‘Yonderland’ Episode 5: ‘Closing the Portal’ review

A slight dip in laughs tonight is counteracted by a slightly darker tone (relatively speaking), with sinister undercurrents afoot in Elf’s behaviour and in the mysterious goings-on in Ennythingos. While there’s still a lot of imagination on display, there’s perhaps more reliance on bawdy humour here than previously.

With Debbie nearly missing Sports Day last week and turning up late to her and Pete’s date night at the start of this episode, she’s decided she wants to opt out of being the Chosen One. Yonderland’s Elders are not happy, but Elf announces that he has found a way to close the portal forever: a quest. Possibly commenting on the show’s format this early on in the proceedings isn’t a good sign. This one involves heading to three different places in Yonderland to find the elements of earth, wind and fire.

Essentially, this means we have three long sketches, and unlike previous weeks we don’t really take time to get involved with the guest characters. The initial scene collecting water from the Gesundheit spa works well, and doesn’t outstay its welcome. The longer scene in Ennythingos starts off amusingly, but becomes creepy very quickly.

The strange hypnotic eyes and demented, almost nihilistic behaviour of the inhabitants stops being funny and because quite disturbing after a while. It gives Yonderland a Dark Crystal vibe, like some of the more fevered creations of The Mighty Boosh, but is never explained in the episode. For a family comedy, it’s quite an impressively brave idea to use.

Funnier – because how could it not be – is the final scene with the adorable Parvuli guilt-tripping the bejeezus out of Debbie. Their song goes on slightly too long – God knows how Matthew Baynton felt after singing at that pitch for that length of time – but it’s a great idea done well, and has a nice pay off at the end.

While not at its best, Yonderland is still an imaginative and reliable source of laughs. Next week sees Debbie and Negatus meeting for the first time. Fingers crossed for that one.

Aired at 6.30pm on Sunday 1 December 2013 on Sky1.

> Order Yonderland on DVD on Amazon.

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