Tom’s Midnight Garden (1989) Review
Tom’s Midnight Garden (1989)
When his brother is taken ill with measles, Tom Long (Jeremy Rampling), is sent to stay with his aunt and uncle for the summer and soon finds himself lonely and bored. One night whilst lying in bed he hears the old grandfather clock in the hall strike thirteen. Venturing downstairs to investigate, he opens the door and finds himself magically transported back in time to a Victorian garden and an incredible adventure with a new-found friend Hatty (Caroline Waldron).
Based on the children’s fantasy novel by Philippa Pearce, first published in 1958, Tom’s Midnight Garden is now considered a masterpiece of English children’s literature, a modern classic and winner of the prestigious Carnegie Medal. By the time this BBC adaptation reached TV screens back in January 1989 it was their third take on the classic tale, following two earlier serialisations in 1968 and 1974. The book also has been adapted a number of times over the subsequent years for other mediums – radio, the cinema and even the stage.
Tom’s Midnight Garden is a BBC children’s TV program that are very much a product of its time, moving at a slower pace than today’s programming and, whilst easily to watch is fairly unremarkable in its execution. I wouldn’t have tuned in to watch this back in my younger days. Instead I would have flicked channels for something more visceral and less plodding. However now that I have reached my mid-century I find the gentle pace and the simple watching of yesteryear’s fare a rather warm and cosy feeling experience.
Nostalgia, and middle-aged sentiment, aside there’s little here to really recommend and you are left wondering, by-the-numbers adaptation, as to why the original material has proven such a timeless source of entertainment. In this BBC adaptation it’s too obvious early on as to whom the young girl really is that Tom befriends so there’s none of the surprise that the final reveal comes. The adaptation is further hindered by the laissez-faire manner in which the six episodes are delivered. It makes you wonder why they bothered.