CBBC’s Raven is making a comeback!

PUBLISHED: 00:45 27 November 2017

What Would Raven Say: James Mackenzie passes the staff to Raven Mk II, Aisha Toussaint

What Would Raven Say: James Mackenzie passes the staff to Raven Mk II, Aisha Toussaint

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By day you may see his shadow, but night you may hear his call. RAVEN IS BACK ON CBBC! TV Editor Stacia Briggs is a bit too excited

Is it wrong to admit you had a slight crush on a man who dressed as a raven and was a shape-shifting immortal Scottish warrior who spent his days forcing young children into lava pits, torture chambers, forests of chains and yawning black chasms? I think it probably is, but I did.

CBBC’s Raven starred James Mackenzie, who wore a fetching cloak of feathers and swept about the place like a black cloud of testosterone as he steered groups of six young ‘warriors’ through a series of challenges over the course of three weeks. Oh, and he occasionally turned into a raven. Obviously.

Warriors would go through a series of challenges which tested their strength, agility, intelligence and teamwork, playing games to win or lose treasure rings. Repeated losses led to lives being forfeited and warriors being trapped in eternal damnation: perfect teatime viewing for tinies.

In every series, children – who were given vaguely ridiculous faux medieval warrior names like Grema, Dejan, Kinsa and Nepat - would face Way of the Warrior (like It’s a Knockout with added hanging corpses, swinging axes, time portals and demons), the Deep Loch (swimming across an icy lake), the Leap of Faith (climbing a tree and then jumping off it) and Riddle Bridge (a speaking bridge which forced you to answer a riddle in order to cross it, a bit like the Dartford Crossing, but with attitude).

Throughout it all, Raven was on hand to urge the warriors towards success – like a benevolent gothic drama teacher, he offered praise for success and gentle commiseration for failure, particularly towards those who were eliminated from the game entirely. He carried a Staff of Power that was topped with a carving of a raven’s head and which allowed him to bring warriors back from the dead, reveal their thoughts, recap on what had happened previously and basically do what Amazon’s Alexa does, but with more feathers and sass.

He always had a quick one-liner, had a stare that was worth a thousand words and was permanently in battle with his mythical adversary, Nevar (anagram alert), a demon who at the beginning of the show was a Guardian of the Portal and by the end could summon an army of creatures from hell with one phone call, or perhaps a Facebook shout-out.

The CBBC show aired between 2002 and 2010, when my children were of Raven-appropriate age, although frankly, they liked it less than I did – Raven is my style icon: he wears black, I wear black. He is full of sage advice, I cook with sage. He can shape-shift into a raven, I can work self-service check-out tills (normally). His is my spirit animal.

Now the award-winning fantasy adventure gameshow is back on CBBC on Monday with a brand new Raven at the helm – and this time, Raven is a she although the original Raven will also return for a guest appearance and to give Raven II his massive staff. Or that might just be a cruel rumour.

Aisha Toussaint has been cast in the lead role for the revamped Raven, which follows on from where the original show left off in 2010 and, according to the press release, “expands and develops the format of the original to make it appeal to a whole new generation of viewers”.

She said: “I’m absolutely thrilled to be the new Raven. I was a massive fan of the original series and remember rushing home from school so I didn’t miss an episode - it was always so exciting. I used to dream of one day being a warrior contestant - I never for a second imagined that I’d one day be Raven. My 11-year-old self would be gobsmacked!

“Pulling on the costume for the very first time was a very special moment.”

Aisha, who also plays Jules Belmont in BBC Scotland drama River City, takes over from Mackenzie, who will be returning to feature during this new quest to find an Ultimate Warrior through a set of similar mental and physical games. Evil sorcerer Nevar is also back and the warriors will all play their part in helping Raven defeat him in the Ultimate Battle.

I am sad that James Mackenzie’s Raven won’t be back at the helm, but am hopeful that he has taken his skills in a new direction during his eight year break – possibly running a Mindfulness Retreat in Scotland where he can recycle his inspirational quotes from the series in a programme of self-affirmation classes for millennials with the hump who like hemp. Rave on, Raven.

* Raven begins on CBBC tonight at 3.50pm and will be aired daily until Friday in the same time slot.

10 Things That Raven Said That Will Transport You Back to 2002

1) “Be quick my young friends, the sands are falling fast…”

2) “You leave with honour.”

3) “Despair is like a black cloud on the horizon, but hope in a warrior’s heart will dispel it as easily as the bright rays of the sun.”

4) “Don’t let failure into your heart, let it into your head and be wiser for it.”

5) “If your sword was as sharp as your wits, it would struggle to cut butter.”

6) “By day you will glimpse my shadow and by night you will hear my call. The spirit of the raven travels with you.”

7) “As the warriors light their campfires tonight, they should remember that their own self-belief is a flame that must also be rekindled daily.”

8) “It is not the great mountain ahead that slows the weary warrior down, it is the stone in his shoe.”

9) “Remember, a calm ocean never made for a skilled boatman.”

10) “Opportunities are never lost, someone else will always take the ones you miss.”

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