Children of the Stones
7: Full Circle
And so, the finale. This flip-flopping of characters in order to provide sufficient exposition is occasionally a little too evident (Matthew feels the need to reaffirm that cycles are repeating themselves to his father, who is well aware of this, or was the previous episode) but there’s a nice line in philosophical clarification during the opening section.
Earlier I noted how pagan beliefs were seemingly cast in a negative light, in favour of Christianity as a bastion that wards off such spells. Now, the balance is redressed. The goings-on in Milbury are cast as an aberration. It may be something of a token gesture, since any kid watching will think “Ohh scary nasty pagans” but it’s an important distinction to make (interesting too that, like Mr. Magister in The Daemons, Hendrick sets up operations of evil in the basement of the local church; the corruption of all that is on the surface sacrosanct).
Adam: Perhaps it had some sort of benign power. But then, when the supernova became a black hole, the power was reversed.
It’s the sort of thing John Carpenter, with his anti-god of Prince of Darkness, would love. There are some curiously Christian riffing lines too. “In the beginning was the star… and the star was some sort of God” recalls “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God”; by its nature the echoing suggests a corruption of purity, which has occurred in the form of the black hole.
Adam also qualifies the possible takes on Hendrick and the priest; that when the power of the implosion was harnessed, he perhaps thought the process was for the villagers’ own good (yet Hendrick absolves himself from the conditioning undergone by the people). Hendrick’s concept of evil, we are led to believe, is “the capacity to do wrong”. He refers to the ritual as a method of “purging the community of sin” (one might see the happy day zombies as a metaphor for “Born Again” Christians), and Adam again accuses him of assuming the role of a priest
Hendrick: Your sin is my sin. Your guilt is my guilt. You are free. Happy day indeed. My flock is cleansed, my task is done.
A mention of the day-for-night filming we’ve seen throughout. Often, I’ve found such a device distracting but I think it works in this serial, adding to the pervading sense of the uncanny.
Adam’s plan to set the clocks five minutes fast is simple but effective; there’s a tension to their work, with the constant background chanting heard outside. And the decision to set them fast rather than slow turns out to have the added bonus of ensnaring Hendrick, who is still at the table when the alignment with the Great Bear (Ursa Major) occurs. When the beam captures Hendrick, we see him as the ancient seer he once was.
Prior to this, Adam does his best to disparage the airs and graces of Hendrick’s room, referring to it as “exactly the sort of thing I would have expected of a man of your conceit to have chosen”. Presumably the piercing beam of light is partially subjective, as even with his chair turned Hendrick would notice that no such impact occurred this time round.
Link: Master! They are still impure! The circle is broken. Your protection is gone!
Link’s words are all we really need to explain what takes place. I mean, why exactly the villagers turn to stone is not clarified (only calcified). A realisation of the ages this has played out over? If the number of stones represent the number of people, it nevertheless cannot mean they are one and the same, as these people turn to stone (additional stones). Then again, presumably these new stones vanish with the reset?
The escape is especially dramatic, with shades of Lot’s wife, as Adam instructs Margaret “Don’t look back”. It isn’t just adults who succumb; we see young Bob stonified. So, as with the painting, villagers are turning to stone as two travellers flee the site to the safety of the sanctuary.
As noted, the specifics of the reset that occur remain elusive. Dai is not only reconstituted, but when Adam and Matthew awake his sanctuary is redressed; now it appears that he is a sharpener of knives and of a disgruntled disposition, uttering that he is no friend to Adam. Yet the tell-tale bones in the shape of a serpent that Dai cast some days earlier are still there.
The villagers are back to normal, and unlike Dai they recognise Adam and Matthew. The distinction in this process is unclear, although it allows for a suggestion of unrequited potential between Adam and Margaret.
Margaret: Are you still determined to leave?
Adam: If we can.
Margaret: I’m glad we’ve got such a hold on you. It’s been nice.
Adam: For me too.
Aw, that’s quite sad. Still, I’m sure they’ll meet again…
Matthew: Did it happen, or didn’t it?
Adam: I don’t know, Matt. I just don’t know.
Matthew: Perhaps there was another circle besides the stones. Time. Perhaps that’s circular too.
Adam: You mean. It might all happen again one day.
Matthew: It may already be happening. To the people inside the time trap.
And as if on cue, a car goes past containing Iain Cuthbertson, this time with slicked back hair and sporting a bow tie. He drives up to the manor and is greeted by Link; there is “For Sale” sign outside (that was… quick), and we are told that he, Sir Joshua Lytton, is retiring here from London (“I believe I shall be very happy here”). Link now has a moustache.
It’s unclear, if this is an instant reset, how many times has this happened over thousands of years. And did Joshua Litten just wink fully formed into existence? Should Margaret and Sandra have been reconstituted in the village (the time trap) since they arrived as outsiders? While Litten’s arrival works for dramatic purposes, and we see similar resets with Dai and Link, it resists being nailed down. After all, if Litten is there to begin his work all over again, won’t Adam and Matthew have to return to defeat him once more? Which won’t really work if they know in advance what they must do. Perhaps the outsiders incarnate differently each time? Or perhaps Litten is not set to achieve the things that Hendrick did. Maybe such cycles of achievement are sporadic, within longer ones that remain dormant (what happened during the cycle before Hendrick arrived)?
(Overall rating is the same as that of the episode) Children of the Stones isn’t a serial that really demands such extensive probing; its success is in immediate impact and whispered remembrance, so it is all the more rewarding that it withstands repeat viewings. And let’s face it, time travel/loop stories never tie things up in a wholly consistent way; the holes are intrinsic to the construction. The effects of the passage of time on the show have been mainly cosmetic. It still fires the imagination and should continue to inspire generations to come.
Wikipedia provides a useful guide to the different time periods explored in the series.