1 9 7 8 (UK)
6 x 25 minute episodes
This picturesque but directionless 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 blind Edwardian girl, Diana Purwell (Sarah Sutton) who – with her father, a Professor of Arthurian studies (James Greene) – arrives at the house of the latter’s benefactor Sir George Mortenhurze (John Abineri), where Diana senses the presence of a ghost horse said to make an appearance every nine years.
The horse visits Diana and presents her with visions of King Arthur and the Green King, who in turn allows her to see visions of a future Earth ravaged by scientific progress, apparently somehow involving Skylab.
Diana is granted second sight by her namesake, Diana, the Moon Goddess, and becomes the gods’ agent to thwart occultist horse-whisperer Todman (David Haig) 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) 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.
The Green King – the 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.
A picture strip adaptation appeared in girls’ comic Tammy in 1979.
Sir George Mortenhurze
The Dark Rider
The Green King