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A Review of the Dark Season DVD
People often look at me oddly when I mention Dark Season as one of my all time favourite TV shows. Broadcast in 1991,it represents the first script by a modern major cult TV figure, not to mention a very early appearance by a now-famous actress, and another by a cult-TV icon (even if I think she is the weakest thing in it.) And if you haven't heard about it, you ought to now.

Dark Season was a BBC TV children's television series, with six twenty-five minute episodes. It was the first ever series written by Russell T Davies, he of current Dr Who fame, and starred Victoria Lambert as Marcie Hatter (one of these days I'm going to review the collection of characters called 'Hatter'), Kate Winslet as Reet, and Ben Chandler as Thomas, with Brigit Forsyth as their long-suffering teacher, Miss Maitland.

Marcie is a highly eccentric third former; intelligent, intuitive, badly dressed – and even worse coifed – independent, and very bossy. Reet and Thomas are rather more normal (despite their haircuts and dye-jobs) fifth formers who hang around with Marcie because life would be much less exciting if they didn't. They also have some unexpected skills – presumably from hanging around with Marcie. Anyhow, the six episodes are divided into two stories, both centred on the school the three children attend. In the first, the school and all the kids are suddenly presented with new computers by a certain Mr Eldritch – however, what said computers do to Marcie's class' swot shouldn't happen to anyone, and when Reet and Thomas find they can 'talk' to the computers without pressing a key, Marcie takes action. The second three episodes involve an archaeological dig, which appears overnight on the sports field. Bossed by Miss Pendragon (Jackie Pearce in a turban), the beautiful blond people running it don't seem to know much about archaeology, and Marcie finds their 'finds' very odd indeed. Even odder is the story of a buried monster, the Behemoth... and, of course, the kids can't resist finding out what is really going on.

Both stories are actually reasonably intelligent science fiction, though if educated in myth one being to have grave suspicions about the identity of Mr Eldritch (nicely frightening and mysterious in a blond-Neo fashion). They are very self aware, with an odd Dr Who reference or two, and full of wonderful one liners. Oddly enough, though, in both stories victory comes through the actions of an adult. Both, also, are somewhat anti-science, definitely anti-computer, and have strong anti-Nazi elements. They are also great fun.

Kate Winslet is the one of the major cast person playing her age – the other kids are played by young adults – but she makes Reet sensible and likeable. Chandler also makes Thomas likeable, despite his tendency to show off – and that he is scared of Marcie. I'm not sure Lambert would be so convincing if Marcie were not so... odd, but she does nicely. Brigid Forsyth is splendid as Miss Maitland. Pearce does her worst – camping it to high heaven, and plainly still thinking her character is a good person really. (An opinion she expressed about Servalan.)

On technicalities: there is a single disc with all six episodes, but no extras. BBC discs often do not like my high-end Pioneer machine, and once again there was a problem, with a 'hang' on the last episode, though not, surprisingly, on a layer change. (I had massive problems with my Blake's Seven discs. I'm not sure why the BBC always does this to me, as in my (large) collection there is only one non-BBC disc that hangs on a layer change during the feature (The Sixth Sense) and only one other with a similar problem on the extras (X-Men).) Anyhow, the only extra you get here a "Collectors' Booklet'" which is reasonably comprehensive and accurate.

You can get this on various British sites for under a tenner, and some of the episodes are available for download elsewhere. It's worth a tenner of anyone's money, though.


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