12-year-old Gretchen Kierney is fascinated by the stars and hopes one day to explore them for herself. She comes closer than she ever expected to this dream when she stays at her uncle's farm one summer. There seems to be an alien presence there, but what is it, and what is the mysterious weather vane on top of the barn that seems to know Gretchen's every step? Meanwhile, the local Maori tribe is battling property developers over the nearby swampland - a sacred site their legends tell them must be forever off-limits to humans. Gretchen, along with her new friends, Ronny and Bevis, discover the two things may be related when mysterious power cuts begin to occur all over town and strange things start to come out of the swamp. Somehow, the answer is linked with the distant star Sirius B and the mythology of the Dogon people a continent away, but who is the mysterious Kolob, and what does he want with the children?Written by
When budding astronomer Gretchen Kierney goes to stay at her uncle's farm for the holidays, she finds herself embroiled in an adventure that began a thousand years ago and which leads all the way to the white dwarf star Sirius B.
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.
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