I was well into my teens when Century Falls was first shown, and have long remembered it. The DVD is more of a treat than I can say.
It bears all the hallmarks of Russell T Davies's writing. Now more famous for the revamped Dr Who, and adult dramas like Queer As Folk, there's a strong thread running through CF that can be seen elsewhere. Strong family relationships, murky secrets, strong women, awkward youngsters, unexpected twists.
Chubby Tess Harker is a bit of isolated. Her mum brings her to Century Falls, the archetypal isolated village, and Tess is shocked to find there are only two other children resident. The Naismith twins seem to have strange, supernatural powers. The Harkness women, elderly spinsters and their ancient mother, run the village shop, and seem determined to convince Mrs Harker to leave the village. It seems that no children have survived in the village since something awful happened forty years ago. The telepathic villagers are being manipulated, history is to be repeated, and Tess and her mother are at the heart of it.
It's incredibly complex, mysterious and sinister, bearing in mind it was shown as part of children's TV at a weekday teatime. Esme Harkness's description of what will happen to Tess's mother, delivered in the middle of part six, is rather gruesome and graphic. There are plenty of supernatural images and mentions of death and evil.
A good performance from Catherine Sanderson as the excluded teenager: very lonely, a bit sensitive, conscious of her size. Her mother is very believable and well written. A magnificent performance from the late, lamented Mary Wimbush as Esme, with Dr Who stalwart Eileen Way grabbing attention as Alice Harkness ... she lost her mind forty years ago, when the Temple was broken.
The first couple of episodes build up mystery upon mystery. The temple, Mrs Harkness's silence, Robert Naismith's interest in the Harkers, the mystery figure in the Naismith attic, the supernatural Naismith twins, no children born for forty years, and the mystery of Century. Rising from flames in the middle of a waterfall, the image is very striking and startling.
The production is in no hurry to give answers. Viewers may find themselves frowning for three or four whole episodes. It requires a lot of thought and a lot of understanding ... completely unlike any kids telly nowadays! This harks back to the glory days of productions like Moondial, Narnia and the like. Century Falls was probably the last of these.
Century Falls is rather talky, with relatively little action. The action that does occur is very attention-grabbing as a result. It is probably better suited to adults now, rather than to children. A rather sophisticated story and plenty of confusion lead to a satisfying conclusion. It's very eerie, grey and windswept. Some brilliant images of séances, plenty of shadows and unanswered questions. Very watchable, and worthy of its reputation as a kids classic. For once, my teenage memories were not disappointed.
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