Children of the Stones was a British children's drama series filmed in 1976 by HTV. It was set in the village of Milbury (filmed at Avebury), which is surrounded by a Stone Circle. It was very dark and sinister for a children's programme, particularly by today's standards. The tone of the series was set by the choral singing used for the opening music.
The story centres on Professor Blake... sorry, Brake and his son, Matthew Brake. They arrive in Milbury, where most of the villagers seem to be acting strangely. They call themselves the Happy Ones, greet each other with the phrase "Happy Day!", have an inordinate love of Morris Dancing and in school the children all solve incredibly complex mathematical problems. Apart from the Brakes, only three other families seem to be unaffected. Then, one by one, they also join the ranks of the Happy Ones.
The only other people who are unaffected are Dai, a half-crazed poacher, and Rafael Hendrick, the local squire. Towards the end of the series, Dai is killed and his body mysteriously disappears. All that remains are a few fragments of an amulet that match up with some pieces that had been found on that that spot years before under a fallen stone along with the bones of an inhabitant of the village known as the Barber-Surgeon.
Eventually it becomes obvious that Hendrick has been using the power of the stone circle to brainwash the villagers. Matthew and his father trick Hendrick into using the power of the circle on himself. They manage to escape, but the force of the circle turns the rest of the villagers to stone. When they wake up the next day, they find that the villagers are back, but are subtly altered. Dai is now a tinker instead of a poacher and Margaret Smythe, the curator of the village museum, and her daughter Sandra are now American instead of British.
It is implied that the events in the village repeat in a time loop with similar characters performing the same actions over and over. The link between Dai and the Barber-Surgeon is described above. Also, Matthew has a picture which depicts the end of the sequence (a man and boy escaping the circle while others are turned to stone). The final scene in the drama is the arrival of Joshua Litton at the manor house. He bears a remarkable resemblance to the missing Hendrick...
In 2014, Jeremy Burnham wrote Return To The Stones, a sequel novel set in the present day. Matthew takes his son Tom back to visit Milbury. These days, his father Adam is living in the manor house...
- Affably Evil: Rafael Hendrick (played by Iain Cuthbertson) is always polite and friendly as he progresses his plans.
- Computer Equals Tapedrive: Hendrick uses computers to track the black hole with which the stone circle must be aligned when he uses it. The computers are kept in the cellar of a dis-used church and are shown as typical 1970's tape drive. Matthew first suspects that there's a computer in the church when he sees Hendrick carrying some of the large tape reels out of it.
- Legacy Character: A creepy in-universe example. The Brakes, Hendrick and Dai all seem to be fulfilling the same roles as their predecessors in the circle's recurring events. And at the end, we see "Sir Joshua Litton" arrive in Milbury... who's identical to Hendrick.
- Ley Line: The Stone Circle harnesses the power of ley lines.
- Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Hendrick needs exact timing to harness the power of the Stone Circle. To that end, his house is filled with clocks all driven from a single atomic clock. Before he brainwashes them, he leaves Matthew and his father locked in a bedroom with the Professor's equipment, This includes an oscilloscope that they use to speed up all the clocks.
- No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Before brainwashing them, Hendrick invites his victims to dinner. This includes Matthew and his father, who already know what he is doing and have tried to escape.
- Mr. Exposition: a number of scenes involve Prof Brake and Margaret (the curator) in the village museum discussing astronomy, archaeology, geology or ley-lines.
- Lampshaded by Gareth Thomas in a DVD interview accompanying the series.
- Pillar of Light: Appears at specified times each night when the roof of Hendrick's attic dining room is opened. It supposedly consists of psychic energy from a network of ley-lines, which brainwashes Hendrick's dinner guests by extracting their sins and beaming them into space. It's implied that the process originally worked in reverse, beaming positive energies into the village from a distant supernova. But then the supernova collapsed into a black hole...
- Stable Time Loop: The village seems to be caught in something between this and a "Groundhog Day" Loop - in every iteration, the priest (Hendrick, this time), gradually turns all the villagers into "happy ones", then the man and the boy (Adam and Matthew Brake this time) somehow escape after discovering what was going on due to the death of the man in the Sanctuary (Dai this time, or the Barber-Surgeon in an earlier iteration), the villagers turn to stone (and the painting might imply the Brakes always fail to save the Smythes), and after preventing the completion of the ritual, they escape. And it all starts over.
- Taken for Granite: in the final episode, the villagers get turned to stone by the power of the circle.
- Telepathy: Matthew finds that he has a telepathic ability to see what they are experiencing if he is holding one of their possessions. He uses this to experience the brain-washing of Margaret and her daughter Sandra.
- The Evils of Free Will: Hendrick wants to make the villagers perfect by removing their ability to make mistakes.
- Uncanny Village
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Between Adam and Margaret, who bond first over being widowed, and then as the conspiracy starts aiming for them.
- Video Inside, Film Outside: Except for a few interior location shots, and some studio interiors masquerading as exteriors.