Once upon a time, children’s TV took a singular disinterest in the comfort of its viewers. Moondial, adapted for the screen from her own novel by Helen Cresswell, is filled with the sort of dialogue that you can imagine Pinter knocking out after his agent told him to have a stab at YA. Oblique, slightly stilted, poetic and dreamy to the point that it bears no relation to words that have ever crossed a human tongue. Combined with Colin Cant’s whirling camera and enthusiastic poking at Quantel software, the whole becomes a cold, disaffected and yet, accumulatively effective three hours of TV.
When Minty (played by Siri Neal in a manner so affected and off-the-wall that it eventually stops being wrong and ends up a perfect match for everything else) explores a country house she stumbles upon a sundial that can transport her to two other periods in the house’s history. Teaming up with a Victorian kitchen boy, Tom, who can also travel via the dial, they try and rescue a third child, Sarah, from her uncomfortable existence. Getting in the way is Jacqueline Pearce (played, as always, by Servalan).
It’s effective, slowbuild stuff once you’ve adapted to its strange tone and it’s lovely to see it find a home on DVD where it can be appreciated again. The disc includes interviews with Colin Cant and Siri Neal plus commentaries on the first and last episode.