A Traveller in Time on DVD

Monday, 16 November 2015 00:00 Written by 

A Traveller in Time - out now on DVDA Traveller in Time is a children’s mini-series from the 1970s about Penelope Taberner (Sophie Thompson – Detectorists, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1”), a teenage girl who discovers she can travel back through time to the late 16th Century. Sent to her Aunt and Uncle’s farm in Derbyshire to recuperate from pneumonia, Penelope becomes entangled in a Tudor plot to rescue Mary Queen of Scots.

Penelope’s own ancestors, the Babingtons, are hatching the high-risk plot to free Mary before Queen Elizabeth I and those loyal to her can have Mary executed. Well aware of history’s path, Penelope is not sure if she can influence events but her uncertainty will not sway her from trying. Matters are complicated by our heroine not knowing how to trigger her time slips back and forth, and the distrust and suspicion that meets her in the past.

Released on DVD fairly soon after Moondial, a fairly similar children’s serial about a time-travelling girl, A Traveller in Time takes a different approach. Rather than going for a dark and eerie, supernatural vibe, this series, from a novel by Alison Uttley, is much softer and lighter despite its rather macabre subject.

Whilst the main story arc concerns the scheme to rescue Mary, a fair proportion of each episode deals with the cheerier subject of day-to-day life in Thackers, the house Penelope is staying in. She meets some rum and lively characters both in the servants’ quarters and amongst the upper classes, including Francis Babington (Simon Gipps-Kent – Doctor Who “The Horns of Nimon”, Black Adder), a friendly young man who takes Penelope under his wing.

Other prominent characters include the Babington’s cook, Dame Cecily-Ann Taberner, ancestor of Penelope’s Aunt Tissie (both played by Elizabeth Bradley – Coronation Street, The Bill), mute house-hand Jude (Louis Hammond – Monsignor Renard), with whom Penelope develops an intriguing bond, the beautiful and warm Mistress Babington (Mary Maude – “The House That Screamed”), and Arabella, Francis’ distrustful cousin played with real bite by Michele Copsey (Fortysomething).

The story has a rather bumpy start, and the first two episodes (out of five) are rather slow and lack atmosphere. Thompson’s acting is also a bit of an acquired taste; she appears to sleepwalk through some scenes, barely emoting and delivering her lines with little passion. Thankfully, things definitely do pick up from episode three onwards, and the tale gathers real momentum. The less the plot bounces back and forth in time, the better it gets.

The sets and costumes are splendid, and the action is framed wonderfully by director Dorothea Brooking (The Phoenix and the Carpet, Kizzy). The theme tune is “Greensleeves”, a song from the era which echoes throughout the serial and helps to emphasize the gentle, generally warm tone of the piece.

Parents with children interested in history could do worse than introduce their kids to this series, or indeed parents trying to bring history to life for disinterested children! It is accessible, simply-told and – once you get over the rather flat opening – both enjoyable and quite exciting.

There are no special features, though the episodes do include optional subtitles.

A Traveller in Time (1978) is out now on DVD, courtesy of Simply Media. The single-disc has a running time of 145 minutes approx, carries a ‘PG’ certificate and retails for £29.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 17 November 2015 18:36

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