Children Of The Stones

  1. Into The Circle
  2. Circle Of Fear
  3. Serpent In The Circle
  4. Narrowing Circle
  5. Charmed Circle
  6. Squaring The Circle
  7. Full Circle

Homing in on the rising tide of interest in supernatural phenomena and alternative religions in the 1970s, Children Of The Stones – produced by a small Welsh television network whose identity has since been subsumed into the U.K.’s commercial ITV network – is one of those shows that happened to be in the right place at the right time. Few of those who saw it upon first transmission (or on its first U.S. airing circa 1980 on Nickelodeon) have ever forgotten it.

The series’ location footage was shot in and around Avebury, Wiltshire, the site of a real megalithic stone circle and now a national protected historical site – it’s hard to imagine a television series getting the same kind of access to Avebury’s unique monuments now. The monuments seen in Children Of The Stone are, for the most part, the real things, erected around 2600 B.C., or in the cases of some fallen stone monuments, set upright during an archaeological study in the 1930s.

Even some of the minutiae discussed in the series are real: the “Barber Surgeon” stone is real, as is its background. During the 1930s expedition, the stone in question was found with the remains of an adult male, with scissors and a lancet nearby, and currency dating back to the 1300s. As disturbing as some of the show’s imagery is, much of it – short of the science fiction connections – has its roots in reality.

There are even more eye-opening facts about Avebury which are almost stranger than the series’ fiction: Stonehenge is 17 miles to the south of Avebury, and more than half of the U.K.’s crop circles can be found within a ten-mile radius.

Where Children Of The Stones steps off of established fact is where it merits inclusion in a guide to science fiction television. The black hole connection was an invention of the show’s two writers, as well as the strong hints that time outside the fictional village of Millbury was passing at a different rate than within (shades of Lost!). There are also strong hints, in the series finale, that the village was somehow locked into a time loop, and that even if the show’s protagonists short-circuited predestined events long enough to make their escape, the fateful chain of events would start again even without them.

Adding to the unsettling feeling one gets from watching Children Of The Stones is Sidney Sager’s almost-entirely-vocal soundtrack, performed by the Ambrosian Singers. Going from almost-jazzy harmonies to discord (during scenes of rising tension) to repeated, disturbing shrieks (at moments of major plot revelations and/or cliffhangers), there’s never been anything quite like it done for television.

Series creators and writers Jeremy Burnham and Trevor Ray told the complete story of Children Of The Stones with seven half-hour episodes; no second season was planned or desired. Later in 1977, the same writing team would create the similarly short-lived series Raven, which updated Arthurian legend and reframed it within the context of an eco-thriller about the fight against a proposed site for a nuclear power plant. Also later in 1977, Children Of The Stones co-star Gareth Thomas would be cast in and start filming for the BBC series for which he would become most famous, Blake’s 7.

To this day, fans of Children Of The Stones regard it as a singular television event, and they may have a point: it’s hard to imagine something so unsettling, and something awash in dark deeds and Pagan mythology, being made for a young adult audience today without causing a huge uproar.