Richard Dempsey (Dracula)
Sophie Cook (The Worst Witch 1986)
Jonathan R. Scott (The Bill)
Sophie Wilcox (Dark Blue World)
Barbara Kellerman (Monsignor Renard)
Kerry Shale (Narcopolis)
Lesley Nicol (Downton Abbey)
Ailsa Berk (The 10th Kingdom)
Ronald Pickup (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)
Warwick Davis (Willow)
Samuel West (Van Helsing)
Kenny Baker (Labyrinth)
David Thwaites (The Lodge)
Camilla Power (Waterloo Road)
Tom Baker (Dungeons & Dragons)
Richard Henders (Children of the New Forest)
Geoffrey Russell (Les Miserables 1978)
Aired in the form of three, six episode miniseries, running around 30-minutes an episode, the series condensed the second and third novels together, while giving the first and the fourth nearly three hours each to bring Lewis’ world of Narnia to life.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie are siblings who are evacuated from London and sent to the countryside to stay with Professor Digory Kirke because of World War II. While exploring a spare room in the house, Lucy enters a wardrobe and finds herself in the middle of a snowy wood. She meets a faun named Mr. Tumnus, who explains that she is in the land of Narnia. He takes her back to his cave for tea. He then plays his flute and Lucy goes to sleep, but when she wakes up Tumnus is crying and he confesses that he had intended to hand her over to the cruel White Witch, who rules over Narnia and makes it “always winter and never Christmas”. She had ordered him and all the other Narnians that if they ever saw a Son of Adam or Daughter of Eve in Narnia, they were to catch them and hand them over to her, but Tumnus realises that he cannot go through with it and he walks back to the lamp-post with Lucy to make sure she returns safely to her own world.
When Lucy returns to her siblings, they do not believe her story about Narnia, especially because Lucy claims to have been gone for hours, while for her siblings no time has passed. Edmund is particularly cruel to her and taunts her with comments like “found any new countries in the cupboard lately?”. Later, during a game of hide and seek, Lucy again enters the wardrobe and Edmund follows her into it, and manages to find his way into Narnia, but he cannot find Lucy. After walking some distance into the snow-covered forest, he hears a jingling of bells and a woman in a horse-drawn sleigh draws up. The lady introduces herself as the Queen of Narnia, and demands to know “what” Edmund is. He is confused by her question, and she is running out of patience before she finally asks him if he is human. He tells her that he is human and that he got into Narnia through a wardrobe door.
She is kind to Edmund, giving him warm drink and his favourite food: Turkish delight and magically makes a tent appear which they enter before talking. She is eager to know all about him and he tells her that he has a brother and two sisters – she seems particularly interested in the fact that there are four of them. He also tells her that his sister Lucy has already been in Narnia and has met a faun. The Queen tells Edmund that she would like to see his brother and sisters and that next time he comes to Narnia he should bring them with him to meet her. She also tells him that she has no children, and that she would love a boy she could bring up as a prince; who would be King of Narnia when she died. She eventually bids farewell to Edmund and reminds him to come and see her soon.
Edmund returns to the lamp-post, where he comes across Lucy, who tells him that she saw Tumnus again, and that the White Witch has done nothing to him for letting her go. When she describes the White Witch, Edmund realises that she is the lady he has just met, but he does not let on that he has seen her. When they return to the Professor’s house and meet Peter and Susan, and Lucy tells them about Edmund’s visit to Narnia, he refuses to back up Lucy’s story, claiming that Lucy had only been “imagining”. Peter is furious with Edmund for encouraging Lucy about her “lies”. A few days later, the children have to get out of the way when visitors are in the house. They enter the wardrobe and all four find themselves in Narnia. Lucy takes them to Tumnus’s cave, but they find him gone and the cave ransacked. A letter signed by “Maugrim, Captain of the Secret Police” has been left behind, stating that Tumnus is under arrest and awaiting trial on a charge of high treason against the Queen of Narnia for “comforting her majesty’s enemies, harbouring spies and, above all, of fraternising with humans”.
The four children then make their way from the cave and encounter a beaver, who appears friendly. Mr Beaver takes them to his home, and explains that Aslan – the great lion and king of beasts – will save Tumnus and end the White Witch’s reign. He reveals that Tumnus was seen being taken away by the Secret Police to the White Witch’s castle, and that there was no certainty of his fate, but according to the few people to have been taken in the castle and come out again it is likely that he has been turned to stone. The children have to meet Aslan, because they are part of a prophecy that when “two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve” sit on the thrones at Cair Paravel, it will end the White Witch’s reign. Mr Beaver explains that this prophecy is why they all had to be so cautious as they came along, as the White Witch would be more dangerous still if she knew that there were four humans in Narnia.
