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YMMV / The Worst Witch

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  • Adaptation Displacement: While the books are very popular, the 1998 series tends to be a little better known. A lot of details from the show - like Miss Bat and Miss Drill's Adaptation Personality Change, Maud's surname being Moonshine, Ethel being a Rich Bitch - are mistaken as book canon. Jill Murphy even ran with it, notably expanding Drusilla's role in books written after the TV series. The TV movie is mostly forgotten, except for a few nostalgic fans.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Mildred's status as the Worst Witch in the school is up for debate. On the one hand, she is quite bad at a few things. But on the other, she seems to be mainly bad in the school environment. The main problems that her teachers have is that she's accident prone, occasionally lazy and quick to break the rules. Once she's got the proper theory down, she doesn't seem to have any problem casting magic in the field. She also notably gets over her fear of heights through consistent broomstick flying - suggesting she might be Brilliant, but Lazy and fully capable of getting high marks if she applies herself. This is also shown in the 2017 series within the first episode, wherein Mildred is quite capable of creating a Levitation Potion correctly the first time she does so, simply because she is applying her fully to working on said potion.
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    • Miss Hardbroom's attitude towards Mildred is also up for debate. There's reason to believe she just has a vendetta against the girl - as there are a lot of incidents where she shows blatant favouritism to Ethel and is quick to punish Mildred without giving the latter the benefit of the doubt. One has to wonder how much of Mildred's ineptitude stems from Hardbroom's treatment of her. On the other hand, Miss Hardbroom is always happy whenever Mildred does well in class - and she'll always sincerely thank Mildred whenever she saves the day. So it might be that Hardbroom thinks Millie is Brilliant, but Lazy too - and her dislike could be that she thinks Mildred is wasting her potential. It can be argued that the 1998 series' Miss Hardbroom is portrayed with this attitude in mind. Also a case of Fridge Brilliance: of course Mildred would see her stern teacher as unnecessarily harsh, she's the one who's often in trouble. As the audience we are allowed to see that there is more to HB than her strict attitude, and high standards.
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    • With regards to Ethel and Drusilla, how much does Ethel care for her? There are times when Ethel seems to view her as a servant rather than a friend. Other episodes show that she does seem to care for her to some extent. Given that Ethel has no other friends, and appears to be a bit of a Daddy's Girl, it's possible she wants a friend but doesn't know how to behave towards one. The books seem to regard them as allies only, as the other girls find Ethel's attitude too much. The 2017 also suggests in it's first episode that Ethel may have an inferiority complex (and later episodes all but state it outright), due to living in the shadow of her equally brilliant older sister. However, it can be said that Ethel's sister seems a little wary of Ethel, so whether or not this is the case remans to be see.
    • Miss Hardbroom also seems to have a very black and white view of thinking. She favours tradition only, and it's implied she's extreme for even elite witches (Miss Cackle and the Grand Wizard aren't as traditional as she is). She picks on Ruby Cherrytree, who isn't a particularly bad student, and it seems to be purely because Ruby is such a technofile. She also looks down on Miss Drill, the only Muggle member of staff, which has some parallels with tokenism (Miss Drill being the token non-magical teacher). Could it be that HB's dislike comes from fear that they're threats to the traditional ways? Her not wanting Charlie Blossom to attend Cackle's is quite similar - as mixed sex education is a rather modern concept.
  • Author's Saving Throw:
    • The 2017 series remedies a bad case of Fridge Logic as to the witches blatantly flying on brooms everywhere, despite Weirdsister College stressing The Masquerade. Broomsticks are enchanted so that non-magical people can't see them in flight.
    • In the books there's a Plot Hole regarding animal spells. Ethel can still speak when Mildred turns her into a pig in the first book, but Mildred can't when Ethel turns her into a frog in the third. The TV series fixes this when it adapts the former plot - Ethel can't speak when she's turned into a pig at all.
