The Moon Stallion
Girls and horses, eh? What’s that all about? No doubt there’s some disturbing Freudian interpretation that would explain it all, but perhaps we’ll save that one for another day and just accept in a kids TV sense girls and horses solving mysteries go together like boys and dogs causing mischief. I’ve never been into all this horsey drama stuff, many a decent Sunday morning viewing schedule was ruined for me in the 80s with re-runs of The Adventures of Black Beauty, so watching the Moon Stallion really didn’t appeal to me much. A timeless story of a girl and a magic horse… gimme a break, that horse is gonna have to have some frickin’ top drawer super-powers to keep me interested.
So anyway, as usual I digress, let’s start at the beginning. The Moon Stallion was a 6 part drama produced in 1978 by Anna Home for the BBC. We know it’s a BBC production as we’ve already had an earnest history lesson on the Uffington chalk horse and it’s significance before we’ve even been introduced to the main characters. And there’s more where that came from, British history, Celtic festivals, Roman deities and an awful lot of King Arthur stuff are practically crow bared into the Moon Stallion. Hats off to the mental capabilities of kids in the 70s, I did a lot of pausing for wiki-checks throughout this one. On the plus side I’ve probably now reached the stage where I could do a Mastermind specialist subject round on Arthurian legend based entirely on what I’ve learnt from kids supernatural drama.
The Moon Stallion was written by Brian Hayles who sadly died before the show was broad cast. Quite the British dramatic stalwart (he wrote for Dr Who and the Archers, what a combo) Hayles also wrote spin off book and cartoon strip adapted for Tammy (girls comic with lots of horsey tales, drawings of puppies and wholesome japes). The story revolves around Diana, a young blind girl who accompanies her father Professor Purwell to the house of Sir Mortenhurze who wants Purwell, an archaeologist, to investigate the legends of the locality.
Diana is played by Sarah Sutton, who is most famous for being Dr Who companion Nyssa in the early 80s. In case your roman mythology is a little patchy, Diana was named after the roman goddess of both hunting and the moon, which is convenient as there’s a bloody great moon stallion with a curse attached to it galloping about. To make up for being blind Diana also has some occult powers, the most useful being extra sensory horse perception. While Perwell traipses around Berkshire making half hearted attempts to discover the lost site of Mount Baden, Diana is frequently found looking haunted after accidentally stumbling into a “killing place” or having got some weird vibes off a big stone on a jolly outing to the local megalithic burial chamber.
The Moon Stallion is unexpectedly dense, there’s a lot in the way of myths and legends to get your head round, evil has to be fought, sometimes while wearing a nighty, and people actually die. Nether the less it’s still a BBC period piece, adventures are stopped as it’s time to go home for lunch and everyone speaks very nicely. This may be partly explained by the fact that it’s directed by Dorothea Brooking, a lady who bizarrely in her long career working in children’s television drama managed to produce the Secret Garden no less than three times, in 1952, 1960 and 1975. She also did the Railway Children twice and the 1974 version of Tom’s Midnight Garden, a book which the BBC seem to be contractually obligated to dramatise at least once a decade for eternity or at least until some point in the future where we start wearing clothes woven from space dust and children no longer understand the concept of pyjamas.
The pedigree of the Moon Stallion is further enhanced by music from Howard Blake, he’s the guy that wrote the music for the Snowman! He’s actually written an awful lot of stuff and if you’re the kind of person that likes to chance upon the soundtrack to a fish fingers advert directed by Ridley Scott you’ll probably find his website a whole lot of fun. http://www.howardblake.com/allworks.php
Despite my personal aversion to all things equestrian I found the Moon Stallion surprisingly enjoyable. At times does feel a little bit like an advert for English Heritage, they really get their money’s worse out of that massive chalk horse, but it’s a very good example of a story bolstered by snippets of historical fact and real geography which can be a difficult mix to get right. Some of the acting too is top notch, and perhaps because of it’s reliance on exterior scenes it manages not to fall into the cheap looking 1970s trap. Yeah, it’s really neigh bad (sorry).