Suddenly, they notice that Edmund has disappeared, and they rush outside in hope that he will hear them calling for him, but he is nowhere to be seen. Mr Beaver then tells them that Edmund has gone to the White Witch, as he had the look of someone who had been with the Witch. He is even more sure of this when he hears that Edmund has been in Narnia before, by himself, and had not told the others what he had done or whom he had met. Edmund arrives at the White Witch’s house, and she is furious with him for coming alone. She is even more furious when she hears that Aslan has come to Narnia, and decides that they are to travel to the Stone Table. The beavers and the three children prepare for their own journey to the Stone Table. The White Witch had ordered Maugrim and another wolf to go to the Beavers’ house, but when they got there they had already gone and there was no scent or tracks, so he headed for the Stone Table. After going some distance, the children and the beavers rest in a cave.
They soon fall asleep but are awakened hours later by the sound of jingling bells. Mr Beaver is convinced that it is the White Witch and heads outside to watch in secret. However, when he returns to tell the others what he has seen, he assures them that it is a nasty knock for the Witch and a sign that her power is crumbling. It is Father Christmas, who presents the children with gifts: Peter gets a sword and shield, Susan gets a bow, quiver of arrows and a horn, and Lucy gets a bottle of magical healing cordial. As they continue their journey, the snow around them melts, making way for spring. Arriving at the Stone Table, the children and the beavers are welcomed by Aslan. However, Maugrim appears soon afterwards and terrifies the crowd, only to be slain by Peter. Knowing that the White Witch is nearby, Aslan sends his creatures to rescue Edmund, succeeding just as the White Witch is preparing to kill him.
Later, the White Witch herself arrives at the Stone Table, demanding that Edmund be given to her, as all traitors in Narnia belong to her. Aslan discusses the matter in private with the Witch, then announces to all that Edmund will be spared, but the camp has to be moved away from the Stone Table before nightfall. That night, Susan and Lucy follow Aslan as he leaves the encampment. Aslan allows them to follow, but makes them promise to stay hidden. They watch as Aslan walks to the Stone Table, where the White Witch and her followers are waiting for him. They bind and shave Aslan, with the White Witch revealing that Aslan traded his life for Edmund’s. The White Witch kills Aslan with a knife. When the ceremony is over, the White Witch and her company leave to prepare for the oncoming battle with Peter and his forces. Susan and Lucy spend the night at the Stone Table with Aslan’s body. At dawn, the Stone Table cracks in half and Aslan comes back to life. He explains that there is a deeper magic that states that if a “willing victim who has committed no treachery is killed in a traitor’s stead, the Stone Table will crack and death itself will be denied”. The two girls jump on Aslan’s back and they fly to the White Witch’s house, where Aslan’s restores all the Witch’s victims – including Tumnus – back to life from their stone forms.
By the time Aslan and the restored statues return to the battlefield, the fight is in full swing and the Witch has already turned a number of Aslan’s followers into stone. Edmund brings his sword down on the Witch’s wand, breaking it, and the Witch herself is chased to the top of a ravine by Peter. Aslan appears and roars so loudly that the Witch loses her balance and falls off the edge, killing her upon impact with the ground below. Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are later crowned Kings and Queens of Narnia in Cair Paravel. They rule Narnia for many years, bringing peace and prosperity to the land. As adults, the four monarchs are passing through the forest when they come across the old lamp-post that marks the border of Narnia. They walk deeper, passing through the wardrobe door and find themselves back in the professor’s house, and once again children.
Prince Caspian / The Voyage of The Dawn Treader
The four Pevensie children are waiting at a train station when a magical force pulls them into Narnia. They land at an overgrown castle which they recognise as Cair Paravel. Susan saves the life of a dwarf named Trumpkin who is about to be drowned by two soldiers on a boat. The children tell him that they are the old Kings and Queens of Narnia, of which Trumpkin has heard of in the Narnian legends.Trumpkin tells the children the story of Prince Caspian, nephew of the current monarch, King Miraz. Caspian lived in a great castle with King Miraz and his wife Queen Prunaprismia. He has a tutor called Dr. Cornelius who one night woke him up because the Queen had given birth to a baby; with a direct heir, Miraz no longer needs Caspian, and planned to kill him. Caspian escaped on a horse but fell from it in the woods and was taken in by Trumpkin, a badger called Trufflehunter and a black dwarf called Nikabrik. These are people who live in hiding, because King Miraz hates the Old Narnians; his ancestors defeated them in their invasion of Narnia hundreds of years earlier. The children travel through the woods with Trumpkin to meet Caspian.
