I’ve always been a little envious of people my age who got to see this strange seven-part serial when it was shown in America. I first read about Children of the Stones in Roger Fulton’s Encyclopedia of TV Science Fiction, and started telling people how interesting so many of these unfamiliar British programs sounded. This was about 1990, there wasn’t any Wikipedia then. Surprisingly, some friends remembered this show from their childhood. If they’d forgotten it, they remembered it in a hurry. “Geez, that was a creepy show,” people would say in hushed tones. This stunned me. You mean this was shown in the US and I missed it?! More on this later in the week.
It has always enjoyed a cult following in the UK, where it was first shown in early 1977. It was made by HTV, the old company that serviced Wales and the west of England, and was filmed on location in the well-known village of Avebury. Its prehistoric stone circles became the setting for the fictional Milbury, where Adam Brake and his teenage son Matthew are staying for a few months. Dr. Brake is an astrophysicist doing research into the 53 stones of Milbury.
Matthew and Adam quickly learn that Milbury is a very strange place. Matthew has strange hallucinations almost upon arrival, many of the villagers greet each other with vacant smiles and “happy day,” some of the schoolkids are tackling unbelievably complex algebra, and when Adam touches one of the stones in the incredibly neat climax to episode one, he has a bizarre vision and is thrown about three feet backward.
Children of the Stones has a great cast, featuring Gareth Thomas as Adam and Peter Demin as Matthew. Iain Cuthberson plays the landlord, and Veronica Strong is another new arrival to the village, having recently become curator of the museum. Katharine Levy plays her daughter, Sandra, who has been here long enough to know that some of the other children are very, very strange. The show was written by Jeremy Burnham and Trevor Ray. Burnham had written a few episodes in the final season of The Avengers – not, sadly, any of my favorites, but we won’t hold it against him! The duo collaborated on writing another children’s serial about myths and legends and the present day, Raven, later in 1977 for ATV.
This didn’t blow our son away or anything, but he does find it interesting and curious. The children in the show aren’t so old that he can’t identify with them, though I do think he was unhappy about the class bully. I think the slow, creepy, unpacking of the mystery is going to make this a very satisfying slow burner, and we’ll see what happens next tomorrow night.