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  • chuffnobbler19 November 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    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.
  • Russell T. Davies struck gold once again, following on from the success of Dark Season came Century Falls. The story of a Mother and daughter's arrival in the Village of Century Falls, a place where outsiders aren't welcome, and there are no children.

    I can remember as a twelve year old being enthralled by this series, a lover of drama even back then, this was a cut above. Even watching it as an adult, I'm struck by just how good it still is, the script is incredibly clever, much darker than any other show made for kids. It deals with some quite big themes, some of which now you'll only see in dramas for adults.

    A trio of unknown teens, and a group of seasoned actors all perform very well, Bernard Kay, Mary Wimbush and Georgine Anderson are all especially good.

    I remember those opening credits and that music vividly.

    It holds up very well. 9/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a splendid children's series about a lonely teenage girl having weird experiences in a strange remote village of elderly telepaths, an early work by Russell T. Davies, reminiscent less of the new Dr Who, than some of the spookier Pertwee episodes (e.g. the Daemons).

    It particularly wins on atmosphere - some fantastic locations, and a brilliant musical score by the late David Ferguson make it super-eerie. It is unhurried, and its thrills are slow-burning rather than jump-out-of-your-seat.

    Plot-wise, the development is excellent, as the mysteries pile up gradually before a climax borrowed from a 50s sci-fi classic (whose name I won't mention, to avoid a spoiler) and cathartic resolution, but there is probably a little too much psychobabble and occult-speak for it to make perfect sense. Like many occult dramas in the end it makes up its own rules, which detracts from the tension.

    The nature of the plot divides the cast into juveniles and old troopers; it is the troopers who catch the eye. Bernard Kay and Mary Wimbush stand out with tremendous performances, but virtually everyone is on form, and it is particularly nice to see Robert James, Eileen Way, Danny Schiller and Beryl Cooke doing their stuff. The young folk are less impressive. Alex Mollo doesn't have a great deal to do other than look sinister, but manages it well, while Tatiana Strauss is a bit variable (very good at times). The children aren't convincing, and Ben in particular is too ghastly to elicit either sympathy or shivers. Heather Baskerville is excellent as Mum (and seems to wear the same jumper constantly throughout the series).

    Like many small pleasures, wasted on the young. As an indication of its creepiness, anyone who recorded this off the telly in 1993 will enjoy not only the programme itself, but also the faces of the Children's BBC presenters afterwards (Andi Peters et al) who seem genuinely enthralled, particularly by the early episodes.