[16 February 2009]
PopMatters Associate Music Editor
The 1977 ITV series Children of the Stones is a brilliant mixture of elements that, sadly, would never find its way onto mainstream television today. It’s intelligent, fantastical, scientific, sinister and eminently engrossing. Even though it was initially intended for kids, there’s a lot for adults to enjoy as well. In fact, if you’re a fan of Dr. Who, and who isn’t, you may appreciate the similarities the 1978 “The Stones of Blood” episode has with Children of the Stones.
Especially for a show aimed at kids, there’s an intriguing mix of real science and mystical belief as astrophysicist Adam Brake (Gareth Thomas) comes to the quaint village of Milbury with his gifted son, Matthew (Peter Demin) in order to study the ring of megalithic stones that frames the countryside. Before they can even settle in, it becomes clear that all is not right in Milbury.
Matthew makes friends with another recent resident and her mother, who has just arrived to become the caretaker of the town’s museum. Right off, they notice that they are quite different from the villagers, who are always eerily happy and seem to behave just a little as if they are out of time.
The plot plays out over seven episodes, and is twisty enough to keep viewers of all ages fully engaged. There’s a bit of actual ancient mythology blended with magnetic energy, psychic powers, supernovas, time travel, ley lines, standing stones, black holes, druidic rituals and mind control—all presented with an aura of mystery and suspense that is genuinely scary. The maintained tension is thrilling. It’s no wonder that many Brits in film and television today point to this series as haunting their childhoods and having an enduring influence on their careers (For instance, Simon Pegg made allusions to Children of the Stones in both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz).
One thing that makes the series so memorable, even after you’ve turned off the TV (and then quickly turned on all the lights in the house) is the music. The score consists of ominous chanting and creepy wordless moaning, and it is incredibly, effectively, unsettling. Don’t watch this immediately before bed, or you’re guaranteed a few fitful dreams. Another interesting and memorable note about Children of the Stones is the fact that it was filmed in the real village of Avebury, which actually has a stone circle older than the one at Stonehenge. That’s kind of spooky, right?
With its release on DVD for the first time in North America, Children of the Stones features a few extras, including an interview with star Gareth Thomas as well as an interview with director and producer Peter Graham Scott. Both are an interesting look back on what may be the strangest kiddie cult classic in British television history.
Bonus materials also include photo galleries, production notes and series trivia, but the real reason to have this DVD is to spend three and a half entertaining hours in another time. Well, there’s that, and possibly freaking out impressionable nephews, if you find fun in that sort of stuff.