Refracted Input

Clare O’Farrell’s blog on books, TV, films, Michel Foucault, universities etc. etc.

Tarot's padMy rating: *****
The Ace of Wands website
See here for my main post on this series.

I am enjoying my repeat viewing of the series and finding it a lot less clunky second time around. Nonetheless the hilarious difference between the shots of the cast on donkeys in a sandpit with a tame camel tethered in the background and the stock shots of Egypt still makes me laugh.

Another enjoyable thing about the series includes the very 60s/early 70s theme song (composed by Andrew Bown, a future member of Status Quo with lyrics by Trevor Preston) which are the absolute embodiment of meaningless 60s psychedelia.

Velvet roofs
Tattooed streets
Patterns made from words
Laughter echoes in the dark
Life hovers like a bird

This song accompanies a psychedelic animated sequence which is an equally classic period slice.

The endings of all the stories remain a bit of a let down with interesting supernatural themes being swept under the carpet by so-called ‘rational explanations’ or simply being too hastily and abruptly resolved. In P.J. Hammond’s stories one can see the embryo of many of the ideas he went on to develop much more fully and more satisfactorily in Sapphire and Steel. It is a pity that Hammond hasn’t in general had more opportunity to work in the supernatural/fantasy genre where he is able to generate unique and striking ideas conducive to further philosophical reflection. Instead most of his work has been in crime fiction with a number of outings in recent years in Midsomer Murders, a modern entry in the English country village murders genre à la Agatha Christie.

The acting is good all round in Ace of Wands and there is a warm friendly cameraderie between the three members of the main cast which makes for easy repeat viewing. And of course the fashion and the pet owl add to the ongoing aesthetic fascinations.

It has prompted me to think about doing a comparison with other series featuring stage magicians (eg Jonathan Creek and Bill Bixby’s The Magician) and I might write something about those further down the track.

My other posts on Ace of Wands
Ace of Wands (1970-72)

Links to other pages on Ace of Wands
The Ace of Wands website
David Sheldrick
Geoff Wilmmetts
Andrew Screen
Review on the Retro to go site

Mondo Esoterica Review
BFI screenonline page Includes video clips
Pages at

4 thoughts on “Ace of Wands (2)

  1. Glenn Dakin says:

    Delighted to find someone as fond of Ace of Wands as I am. I love the liberating strangeness of the line ‘where running is no race’ from the theme song. I find it very endearing when Tarot stops to explain weird psychic events to his friends, there is an air of caring and openness in the series. So nice to read your affectionate analysis. I’m a writer of children’s fiction, comics and TV and admire the integrity of the concept, where there are strange phenomena but never any aliens or out and out fantasy. Did you know Ozzy was supposed to be a Toucan first and that Ace of Wands was originally a planned name for one of Tarot’s foes!


  2. Clare O'Farrell says:

    Many thanks for your comment. As I said in my review – in the age of the reboot and remake – this would be a really great concept – well as long as the nuWho writers or Sherlock writers don’t get their hands on it and turn Tarot into a twisted tortured character! (I liked your blog post on Doctor Who.) I didn’t know that Ozzy was originally supposed to be a Toucan – I think the owl works better. I wonder if J.K. Rowling might have seen this series before she wrote Harry Potter?
    I really enjoyed having a thorough look around your website and have added your blog to my rss feeds. I have asked my university library to order in your Candleman books. They have your Finding Nemo book.


  3. Glenn Dakin says:

    That is very kind. Hope someone there enjoys Candle Man. I liked your observation about the anticlimactic endings on Ace of Wands stories. I have been especially puzzled by the ending of The Power of Atep, where Tarot blithely dismisses Atep as a showman, an illusionist, when throughout the story we have quite clearly seen real, dangerous sorcery and supernatural events going on. It’s as if the production team and the script editor were not talking to each other. Unless Tarot is deliberately playing down the mystical aspect for reasons of his own – he is often cynical about strange phenomena although he participates in it all the time.
    I love the fact that at the end he doesn’t punish or even criticise his old stage partner Pentacle, and just writes the whole near-death experience off to ‘healthy competition’.
    A great line. One of my other favourite exchanges comes in The Meddlers.
    Cranky Old Doomsayer (to Chas): Philistine!
    Chas quips back: Frankenstein!


  4. Clare O'Farrell says:

    I think this downplaying of the supernatural element reflects the time it was made. The trope was that all this supernatural mumbo jumbo could be explained scientifically and best not to expose children to too much of it. Things had changed by the end of the 1970s when PJ Hammond was able to let the full force of the supernatural come through in Sapphire and Steel.


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