The Changes

  1. The Noise
  2. The Bad Wires
  3. The Devil's Children
  4. Hostages
  5. Witchcraft
  6. A Pile of Stones
  7. Heartsease
  8. Lightning
  9. The Quarry
  10. The Cavern

Nicky -
Vicky Williams

Johnathan -
Keith Ashton

Davy Gordon -
David Garfield

Chacha -
Rafiq Anwar

Dark Angel
Cleopatra 2525
Day of the Triffids
The Last Train
Logan's Run
Planet of the Apes

The Noise

Nicky is an ordinary girl worried about ordinary things like her english test, but her world is turned upside down when everyone starts smashing up all the machines, herself included, for no readily apparent reason. Her father hears that France is clear of this mania and determines to take Nicky and her pregnant mother there, but the young girl gets lost in another attack of the madness.

As a convincing background for an apocalypse the one suggested in the opening episode of this series is an unsettling one. As a society we are so reliant on our technology that its sudden removal is quite a scary prospect. The fact that no explanation of the cause for the sudden outburst of luddite destruction beyond announcements of strange weather phenomena and a few headaches makes it all the more unnerving. These are all ordinary people and when all forms of mass communications break down then rumour and panic set in.

The destruction is depicted through staged scenes of machine carnage that are quite effective, not least because the people themselves have no idea why they are doing it, and stock footage which is spectacular, but seems to have been picked at random and doesn't for a cohesive picture of anything very much.

Less successful is Nicky getting lost, or rather her parents reaction to that. Her father is sure that Nicky is sensible enough to go home and wait for them there and yet does not suggest going straight back for her, but prefers to go with his wife to France before coming back to look for her. It's an incomprehensible decision that no parent would make.

There is also some inconsistency over the madness itself. Bicycles are seen being smashed on a regular basis, but then wheelbarrows and carts are seen being used and then the father comments that there really weren't any carts. At which point the definition of technology starts and finishes is not well made.

There is some spooky music to set the mood and, quibbles aside, this opener promises much.


The Bad Wires

Having decided to leave the diseased city and head to France to look for her parents, Nicky chances upon a group of Sikhs also leaving and tries to join them. Initially they resist, but when she demonstrates her susceptibility to the madness, they let her come along so that they can predict attacks on them. As Nicky befriends the younger members of the group, she discovers what makes them different and together they travel until they find their way blocked by electricity pylons.

"This is a propaganda show on behalf of the multicultural party", or at least that's what it feels like. Nicky has never met any Sikhs and so has to have their ways explained to her and the fact that though they have different ways they are not a threat. This is all done through clunky dialogue and then hammered home by a scene of racial abuse with no apparent motive at all.

It's a sign of the period that the show was made in that the makers felt it necessary to spend so much time talking about how we ought to be nice to various ethnic minorities and it certainly doesn't help the story, bogging it down to the point where almost nothing happens at all. Life in the country seems to have been unchanged by the madness as everyone is standing around outside a pub having a pint or two.

The final shot, however, manages to make electricity pylons look like the most evil threat in all the world, which in this story they very possibly are.


The Devil's Children

The Sikhs find a deserted farmhouse protected from the nearest village by a set of power lines that are difficult for people affected by the Changes to pass under. They set up a forge and make tools. Nicky goes into the village to barter for the Sikhs' work and learns more about the functioning of the new village structure.

Well it didn't take long (though how long is unsure, the passage of time being one thing about this show that isn't particularly well documented) for a new feudal style system to emerge. One man has become master of the local village thanks to his being the biggest and owning a sword. He has instituted a kind of law where he has the final say and women get a very raw deal indeed.

To say that not a lot happens in this episode is an understatement. There are interesting insights into the new times and the fact that Nicky no longer remembers school and lessons, but at even half an hour long this seems stretched.



A band of roving thugs come into the village and immediately take all of the children hostage to ensure compliance with their demands. The Sikhs agree to free the hostages and take on the robbers, but it is a plan not without danger.

There is more action in this one episode than in the previous two combined. Whilst it might seem rudimentary and not very convincing to the adult eye, it will pass muster for the younger viewers and it is chilling that the villains head straight for the kids as a guarantee of obedience. The fact that they kill off the town's principle defender and main player in the last episode both off-screen and mentioned as a throwaway comment is also fairly effective in setting the band up as bad guys.



