Children of the Dog Star (1984)
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The score was amazing and the plot gripped like a vice. Its a shame that there have been no repeats of this show for at least ten years, I would love to sit and watch it again. I won't give too much of the story away for the people who never got to see the last episode(s) but needless to say it was very, very cool!
Many children of the 80s will vaguely remember a TV serial having something to do with a strange weathervane on top of an old barn and the presence of aliens. This was 'Children Of The Dog Star', tying in Marcel Griaule's interpretation of Dogon mythology, Maori culture, and modern sci-fi storytelling, all of which come together to produce a highly-enjoyable miniseries that uses rural New Zealand as its backdrop. It came to our screens at a time when intelligently-written speculative fiction on children's television was the norm, from 'Chocky' to 'The Tripods' and 'Under The Mountain' - the latter sharing screenwriter Ken Catran and director Chris Bailey, by now practiced hands at the genre. While 'Children Of The Dog Star' differs from these others in not being adapted from a novel, it does take much of its inspiration from Robert K.G Temple's 1976 book, 'The Sirius Mystery', sparking of a period of intense debate over how the Dogon could possibly have known the brightest star in the heavens had a small white dwarf orbiting it without modern astronomical equipment. Could we have been guided by aliens in the past?
While child performers Sarah Dunn, Jeison Wallace and Hamish Bartle did not appear to build a career out of acting, they give a decent first performance here, for which some credit must go to Bailey, already a skilled hand at getting the most out of young newcomers. The production's adult cast ranges from seasoned veterans like Roy Billing and Catherine Wilkin to lesser-known actors like Anzac Wallace, who also has a cameo in the classic sci-fi film 'The Quiet Earth'. The special effects are pre-cgi and of their time, but hold up enough for all but the most demanding of audiences. Matthew Brown provides a memorable theme tune and his incidental music is both fitting and never overused. Perhaps the biggest compliment I could give the production is that I still enjoyed it very much as an adult. While it has '1984' stamped all over it, time has not been especially unkind in the areas that count.
2009 saw 'Children Of The Dog Star' finally make it to DVD. Alas, TVNZ made no effort to clean up their print or produce even the most minimal of extras. I bet Catran and Bailey for example, would have liked to have produced a commentary, and we'd all have enjoyed hearing it. Nonetheless, the serial is finally available, and will hopefully be a nice nostalgia trip for older fans, and better still, entertain a new generation of children.
Anyway, I first saw this program when I was about four years old so that would make it about 1983 or so. I remember being transfixed with it but then many other children's programs did the same to me at that age.
Quite a few years later, I caught it again and got the last few episodes on tape. That was 1990 and it was still just as good then.
So without giving too much of the plot away, this is a series that managed to mix astronomy, alien contact and real world issues together while making it easy for children to follow. Add some extremely creepy music and events and you're in for a fun escaping ride.
I'm a student filmmaker at the moment and this program has done more to influence my style of film making than any other. The scene where Gretchen's character with the Daisy Rod walks into the old civil defence bunker is proof of this. The blinding light may be a bit of a cliche but hey, it works and works well.
If you can find the tapes, buy it. The 70's fashions aren't brightly coloured monstrosities so this show has aged extremely well and the science is still current.