Tuesday 23 April 2024

The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff - the 1977 BBC children's TV adaptation

I recommend watching the (legiondary?) 1977 BBC adaptation of Rosemary Sutcliff's The Eagle of the Ninth classic children's novel. 

This comes from that seventies Golden Age of serious children's TV; which probably began with the 1969 version of Alan Garner's The Owl Service and perhaps reached its peak with the original script of The Children of the Stones also of 1977, although there were further superb series after that.

From where we now are; The Eagle comes across as deep and powerful; with a genuine sense of the strangeness-but-coherence of the world-view of another time and place. 

The Roman soldiers' religion (Mithraism), and the Celtic and the Pictish religions are all presented sympathetically, memorably, and dramatically. The Roman soldier's code and the Britons warrior's code are distinguished, but brought together with mutual respect. 

Indeed; that is perhaps the underlying theme. The development of mutual respect between enemies. 

(There is also a dignified and chaste love story, as sub-plot - which explores a similar but different theme.)

From our perspective in 2024; the style is measured and uncompromising. Long, ambitious, uncanny scenes; that depend on the strong script and good acting. 

The Eagle of the Ninth requires a more active participation from the intended child audience than does adult drama nowadays. 

And the show is thus more rewarding: in a word better! 


Mia said...

I always appreciate these recommendations! Film has so much potential but only choose to engage actively with it, something I hope to teach my children to do. You always mention things I've never heard of. I did get Jennings at your recommendation, by the way, and enjoyed it a lot!

Bruce Charlton said...

@Mia - I'm glad to hear that you liked Jennings. The Eagle is something that I had missed until now - because I wasn't watching much TV at the time it was first broadcast (around when I was just starting medical school).