The Sikhs decide that it is time for Nicky to seek out her own family, specifically an aunt in the Cotswolds. On the way, the cart she is riding in crashes and she is injured. Falling asleep in a barn filled with forbidden tractors, she is taken by Davy Gordon, the local witchfinder and sentenced to death by stoning.

There are more curious decisions being made here. Why the Sikhs would consider that it is better to send a defenceless child alone on a search for an aunt who might not even be there than keeping her safe with them is hard to understand. If she can't stay with them then why can she not stay with the folk in the nearby village? When she is initially knocked out, why does the carter immediately abandon her to get help instead of waiting to see if she wakes up? Why does she immediately go wandering off when she does wake up instead of waiting for the carter to return?

Despite all these reservations, this is a better episode. The introduction of the new family brings with it new and better actors giving better performances, which is just as well because religious fervour would seem ridiculous were it not well played. The dialogue is still clunky, but the story is more expansive and all the better for it.


A Pile of Stones

Johnathan does not believe that Nicky is a witch whatever his father and the local witchfinder might say, so he determines to help her. With the aid of his sister, he springs Nicky from her jail and comes up with a plan to get her away from the superstitions of Shipton.

The effects of The Changes is wearing off, at least a little, on some people, which allows young Johnathan to use a tractor, virtually the first moving vehicle seen in the whole show. It's also interesting to see that petrol is also affected by The Changes, being considered as wicked as the machines it powers. Well-built tractor, though, starting up after who knows how long unattended and unused.



Johnathan has got Vicky to his tug and they are heading for the sea and France, but witchfinder Davy Gordon isn't about to give up so easily and sets off to intercept them.

This is a more straightforward episode that just gets on with telling the story of the escape. There's also Johnathan's father coming to doubt that Davy Gordon's way is the right way, something that adults won't find too hard to accept, just before they remember the witch trials and hysteria that have swept through almost all the world in the pre-industrial ages.



With the final bridge in their way guarded by Davy Gordon's men, a diversion is needed for Johnathan and Nicky to escape. Johnathan's father steps in at the last minute to help, but strange weather causes a lightning strike to destroy the tug Heartsease. On land, the two meet up with a couple who seem almost at peace with what has happened, but believe that it must have started somewhere just beyond the mountains.

And so the witch storyline comes to an end as the escape is finally managed and Davy Gordon meets a vaguely unsatisfying, but thoroughly deserved end. Then the boat is destroyed by the strange weather that hasn't been mentioned since The Noise and which suggests that there might be some sort of guiding intelligence behind what has happened. After that, there's just time for a spot of tea and some plot explaining dialogue before the next episode.


The Quarry

Armed with the knowledge gained from the couple they have been staying with, Nicky and Johnathan head up into the mountains to see if they can find what caused the Changes. Nicky feels a pull in a certain direction and they end up in a disused quarry where a strange man called Furbelow is babbling about power and something that lies in the depths of the quarry works.

'The weather was a bit bad over there' doesn't seem like a lot of information to qualify a quest with, but it's enough for Nicky and Johnathan to set out on theirs. Considering the state of the world it's a wonder that people keep giving horses away as well. They find the quarry with little problem and quite quickly, the rest of the episode being centred around the confused and worrying Mr Furbelow who certainly knows more than he's telling. This is certainly much more mysterious stuff than we've had since the beginning of the series and since it's the penultimate episode, it certainly piquest the interest for the big finale.


The Cavern

Nicky and Johnathan plan a way around Mr Furbelow and into the caverns to meet whatever it was that caused the Changes, but find that getting there is more difficult than they thought and because of their own fears.

All is finally revealed and the source of the Changes is located. It's a force that creates a balance in all things and which was disturbed by the mining works and Mr Furbelow. In order to create its balance, it caused the reversion to the earlier time that it knew. Nicky, though, proves to have the strength to restore the balance back to normality.

What, that's it? Nicky begs please and all is put right? It hardly seems likely. It's a bit more complex than that, perhaps, but is pretty disappointing considering that the explanation for the force itself is quite interesting. It's a shame that a show that managed to intrigue and keep the interest despite indifferent acting and clunky dialogue should go out quite so weakly.







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