Director: John Prowse
Screenplay: Anna Home (From the novels by Peter Dickinson)
Starring: Victoria Williams, Keith Ashton, David Garfield, Rafiq Anwar, Zuleika Robson, Raghbir Brar
Running Time: 246 mins
Reviewed by Guy Adams
Because I am young and beautiful, I didn’t see THE CHANGES on its original transmission (6th January 1975, one year to the very day before I turned up to bother this planet of ours). That doesn’t matter of course, such is its reputation, those who did have been only too happy to tell me what I missed. Ad infinitum.
Speeding onto DVD a mere thirty nine years later, those who did see it can relive their hallowed memories and the rest of us are able to decide if they were overreacting or not.
Sadly, I think they were. Despite nostalgic claims that THE CHANGES was so frightening it induced nightmares —a bold claim in a time where DOCTOR WHO had made a fine art of being terrifying at teatime — it’s actually a bit dull.
A strange signal is heard that drives people to destroy all technology, reducing the world to a pre-industrial state in the space of minutes. Nicky Gore — the very epitome of the seventies TV heroine, twelve going on forty-eight — is separated from her parents and must navigate this new world trying to find them.
After an admittedly effective opening, things slow down immediately. Nicky decides to leave the city because it’s full of disease. She knows this because an old man carrying a visibly stoned cat tells her. Later she encounters a bike gang who attempt to control an entire village by kidnapping their children and imprisoning them in a barn. Apparently, if the villagers rebel the bikers will set fire to the barn. An awful image but one that is delivered to us in such an incidental and soporific manner that we’ve forgotten it by the time said children are rescued (very easily I might add). Things continue in a similar vein for another six episodes. It’s charming enough but it’s utterly hamstrung by its refusal to engage with the viewer.
Naturally it’s a children’s programme, but that’s no excuse for excising all drama. It’s not a question of pace either, I enjoy the slow burn, fear builds best when cultivated gently. The problem is simply one of tone and focus, it’s all so casual and dismissive. Nicky is never visibly concerned by her situation (except for when screaming at pylons for the cliffhanger of episode two) and we follow her example. The concept is interesting, the potential considerable, sadly — and I appreciate I may be in a club of one here — the execution is lacking. Children’s television is perfectly capable of raising chills responsibly and THE CHANGES’ reluctance to even attempt to do so is a great shame.