That night, Lucy wakes up from sleep, hearing someone calling her name. She realises that it is Aslan, who instructs the others to follow him. The children meet Aslan the next morning at the Stone Table, and he takes them to meet the Old Narnians and Prince Caspian. Peter sends a letter of challenge to King Miraz and the guard who gave it to him is Glozelle, one of the King’s courtiers who along with Sopespian has been conspiring against the King. Miraz then has an argument with his two courtiers and had intended to refuse the challenge, but changes his mind at the last minute and accepts the offer. Peter eventually fights Miraz and in the struggle he stabs Miraz in the back. Miraz lies wounded on the floor and Glozelle finishes him off with a spear. A battle is bought briefly. A brave mouse called Reepicheep has his tail cut off but Aslan restores it in recognition of his bravery. Aslan also names Caspian as the King of Narnia, and peace is restored between all Narnians. The four Pevensies return home, with Aslan telling them that Peter and Susan will not return, but Edmund and Lucy will. The Voyage of The Dawn Treader: When the story opens, it is explained that Peter is working at Professor Kirke’s house, Susan has been invited to America for a holiday, and the younger two, Edmund and Lucy, are staying at their cousin Eustace Scrubb’s home. Sitting in their temporary room, they both comment on a picture on the wall, how it resembles a Narnian ship. Eustace enters the room, and all three are sucked into the painting. On board the ship the Dawn Treader, Edmund and Lucy are reunited with Prince Caspian who has grown into a young man since they last saw him. He explains that he is on a quest to find seven lords who were friends of his father’s. The quest requires them to sail through dangerous waters, encountering new islands where things are not what they seem and finally to sail to the end of the world, hoping to reach Aslan’s Land.
The first island they encounter is one of the Lone Islands, where they are captured by slave traders, but are rescued the next day when Caspian and his army arrive at the market (having already deposed Governor Gumpus) and announce the abolition of slavery in Narnia. Caspian had already been bought by a man who introduced himself as Lord Bern (one of the missing lords). They later find an isolated island which appears to be uninhabited. Eustace wanders off and finds a cave where a dragon has died. The cave is full of gold and jewellery, and Eustace finds a bracelet which he puts on. He is tired and soon falls asleep, but when he wakes up he soon realises that he has metamorphosised into a dragon. He flies back to the beach where the others confront him, and they soon figure out who he is. He is soon turned back into a human by Aslan. Caspian establishes that the bracelet was a possession of Lord Octesian, who must have perished on that island. The third island (Caspian declares it “Goldwater Island,” but Reepicheep proposes the more apt name of “Deathwater Island”) where they find a cavern in which there is a pool. Edmund places his sword in the water to measure its depth, only for it to become heavy and fall in the water – causing it to splash over his shoes and produce splashes of gold. There is a body in the water, and they establish that anyone or anything that ends up in the water turns into gold. Caspian later realises that the body in the water is that of Lord Restimar.
On the fourth island, they encounter some invisible creatures who give them dinner at a large house. A magician called Coriakin appears after Lucy reads from a magic book, and the creatures are soon made visible again. The fifth and final island is at the end of the world. Before they ascend the island, they find a man in the water who introduced himself as Lord Rhoop. On the island they meet Ramandu and his daughter, and also find the three remaining Lords who are in an enchanted sleep.The three children eventually return home, and before leaving they know that Caspian will marry the daughter of Ramandu, who lives on an island at the end of the world, and that the four lords who were in a deep sleep on Ramandu’s island will awaken. Aslan also told Edmund and Lucy that they will not return to Narnia since they are getting too old.
The Silver Chair
Eustace Scrubb, cousin of the Pevensies, is at a boarding school with a girl named Jill Pole. The two children are targeted by bullies because of their surnames. Eustace tells Jill about Narnia, and while running away from bullies, they pass through a doorway into Aslan’s country. Eustace accidentally falls off a cliff, but is blown to Narnia.
Alone, Jill encounters Aslan, who tells her of the task she and Eustace have been given to do. Aslan explains that in Narnia, the elderly king’s only son and heir, Prince Rilian, disappeared some years earlier. Jill is told to memorise four signs that will lead her and Eustace to Rilian. Aslan sends Jill to Narnia, where she is reunited with Eustace near the castle of Cair Paravel. Jill quickly tells Eustace that he has to greet “an old and dear friend”, which is the first sign given by Aslan. Eustace says that he cannot recognize anyone, and the two watch as a boat with the elderly king leaves the castle dock. The two meet an owl named Glimfeather, who tells them that the king who just left is King Caspian X. Eustace realises that King Caspian is his friend from the Dawn Treader, and Jill is upset that they’ve missed the first sign.