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • Hobbes from Weirdsister College. Some give him the Draco in Leather Pants treatment due to his Freudian Excuse. Others find that it doesn't justify his awful behaviour and think he's unnecessarily dickish. And then there's the third group who are arguably a mix of both sides of the argument, thinking that while his past makes his motivations understandable, he does need to check his behaviour.
    • Any replacement teacher (or actor) is more likely to become a subject of this trope. Especially when it comes to fan favourite, Miss Hardbroom.
  • Ear Worm:
    • Mildred, Enid and Maud's performance honoring Granny Cackle in "Up In The Air" is nice and catchy.
    "And though all this was long ago, remember if you can/Our founder was no Shrinking Violet but a highwayman."
    • "Spell Power" which features in the Season 2 finale is just as ear wormy as the rest of late 90s-early 2000s Girl Groups.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Miss Bat is the most popular of the teachers with fans. It's quite surprising given that she made one appearance in the books. Arguably it can be said that all the teachers would fit under this tropes, as this series is written largely from Mildred's point of view, and she does not often get on with her teachers even with the best of intentions.
    • Drucilla made just one brief appearance in the fourth book. But her popularity due to an expanded role in the TV series led to Jill Murphy featuring her in more books.
    • For non-book characters, Charlie Blossom as well - presumably for the Shipping potential. One episode character Deirdre Swoop also got upgraded to regular in both spin-offs.
    • Clarice is also rather popular for someone who only made a brief appearance in the books and was in a supporting role for most of the TV series.
  • Evil Is Cool: The Uninvited from the finale of the 1998 series. The witch from the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale is accidentally released and puts the whole school to sleep within minutes. Even when Miss Hardbroom is revived, she can only match and not overpower her magic.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple:
    • While pairings regarding Mildred herself will be varied within the fandom, older fans - particularly those who grew up with the 1998 iTV series - seem to have a preference for Miss Hardbroom/Miss Drill.
    • In the 2017 series, fans are split between shipping Miss Hardbroom/Miss Pentangle and Miss Hardbroom/Miss Cackle.
    • Also popular, again among that particular circle of fans, seems to be Fenny and Gris, the two friends who are never seen without the other. It's very easy to read a relationship into that. Though, considering that Cackle's is an all-girl's school, it would be easy to read any friendship as romantic.
  • Fridge Brilliance:
    • The most obvious example would be seen in the portrayal of Miss Hardbroom in the adaptations. While Mildred sees her as a teacher who hates her, the audience are shown that this is not the case, it's simply that Miss Hardbroom thinks that the girl keeps jumping into trouble without thinking about the consequence (this is outright confirmed in the first episode of Weirdsister College.) But of course that wouldn't be obvious in the books - they're all from Mildred's point of view.
    • Ethel gives herself a "witch-over" in season 2 because she's embarrassed by her sister (explaining why she is played by Katy Allen). However in Weirdsister College she is played by Felicity Jones again. Now she's at college where her sister isn't there, she doesn't have to worry about being embarrassed by her so she removed the "witch-over". Likewise Deirdre Swoop doesn't recognise Ethel in the first episode because she had only seen her witch-over self.
    • It's stated in the first episode of the '98 series that the right words in spells aren't as important as the right feelings. Episode three deals with Ethel being turned from a pig into a duck by Charlie getting the spell words wrong. The brilliance is that Charlie has not been educated in magic at all so he can't rely on "the right feeling" - so all he can go on are the words to the spell. Alternately he might have been concentrating on "turn Ethel back from a pig" but not concentrating enough on what to turn her into.
    • Closely related is Enid's spell for food in "Let Them Eat Cake". Like Charlie, the spell fails because of the last word. Both she and Charlie put emphasis on the last word in the incantation - resulting in the wrong effects. Charlie says Reduccio as "re-DUCK-io" so Ethel is turned into a duck. And Enid says "make it hasty" and gets them showered with hay. Also for Enid's spell - hay can be a snack for animals. Enid just wasn't being specific enough that she wanted food for herself.
    • Why are spells in Latin when any incantation will do (coupled with the right feeling)? Because Cackles prides itself on tradition and Latin was what the upper classes wrote books in back in the days the spells were invented.
