Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Weird 1970's Kid's TV: The Changes

In the spirit of HTV's barking mad kid's dramas, the BBC produced something equally insane for Bronze Age kids in the '70's:
Post apocalyptic teenage odyssey on a Monday teatime? That'll be The Changes then.
One day, a sudden madness infects the population of the UK, and everyone becomes inexplicably terrified of machines. One minute, teenager Nicky is enjoying a quiet afternoon at home with her Mum & Dad, when they all hear a strange noise that drives them all crazy, causing them to smash up the TV, the radio, the toaster and every other 'wicked' machine.

Out in the streets, everyone else is doing the same thing, and anarchy and chaos rules. In one moment, the world we knew is gone, and with no idea what's happening, the family join other refugees on the road to the sea, hoping to escape the madness on a boat to France.

In the riots, Nicky gets seperated from her parents, and with a callousness you can only describe as breathtaking, her dad forces her pregnant mother onto the boat, with a vague promise that he'll come back for their daughter when they're safe.
Alone, she wanders through the wasteland, staying away from the big cities and the threat of plague. Nicky's a great heroine, resourceful, intelligent and decent, you're with her all the way. As Stewart Lee has said, what a breath of fresh air from the kind of lowlifes that infest teen shows today, like Skins for instance.

Eventually, she falls in with a Sikh family, also travelling on the road, who are strangely unaffected by the madness. In time, they take over an abandoned farm, and set to creating their own pre-industrial version of the good life. In the scenes everybody remembers, Nicky now has to navigate past the ( to her ) terrifying electricity pylons that dot the English countryside, now called The Bad Wires.

If The Changes has a fault, it's that Nicky spends too much of the story down on the farm with her new pals, but it's easy to forget that self-sufficency was a big thing in 1970's Britain ( see also Survivors, which is the adult version of this story ), and immigrants from India were also a fairly new thing back then, making Nicky's new family exotic, colourful and mysterious.
In fact, the Sikh men are painted as kind of warrior priests, both protecting and guiding her, which is useful when they come up against the inevitable marauding gang of bad guys out for all they can steal.

The madness seems to continue, as on her travels, Nicky is regularly threatened by minor despots who rule over village fiefdoms, and it feels as if England has been completely thrown back into the Dark Ages, as in one episode where she's accused of being a witch and sentenced to death by stoning.

Ultimately, after several more adventures, and in a mind stretching finale, Nicky is led to where, how and what actually caused The Changes, and we discover what's in that cave in the end credits we've seen every week.

The Changes, unfortunately, doesn't have the budget to fully show the end of everything, but it comes damn close, and the actor's give it their all.
If only you could see it: Alas, it used to be on youtube, but has unaccountably vanished off there, but it is available on DVD, so if you ever get the chance to see it, do.
It's got it's flaws, but has more ideas in one episode than a whole series of most thing's these days.

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