Not as Good as the Book? asks Debbie Bennett

We all like to talk about the Book versus the Film, don’t we? Which was better? Should you read the book before or after seeing the film? Who knows – I guess it depends on the actual book/film and which came first. Was the film adapted from the book? Or was the book a novelisation of a film? What I do know is that I have bought several books as an adult based on – specifically – television series I watched as a child. 

I’ve said this on many an occasion: children’s television is often way better than that which is offered to adults. Adult tv these days is all about reality – and the reality is generally very, very fake. What even is reality tv anyway? Drama is usually crime and if they venture any further it’s often so far off-base as to be unwatchable. Who remembers the recent adaptation of War of The Worlds? I watched it as it was filmed in Cheshire near to where I live, but it was a very politically-correct and elastic story that bore little relation to the novel. Children’s tv is far more gripping and exciting! 

So, what was I watching way back in the when? What made me seek out the books? 

Let’s start with Children of the Stones. This was one of Gareth Thomas’ first parts, I believe, way before he took on Roj Blake’s persona. I found this on VHS video many years later and yes, it was dated and yes it was grainy – but what an awesome story! I bought the book as a child and still have it somewhere. Stone circles, pagan rituals and a picture that holds the past and the present together in an eternal loop. 

I went to look for the cover to post here. Is it me or is it truly awful? I much prefer the cover on the paperback I have. Having said that, I have just discovered there is a sequel, but the reviews look rather dire. Sometimes it's better to leave well alone, I think.
On a similar vein, I’d all but forgotten Marianne Dreams, until I was discussing the tv series with a friend in High School. I couldn’t even remember the title until she did – and gave me the book she had at home. Ancient paperback held together with Sellotape but it’s still scary even now. Look at the original black and white series on YouTube (not the Paperhouse watered-down remake) and you wouldn’t let your under-tens watch it. 

Of course I have to mention The Owl Service. Welsh mythology and the eternal love triangle of the Mabinogion in the 20th century, although I didn’t even realise it at the time. Alan Garner’s book is amazing, although the tv series doesn’t work for 21st century audiences with their short attention spans. My daughter was bored by it. Having said that, even she was impressed aged 6 or so when we visited Alan Garner in his home in Cheshire and got to see the actual owl service on which the book is based – yes there really is a dinner set and very pretty it is too, if a tad creepy. 

But again - the cover. This is supposedly a 'modern edition' and it is a children's/teenage book, but even so - given that the entire point of the book is whether it's owls or flowers, you'd think they'd at least hint at that ambiguity on the cover.

Who remembers The Changes? I adored this series although the ending veered off more into fantasy from the almost post-apocalyptic start. A world without electricity and machines – where power pylons actually make people scared. This is well before the concept of EMP and was probably way ahead of its time in the 1970s. I only discovered the book much later and was very disappointed to find that the series was only loosely based on one book and the endings totally different. I never could make the books match up to the television and that was important to me as a child. This was probably my first experience of the divergence of books from film/television. 

And finally ManDog. A bit obscure and I didn’t even know there was a book until I was looking around the internet a few years back. It's not on Amazon at all. I found a second-hand copy and the cover had pictures from the television series – it lived up to what I could remember too. It’s strange that what I remembered most was that one of the main teenage characters was in a wheelchair, which was probably again way ahead of its time in diversity. I haven’t looked for any episodes on YouTube yet, but they probably do exist somewhere. Most things do if you look hard enough. 

I've only just realised that all of these are genre. I don’t recall anything from the 1970s that wasn’t, to be honest. It can’t have been that I was specifically looking for science fiction or whatever. Back then, the drama serial was slotted in between (John Craven’s) Newsround and the closing mini-bite of Magic Roundabout or Roobarb & Custard, before we were hit with the six o’clock news. Was there anything other than genre stuff for the junior children? Adventure, maybe? I can't think of any.


Comments

I well remember all of these. I'm glad to see a mention of Mandog in particular.

I believe Children of the Stones was a novelisation of the TV series, rather than the other way round. And The Owl Service series was of course written by the book's author, who was on set throughout - I think that must have made a difference.

Who on earth chose that jacket for The Changes, which mostly takes place in the countryside and in any case was written well before even Docklands looked like that?
madwippitt said…
Remember these - even have some on video! And never realised that Children of the Stones was a book so shall go look for it - thank you!
Peter Leyland said…
I watched The Owl Service on b/w T.V. in the 60s Debbie. Stunningly good series at Sunday teatime and I remember the plates on the Welsh dresser and the girl in it. I may have read the book too.

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