Some years after I first heard rumours of this getting a home video release, it’s now possible to step back forty years to see Anna Home’s adaptation of Peter Dickinson’s classic trilogy of tales. I’ve not seen anything from them since they were first broadcast – although I reread the original stories about fifteen years ago – so watching the story unfold brought back occasional memories, but it’s not like Day of the Triffids, Blake’s 7 or Survivors, all of which have been more easily accessible.
There are enough dissimilarities between the TV version and the books (not least the fact that the tale is told in chronological order, with what nowadays would effectively be termed a prequel showing the world before the Changes occur) to make them very different versions of the same core tale – and for those who do remember the books, the TV series comes up with a different (but to my mind even less plausible) explanation for events.
Victoria Williams excels as Nicky Gore, promoted to the central character of the entire piece. She’s one of those unaffected by the sounds which make most other people destroy all forms of technology around them; both actress and character are put through the wringer by the story, as are most of those whom she encounters. Home brings out the themes of racism, sexism and green issues in Dickinson’s story in a production that would be prime for remake by BBC Three (with the obligatory addition of “adult” material – as if the themes themselves weren’t enough).
In one way it’s very much a story of its time – emphasised by the use of Paddy Kingsland’s music and the first scenes showing the 1970s family together – but its themes are timeless, and you’re left wondering just how badly society today would be affected by similar Changes.
The BFI has done the series proud: as well as a highly informative booklet detailing the series’ difficult road to screen, they’ve also included a moderately contemporary documentary about Asians living in Britain.
Verdict: An often overlooked classic of small screen British SF given its due at long last. 8/10
The Changes is being released by the BFI as part of their Sci-Fi: Days of Fears and Wonder season which runs from October to December 2014.