    • Why doesn't 'Miss Cackle' notice the other three teachers spying on her class in "A Bolt From The Blue"? Because Agatha can't see properly through Amelia's glasses.
  • Fridge Horror: When Ethel casts the spell to drop paint all over Ms Hubble, if the paint had gotten in her eyes, as it nearly did, she could have suffered severe and permanent vision damage.
    • Though it's Played for Laughs, as in Harry Potter, the fact is that memory-loss potions, love potions, and plenty of other potentially incredibly dangerous potions and spells are readily available and easy to make—they could be used for much nastier things if this weren't aimed at a younger audience.
  • Girl-Show Ghetto: Averted. Both the books and the 1998 TV series are loved by fans of both genders despite the almost all-female cast (though the series added a couple more male characters). However that hasn't stopped some people dubbing the 2017 series as "Harry Potter for girls".
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Fairuza Balk playing the titular Worst Witch in the TV movie. She would go onto become a practising Wiccan in real life later - and would play an Ethel type in The Craft.
    • Felicity Jones originally played Ethel Hallow in the 1998 iTV series. Ethel is very much a stickler for the rules, and loathe to disobey authority. Fast-forward 18 years, and Ms Jones is appearing in Rogue One, fighting against the Empire - very much the authority in the galaxy.
    • The 2017 CBBC incarnation of the show casts Bella Ramsey as Mildred Hubble. Surely this means, if Cackle's faces any trouble, Mildred can simply call on her banners...
  • Ho Yay: Mildred and Maud in the 1998 and 2017 versions have their moments.
  • Iron Woobie:
    • Miss Drill if you think about it. She's one of the few non-witch members of staff (in the TV show anyway) and is constantly at odds with Miss Hardbroom. Although she experiences plenty of Fantastic Racism, she just keeps on with her job and trying to do her best.
    • Mildred herself could also be considered as an example of this trope. Even though it seems as if the world is against her trying to become a witch, she constantly continues to push herself forward. In the television adaptations, she is also a victim of Fantastic Racism, being a magical person from a non-magical family. It's implied that this is rare, and Mildred is stated to be the first student of such background in Cackle's.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Miss Gullet in the 2017 series. Sure she's a total jerk (and sometimes a villain), but when you find out she gets no respect from the other teachers and is seen as boring by them and the students, you can't help but feel bad for her. Mr. Rowan-Webb stealing her thunder and proving to be a hit with the school is the only reason she A) hates Mr. Rowan-Webb, B) turned against the school, and C) is a villain at all. Also doubles as an Alas, Poor Villain.
  • Les Yay:
    • In The New Worst Witch, Dyllis Mustardseed seems to be crushing pretty hard on Belladonna Bindweed. Too bad Belladonna hates her.
    • The bickering between Miss Drill and Miss Bat in Season 2 could slip into this at times.
    • This is also seen to be the attitude between Miss Hardbroom and Miss Drill.
    • Not to mention Miss Hardbroom and Miss Pentangle from the 2017 series, whose former friendship is presented more as a former romance, just without using that word. Of particular note should be the two or three-second long kiss on the cheek Miss Pentangle bestows on Miss Hardbroom during 2x10.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: The way Miss Hardbroom pronounces "Ruby Cherrytree" in the CBBC series. Despite it usually involving a Full-Name Ultimatum, she sounds as if she enjoys saying it.
  • Narm:
    • Merlin trying to reseal the Dragon Lord back into the cave. He says "Back from whence you came" as if he couldn't care less.
    • Miss Drill's evil persona as Hilary Hemlock. Evil Is Hammy to the last degree.
    • While Sybil is an effective Woobie, any time she actually has to cry on screen, it's painfully forced.
  • Narm Charm: Tim Curry's song. Awful effects? Check. Cramming in every single word that may or may not rhyme with Halloween (up to tamporine)? Check. Having Tim Curry sing a hammy and catchy song? Check.
