What picture might outsiders paint of Cipher Mysteries in their mind? A mid-town apartment filled with books, box-files, printouts, and eBay-bought sofas filled with a continual stream of cipher groupies all surreptitiously hoping to pick up on some innocuous clue to fabulous buried treasure?
Well… that’s presumably fairly close to what the script-writer on The (all-new) Basil Brush Show (on the CBBC channel) sees when he closes his eyes, as you can tell from Episode 7 of Series 6 called “Da Basil Code“, where Basil and his friends go on a Dan Brown-esque cipher scavenger hunt.
It starts with Basil talking about how his family have long sought after the mythical Golden Teacup of Cam-Oh-Mee-Lay (*sigh*), that can give you whatever you wish for; then, Basil’s evil cousin Mortimer just happens to steal the Mona Lisa and bring it to Basil’s flat; someone just happens to spill a cup of tea over poor M’ona, revealing a concealed message in a nearly-lost language; which ditzy Madison just happens to be able to read; which just happens to lead them to a series of clues (such a huge stone sarcophagus that just happens to be in the middle of Madison’s flat) ending in a disused dishwasher in Anil’s cafe. Anil then just happens to be a member of a millennia-spanning secret organization dedicated to guarding the Golden Teacup; but when everyone just happens to wish for too much materialist stuff (as they were warned not to do right from the start), the Golden Teacup breaks. But then they go off on another scavenger hunt (so that’s alright, then).
(Incidentally, every time I watch or read one of these trashy cipher tales, each “just happens” plot device makes my stomach tighten – they’re symptoms of underlying writing laziness.)
Now, I read “Da Basil Code” as a cautionary tail :-), for those Cipher Mysteries readers who just happen to be currently plotting / writing cipher-themed books / screenplays to consider carefully. Look – if this po-faced Da Vinci Code stuff is already clichéed enough to be thoroughly parodied for the viewing pleasure of 5-9 year-olds (and not even at the hands of the Simpsons scriptwriters, who have given us Homer’s talking astrolabe), then might it simply be that the whole scrungy idea has passed its sell-by date?
Not to put a bomb under your best-laid plans, but… boom, boom! 🙂