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John G. Avildsen
40 years ago, the town conjured up a demon (Century) with disastrous results. Now they are about to conjure the demon again and are making the same mistakes all over again (some people never learn). Teenage Tess Hunter learns the truth and tries to stop a second disaster. Written by
This is a splendid children's series about a lonely teenage girl having weird experiences in a strange remote village of elderly telepaths, an early work by Russell T. Davies, reminiscent less of the new Dr Who, than some of the spookier Pertwee episodes (e.g. the Daemons).
It particularly wins on atmosphere - some fantastic locations, and a brilliant musical score by the late David Ferguson make it super-eerie. It is unhurried, and its thrills are slow-burning rather than jump-out-of-your-seat.
Plot-wise, the development is excellent, as the mysteries pile up gradually before a climax borrowed from a 50s sci-fi classic (whose name I won't mention, to avoid a spoiler) and cathartic resolution, but there is probably a little too much psychobabble and occult-speak for it to make perfect sense. Like many occult dramas in the end it makes up its own rules, which detracts from the tension.
The nature of the plot divides the cast into juveniles and old troopers; it is the troopers who catch the eye. Bernard Kay and Mary Wimbush stand out with tremendous performances, but virtually everyone is on form, and it is particularly nice to see Robert James, Eileen Way, Danny Schiller and Beryl Cooke doing their stuff. The young folk are less impressive. Alex Mollo doesn't have a great deal to do other than look sinister, but manages it well, while Tatiana Strauss is a bit variable (very good at times). The children aren't convincing, and Ben in particular is too ghastly to elicit either sympathy or shivers. Heather Baskerville is excellent as Mum (and seems to wear the same jumper constantly throughout the series).
Like many small pleasures, wasted on the young. As an indication of its creepiness, anyone who recorded this off the telly in 1993 will enjoy not only the programme itself, but also the faces of the Children's BBC presenters afterwards (Andi Peters et al) who seem genuinely enthralled, particularly by the early episodes.
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