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Shadows (1975-78)

Courtesy of FremantleThames

Main image of Shadows (1975-78)
Thames for ITV, tx. 3/9/1975 - 1/11/1978
20 x 25 min episodes across 3 series, colour
ProducersPamela Lonsdale, Ruth Boswell
Writers includeJoan Aiken, Penelope Lively, Brian Patten, J.B. Priestley, Fay Weldon

Play anthology for children covering fantasy, magic and the supernatural.

Show full synopsis

"Ghostly shadows of things past and long forgotten... magical shadows - thrilling and wonderful... silent shadows - grey and mysterious..." The title had many meanings and each of the three series of this excellent spooky anthology took a different emphasis.

The first featured ghosts and the supernatural. In 'The Waiting Room' Jenny Agutter encountered a fated late night train from 50 years before. 'After School' saw two Welsh schoolboys in detention discovering old mine workings and learning of the hardships of mining life 150 years earlier - an example of the ghost story as educational tool. Scariest of all was 'The Witch's Bottle', with the spirit of a witch's daughter, burned alive by Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, freed from a hidden bottle. In contrast, 'Dutch Schlitz's Shoes' was a comedy spin-off, with evil magician Mr Stabs resurrected from noted fantasy series Ace of Wands (ITV, 1970-72) to meet a ghostly 1920s Chicago gangster. J.B. Priestley provided 'The Other Window', a promising story of a special lens that allowed children to see ghosts from down the ages but which on-screen lacked the gothic atmosphere so well deployed elsewhere.

The second series dealt in fantasy and imagination - 'Time Out of Mind' by Penelope Lively had a dreamy teenager imagine skivvying below stairs in an Edwardian dolls' house. Often the past co-existed with the present: in 'Peronik' a 1970s teenager sees his rites of passage rendered allegorically as chivalrous heroism while Joan Aiken's 'The Dark Streets of Kimball's Green' saw a little girl believing she could speak to a King of ancient Britain via a vandalised phone box, viewing her struggles as an historic battle. 'The Inheritance' dealt in succession, with a boy contemplating his future and his grandfather's mortality amid psychedelic Pagan imagery.

A lighter, whimsical final year majored in magic. Outright fairytale 'Silver Apple' featured magic carpets and enchanted forests, while dark comedies included Joan Aiken's 'The Rose of Puddle Fratrum', which featured a cursed ballet production, and 'The Man Who Hated Children' where a curmudgeon was transformed into a tree by Peter Pan. Far darker was P.J. Hammond's morality tale 'And For My Next Trick ...', with a luckless children's entertainer tempted by the discovery of three bewitched eggs. Arthurian tale 'The Boy Merlin' spun off into its own series in 1979. Another spin-off was virtual sequel Spooky (ITV, 1983) overseen by Shadows' producer Pamela Lonsdale.

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
Complete episode: 'The Waiting Room' (24:41)
Children's Fantasy and SF