Tag Archives: The Owl Service

The Golden Age of Kids’ TV

22 Nov

The approach of Christmas inevitably brings to mind the TV shows I watched as a child. But defining children’s fantasy television is a bit like looking for bundles of straw in a haystack. After all, which kids’ fare doesn’t contain some element of the fantastic or the impossible? Still, we generally known what we mean when we talk about children’s sci-fi and fantasy TV in Britain, even if the  boundaries can generally be quite shaky: it’s drama you only find between four and six pm, or on Sundays; it’s drama in which earnest drama school types called Tom and Tizzy go off to spend their summer holidays with a great aunt or uncle in the country in a big house with a garden which holds a secret that only the ghostly apparition of a grubby Victorian street urchin can unlock; it’s drama, more often than not, with really immaculate sets, portentous music and generally cheap but earnest special effects. If there is a predominant theme to this genre, it’s of children and teenagers finding their identities and coming to terms with the often dysfunctional adult world around them. Which is where the fantasy comes in. It might be a kindly old wizard or an amorphous jellyfish with a nice line in aphorisms but, whatever their shape, their role is to provide the wise, understanding, benevolent authority figure that’s been missing from our unfortunate heroes’ lives, and set them on the road to a brighter future. Looking back at the golden age of kids’ TV isn’t purely an exercise in nostalgia however, for these were the series that, in many cases, first entranced  today’s fans of sci-fi and fantasy – after all, these were the tea-time delights that fed our imaginations at the most impressionable of ages.

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Wild Magic: Alan Garner

26 Jan

One of my favourite authors from childhood is Alan Garner and in his saga of ‘Wild Magic’ he achieves powerful effects of beauty and terror that hold a reader well beyond the close. The Wild Magic books are officially The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and its direct sequel The Moon of Gomrath, but Elidor and The Owl Service are usually included in this description because, though unrelated plot-wise, they share many thematic similarities. In Garner’s own words, this quartet of books all concern characters drawn into the world of magic that lies as near and unknown to us as the back of a shadow – a world of mists and forests, ancient enchantments, mythical beings, ageless wizards… and restless evil. Garner is at his best writing of night and dark water – his stories are ferocious and deeply felt, briskly adventurous yet brimming over with wonder, excitement and imagination. As a reader – even a child reader – you are never patronised by Garner or presented with endless, boring explanations or descriptions. His books move along at a breakneck pace, almost like a film shot with a handheld camera, and the reader is continually thrust right into the midst of it all. A native of Cheshire, England, most of Garner’s books centre on Alderly Edge, a place as personal and as full of mythic potential to him as the West Midlands were to J R R Tolkien.

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