Young Tolly is summoned to his family home where it’s not just his great-grandmother who’s waiting for him…
The first story in Lucy M. Boston’s series of adventures set at Green Knowe was published in 1954 with a further five following over the next 22 years. The house was based on Boston’s own home at the time, The Manor in Hemingford Grey, a place that naturally gave rise to spooky tales, and Boston’s sequence of novels have remained popular. They were the inspiration for Julian Fellowes’ 2009 movie From Time to Time, and this little gem from the BBC in 1986.
The four part adaptation was produced by Paul Stone and directed by Colin Cant (whose Moondial was released last year), and is a good example of the children’s output of that period – shot on video, with some supernatural goings-on, but nothing (well, pretty much nothing) that’s going to scare the children before bedtime, given its post-Newsround slot before the evening news. It’s only in episode 4 that Green Noah stirs things up enough for there to be a sense of real peril, but it’s not set up as a horror story.
Director Cant gets good performances out of both his adult and child stars – Daphne Oxenford as Tolly’s great-grandmother and Alec Christie as Tolly have a strong chemistry, which is essential if the audience is going to be drawn into the tale. The historical elements are equally well done, while Peter Howell’s music indelibly links it to its time.
It does seem a little stretched out over four episodes (a radio version in 1999, dramatized by Brian Sibley, came in 10 minutes shorter without feeling rushed) and for modern audiences, the characters are a bit twee. That said, it’s a diverting way to spend 100 minutes, and it’s good to have it available once more in a version that’s rather better than the VHS-YouTube transfer that’s otherwise been the only source.
Verdict: While maybe not a classic, this is still an enjoyable time-travel romp. 7/10