Revisiting the cult Children of the Stones series again last week as an adult didn't disappoint .
Children of the Stones is a British television drama serial made for children, first broadcast on ITV in 1976-77. I was 10 or 11 at the time and like many of my generation, it had an immediate appeal and left an indelible mark. Not only was the story gripping and unforgettable, it spoke of the conflicts between the rational and mystical, between conformity and resistance. The young characters were clever, thoughtful and treated as equals with as much sway on the narrative as the adults. With its real life setting, scientific enquiry and genuine thought provoking scare factor, Children of the Stones puts to shame the patronising and dumbed-down children’s TV of today.
Set in a quiet English village at the centre of a stone circle the series was filmed within the Avebury Henge, of over 500 megalithic stones, in Wiltshire. The narrative is spun around an occultish horror story that weaves an uncanny tale of lay lines, stone circles, shamanism, science fiction and mythology while tackling issues of belonging, conformity, and abstract fears of the unknown.
There are so many things we don’t understand about the past that will remain unknown. It is perhaps fiction and the imagination that are best placed to enable contemporary minds to look at our ancient past in ways that might help us to connect with the minds of those who made such things as the standing stones. The 5000 year history of the stones will have inevitably inspired folklore, myth and ancestral rituals down through the ages and generations of people who lived around them. It is perhaps through our imaginations that we might come closer to understanding more about monoliths and monomyths than through science, which only tells us about the material facts of their existence rather than their actual purposes or cultural meanings. What we can imagine today might well have been conjured by minds in the past or handed down in the DNA of our imaginations.
Complex and ambiguous, Children of the Stones is more than the sum of its parts; the eternal conflict of light and dark has fluctuating edges, both compelling and unexpected in times such as ours, which might explain its continued popularity. Children of the stones continues to make Sci-fi magazine’s top 50 every year, for a series made in the 70’s and aimed at children that’s pretty remarkable. The narratives are full of technical, scientific and imaginary brain teasers. The centre of the stone circle is presided over by an astrophysicist-cum-shaman and linked to a black hole in space that generates a powerful force of light or enlightenment to which the villagers are subjected and changed. Another astrophysicist and his son arrive in the village to study the stones, the boy is not only clever, in the scientific sense, but has additional powers beyond our commonly used senses. The two male newcomers are matched by two female characters, an historian and her daughter, who are smart, strong and independent, both thoughtful protagonists with agency. The ambiguity over light and dark is most interesting in the sympathetic depiction of the cult in search of cosmic oneness, knowledge and happiness and when the male scientific rationalists (the astrophysicist and his son) do escape from the village we are left to wonder wether they really are the heroes of the story.
Children of the Stones Original Full Series https://youtu.be/SwT0wLnT7Rc
I hear that a sequel, set 25 years later, was recently released ‘happy day’ hopefully it won't disappoint either.