Skip to main content

If there’s a way in, there’s a way out.

Children of the Stones
6: Squaring the Circle


Like all good penultimate episodes, Six finds our heroes teetering on the brink of defeat. Whilst the details become increasingly clear, any attempts to extract themselves from this mire are doomed to failure.


From the first, Adam and Matthew are left struggling with the realisation that “We’ve lost them”. Veronica Strong is particularly er, strong, in her scene of transformed blessedness opposite Cuthbertson.

MargaretFeel? I feel light. Powerful. Whole.
HendrickAnd happy?
MargaretHappy. Oh yes, so happy.


If predictable, Adam’s hope against hope that she is okay is perfectly understandable. As promised, she returns to see him after visiting Hendrick but claims not have been to the manor at all. When Adam plays the recording of Matthew’s psychic experience, she passes out. Only to stir with the chilling lines “Don’t worry, Adam. I’m all right. I’m perfectly happy”. 



Amidst all this, Adam still finds time for a sense of humour, and Thomas’ exasperated sarcasm is quite winning and reassuring; the next day, when Margaret calls round, Mrs Crabtree is all over her like a rash.


Mrs CrabtreeWelcome. And how do you feel today?
AdamShe feels very happy, Mrs. Crabtree. And she’ll feel a lot happier with a cup of coffee.

The body snatchers vibe during this episode is quite overpowering, right down to Adam’s accusation that what Hendrick is creating is a “world empty of feeling”.  Matthew’s encounter with Sandra in the church grounds is particularly sinister (“Not goodbye, Matt. We’ll see you soon”). By this point, Adam has resolved to leave (his reaction to everyone knowing about it is amusing, although he should have sussed this would happen by now).


There is more groundwork for the finale as Matthew gains entrance to the church basement, where he discovers reel machines, computers and the smell of gas. His exchange with Hendrick brings back into focus that this is just a kids’ show, blessing its young protagonist with a philosophical insight well beyond his years.

HendrickWhat else has man every worshipped but power?
MatthewKnowledge. Knowledge and truth.


It never becomes clear just how Hendrick plans to spread his influence, “not only in the village but soon outside the circle”; presumably it will follow course once his mission there is complete? And presumably it’s the fate of the druid priest, in whichever age, not to fully realise that his plans will always be defeated by whichever version of the travellers he encounters this time? As he says to Adam, there are “aspects even I find hard to understand”. He readily admits that their arrival is unclear; perhaps his hubris prevents this, or perhaps the natural course of unfolding cognisance prevents it before it is too late? It does suggest a rather depressing inevitability; must the cycle continue until one day the black hole itself is extinguished?


The realisation of the trap ensnaring Adam and Matthew during the second part of the episode is simply but effectively rendered; the rush of repeated stones as they go by, and then blackness. As a big fan of British sci-fi (and Nigel Kneale in particular), John Carpenter must surely have been aware of this scene while making In the Mouth of Madness, which also features a town/village cut off from reality. Although we do not see it, the account Matthew gives of the grey stone “like a human” in the middle of the road, identified as Mrs. Crabtree (“It was her but huge, unearthly”), is surely the same as his premonition in the first episode.


The discussion that follows, as “guests” of Hendrick (whom Adam dismisses as a magus), finds Adam piecing together the vital clues, despite his host’s suggestions otherwise (“You’re going far too fast, my dear Adam”).

AdamI think we lost our way.


He theorises that they missed their turning in time, and thus “failed to get through to our present”. He also clarifies that the time shift was caused by the energies received there in the circle. It’s an intricate and satisfying puzzle that the writers have created; while Matthew reminds him of Dai’s advice that there is “no way out until the stones release us”, Adam is more positive. He reconstitutes himself as the man of science, for whom the tool of logic can provide clarity; “If there’s a way in, there’s a way out”.  But plans to head for the sanctuary are dashed by the realisation that there’s a crowd of happy villagers outside.


For all the answers it does give, the series is quite reserved about why any of this needs to repeat itself. This is actually one of its most appealing aspects. Like the earlier The Owl Service, and anathema to the modern age where any mysterious text is pored over and all the backstory filled in, Children of the Stones lays claim to the continued fascination it provides by refusing answers.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I never strangled a chicken in my life!

Rope (1948) (SPOILERS) Rope doesn’t initially appear to have been one of the most venerated of Hitchcocks, but it has gone through something of a rehabilitation over the years, certainly since it came back into circulation during the 80s. I’ve always rated it highly; yes, the seams of it being, essentially, a formal experiment on the director’s part, are evident, but it’s also an expert piece of writing that uses our immediate knowledge of the crime to create tension throughout; what we/the killers know is juxtaposed with the polite dinner party they’ve thrown in order to wallow in their superiority.

They'll think I've lost control again and put it all down to evolution.

Time Bandits (1981) (SPOILERS) Terry Gilliam had co-directed previously, and his solo debut had visual flourish on its side, but it was with Time Bandits that Gilliam the auteur was born. The first part of his Trilogy of Imagination, it remains a dazzling work – as well as being one of his most successful – rich in theme and overflowing with ideas while resolutely aimed at a wide (family, if you like) audience. Indeed, most impressive about Time Bandits is that there’s no evidence of self-censoring here, of attempting to make it fit a certain formula, format or palatable template.

