"...one of the scariest things they saw as children."
March 4, 2016 7:05 AM   Subscribe

Children of the Stones (previously) is the revolutionary 1977 British children's television drama telling the story of an astrophysicist and his son who arrive in the village of Milbury to study the giant Neolithic stones which surround it, and the community which is held in a strange captivity by the psychic forces generated by the stones. For BBC Radio, writer and comedian Stewart Lee explores the ground breaking television series and examines its special place in the memories of those children who watched it on its initial transmission in a state of excitement and terror.

Unofficial home page, ca 1995.

The show includes every 70s horror trope: ESP, telepathy, ley lines, ancient stones, wicca, the occult, the paranormal, the supernatural, astronomy, dance rituals, cults, black holes, archaeology, uncanny valley, creepy kids, a soundtrack that sounds like a Manhattan Transfer Halloween sound effects record accompanied by the obligatory theremin, and a bad painting alluding to dark secrets past, present, and future. In fact, it even has its own TV Tropes page.
posted by Room 641-A (70 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh, I had almost almost forgotten about this. Nickelodeon ran this in the US as part of the "Third Eye"* series in the early 80s. I remember my mother's insistence that nothing on Nickelodeon could possibly scare me (she made a similarly dangerous decision about PBS, which is why I spent my elementary school years haunted by things like a documentary on Pompeii and the Dr Who theme song). But "Children of the Stones" scared the holy, everloving shit out of me when I was a child. I wary of even reading some of the links.

*"Into the Labyrinth," another "Third Eye" program, wasn't much better
posted by thivaia at 7:13 AM on March 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


Sounds like it's ripe for a remake with Nicolas Cage!
posted by Naberius at 7:17 AM on March 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


I mostly remember this show from its initial US airing as a jumble of disturbing images and ideas, but one thing I remember very clearly was the idea that the village was stuck in a time loop, and that everything that had happened before would happen again. So when Nickelodeon aired two entire runs of the show back-to-back it freaked me the hell out.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:17 AM on March 4, 2016 [15 favorites]


I'm sorry that young me missed this, but honestly British+Neolithic stones+creepy sci-fi for kids might have been like giving young me crack.

Fortunately, I'm an adult so I can have all the crack I want (after work).
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:22 AM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


This sort of thing is pretty much it's own specifically English subgenre - I particularly like the Alan Garner Books.
posted by Artw at 7:23 AM on March 4, 2016 [10 favorites]


I watched this! I don't think it scared me, it just gave me a vague memory for years of a thing no one else remembered: "Do you remember a show with kids and Stonehenge and fog and they'd show the stones at spooky angles and the music would go 'Ooooohhh aaa AAAAoohhoooohh!!!'? No, just me then?" I eventually found it on youtube.
posted by artychoke at 7:30 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I wasn't allowed to watch this when it came out in the UK, and watching it now, I can see why. I'd have not slept for months...

Going to watch it now though - thanks for posting, I'd completely forgotten about it.
posted by dowcrag at 7:31 AM on March 4, 2016


Thank God for Nickelodeon back in the day. This show and the Tomorrow People and the old Lathe of Heaven on Pbs. Damn I miss the late 70s early 80s.
posted by Malla at 7:38 AM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Not quite as weird, but I also liked spooky New Zealand kids show about Sirius conspiracies Children of the Dogstar.
posted by Artw at 7:39 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


This sort of thing is pretty much it's own specifically English subgenre

I haven't seen the Children of the Stones, but it sounds a great deal in tone/subject like Chocky, which also ran on Nickelodeon around the same time.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:40 AM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yes, very Wyndham, also very Nigel Kneale, but for kids.

Sapphire and Steel probably counts too.
posted by Artw at 7:44 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I too watched this as the Nickelodeon anthology The Third Eye and loved it most of all four. The Haunting of Cassie Palmer is the one I remember least. Into the Labyrinth stood out moderately well in my memory; Under the Mountain's worm-tunneling and Mr. Wilberforce's slug monsters was another I half-remembered for decades, which occasionally morphed in my dreams into the Johns of Buckaroo Banzai.