The pair meet Trumpkin the dwarf, who is King Caspian’s trusted advisor. They are allowed to stay in the castle, and that night they are brought by Glimfeather to the Parliament of Owls where they are told the full story of Prince Rilian’s disappearance. Rillian’s mother, the Queen of Narnia, had been killed by a serpent in the woods. Rilian returned to the woods many times to hunt the serpent, but failed. One day Lord Drinian, one of Caspian’s friends, noticed a change in Rilian, and was invited by the prince to enter the woods. Lord Drinian witnessed Rilian approach a beautiful lady with red hair in such a way to imply that Rilian was infatuated with her. The next time Rillian went out, he failed to return. The owls then speak of their belief that the woman in the forest and the deadly serpent are one and the same. Jill explains that according to Aslan’s second sign, they have to go north beyond Narnia to the Ruined City of the Giants. The owls take Eustace and Jill to a marshwiggle named Puddleglum, who will be their guide. The trio travel north, eventually encountering a lady riding on horseback alongside an unspeaking knight in black armour. The lady introduces herself as the Lady of the Green Kirtle, and advises them to pay a visit to the Giants of Harfang, where they will get good food and lodging.
Soon the group are caught in a snowstorm, and Jill falls into a trench that leads nowhere. Although Puddleglum is reluctant to detour from their quest, the children insist they go to Harfang. They are welcomed warmly by the giants, and given good food and a warm place to sleep. The next day, the trio look out the window of Jill’s room and see the Ruined City of the Giants on a nearby hillside, with the words “UNDER ME” inscribed on the ground. Jill realised that she fell into the “E” of the message the day before. As the third sign was to find a “writing” at the ruins and follow their instructions, they deduce that they have to go under the Ruined City to find Rilian. They explore the castle, learning that the Harfang Giants intend to cook them for their Autumn Feast. They escape through a cat door, and get away from the Giants’ hounds by crawling through a hole under a rock. In the darkness, they fall down a slope deep into the ground. There, they are captured by Earthmen to be taken to the Queen of the Underworld. Eustace, Jill and Puddleglum are taken to the Queen’s living quarters. They are greeted by a knight wearing a silver mask. He reveals that he has met them before: he was the knight on horseback they’d encountered, and the Queen of the Deep Realm is also the Lady of Green Kirtle. The knight claims that the Lady is his saviour, as only she can break the curse that is on him.
The knight explains that because of the curse, for a short time every day he becomes “unlike himself”, so he has to be restrained in the Silver Chair. He makes the group promise not to listen to whatever he says when he is under that condition. Eustace, Jill and Puddleglum hide while two Earthmen take the knight, bind him in the Silver Chair and then leave. After a moment, the knight’s demeanor changes and he begs the trio to set him free “in the name of Aslan”. The children are shocked, as the fourth and final sign was that the first person to ask them to do something in Aslan’s name would be Prince Rilian. Puddleglum is the one who undoes the binds, and the knight is freed, upon which he destroys the Silver Chair. The group are stopped when the Lady of the Green Kirtle arrives. She uses her magic to convince Eustace and Jill that all “other worlds” (Narnia and Earth) do not exist, and that the underworld is the only world. Puddleglum retains enough of himself despite her spells to defy the Lady. Angered, the Lady turns into a giant serpent, but she is killed by Rilian, who also realises that the Lady of the Green Kirtle was the serpent who killed his mother. The group flee just as everything suddenly starts to rumble and rocks cave in. The Lady had ordered the Earthmen to dig through the roof of the underworld for an invasion of the overworld. The group manages to climb high enough to break through the surface, and they realise that they have emerged in the heart of Narnia.
Rilian returns to Cair Paravel, where he is reunited with his father just before the old king dies. Rilian is hailed as the new king. Aslan appears, congratulating Eustace and Jill for their success. They detour briefly to Aslan’s country, where they see a vision of Caspian as a 13-year-old again. Caspian greets Eustace warmly, and tells Aslan that he has always wanted a glimpse of Eustace’s world. Aslan agrees to the request, taking them to the outer walls of Eustace and Jill’s school. Aslan forces a crack in the wall and the bullies appear at the other side, only to be chased away by the three children in knight’s armour. They then say their goodbyes, with Eustace and Jill returning to their own world.
This is an excellent set with all episodes in very good condition. The special features are also a good addition. I watched this series when it first came out on tv as a child so I have good memories of it. People considering purchasing this having never seen this series before, but having seen the Narnia film, may find the effects disappointing. It was the late 1980s, however, and brings back a lot of memories. It is a most faithful adaptation of the 4 books by Lewis.