1 9 8 8 – 1 9 8 9 (UK)
18 x 30 minute episodes
During World War II, the four evacuee Pevensie children – Peter (Richard Dempsey), Susan (Sophie Cook), Lucy (Sophie Wilcox) and Edmund (Jonathan R. Scott) – find a gateway to another world at the back of an old wardrobe.
The magical land of Narnia is in permanent winter, its throne usurped by the White Witch (Barbara Kellermann). The children must restore Aslan, Narnia’s rightful lion king (voiced by Ronald Pickup), to his throne.
Weak-willed Edmund falls to the temptations of the evil White Witch (pictured) and her promises of never-ending Turkish Delight and the deposed lion king sacrifices himself to the Witch to rescue him.
Excellent production values included location work in England, Wales and Scotland and an array of special effects, most realised using emerging Quantel Paintbox techniques.
The BBC deployed a mini squad of designers, costumiers and mask makers to create the strange and wonderful creatures of Narnia, like the busy conference of owls and a dragon with wings of spun gossamer.
There were several spectacular moments, such as when rocks turned into crouching giants who hurled boulders at the children. Their fairweather friend, the prattling Puddlegum (Tom Baker) the Marshwiggle, kitted out in a wizard’s hat and a tinker’s backpack, was thankfully silenced by one of those boulders.
One of the weaker aspects was the rather static Aslan ‘puppet’, although its movement improved in later seasons.
In the second story, the two-part Prince Caspian, the children are summoned back to Narnia by boy prince Caspian (Jean-Marc Perret), whose wicked uncle King Miraz (Robert Lang) plans to kill him and place his own newborn son on Narnia’s throne.
Peter takes on Miraz in armed combat for the right to the kingship. The story is slight but necessary to introduce Caspian, who returns as a teenage King in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
This four-part quest MacGuffin sees Lucy, Edmund and insufferable cousin Eustace (David Thwaites) accompany Caspian through the uncharted seas of the East (in reality the Scilly Isles) to find the seven lost Lords of Narnia, banished by Miraz.
Obstacles include a sea serpent, an alchemist’s fountain, dragon treasure and invisible monopods. The star throughout was the impressive Dawn Treader sailing ship.
The final Chronicle was another rather rambling quest epic, The Silver Chair, in which Eustace and Jill (Camilla Power) travelled through a Tolkienesque landscape to find lost Prince Rilian.
Jonathan R. Scott
Eustace Clarence Scrubb
The Green Lady
The Knight/Prince Rilian