The internet helped me find and rewatch all of these around 2004. Children of the Stones was as campy, fun, and wide-ranging as I had hoped, 20 years later.
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 7:45 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


You had me at Children of the Stones.
And I WILL go on forever.
posted by Mezentian at 7:54 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Did someone say the Alan Garner Books?
I think they did.
posted by Mezentian at 7:56 AM on March 4, 2016


I particularly like the Alan Garner Books.

ah, memories.... elidor was my favourite book as a child. terrifying :o)
[edit: i just found it on one of my bookshelves! must be the oldest thing i own (well, thing i have owned for most time).]
posted by andrewcooke at 7:57 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Under the Mountain's worm-tunneling and Mr. Wilberforce's slug monsters was another I half-remembered for decade

You didn't remember enough.
But if you did, ignore the remake.
posted by Mezentian at 7:58 AM on March 4, 2016


elidor was my favourite book as a child. terrifying :o)

Avoid the adaption.... and Boneland.
posted by Mezentian at 7:59 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Didn't see it as a kid but caught up with it a few years ago... very powerful stuff it would have been mind blowing to see it at an impressionable age. And yeah very Kneale in the mixture of the supernatural and crazy science.

Also the very 70s thing of teaching kids to mistrust their 'betters' and their elders. So of course we'd never see the like now.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:59 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Loved this on Nickelodeon's _Third Eye_. Loved it so much. (Also was a big fan of Tomorrow People.)
posted by edheil at 8:04 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Stonehenge has let itself go...
posted by runincircles at 8:05 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


You didn't remember enough.
But if you did, ignore the remake.


I gave the Under the Mountain remake about 20 minutes before I abandoned it. That's about as much time as I gave the 90s remake of Tomorrow People, and 20 minutes longer than I gave the 2013 remake of Tomorrow People.

The original Tomorrow People was fantastic to my childhood mind. I tried rewatching a few years ago but only Dudley Simpson's music was as awesome as I remembered.
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 8:15 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Starring Avebury as Milbury. It's not a coincidence that Avebury's where Julian Cope lives.
posted by Grangousier at 8:15 AM on March 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


Visited Avebury when I was a kid... it's even more spooky in real life.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 8:19 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


[edit: i just found it on one of my bookshelves! must be the oldest thing i own (well, thing i have owned for most time).]

It's watching you...
posted by Artw at 8:55 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


It's Avebury, not Stonehenge. Link to google images. Let The National Trust do what it will, Avebury will never not be atmospheric. Even in the teeth of the Dowsing for Beginners class. Even in the middle of the Summer Fete with the Dog Show and the Bouncy Castle and the Classic Cars and the pony rides in amongst the stones.
posted by glasseyes at 9:23 AM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh the tweed jacket and Austin Maxi combo.
posted by colie at 9:41 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


The now-wife and I went to Stonehenge, and stopped at Avebury on the same trip and she told me all about Children of the Stones, which she had seen and I'd missed on PBS. I recall we took a pic of her peering out from around one of the Avebury stones in honor of the show.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:02 AM on March 4, 2016


Sapphire and Steel probably counts too.

Prepare to be Lumleyed.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:04 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Children Of The Stones meshes well with some of the "gothic horror" episodes of Doctor Who, which were running at that time. It's not that hard of a jump to go from this series to, say, "Image Of The Fendahl."

("The Stones Of Blood" explicitly refers to Neolithic stone monuments, but that particular DW episode veered off-course halfway through, so I'm hesitant to say that that would mesh well with CotS.)
posted by stannate at 10:06 AM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


fend ago is one of the ones that really pissed off Nigel Kneale by being on his lawn.

To be fair, there's not a lot to it that isn't ripped off from Quatermass and the Pit, but I think it does have its own distinct charm.
posted by Artw at 10:13 AM on March 4, 2016


The original Tomorrow People was fantastic to my childhood mind. I tried rewatching a few years ago but only Dudley Simpson's music was as awesome as I remembered.

Heh. Yeah. Unless I'm mistaken, it was mostly shot in the same quarry as all those early Doctor Who's. It's like someone saw Battlestar Galactica or Space: 1999 and decided they were just too good.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:16 AM on March 4, 2016


I only stumbled across Stones recently via Youtube meanderings. I'm well into my fifties but it's still stuck with me with one my fave current taglines --

"I-like-to-keep-in-TOUCH."

Spoken quickly, staccato, through clenched teeth, like it's all one word, emphasis on the final syllable.
posted by philip-random at 10:20 AM on March 4, 2016


If you're not disturbed enough by now, another similar series — The Changes — will do that for you.
posted by scruss at 10:27 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I do specifically recall that the Tomorrow People and Doctor Who shared costumes. There was one particularly unforgettable "alien" costume that looked like an ice cream cone that turned up in both.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:43 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


In the genre of "Creepy TV series for kids featuring standing stones” I think that "Escape Into Night" wins the prize. Still haunts me
posted by fallingbadgers at 11:03 AM on March 4, 2016


Along similar-ish lines, Village of the Damned (from Wyndham's 'Midwich Cuckoos') freaked me out when I was a kid.

