Monday, July 22, 2013

The Owl Service

ancient Welsh mythology transposed to BBC children's television

The Owl Service was an eight-part television series based on the children's fantasy novel of the same name by Alan Garner. Produced in 1969 and televised over the winter of 1969-1970. The direction was quite radical and seemed to be influenced by the avant-garde, a noted contrast to what might be expected of a children's serial.
Text added July 25th: I just finished watching this series and I was astonished at it's power. It was like peering thru into a shadow-box of another realm of reality. It was dark and haunting. On one level it was a beautiful piece of film-making, on another it was a creation of the soul, so it might seem unwatchable to some. Subtlety and a heavy-hand side-by-side.
The Owl Service was originally a fantasy novel for young adults by mythologist Alan Garner, published by Collins in 1967. Set in modern Wales, it is an adaptation of the story of the mythical Welsh woman Blodeuwedd, an "expression of the myth" in the author's words.

Many of the cast later commented on the lasting effects the serial had on them, Michael Holden commenting that it felt like "we were personally living the whole thing", while Hills said that "it was all so real, it was frightening". Raymond Llewellyn said in 2008 that the role of Huw has haunted him ever since.

Gillian Hills as seen in The Owl Service

This BBC series stars Gillian Hills. She was in both Blow Up and A Clockwork Orange, she was in those scenes.


Anonymous said...

Hi Mike,

Another very weird kid's show from the UK was The Boy From Space. Part of a learn to read programme for infant school pupils it contained some very odd 1950s Contactee-type imagery.

And the alien voices! Any British person over the age of 35 will have this burned into their brain.

This is the full version, but sadly the sound is out of sync. A search for 'Boy from Space' should have all the episodes come up on Youtube:

gheron93 said...

Children of the Stones is another fantastically odd 1970s British TV show.

Dia Sobin said...

Thanks Mike for the BBC series - I hadn't heard of this one before. (And thanks, Anonymous and gheron93 - I hadn't heard of *those* series before, either!) (I'm a sucker for BBC series...)

Synchronistically, the night before I saw your post on my Blogger updates, I found a link to this July, 2011 UK article, and immediately thought of you:

Pretty eerie! I never heard of this in the States, but, apparently, it's not uncommon in the UK.


Red Pill Junkie said...

Jesus, that 'Boy from Space' kid is CREEPY! something about his spindly legs & arms is quite upsetting o_0

Anonymous said...

Another bizarre series was Chocky shown on ITV in the 1980s. Based on John Wyndham's story it was about a young lad who has an imaginary friend. Only its not really an imaginary friend but a disembodied alien consciousness inhabiting his mind. Throw in government agents and a bit of hypnotic regression and you have quite an interesting mix.

First episode here:

They made several series with a similar theme. Wyndham tended to write rather a lot about kids developing mind powers as a new stage in human evolution, often involving aliens (Village of the Damned was based on one of his stories).

Red Pill Junkie said...

Dude, I saw that Chocky show on Mexico! I remember it, and I liked it!

The alien entity teaches the kid how to do Math in binary numbers, and makes fun of his dad's 'primitive' car ;)

Anonymous said...

Heh, glad someone has seen! This is another one, from New Zealand this time and shown in the UK. Called Children of the Dog Star it was a series very much 'inspired' by Robert Temple's Sirius Mystery:

It kind of amazes me how so many shows were made with quite sophisticated ideas, yet still accessible to a young audience. Imagine trying to pitch drama aimed at 12 yr olds these days about non-corporeal intelligences advancing human science through a covert program of telepathic education. The suits would be sitting there glassy-eyed going 'And how many explosions will there be?'...

Red Pill Junkie said...

Well, since we're discussing TV programs that exposed children to fringe ideas, there was one cartoon show I really liked when I was growing up here in Mexico: nce Upon a Time: Space.

This was a sequel program to Once Upon a Time: Man, which was a history show that won a lot of educational awards, yet it didn't stop them from speculating about the loch Ness monster, nor about a future time in which humanity would be forced to seek a new planet to live in, after we destroyed Earth due to pollution & nuclear wars.

Following on that open-mindedness, Once Upon a Time: Space explored a lot of 'Ancient Astronaut' topics, like the Nazca lines or the idea that many myths about gods coming from the sky had been inspired by a paleo-contact with interplanetary explorers, who helped seed the roots of our civilization.

Needless to say, it had a HUGE impact in me :)

Anonymous said...

Haha, they showed Once Upon a Time... Man in the UK when I was a kid. The title credits went through all of human history with a Bach soundtrack. Surreal French coolness.

Never saw the follow-up, looks great fun.

Did you ever see Mysterious Cities of Gold? Ostensibly an adventure cartoon it had a subplot featuring ancient high technology and all manner of weirdness - such as 'Olmecs' who looked like aliens & a solar-powered plane the characters flew round in (the show was set in the 16th Century).

Oh, and it had one of those annoyingly singable theme songs:

Red Pill Junkie said...

No, I missed Mysterious Cities of Gold! Dammit, I'll need to remedy that ;)

gheron93 said...

My wife came back from a trip to the UK yesterday and for a gift she got me a STONE OWL.

As we are riffing on TV shows in general - Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World had a huge impact on me.

Wyndham's Chocky is well worth a read, as are many of his other books.

Anonymous said...

I haven't finished watching this -- I had to take it in relatively small chunks, and am re-watching some of them a couple of times before moving on to the next.

It's interesting and impressive, spooky. My general reaction is, "They made this for *kids*?"

Thanks to all for all of the suggestions for older interesting YA TV shows.

James said...

Wow... just took a gander @ The Owl Service... curious & spooky...