’s supposed to be not gross. In the book, Eustace just painlessly peels off one dragon skin for another to be under it. It’s only when Aslan tears the body off that it gets really painful. In this adaptation, it actually comes across as the opposite: Eustace tearing the scales off (arguably) looks painful and Aslan transforming him through water submersion looks totally painless. Sigh.

    I liked the dragon costume better than the podcasters did though. I mean I guess it’s because I was comparing it to the Aslan puppet. I mean at least the dragon can blink! And move its legs a little.

    I wasn’t particularly annoyed by Edmund in this episode, but I know the podcasters are not alone in their opinion about him. I was talking with Liberty Hoffman about this adaptation and she felt the same way. I guess it doesn’t bug me because I always got the impression in the book that Edmund was pretty blunt in his anger towards Eustace. I’m more inclined to criticize this adaptation for having Lucy be too angry towards Eustace. Not in this episode though, mostly the first one.

    I’m sorry to be controversial but I’m starting to feel like Samuel West’s Caspian is overrated. Not that he’s terrible or anything. In some episodes, he gives one of my favorite performances in this VDT. But he’s so serious. I know Caspian is supposed to be a really earnest character with a difficult job. But here’s a quote from the book. At the beginning, Drinian is talking.

    “We were in port for a week, for the Duke of Galma made a great tournament for His Majesty and there he unhorsed many knights — ”
    “And got a few nasty falls myself, Drinian. Some of the bruises are there still,” put in Caspian.

    I imagine Caspian saying that line with a sort of self-deprecating humor. He’s making fun of the way Drinian’s describing him as this all-conquering hero. It demonstrates how to down to earth and humble he is. I don’t remember if the exchange is in the BBC VDT, but if it is, I imagine Samuel West giving the line in a really somber, depressed way, like the bruises are eating him up. And-I’m sorry-I like Warwick Davis’s Reepicheep even less. He definitely gets the fierce, martial aspects of the character, but I don’t feel he particularly captured anything else about him. The script may have gotten him off on the wrong foot by having him describe Eustace as “nagging for days.” That’s not a very Reepicheep-esque expression

    As much as I love the audio clips used in these podcast episodes and appreciate Ajaiken’s work, I feel like this one did David Thwaites a disservice by using his voice overs so much. He’s much better when acting in the moment.

    I didn’t have as big a problem with the pacing of Eustace’s time as a dragon as some people did (though I agree that Drinian’s line reading about the number of jobs Eustace could now do was weird; the only thing I can think of is that he was scared of the dragon attacking him and so was adopting a particularly sugary tone) but it occurred to me that this episode might have done well to include the scene where Eustace is by himself at night and Reepicheep tries to comfort him. That would have shown more of Eustace being sad about being a dragon (though I feel like this episode still showed that) and him bonding with the other characters. To be fair though, it’s a hard scene to adapt since C. S. Lewis deliberately wrote Reepicheep’s advice to be clunky. Both the Walden Media movie and the Focus on the Family Radio Theater adaptations rewrote it. The thought behind it was supposed to be what made an impression on Eustace, not the words.

    I didn’t have the problem Gymfan did with the cliffhanger while I was watching the episode itself. But when I watched the next episode and saw how quickly the conflict with the sea serpent was resolved, yeah, it felt kind of artificial, like a cliffhanger for the sake of a cliffhanger. I agree with her that this BBC Narnia adaptation doesn’t need to be watched in parts. I seldom feel like watching more than one episode of their LWW at a time, but VDT is only two hours, has plenty of variety and moves at a good pace. I say, go ahead and binge it.

  3. Larry W, says:

    The actor playing Eustace in the BBC version was actually quite good. The undragoning could have better, but it wasn’t terrible. You do get a sense of Eustace being different and converted, but it shows more after the transformation. The book does a better job with the scene, but that is to be expected.

  4. @jasminetarkheena says:

    Listening to this almost makes me want to go and watch the Narnia BBC-Mini series again (I haven’t watched them in awhile).

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