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Chronicles of Narnia, The (BBC-1 1988-1990, Ronald Pickup, Barbara Kellerman)

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When the superb Chronicles of Narnia originally aired in the late 1980’s it was one of the biggest productions for a family audience the BBC had ever undertaken but it was money was well spent with wonderful special effects, marvellous production design and naturally top notch story telling.

The series begins with The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (which although was the first written story isn’t actually the first in the Narnia chronology, that honour goes to The Magician’s Nephew) which is by far the most well known book in the cycle and follows four sibling children – The Penvesie’s, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy who during the height of world war II are evacuated to a country mansion owned by the The Professor. During a game of hide and seek the children discover a strange wardrobe which is actually the gateway to a magical land called Narnia where the evil White Witch (played by Barbara Kellerman) is holding everyone in her thrall and keeping Narnia in a state of perpetual Winter. Narnia though tells of a legend of the arrival of two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve who, along with legendary and powerful Lion Aslan, have the power to restore Narnia to freedom. A superb tale which still entertains enormously.

Next up is the shorter Prince Caspian story which sees the Penvesie children return to Narnia and their castle Cair Paravel after being summoned by Prince Caspian to stave off an attack of civil war and in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader the children find themselves transported aboard a ship helping Caspian again as he searches for the seven lost Lords of Narnia.

Finally there is The Silver Chair which features a new generation of children discovering the magic of Narnia. Eustace and Jill, escaping school bullies find themselves in Narnia and given a dangerous mission by Aslan. Tom Baker (the ex-fourth Doctor Who from the seventies) has a prominent role here as a Marsh wiggle called Puddlegum!

This BBC take on The Chronicles of Narnia (despite featuring only four of the novels) still remains the quintessential version of the stories.

production details
UK | BBC One | 24×25 minutes / Broadcast 13 November 1988 – 23 December 1990

Writer: Alan Seymour
Music: Geoffrey Burgon
Producer: Paul Stone

cast
RICHARD DEMPSEY as Peter
SOPHIE COOK as Susan
RONALD PICKUP as Aslan (voice)
BARBARA KELLERMAN as The White Witch
JEFFREY PERRY as Mr Tumnus
JULIET WALEY as Adult Lucy
CAMILLA POWER as Jill
RICHARD HENDERS as Prince Rilian
TOM BAKER as Puddleglum
DAVID THWAITES as Eustace Clarence Scrubb