You must have hopes, wishes, dreams.

Brazil (1985) (SPOILERS) Terry Gilliam didn’t consider Brazil the embodiment of a totalitarian nightmare it is often labelled as. His 1984½ (one of the film’s Fellini-riffing working titles) was “ the Nineteen Eighty-Four for 1984 ”, in contrast to Michael Anderson’s Nineteen Eighty-Four from 1948. This despite Gilliam famously boasting never to have read the Orwell’s novel: “ The thing that intrigues me about certain books is that you know them even though you’ve never read them. I guess the images are archetypal ”. Or as Pauline Kael observed, Brazil is to Nineteen Eighty-Four as “ if you’d just heard about it over the years and it had seeped into your visual imagination ”. Gilliam’s suffocating system isn’t unflinchingly cruel and malevolently intolerant of individuality; it is, in his vision of a nightmare “future”, one of evils spawned by the mechanisms of an out-of-control behemoth: a self-perpetuating bureaucracy. And yet, that is not really, despite how indulgently and glee

Oh, you got me right in the pantaloons, partner.

The Party (1968) (SPOILERS) Blake Edwards’ semi-improvisational reunion with Peter Sellers is now probably best known for – I was going to use an elephant-in-the-room gag, but at least one person already went there – Sellers’ “brown face”. And it isn’t a decision one can really defend, even by citing The Party ’s influence on Bollywood. Satyajit Ray had also reportedly been considering working with Sellers… and then he saw the film. One can only assume he’d missed similar performances in The Millionairess and The Road to Hong Kong ; in the latter case, entirely understandable, if not advisable. Nevertheless, for all the flagrant stereotyping, Sellers’ bungling Hrundi V Bakshi is a very likeable character, and indeed, it’s the piece’s good-natured, soft centre – his fledgling romance with Claudine Longet’s Michele – that sees The Party through in spite of its patchy, hit-and-miss quality.

I'm an old ruin, but she certainly brings my pulse up a beat or two.

The Paradine Case (1947) (SPOILERS) Hitchcock wasn’t very positive about The Paradine Case , his second collaboration with Gregory Peck, but I think he’s a little harsh on a picture that, if it doesn’t quite come together dramatically, nevertheless maintains interest on the basis of its skewed take on the courtroom drama. Peck’s defence counsel falls for his client, Alida Valli’s accused (of murder), while wife Ann Todd wilts dependably and masochistically on the side-lines.

A herbal enema should fix you up.

Never Say Never Again (1983) (SPOILERS) There are plenty of sub-par Bond s in the official (Eon) franchise, several of them even weaker than this opportunistic remake of Thunderball , but they do still feel like Bond movies. Never Say Never Again , despite – or possibly because he’s part of it – featuring the much-vaunted, title-referencing return of the Sean Connery to the lead role, only ever feels like a cheap imitation. And yet, reputedly, it cost more than the same year’s Rog outing Octopussy .

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019) (SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

You can’t climb a ladder, no. But you can skip like a goat into a bar.

Juno and the Paycock (1930) (SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s second sound feature. Such was the lustre of this technological advance that a wordy play was picked. By Sean O’Casey, upon whom Hitchcock based the prophet of doom at the end of The Birds . Juno and the Paycock , set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, begins as a broad comedy of domestic manners, but by the end has descended into full-blown Greek (or Catholic) tragedy. As such, it’s an uneven but still watchable affair, even if Hitch does nothing to disguise its stage origins.

Sir, I’m the Leonardo of Montana.

The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet (2013) (SPOILERS) The title of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s second English language film and second adaptation announces a fundamentally quirky beast. It is, therefore, right up its director’s oeuvre. His films – even Alien Resurrection , though not so much A Very Long Engagement – are infused with quirk. He has a style and sensibility that is either far too much – all tics and affectations and asides – or delightfully offbeat and distinctive, depending on one’s inclinations. I tend to the latter, but I wasn’t entirely convinced by the trailers for The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet ; if there’s one thing I would bank on bringing out the worst in Jeunet, it’s a story focussing on an ultra-precocious child. Yet for the most part the film won me over. Spivet is definitely a minor distraction, but one that marries an eccentric bearing with a sense of heart that veers to the affecting rather than the chokingly sentimental. Appreciation for

I think you’re some kind of deviated prevert.

Dr. Strangelove  or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) (SPOILERS) Kubrick’s masterpiece satire of mutually-assured destruction. Or is it? Not the masterpiece bit, because that’s a given. Rather, is all it’s really about the threat of nuclear holocaust? While that’s obviously quite sufficient, all the director’s films are suggested to have, in popular alt-readings, something else going on under the hood, be it exposing the ways of Elite paedophilia ( Lolita , Eyes Wide Shut ), MKUltra programming ( A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket ), transhumanism and the threat of imminent AI overlords ( 2001: A Space Odyssey ), and most of the aforementioned and more besides (the all-purpose smorgasbord that is The Shining ). Even Barry Lyndon has been posited to exist in a post-reset-history world. Could Kubrick be talking about something else as well in Dr. Strangelove ?