The BBC children’s series The Changes came a year after Jon Pertwee’s tenure in Doctor Who ended, and it’s interesting to note the similar urgent sense of environmental awareness that drove the Third Doctor’s stories and this children’s show.
Based on the novel by Keith Ashton, The Changes begins in the home of the Gore family As the news discusses the strange weather patterns around the globe, a strange noise fills the room and the family suffer some kind of fit, destroying any machines in their house. All around the country, people are compelled to destroy any technological equipment.
Fearing for their safety, the Gores decide to flee to France, but young Nicky (Vicky Williams) is separated and forced to fend for herself, during which time she convinces a group of Sikhs to let her join their search for safe haven.
The Changes doesn’t waste time hanging around; we’re barely introduced to Nicky and her parents before they’re tearing their home apart.
The unexplained aggression of these scenes is tremendously effective – more so than the out-in-the-street scenes, presumably suffering from a lack of budget. In classic children’s story tradition, Nicky is separated from her parents and forced to fend for herself, and quickly proves capable of doing so.
The Changes is a little scattershot in terms of what exactly it’s aiming at, whether it’s our overreliance on technology, our cultural prejudices or what we’re doing to the planet. In fact, it seems happy to take aim at everything, and it’s no less watchable for it.
The first half of the series, focusing on Nicky’s growing friendship with the group of Sikhs, is admittedly much more interesting than the second, which sees Nicky fall into the hands of a deeply suspicious group of villagers, who accuse her of witchcraft.
It’s definitely of its time, but the issues raised by The Changes still feel relevant, and Vicky Williams’ Nicky, both open-minded but stubborn and determined, makes for a great protagonist. This is well worth revisiting.