The early to mid 90s seemed to be a golden age for CBBC, especially considering the amount of serials they produced and/or screened in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, there seemed to be so many of them coming one after the other at one point, although not all of them were particularly memorable...
This weeks delve into this murky world of CBBC serial drama finds me stumbling across an ill remembered one...Earthfasts...
Eeh by gum, this ones set in Yorkshire, ah tell thee lad!....
*ahem*, Based on the 1966 book of the same name, this five part series stars a pre-Eastenders Paul Nicholls and no one else of any importance, well, other than Bobby Knutt as a secondary character, in a strange mix of fantasy and time travel drama which incorporates elements of Arthurian legend.
The story begins when two friends, Keith and David, are exploring the moors near their home, when they suddenly hear a drumming noise as they get near a sheer rock face.
As they investigate, the rock face opens up and a boy emerges, dressed in an old fashioned military uniform and carrying a drum in one hand and a candle in the other. The boy introduces himself as "Nellie Jack John" (basically, an old fashioned way of saying 'John, son of Nellie and Jack'). Keith and David find Nellie Jack John to be odd, he speaks English, with a Yorkshire accent, but his use of words seems old fashioned.
As it turns out, Nellie Jack John is from the year 1745, and had gotten lost in a cave system that ran underneath the local castle while he was searching for treasure that was supposedly buried under the hill. The event is recorded in local history and states that Nellie Jack John, or more properly, "John Cherry", was never found.
Nellie Jack John refuses to believe that he has emerged in the year 1993, and makes for his home in a nearby village, only to find that it has completely changed. Disheartened, he decides to return to the rock face and try to return to his own time, however he has lost his candle (Keith threw it away earlier) so David gives him a torch, then Nellie Jack John re-enters the rock face and tries to return home.
Afterwards, David and Keith find the candle, which is still burning despite being left in the undergrowth next to the road for several days, and they also find it odd that the candle gives off cold instead of heat, and never seems to burn down either, remaining the same length at all times.
Things start getting weird when they visit a stone circle, known locally as "The Jingle Stones", only to find that the standing stones, or "Earthfasts" as they were once called, seem to be moving by themselves, and then they begin noticing various magical creatures inhabit the area, including a stone giant, and a bogart. Very soon though, other mysterious events begin happening, all of which seem connected to Nellie Jack John and his mysterious magic candle.
"Earthfasts" is an interesting enough mystery type story, albeit a rather slow paced one and a little disturbing in some places. It does seem however that sometimes the "Yorkshire" aspect of the show is overplayed to the point at which it almost seems to be a caricature or stereotype, with everyone always giving it an "aye" and "t'mooars" etc etc, almost as if the screenplay was written by someone who had only ever experienced Yorkshire by watching Emmerdale.
Still, they don't make em like this no more.