Long ago I remembered watching this children's TV program which really freaked me out at the time. I didn't purposefully intend to watch it, I just caught the first episode and got hooked. The last episode terrified me especially, so much that I blocked out most of the memories, and for years could only recollect a faint glimmer of it and thought it had been a bad dream. Then in a late night nostalgia IRC moment, I tossed out what faint memories I had of it to see if it was real and got the words back: Dark Season.
Dark Season is like a cross between Doctor Who and The Demon Headmaster (I was a bit old to watch that on telly but read the book) with some Nazis thrown in for good measure. It even had the very young English rose - Kate Winslet in, what more could you want??
I won't let go Jack! oh fucksticks
It took place over 6 episodes, the first 3 being the Demon Headmaster stage. I'm probably going to spoil the hell out of this but I don't think there's any chance it will be back on television ever again so I guess that's ok. All the kids in a school are given free shitty laptop computers, this was in 1991 mind you so digital watches were still a marvelous technological achievement. But somehow these machines had the ability to hypnotise the kids and turn them into horrible zombies with strange psycho-kinetic powers. The main characters seem to escape this fate through luck or judgment but one of them isn't so fortunate. Meet Olivia, former speccy geek and now Class-A psychological disaster area:
Hay guys....URRRGH BRAIIINS
This was pretty damn scary for my 10 year old eyes, but in the last few moments of episode 2, the terror was ramped up to ULTRA-FEAR. After doing the usual crazy antics such as exploding light-fittings, Olivia had disappeared for a while so I hoped the scary quotient had been used up for that episode. I was so wrong. One of the only likeable and non-insane teachers in the school was trying to get to her car. I was waiting, on edge for Olivia to pop up and try to stop her but she didn't and the teacher reached the car and got in. Me and several thousand other children around the country breathed a sigh of relief. And then silently..
...Olivia's face rises up from the backseat.
That was honestly one of the most terrifying moments of my childhood televisual life. Christ, they shouldn't be showing shit like that before 9PM, yet alone on kids TV at 4 o' clock. For the next 3 years I had carbackseatphobia. I couldn't get in a car without doing a close inspection of the back of the vehicle, including any compartments crazed zombie girls could hide in.
After an anxious week of waiting, the next episode finally comes around and mercifully, the teacher manages to escape before Olivia can eviscerate her using only her mind. The kids using master hacker skills manage to save the day and stop everyone become zombies as well as reversing Olivia's transformation. Hooray, celebrations all round. But it wasn't over yet.
Miss Pendragon: scary witch and super-nazi
Now started the even more creepy second half of the series. It revolved around a giant Cold War-era supercomputer buried under the school, ominously named the Beremoth. Miss Pendragon and her aryan followers are trying to uncover it, under the guise of archeology. As the plot progresses, it's revealed that Pendragon was in the charge of the original Ministry of Defense project many years ago, but was shut down because of her twisted ideology. The Behemoth needs a human "implant" to operate properly, and one of the three children from the first three episodes has been selected, due to his blonde hair. But he reveals it's dyed blonde, and through a twist of fate, Miss Pendragon gets pushed into the seat of the Behemoth, clamps springing out to lock her in place. The machine takes over her mind and she starts talking in a cyborg voice. Then the Behemoth rises, taking the evil teacher with it, bursting up through the floor of the school hall.
Crazy bitch and supercomputer combination
Lots of things seem to happen next, including poor English rose - Kate Winslet being trapped in the lower chambers, running out of air. Pendragon is rejected by the Behemoth, either because her mind was adsorbed, or because she was a nasty nazi bitch, I can't remember. Eventually Behemoth takes on it's own identity, and producing the moral conclusion to the story, one of the school kids reasons with it that war is wrong, and if it was truly intelligent it would know this.
Lets do the time warp yeah!
Behemoth concedes to this stunning show of logic and shuts down, destroying itself. It starts receding back into the ground from which it came, and before anyone can stop her, the now clearly insane Pendragon jumps back into the operator's seat and is dragged down with it into the abyss, swallowing her up. Explosions and fireworks happen and the hole is sealed up behind her. The last picture you see is her locked in the Behemoth's seat, in the now semi-flooded subterranean chamber, with water up to her chest, staring blankly into the distance. Is she dead, or still alive, trapped down there for eternity, her brain no longer in any working state? It sent shivers down my spine, thinking about it, and it still does. Then the story ends with a 'Hey aren't kids like us great? Lets go home' moment. It is never explained what happens to Pendragon, and that's probably the most creepy way of ending it, left to an unknown fate.
scary fate :(
That was my lasting memory of the whole series, which I had kept locked away, like Miss Pendragon, in my mind for 12 years until it popped out again last month. This stuff is oscar material compared to some of the trash I catch on today's children's telly. Writer Russel T Davies went onto bigger things, including Queer As Folk, and is now working on a new Doctor Who series.
In doing this update, I am indebted to a bloke called Roy and his excellent Dark Season website - http://www.xanderly.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk which jogged my memory and from which I stole those screencaps. For more reminiscing, have a look at http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/ilove/tv/darkseason which even includes some video clips, that still creep me out to this day.
Hmm I was going to write about other old TV and laugh at the craptacular new Thunderbirds film, but I've written enough for one update.
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