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01.21.09

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Phaedra

Children of the Stones

One disc; Acorn Media; $24.99

Reviewed by Michael S. Gant


Children of the Stones, broadcast in seven half-hour episodes in 1977, is The Prisoner for tweeners. An astrophysicist, Adam (Gareth Thomas), and his young son, Matthew (Peter Demin), move to the village of Milbury to do research on the megalithic stones that encircle the town. Things are not what they seem, of course, as Adam and Matthew realize that the town is divided between really happy people—whose mantra is "Happy day!"—who are also really smart (the kids solve higher equations in the school) and ordinary people, who are not especially happy and lousy at math problems. The mystery deepens as our heroes learn that once inside the circle they cannot leave again; they are constrained by some deep psychic power connected to a supernova-turned-black-hole.

Adam and Matthew are joined in their quest by the local museum curator, Margaret (Veronica Strong with a head of red hair that is positively extraterrestrial), and her daughter, Sandra (Katharine Levy). Veteran character actor Freddie Jones (who has seemingly appeared in every Dickens adaptation in the last 60 years) runs around the countryside muttering incomprehensibly as the local poacher and amulet clutcher. The main bad guy is a lord of the manor/high priest played with a Kelsey Grammeresque smirk of barely suppressed amusement by Iain Cuthbertson. Turns out he has been brainwashing the citizens one by one until they become Morris dancing puppets for his nefarious plan, whatever that may be. But really, except for the Morris dancing, what's wrong with being happy and smart?

The special effects are minimal, although the real stones at Avebury in Wiltshire are eerie and evocative; the musical interludes, with a chorus of high keening voices, offer almost comic "Whaa-whoo! Whaa-whoo!" punctuation to the various climaxes. The show is lots of fun, but comes to an unsatisfactory conclusion, all about the circular nature of time, that leaves you with a whole lot of unanswered questions. The DVD includes some cast and creator interviews.


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