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Borrowers, The (1992-93)

Courtesy of the BBC

Main image of Borrowers, The (1992-93)
Working Title Television for BBC
12 episodes in 2 seasons (colour)
Based on the novels byMary Norton
ScreenplayRichard Carpenter
ProducerGrainne Marmion
DirectorJohn Henderson

Cast: Rebecca Callard (Arrietty Clock), Ian Holm (Pod Clock), Penelope Wilton (Homily Clock), Paul Cross (George May), Sian Phillips (Mrs Driver), Daniel Newman ('Dreadful' Spiller)

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The Clock family are 'borrowers' - six-inch high people living under the floorboards in a quiet old house, making ingenious use of everyday items that 'human beans' won't miss.

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These stories of the six-inch high Clock family were based on Mary Norton's novels, the first season adapting The Borrowers and its sequel The Borrowers Afield. The teenage Arrietty learns from her father the ways of 'borrowing', despite the worries of an over-protective mother. He stresses the dangers of venturing from the safety of their home under the floorboards and the importance of never being seen by 'human beans' but Arrietty yearns for the outdoors.

Arrietty is seen by George, a human boy staying at the old house for the holidays, and while he promises to keep her existence secret, the borrowers' lives are placed in danger when housekeeper Mrs Driver and tinker Mild Eye also hear about them. The borrowers flee, trekking across a jungle of fields to find Arrietty's Aunt and Uncle. Giant birds and snakes threaten but the Clocks are helped by hunter-gatherer borrower Spiller.

A second serial adapted Norton's later novels, The Borrowers Afloat and The Borrowers Aloft. When their cottage is vacated, the borrowers seek the village of Little Fordham. Despite obstacles such as storm-lashed rivers and the attentions of Mrs Driver, Mild Eye and Arrietty's mean and thoughtless cousins Ditchley and Ilrick, the borrowers reach Fordham - a model village. But they are soon kidnapped by the Platters, owners of a rival model village who reckon the borrowers can make them rich. The ingenious Clocks escape in a candle-powered hot air balloon.

The stories rely - but are not dependent - on special effects and by television standards these are excellent. Scaled up sets and props, superb lighting and carefully achieved overlay techniques sustain the illusion.

The series won two BAFTAs and a Royal Television Society award, and a movie spin-off was released in 1997 (d. Peter Hewitt), with Jim Broadbent, Celia Imrie and Flora Newbigin as the Clock family, and John Goodman as their nemesis.

Alistair McGown

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Video Clips
Carpenter, Richard (1929-2012)
Holm, Sir Ian (1931-)
Phillips, Siân (1933-)
Children's TV Drama