  • Older Than They Think: An isolated medieval castle containing a magic school, with a forest nearby? A protagonist who has no prior knowledge of the magical world? A rival who comes from a leading magical family? A hook-nosed Potions teacher who favours the rival and despises the protagonist? A kindly, grey-haired Head who befriends and helps the protagonist? Classes in Charms and broomstick riding? And that's not all by a long shot. While both The Worst Witch and Harry Potter clearly have very similar elements, Jill Murphy's series predates the latter by 23 years, with the first book being published in 1974.
  • Replacement Scrappy:
    • Katy Allen for Felicity Jones as Ethel. Likewise Ted Blossom being an Expy of his brother Frank. Averted with Miss Crotchet, despite replacing the fan favourite Miss Bat.
    • In Weirdsister College Cas Crowfeather gets a bit of hate for replacing Maud as Mildred's best friend.
    • Caroline O'Neill replacing Kate Duchene as Miss Hardbroom in The New Worst Witch.
  • The Scrappy: Jadu has very few fans in comparison to the rest of the main cast - mainly due to her role as The Generic Guy and her actress's wooden delivery, as well as lack of focus until the very end of the series
  • Special Effects Failure:
    • The music video made by Tim Curry aka the Grand Wizard. Really, see for yourself.
    • The flying effects on the 1998 TV show zig zag between this, while being respectable enough for the era, especially on the small budget allocated to the children's TV show.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: Ruby zigzags through this. While she does get a couple of more focus episodes as the series goes, she's still very much an obvious Token Minority. Jadu meanwhile gets only one day in the limelight - which is the second last episode. In this case it's slightly justified by her actress just not being very good.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: As noted below Weirdsister College was Too Good to Last, and the idea of expanding on magical education beyond the high school level was one that could have been tapped into.
  • Uncertain Audience: The spin-off Weirdsister College. It's Darker and Edgier, Georgina Sherrington claiming it was aimed at a slightly older crowd. But the acting and effects are still quite similar to the parent show, alienating a lot of potential older viewers. Meanwhile the show was a bit too dark and serious for the crowd who had grown up with The Worst Witch. Though that's not to say that it does not have its own fans, and the idea of magical education beyond the high school level being shown is one that was happily received.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic: Believe it or not, Miss Gullet in the 2017 series qualifies as one, see Jerkass Woobie for more details.
  • What an Idiot!: In the 2017 series, it is said Miss Cackle leaves her door unlocked. This allows Mildred to get in to her office and steal the Wishing Star.
  • The Woobie:
    • Sybill Hallow. It's clear she has high standards to live up to, and she finds Cackle's terrifying at first. The fact that her sister is so embarrassed by her that she changes her appearance in the hopes no one will know they were related just adds to it. This line sums up Sybil perfectly.
    "All I want is a sister. A real sister. Not a bossy-boots like Ethel."
    • The 2017 production emphasizes this as well, showing both Hallow parents as being (at least borderline) emotionally abusive to Ethel and Sybill.
    • Mildred herself also has some aspects of this, since some of the staff seem to want her to fail. In the Season 1 finale of the 1998 series when Miss Cackle appears to have gotten sick of her, Millie looks like she needs a hug. Ditto for the Halloween Episode where the whole school turns on her for her pratfall at the display. This also continues in the 2017 series, where Mildred seems heartbroken when she is faced with the knowledge - in the first episode - that while she can see this magical world, she cannot be part of it due to failing the entry exams for Cackle's.
    • Dyllis Mustardseed in The New Worst Witch. It's very hard not to feel sympathy for Dyllis. She's a nervous flyer in a school that insists on broomstick flying as a mandatory exercise, seems to fade into the background a lot, and doesn't seem to be especially brilliant in any of her subjects. The poor girl willingly spends time with Belladonna even though she knows the girl treats her as a servant simply because she has no other friends. She ends up taking a powerful potions book from the library as it contains the recipe for a popularity potion. When Hettie is in danger of being expelled, she comes forward with the truth and, thankfully, from that moment on she seems to be included as a sometimes fourth to that group of friends. When the writers remember.

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