Original TV series: 10 episodes, tx. Jan-Mar 1975, 5.20-5.45pm, BBC-1
DVD: 2-disc set, BFI, August 2014
It sounds grumpy to begin a review by saying ‘Why has it taken so long?’ The Changes is a well remembered, ground-breaking piece of television, first transmitted almost forty years ago. There was a re-showing on UK Gold in 1994 (imagine that now) and pirated copies have been in circulation for a while but the series seems little regarded by the BBC itself and has been allowed to quietly rest in semi-obscurity.
So it falls to the BFI to release The Changes on DVD which means it comes with a minimum of fuss and commercial blah and we are treated to a thirty page booklet which is thorough and informative (justifying the slightly higher than the norm asking price).
Picture quality is perfectly watchable considering no restoration work has taken place and, sadly, is unlikely to do so as this is not regarded as a major league release. Sound is fine throughout, thanks in part to actors not mumbling their lines beneath frenetic soundtracks as is so often the case today, though the closing theme does sound a trifle wobbly on its sustained notes.
Peter Wright’s opening essay sets The Changes within the socio-economic context of the times though perhaps not everyone will agree with his analysis. He also examines the series set against developments in BBC children’s television in the early-mid 70s. Interviews with cast members and particularly with director John Prowse and producer/adaptor Anna Home would have been the icing on the cake but Wright’s essay, in reviewing documentation from the time, rightly pays tribute to Home and BBC Head of Children’s Television, Monica Sims, as major forces in seeing The Changes through to completion.
The booklet also features composer Paddy Kingsland’s recollections and useful biographical pieces on Kingsland, Peter Dickinson and Anna Home.
Apart from the obligatory stills gallery, the sole DVD extra is an only mildly interesting 1983 government film consisting entirely of stills, At Home in Britain, about the lives of Asian residents living in Britain.