We Need To Talk About How Unsettling “In The Night Garden” Is

In the Night Garden is a surrealist orgy of sex and death. Are we really showing this to the under-3s?


1. The big secret you learn as a parent is that In the Night Garden is completely terrifying.

BBC / YouTube / Via youtube.com

Before you have kids, if you’ve heard of it at all, you probably assume it’s just some thing where everyone learns life lessons and has big hugs. You know, standard children’s TV stuff. But it’s genuinely unsettling.

2. It’s not clear whose dream we’re in.

BBC / YouTube / Via youtube.com

The show starts showing a small child going to sleep. As the kid drifts off, the scene leaps to a strange blue man in a boat. The narrator chants “Take the little sail down, light the little light: This is the way to the garden in the night.” The blue man – Iggle Piggle – is going to sleep, and then he turns up in the strange, brightly lit garden. So is it the kid’s dream? Iggle Piggle’s? Is it a dream within a dream? Is this Inception for toddlers?

3. Things keep changing size.

BBC / YouTube / Via youtube.com

The Ninky Nonk and Pinky Ponk, the main transport systems within the Garden, are both capable of carrying several passengers. But they’re also smaller than all of the characters. They’re like the Tardis, only in bright primary colours.

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…is Derek Jacobi. You know. This guy.

Universal Pictures / Via hotflick.net

Yes, Derek Jacobi, the double-Olivier-award-winning Shakespearean actor. That’s him playing a Roman senator in Gladiator. Derek Jacobi, singing “Yes my name is Iggle Piggle. Iggle, piggle, wiggle, niggle, diggle.” You don’t get that sort of dialogue in a Tom Stoppard play. No one seems to find this weird.

5. Why is there a woman with an inflatable skirt?

BBC / YouTube / Via youtube.com

Isn’t it a bit weird that the main female character on the show inflates her skirt and shows us her knickers whenever she does anything? I mean I don’t want to slut-shame her or anything but I’m not sure it’s appropriate for children.

6. Is Iggle Piggle even alive?

BBC / YouTube / Via youtube.com

A popular internet theory is that Iggle Piggle is really adrift on the ocean, and the Garden is his dying hallucination. “Just realised the surreal In The Night Garden stories are the hallucinations of a dying Iggle Piggle as he battles dehydration and exposure stranded alone in his boat floating away across the unending lonely ocean,” says the Redditor who came up with it. “What makes it worse is that Iggle Piggle is obviously a child, having a comfort blanket, creating an infant fantasy world for himself where he is safe and with friends. Then at the end of the episode he has to wake up and go back to his horrible reality, drifting alone in a cruel merciless sea, waiting for his frail little life to be snuffed out.”

7. These birds are called “Tittifers”.

BBC / YouTube / Via youtube.com

Yes I know it’s childish to find the word “tit” funny. But it’s a children’s show.

8. This guy’s called “Makka Pakka”.

YouTube / BBC / Via youtube.com

Which, when you listen to him say it in his silly squeaky voice, sounds remarkably like “motherfucker”. Plus he’s obsessed with piling stones up and washing everything clean, including his friends’ faces, which makes me think he suffers from OCD. He seems OK though. He’s good people, not like the rest of them.

10. The Tombliboo’s trousers keep falling down.

BBC / YouTube / Via youtube.com

And they’re naked underneath but their skin is the same colour as their trousers and they have no genitals but this is all just how things are so no one comments on it.

Also these guys are always brushing their teeth, but they have no teeth.

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11. Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy keep getting it on.

BBC / YouTube / Via youtube.com

Which I suppose since it’s his hallucinatory death-fantasy and she’s a girl who inflates her skirt is probably how it would all go down. But it’s not fair to make poor Makka Pakka watch.

12. Derek Jacobi, though.

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“Didn’t expect that, did you, Upsy Daisy?” [NOTE: it’s been pointed out that the guy in this Vine isn’t in fact Jacobi as Claudius in the BBC adaptation of Robert Graves’s I, Claudius, but George Baker as Tiberius. But it took me too long to make the damn thing so you’re just going to have to put up with it. Sorry.]

13. The Pontipines are basically running a workhouse for their own children.

14. Why does the narrator keep saying “Isn’t that a pip”?

BBC / Via youtube.com

I’m pretty sure that’s slang from the 1940s.

15. Oh and that narrator is still Derek Jacobi. Derek. Jacobi.

BBC / Via denofgeek.com

“After playing most of the male leads in Shakespeare, a couple of major Roman historical figures and a Time Lord in Doctor Who, this really felt like the obvious next career move. I’ve always admired Makka Pakka’s work. So powerful. So raw.”

16. What is the Wottingers’ terrible secret?

BBC / YouTube / Via youtube.com

They’re right next door to the Pontipines but they are constantly hiding away, avoiding their neighbours even when invited for a picnic, only waving from a distance. Are they a sort of dark mirror of Mr and Mrs Pontipine? Are they their future selves, unable to come close for fear of causing a paradox in the space-time continuum? Or did they straight up murder a dude and are worried about getting caught?

17. But at least it’s not Waybuloo.

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