Stoned Again

In which The Author has a night at home

Having missed a day of NaBloPoMo on Saturday, I’ve decided that there isn’t much point in trying to post every day for the rest of the month.
I’d certainly given up all hope of being to post in Aberdare Library following last week’s blackout. However, here I am, fully connected and (so far, anyway) able to post without any problems. I’ve been a little bit sneaky and used a back-door method to get in, and I’m surprised that it worked. Maybe I shouldn’t tempt fate and tell you how I did it, just in case …
Anyway, I didn’t even bother trying to access the blog in the Library yesterday. I had a few things to do, so I decided I’d go to the pub in the evening and post a quick one there, as I’ve done the last few times. In the event, though, it was so bloody cold that I decided to stay in and watch a DVD.
I’m indebted to my friend Neil R. for this one. After I wrote Getting Stoned a few months ago, Neil was able to get his hands on the original TV series Children of the Stones. He put it on a DVD for me, and I watched it shortly afterwards, Last night, on a whim, I decided to watch it again.
It was made by HTV West in 1976, but apart from the fashions, cars, antiquated scientific equipment and some very ‘stagey’ acting and direction, I think it’s stood the test of time quite well. Next time I catch up with Thomas, I’m going to invite him to watch it with me. I was ten years old when it was broadcast, and he’s a bit older than that now, so I think he’ll appreciate it. (Incidentally, I’ve just checked online and it’s available on DVD – certified 12. That’s very unusual for a children’s TV show!)
It’s a peculiar and disturbing mix of hard SF, parapsychology, paganism (with echoes of The Wicker Man), fantasy and mystery, quite unlike anything I’ve seen since. A scientist named Adam Brake and his teenage son Matt arrive in the village of Milbury, in the centre of a Neolithic stone circle, and it’s apparent from the outset that all is not well. Most of the villagers are ‘Happy Ones’, with fixed smiles and perfect manners, rather like The Stepford Wives.
The pupils at the village school also fall into two groups: the newcomers, who are completely out of their depth in the maths class, and the rest, who tackle advanced differential equations without turning a hair (echoes of The Midwich Cuckoos). The curator of the village museum and her daughter are also aware that something unusual is going on, and together with Adam and Matt they set out to explore the mystery at the heart of the village.
From this strange set-up the story unfolds, involving the stones themselves, a strange oil painting, a network of ley lines, a black hole in the constellation Ursa Major, and the manor house at the centre of the village. People appear and disappear; stones apparently move around; an old poacher (played in typically over-the-top fashion by Freddie Jones) claims to be ‘protected’ by an ancient talisman; new arrivals to the village suddenly become ‘Happy Ones’, and the owner of the manor house seems to know far more than he’s letting on.
This last character, Raphael Hendrick (superbly played by Iain Cuthbertson), is almost a Crowleyesque figure, a retired academic with a background in astronomy and a compendious knowledge of ancient rituals and beliefs. A bizarre sequence of events leads Matt and Adam to Hendrick’s home, where his regular observations of the black hole build to a shattering climax.
It probably wouldn’t get shown on TV again these days. It’s a low-budget, low-key, low-tech affair which would look quite out of place alongside Doctor Who. Furthermore, I’m not sure that Adam’s fondness for whisky would get the approval of the Mumsnet generation. It’s a shame, because there’s a lot of good stuff in there.
Children of the Stones was the programme which made me fall in love with Avebury in Wiltshire (where it was filmed entirely on location). It intrigued me and infuriated me, because there were so many elements thrown together that it was very difficult to unravel at the time. Even after nearly four decades, it stands as a unique piece of TV drama. Like the fictional Milbury, the series is somehow simultaneously both of its time and apart from it. It was definitely worth missing an entry for.