1 9 7 6 – 1 9 7 7 (UK)
8 x 25 minute episodes
Four children – Cyril (Gary Russell), Anthea (Tamzin Neville), Robert (Max Harris) and Jane (Jane Forster) – discover a strange egg inside their new (second-hand) Persian carpet. As they drop the egg accidentally into the fire a Phoenix is hatched. The fabulous bird of antiquity can grant wishes and explains that the rug is in fact a magic carpet.
Flying to France on the carpet, the children and get trapped in an abandoned tower containing a casket of treasure that’s guarded by ghosts.
In subsequent episodes, the children travel to the South Sea Islands and India.
Colour Separation Overlay (CSO) was used to the full to provide the effects of the flying carpet (although the carpet flys completely flat and never flaps in the wind). By modern standards, it’s a rudimentary effect and the children are often caught in the overlay and partially disappear, while some aerial footage of London beneath the carpet clearly shows modern parked cars in Edwardian London!
The phoenix – rude, and with the personality of a spoilt child – was ingeniously realised as a single puppet who looked like a carving or statue come to life. Its CSO flying was less impressive.
Essentially a sequel to E Nesbit’s Five Children and It, the series debuted on 29 December 1976 and then aired on Wednesday afternoons in January and February 1977 on the BBC.
The series was remade twenty years later with David Suchet as the voice of the phoenix and, although the effects were better in the 90s version, the phoenix looked like a cross between Rod Hull’s Emu and Orville the duck!
Richard Warner (voice)
Joe Barton (puppet)
Reverend Septimus Blenkinsop
The Magic Fire | Queen of the Island | Some Indian Things | The Temple of the Phoenix | Gifts from Persia | What to Do with a Burglar | The Hole in the Carpet | A Night at the Theatre