And that HTV ident opened up a small hole in the space-time fabric for a few seconds there.
posted by carter at 11:04 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Upon being offered a glass of water in the afternoon, the protagonist [Gareth Jones, Blake from Blakes 7] says:

This isn't the time of day to be taking a bath. In that cupboard you'll find a bottle of scotch and a glass.

A large glass.


Just finished watching Part One. This is so good.
posted by Chichibio at 12:16 PM on March 4, 2016


British kids could handle any level of terror, even Noseybonk.

whimpering
posted by colie at 12:23 PM on March 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


whoa, extreme trigger warning for the Noseybonk above.

(he will get you in your sleep …)
posted by scruss at 12:37 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I wonder if Stephen King ever saw this. Shades of Tommyknockers and Under The Dome.
posted by Chichibio at 1:12 PM on March 4, 2016


Surely The Wicker Man played at some Bangor drive-in.
posted by Chichibio at 1:19 PM on March 4, 2016


Children of the Stones had some fantastic costumes, especially the amazing PURPLE. VELVET. BLAZER. that the father character wore. Glorious!
posted by orrnyereg at 1:19 PM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Blake!!

We used to watch stuff at primary school, and there was a program which I can't remember the title of, or much about, but it had a boy and a girl, probably brother and sister, and at the start they were flying a remote control plane and it went over a high wall into a walled garden. When they went to get it back they got drawn into something. My memory of this is very vague, but at one point they were locked up in a tower or attic, and there were 3 people who were all part of the bad guy team, and one of them, was man on the motorbike (I think he was number 3) and at the end the man on the motorbike turned out to be a woman. Sorry for vagueness, but does anyone have any idea what it was? This would be somewhere between 1975 - 1979.

We also watched some odd thing about a brother and sister on a building site, and some guy sent them there, and they had something like 3 lives, and each time they died they reappeared back in the guys lab. But the boy used up a life somehow, and the last time they died, drowning in some sort of lake or something, only the girl reappeared. This was building site Health and Safety for kids, 1975 style.

Re: the changes, linked above - God I remember that - it scared the crap out of me as a kid: I had the fear of electricity pylons for years. I was sure there was an FPP about it but can't find it.
posted by marienbad at 2:38 PM on March 4, 2016


*"Into the Labyrinth," another "Third Eye" program, wasn't much better

Oh my god, I was obsessed with Into the Labyrinth.
posted by rifflesby at 3:00 PM on March 4, 2016


Does anyone remember a show, we used to watch it in elementary school when the teacher needed to distract us for a while, it was a sort of educational adventure/drama about library science, except it was post-apocalyptic library science?
posted by rifflesby at 3:08 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


rifflesby, the show was Tomes & Talismans . Found it by Googling post-apocalyptic library science .
posted by dannyboybell at 4:07 PM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I thought it was going to be The Odyssey (Trailer).
posted by bentley at 4:17 PM on March 4, 2016


Holy crap! I wasn't even sure I didn't dream it
posted by rifflesby at 4:18 PM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


i'm watching this (children of the stones) now. it's pretty good. also, i found that there's a sequel (published last year).
posted by andrewcooke at 4:32 PM on March 4, 2016


Members of my family still sometimes greet each other with "Happy day!"
posted by Hal Mumkin at 5:33 PM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Blue or green? Blue or Green!?
posted by bonehead at 8:30 PM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wow! I had almost no memory of watching this - neat!
posted by Golem XIV at 9:57 PM on March 4, 2016


I do specifically recall that the Tomorrow People and Doctor Who shared costumes. There was one particularly unforgettable "alien" costume that looked like an ice cream cone that turned up in both.

I suspect (and I may be wrong, but I do love The Tomorrow People) you might be mis-remembering Alpha Centauri from the Peladon stories and *sigh* the Sorsons from the War of the Empires, as they are both a smidge "suggestive".

Besides, Who and TTP were made by different networks. (Stuff was shared between Blake's 7 and Who, as I recall).

only Dudley Simpson's music was as awesome as I remembered.

