Thursday, 23 July 2015

Serial offender - Children of the Dog star (TVNZ 1984)

Children of the Dog star was a six part sci-fi childrens serial first broadcast in New Zealand in 1984.

While not based on any previous books, the series borrows concepts and postulations from the 1976 pseudoscience book "The Sirius Mystery" by Robert Temple.

Set in the New Zealand outback during the mid 1980s, the series sees the 12 year old Gretchen on holiday at her uncles homestead in rural New Zealand.
One of the first things Gretchen notices when she arrives is a strange weather vane on the roof of the homesteads barn, which her aunt refers to as "the brass daisy". Her uncle says that the daisy has been there for as long as he can remember, and is sort of a mascot for the farm, but he has no idea where it came from.
Gretchen meets Robby, a young Maori boy, who lives with his uncle in the nearby town. Robby is a bit of a tearaway, and has been sent to live with his uncle in the hopes that it will straighten him out somewhat. Robbys uncle is the chief of the local Maori peoples, and as such, owns extensive ancestral lands in the area, including a large area of swampland, which local property developers are trying to buy so they can drain and build on it. Robby amuses himself by disrupting survey efforts on the land by the developers, of which his uncle disapproves, but understands why the boy does it. He explains to Robby that the land is "Tapu", or "forbidden", as it is said in local legends that the swamp holds a great evil, and will wreak terrible catastrophes on anyone who interferes with it, as many Maori tribes people before have found out when they have tried to do things with the swamp land.
As time passes, Gretchen notices that the brass daisy behaves strangely, making strange sounds and seemingly moving of its own accord, not only this but it also seems to be able to move objects with some kind of telekinetic force.

As it turns out, the brass daisy is in fact an alien artifact, part of a sentient space probe named "Kolob". Kolob was sent to Earth along with 2 other similar sentient machines by a race of people who live on a planet orbiting Sirius many thousands of years ago, with a mission to educate the primitive peoples of Earth. Unfortunately, Kolob crash landed in the swamp, scattering its various parts all over the area, the brass daisy being its core processing unit.

Gretchen, Robby and another boy named Bevis scour the swamp to find his missing parts and reassemble him so he can complete his mission, the problem is that when they assemble Kolobs various parts, their effects have some bizarre consequences.
The series eventually ends with Kolob being fully reassembled and making contact with the people of Sirius, but then in a bit of a twist ending, the series final scene is a cliffhanger, which has never been explained or resolved.

I remember watching this series when it aired on ITV some time round about 1985/86, and it was the first serial show I recall watching. although until recently I hadn't rewatched the series, because it was never released on video or DVD, nor did it get a replay on any TV channel due to licensing issues.
The series is a very well and intelligently written piece of teen fiction, and it has a distinct "Wyndam-esque" feel to it, being somewhat similar to the book "Chocky" (Which also received a TV adaptation in 1984, leading some people to confuse these two series), albeit less scary in nature.

The series plays with some very interesting concepts, such as the ancient astronaut theory, and the theory that early man was influenced by these alien visitors.

Although the series is now available on DVD, it is somewhat difficult to obtain, however the entire series is available on youtube, and I heartily recommend a watch for those who like sci-fi but want a bit of a change form the usual fayre.

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