Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Changes

I've just come across a tv series and novel trilogy from the '70s which I didn't know of before, with some similarities of theme to Hybrids. Does anyone remember it?

The Changes was a British children's science fiction television serial filmed in 1973 and first broadcast in 1975 by the BBC. In the first episode, ordinary people smashed ordinary objects in fits of seeming madness and this apparently made a great impact on its young audience.

The Changes posits a Britain in which the population have mysteriously rebelled against modern technology, destroyed all modern machinery and reverted back to a pre-industrial age.

The madness is triggered by a sound emitted from electricity pylons.

Even the words for modern inventions became taboo - 'car', 'tractor', 'electricity', 'toaster', 'pylon', etc. Just to mention them brings on the noise and the uncontrollable anger against machines again. These items of modern technology are described by people, including the central character Nicky, as cursed.

At one point the main character in the series, Nicky Gore, is asked whether it will induce the noise to start a blacksmith's forge. She asks, "where will you get the iron from?" On hearing there is plenty of scrap lying around the farm (obviously a sensible bit of recycling) she announces that the forge will probably not invoke the noise. So the forge goes ahead. But bicycles are sadly trashed.

Its theme echoes the adult drama series Survivors (1975) in which a small group of British people attempt to survive the decimation of the world's population by disease. This itself is reminiscent of 'The Memoirs of a Survivor' by Doris Lessing (1974), made into a film with Julie Christie. The preoccupation with this theme at the time may have been due to the oil shortage and other environmental and nuclear scares going on, with parallels to our own time.

The Changes was directed by John Prowse.

The TV series was freely adapted by Anne Home from a trilogy of novels by Peter Dickinson. The series took most of its material from The Weathermonger which, together with Heartsease and The Devil's Children has recently been reissued in a single volume in the UK.

You can read more and buy The Changes on Tony Gosling's web site - this is a private site. The BBC have not re-issued it for contractual reasons.

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