Good old UK Gold – it was a treasure trove of classic telefantasy in the 90s, and here’s one example.
The Changes was based on a series of books by Peter Dickinson – The Weathermonger, Heartsease and The Devil’s Children.
It has a simple but clever title sequence which illustrates the premise of the show through the simple device of a freeze-frame.
In the opening episode, a strange noise sounds across the country, which causes everyone to suddenly destroy all machinery. Nicky Gore is a young girl who is separated from her family, and spends the series first trying to find them, then trying to discover the cause of the changes.
In the first episode on this tape, Heartsease, Nicky and her friend Jonathon have escaped from a village where the local witchfinder has declared Nicky a witch, and sentenced her to death by stoning. But the witchfinder, mad Davy Gordon, won’t let them go easily.
He’s a fairly typical witchfinder – abusing women and threatening violence. I hope Jonathon’s father, played by that great character actor Jack Watson, gets to punch him in the face before he’s done.
Davy’s sidekick appears to be played by Ricky Gervais playing Derek.
The show has a great radiophonic workshop score by Paddy Kingsland, which is good during the occasional longeurs when they start travelling down the river in the tug Heartsease. Luckily, every time the programme cuts back to the pursuing mob led by Witchfinder Davy, they’re always quaffing beer.
BBC Genome (original BBC broadcast): BBC One London, 17 February 1975 17.20
After this programme, recording continues, with the start of an episode of In Sickness and in Health. Quite a lot of an episode, for some reason – I guess these were scheduled on the same day.
We switch to the end of an episode of Blake’s 7, where Julian Glover is arguing with another man over his cool phone.
Then, we return to The Changes with Lightning. Witchfinder Davy is waiting on a bridge to catch Nicky and Jonathon on their boat, so they pretend to set the boat on fire, and Jonathon’s sister pretends to be Nicky, and rides away on her horse. Naturally, the mob pursue her. Davy remains on the bridge, and Jonathon’s father confronts him. He doesn’t quite punch him in the face, but he throws him into the river, which is satisfying in its way.
Davy can’t swim, so he just sinks to the bottom of the river. “Better that way” intones the father, grimly.
Nicky and Jonathon get away, and things are looking up, but then the weather starts getting bad, and at the same time the boat engine stops. Jonathon tries to get it started, and it seems to be working, but then there’s lightning and the whole engine seems to explode. Mysterious powers are at work.
After escaping the burning boat, and resting for a while, they are awoken by a visitor. It’s Tom Chadbon in a lovely sweater, carrying a couple of rabbits. Is he friend or foe?
He and his wife were already doing a sort of ‘Good Life’ when the changes happened. And he tells the two visitors about the local legends about ‘Necromancer’s Weather’ and some source of power over the mountains.
BBC Genome (original BBC broadcast): BBC One London, 24 February 1975 17.20
The next episode is The Quarry. Nicky and Jonathon are still with the friendly Tom and his wife. But Nicky feels like there’s something they could do, if they find the source of the power over the mountains, so they set off on another trek. After losing their horses, and being menaced by the sound effect of dogs howling, they come across a shack in a quarry that’s been recently occupied. Then they spot the occupant going into a nearby cavern. He used to be Clerk of the Works at the quarry, who starts raving about how it all started when he touched ‘him’. Then things start going a bit changey again, and the man, Mr Furbelow insists they leave.
They go back to his shack, and read his notes. They learn that blasting at the quarry had uncovered a body, which appeared to still be alive. They find the following latin inscription:
Which, according to Google translate, means “I am Merlin, who has given me it does, it stirs up the world”
But Nicky’s latin is a little better than Google’s. “I am Merlin, whoever touches me unbalances the world”
So Nicky is convinced that whatever Furbelow touched must have caused the changes, so they have to find a way back into the cavern.
Boring technical aside: The sound level on this particular episode is really low – this includes the adverts, too – so it seems like a broadcast issue – UK Gold had the sound turned down. When the next recording starts, it almost blasted my ears.
BBC Genome (original BBC broadcast): BBC One London, 3 March 1975 17.20
Next episode is The Cavern. Nicky and Jonathon manage to get into the cavern, but when they get closer to the source of the power, Nicky feels overwhelmed by the anti-technology feelings that triggered the changes in the first place.
But they persevere, and she eventually confronts the big stone monolith that’s at the heart of the changes. She pleads for it to stop disrupting everything, and we’re treated to a montage, almost a recap of the series. Nicky clearly thinks something has happened, as she says ‘Thank You’, and touches the big rock – surely an unwise gesture given what we’ve been told. But they head back out of the cavern, and have a long philosophical discussion about what was actually in the cavern. It wasn’t a man, more like a force of nature.
Then they head back, presumably to Nicky’s home to await her parents’ return, and the programme closes on scenes of renewed technological activity. A happy ending?
BBC Genome (original BBC broadcast): BBC One London, 10 March 1975 17.20
Recording switches to the end of a gardening programme. It appears to be in Australia, hence the brief appearance of Rolf Harris. Genome suggests this programme was Burke’s Backyard.
There’s a trailer for The Inspector Alleyn Mysteries.
Then, an episode of a programme called Movie Magic, looking at shooting miniatures.
The first project looked at is a film called Heart and Souls (No, me neither, but it stars Robert Downey Jr) looking at the work of Robert and Dennis Skotak.
Rather frustratingly, a lot of time is spent on a particular shot from Heart and Souls, describing in detail how the shot is achieved, but we never get to see the finished shot.
There’s also a look at the pioneering Russian filmmaker Pavel Klushantsev.
Credit spot: Special Effects Consultant on this show is Don Shay of Cinefex magazine.
BBC Genome: BBC One London, 22 August 1994 15.30
After this, there’s a trailer for ATV Night: The Muppet Show.
Then, a Merrie Melodies cartoon, Dangerous Dan McFoo.
There’s a trailer for Danny Baker on Room 101.
Then, we have some Children’s BBC, presented by Toby Anstis. First there’s Bananaman. Then McGee and Me.
There’s a trailer for Tricks n Tracks. And finally on this tape, an episode of Conan the Adventurer.
- VW Golf
- Coca Cola
- Multi Cheerios
- Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum
- Fairy Non-Bio
- Trail: Minder
- trail: Thunderbirds
- Minties – Ian Botham
- Max Factor
- trails: Minder, The Bill, The Sweeney, The Year of Living Dangerously
- Renault Clio
- Gaymer’s Olde English
- Just For Men
- Craftmatic Adjustable Bed
- Sunday Times
- Boots baby food
- Just for Men
- Gilette Sensor Excel
- News of the World – a shameless Day Today rip-off, featuring Phil Cornwell.
- Just for Men
- Slim Fast