I rewatched it about a decade ago, after buying the Boxed Set, and loved it.
It does kinda suck right at the end. And in A Man For Emily.
posted by Mezentian at 11:42 PM on March 4, 2016


I saw it when it was broadcast in Spain, in '77 or '78, and it scared the bejeezus out of me. We had also moved to a city in the Spanish Northwest, full of Celtic influence and rural weekend spots to visit Romanic churches and wonder in the woods until almost sundown. I'm now worried I'll have nightmares tonight.
posted by kandinski at 12:23 AM on March 5, 2016


Oh wow, I was also terrified by the man smashing up the television in The Changes. I live near a museum with two massive naval guns outside it, they're 16 metres long and horrible, I don't like to look at them or walk near them. It always makes me think of the people in The Changes crossing themselves as they duck under electricity lines (I might have misrememberd that, I was very small! But it made a big impression on me.)
posted by prune at 3:27 AM on March 5, 2016


We also watched some odd thing about a brother and sister on a building site, and some guy sent them there, and they had something like 3 lives, and each time they died they reappeared back in the guys lab. But the boy used up a life somehow, and the last time they died, drowning in some sort of lake or something, only the girl reappeared. This was building site Health and Safety for kids, 1975 style.

Building Sites Bite 1 2 3 ?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:47 AM on March 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh wow, I was also terrified by the man smashing up the television in The Changes.

With one of those pedestal ashtrays. Which we had in our lounge at the time. And oh boy.

Had very strong memories of that, and the end eps think I missed some episodes in the middle... could have been coz I was just a nipper. Watched the whole thing a few years back and it still held up; was surprised by the sikh family considering what else was going on the in 70s, nice touch
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:52 AM on March 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I love The Changes.
And, can I give a shout out to Clifton House Mystery?

It has been removed from YouTube, but: AMAZING.
posted by Mezentian at 7:01 AM on March 5, 2016


I do specifically recall that the Tomorrow People and Doctor Who shared costumes.

No - The Tomorrow People was made by Thames TV for ITV and Dr Who was made by the BBC and in the 1970s never the twain shall mix. One advantage Dr Who did have was that it had access to the enormous store of BBC props and costumes, which made something like The Masque of Mandragora a lot less expensive than you might imagine. While they were both made out of cardboard and bubble-wrap with The Tomorrow People it was really obvious.

I'm old enough to remember Timeslip, though. And Freddy and the Dreamers in Oliver in the Overworld.
posted by Grangousier at 7:23 AM on March 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


While they were both made out of cardboard and bubble-wrap with The Tomorrow People it was really obvious.

I protest, and compare Ark In Space with the Bubbleskins!

Not that I don't agree, but.... the point needs to be made.
posted by Mezentian at 7:33 AM on March 5, 2016


"Curse you, God, for making me this way!!" - Noseybonk
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 1:23 PM on March 5, 2016


Tommorow People's aliens make the Wirrn look like Shaft.
posted by Artw at 1:56 PM on March 5, 2016


Building Sites Bite?
posted by fearfulsymmetry

Oh my God yes!! That's it.

Also, I googled and found the other program: Cloud Burst. Anyone remember this? If you saw "The Changes" you would be the right sort of age for it.
posted by marienbad at 2:45 PM on March 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Tommorow People's aliens make the Wirrn look like Shaft.

You should not trust ArtW on this point. Trust in your own eyes.
posted by Mezentian at 3:48 PM on March 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Another one like this from Nickelodeon was The Witches and The Grinnygog. I remembered it and Children of the Stones as the best tv I saw as a kid. I have never looked at a Green Man as anything but a sacred village protector thanks to this weirdness.
posted by irisclara at 8:27 PM on March 5, 2016


So telling my friend about this thread caused her to remember Storylords. And that's... well, that's a thing.
posted by rifflesby at 9:39 PM on March 5, 2016


Catweazle always disturbed me as a kid for various reasons I can no longer recall. Maybe his legs and eyes.

And, since we are taking '80s TV and Alan Garner: The Owl Service. I'm actually about to re-read the book before watching this.

And there was one I remember, which I think involved a young boy being shrunken down and ending up in some sort of world between the walls, where I vaguely remember some sort of Jack of Hearts type ruled. But that's more of an Ask.Me.
posted by Mezentian at 11:41 PM on March 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Building Sites Bite?
posted by fearfulsymmetry

Oh my God yes!! That's it.


I actually watched that fairly recently when @ScarredForLife2 linked to it on twitter.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:58 AM on March 6, 2016


When Alan Moore made a spoken-word CD about the mysticism of William Blake, one of his partners in the project suggested calling it "Blake's Heaven". Kinda wish they'd gone with that....
posted by Paul Slade at 3:32 AM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Blake's Heaven".

I laughed so hard I cried.
And then I mourned for what can never be.
And then I wondered who could give me Alan's phone number, or, if not that, ask him the question.

And then I wondered what Michael Moorcock would think about B7.

It got a little weird after that.
posted by Mezentian at 6:06 AM on March 6, 2016


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