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Moon Stallion, The (1978)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Moon Stallion, The (1978)
BBC, tx. 15/11 - 20/12/1978
6 x 25 min episodes, colour
DirectorDorothea Brooking
Companies S├╝dfunk Stuttgart
Executive ProducerAnna Home
ScriptBrian Hayles
PhotographyIan Hilton
MusicHoward Blake

Cast: James Greene (Professor Purwell); Sarah Sutton (Diana); David Pullan (Paul); David Haig (Todman); Joy Harington (Mrs Brookes); John Abineri (Sir George Mortenhurze); Caroline Goodall (Estelle)

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A blind girl with second sight living at the turn of the 20th Century prevents occultist attempts to tame the ethereal Moon Stallion.

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This picturesque hotch-potch of Arthurian legend, Celtic myth and Pagan iconography added a supernatural flavour to an otherwise typical BBC costume drama, mixing moody gothic romanticism with the trappings of sidewhiskers and stately homes.

The story concerns a blind Edwardian girl granted second sight by her namesake, Diana, the Moon Goddess. She becomes the gods' agent to thwart occultist horse-whisperer Todman and his (frankly bonkers) plot to ride the ghostly white Moon Stallion to Tir Na Nog and claim eternal power. Like all supernatural fiction it's hoary old nonsense but lovingly rendered.

Although heady stuff at times, since it was made for children there is no gory black magic sacrifice or sexual subtext, despite beautiful adolescent ladies running around in the moonlight in their lacy white nighties.

Images of the powerful stallion galloping across English countryside (betraying the possible influence of The Adventures of Black Beauty (ITV, 1972-74)) kept girl viewers entranced but even more memorable was the iconic sight of one particular horse over 100 metres long - the Uffington White Horse, carved into the hillside chalk sometime in the Bronze Age, in the real life Oxfordshire location.

Writer Brian Hayles had something of a track record in obscurist, obtuse fantasy fiction including The Mind Beyond (BBC, 1976) and The Moon Stallion is similarly hard to fathom. Despite the period setting the central message would seem to come from the tail end of the hippy era.

The Green King, protector of all natural things and a consort to both Epona (the Celtic analogue of moon and horse goddess Diana) and King Arthur (making him possibly another iteration of Merlin), shows Diana the Wheel of Being. In Diana's mind's eye she witnesses man's progress, his periodic destruction down the ages and a future nuclear Armageddon. The Green King reassures her that although technological progress can be misused, the wheel of life goes on and nature will persist. In short it is another 'Gaia' story along similar lines to The Changes (BBC, 1975). However, the serial's strong imagery lasted in childhood memories long after precise plot points had been forgotten.

With limited drama slots it was always hard to strike a gender balance across the output, but this mix of the equine and the spooky seemed to appeal equally to boys and girls. Tellingly though, a picture strip adaptation appeared in girls' comic Tammy in 1979.

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
1. Sensing the stallion (3:24)
2. A ride to the White Horse (2:21)
Complete episode (26:00)
Brooking, Dorothea (1916-1999)
Harington, Joy (1914-1991)
Home, Anna (1938-)
Children's Fantasy and SF