'The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader' - the BBC Television Series

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The Chronicles of Narnia
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - the Animation

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe | Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader | The Silver Chair

As the 1988 BBC adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had met with widespread international success, the BBC proceeded to make a second series of The Chronicles of Narnia. Again based on the classic novel series by CS Lewis, this time the decision was made to adapt two books in the same series. The six-episode long second series consisted of a two-part adaptation of Prince Caspian immediately followed by a four-part adaptation of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Both Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader have since had film adaptations; the former in 2008 by Walden Media in conjunction with Walt Disney Pictures, the latter in 2010 by Walden Media with Fox 2000 Pictures, a subsidiary of 20th Century Fox1.

Plot

The two novels were adapted into two separate stories, both directed by Alex Kirby:

Prince Caspian

In Narnia2, centuries have gone by since the golden age in which the land was ruled by Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. Narnia is now ruled by King Miraz and mankind, with talking animals and mythical creatures hiding, fearing persecution and extinction, to the extent that they are widely considered to be myths by the young heir, Miraz's nephew Prince Caspian.

However Miraz's wife Queen Prunaprismia is pregnant and on the birth of his son, Miraz plans to kill Caspian just as he had Caspian's father killed in order to get the throne. Caspian flees and is helped by Trufflehunter, a talking badger, and other Old Narnians including dwarfs Nikabrik and Trumpkin. An army of Old Narnians rallies behind Caspian, but they are outnumbered by the army of men led by Miraz. Trapped in Aslan's How, the site of the Stone Table, Caspian uses Susan's magical horn to summon help.

Meanwhile at an English train station, a year after their adventures in Narnia, the Pevensie children are about to go their separate ways; Peter to boarding school, Susan to America and Lucy and Edmund to stay with their bullying cousin Eustace. As they are waiting for the train they hear a horn and are magically transported to the ruins of their once-great castle of Cair Paravel. Will they be able to aid Prince Caspian in his quest to restore peace to Narnia and equal rights for man, myth and beast?

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

A short time later in England, Edmund and Lucy are staying with their hated cousin Eustace, admiring a picture of a ship which they feel reminds them of a Narnian vessel, with Eustace laughing at their belief in magical lands. Suddenly they all find themselves falling into the painting and discover that it is a real ship, the Dawn Treader. Caspian, now a young man and king of Narnia, is on a quest to find the Seven Lords of Narnia. When his father was killed by Miraz, these men were his father's closest friends; they sailed off into exile rather than serve Miraz.

Caspian plans to sail East, further than any ship has ever sailed, in order to find the lords - and perhaps even discover Aslan's homeland in the Utter East. Yet what dangerous islands, adventures, enchantments and creatures await them on their journey?

Cast

Characters and actors whose names are in Bold appear in other stories in the Narnia series:

CharacterActorChronicle
Lucy PevensieSophie Wilcox Both
Edmund PevensieJonathan R. Scott Both
ReepicheepWarwick DavisBoth
AslanAilsa Berk Both
William Todd-JonesBoth
Ronald PickupBoth
Tim RoseBoth
CaspianJean-Marc PerretPrince Caspian
Samuel WestThe Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Peter PevensieRichard Dempsey Prince Caspian
Susan PevensieSophie Cook Prince Caspian
Trumpkin 'Big' Mick Walter Prince Caspian
King MirazRobert LangPrince Caspian
Dr CorneliusHenry WoolfPrince Caspian
TrufflehunterJulie Peters (Body)Prince Caspian
Joanna David (Voice)Prince Caspian
NikabrikGeorge ClaydonPrince Caspian
Old HagBarbara Kellerman Prince Caspian
WerewolfMartin StonePrince Caspian
Eustace Clarence ScrubbDavid ThwaitesThe Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Captain DrinianJohn HallamThe Voyage of the Dawn Treader
PrincessGabrielle AnwarThe Voyage of the Dawn Treader
DufflepudsKenny Baker & Jack Purvis The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
RamanduGeoffrey BayldonThe Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Warwick Davis as Reepicheep steals the show. A highly respected actor, he is best known for being the Ewok Wicket in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983), as well as both the Star Wars prequels and sequels and the Ewok sequels, even playing Yoda. He played the title character in Willow (1988) and both Professor Filius Flitwick and Griphook in the Harry Potter films (2001-2011). He appeared in films including Labyrinth (1986), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as Marvin the Paranoid Android (2005) and also was in the 2008 film adaptation of Prince Caspian as Nikabrik. He has also appeared in notable other fantasy television series Gulliver's Travels (1996) and The 10th Kingdom (2000).

David Thwaites who plays Eustace is a child actor who has since enjoyed a Hollywood career as an executive producer on films such as All the King's Men (2006) and the Oscar-winning Black Swan (2010).

Samuel West has continued acting and enjoyed success, being BAFTA-nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Howard's End (1992) and appearing in Notting Hill (1999). He was also in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (2015) as Sir Walter Pole.

John Hallam was a stalwart of the British film industry, appearing in almost everything from Carry On films in the 1960s to Flash Gordon (1980), Ivanhoe (1982) and Santa Claus: the Movie (1985). Gabrielle Anwar had previously appeared in Paul McCartney's music video for 'Pretty Little Head' (1986) and an episode of Jim Henson's The Storyteller (1986). She would go on to appear in numerous roles, including playing Sam Black in Press Gang (1990), Queen Anne in the 1993 adaptation of The Three Musketeers, Princess Margaret in The Tudors (2007) and Lady Tremaine, Cinderella's wicked stepmother in Once Upon a Time (2017).

Kenny Baker is best known as being R2-D2 in the Star Wars films but also appeared in Labyrinth andWillow. Jack Purvis too appeared in the original Star Wars trilogy as well as Time Bandits (1981), The Dark Crystal (1982), Brazil (1985) and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). Puppeteer Tim Rose helped play Aslan for one year only. He had extensive puppeteering experience including on The Dark Crystal (1982), Return of the Jedi, Howard the Duck (1986) as Howard and The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992).

Some of the cast from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe returned as other characters. Barbara Kellerman, originally the White Witch, returned to play the hag, while Martin Stone who had played Maugrim, the Wolf Chief of the Secret Police appears as a werewolf. 'Big' Mick Walters had previously played the White Witch's dwarf but this time is now a heroic character, playing Trumpkin, who would briefly return in The Silver Chair.

Differences from the Novels

Inevitably when novels are adapted for television, some changes were made, often for timing or effects reasons.

Prince Caspian

With Prince Caspian being edited down to a two-part adventure, it is inevitable that the story is compressed. Some changes improve the way story flows when combined with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. So instead of Lucy and Edmund also being off to boarding school as they are in the book, in the television series they are about to stay with their cousin Eustace, who isn't mentioned in the book at all. Other differences are that in the television adaptation, Trufflehunter is a female rather than male badger. Other characters including Giant Wimbleweather, Glenstorm the Centaur and many talking animals are unnamed or, in the case of various minor gods, do not appear at all. The sleeping spirits of the trees of Narnia are barely mentioned. Similarly, a subplot about Aslan visiting the towns of the Telmarines to judge which humans are worthy of staying in Narnia and which should return to Earth is cut out.

Curiously, Lewis never liked the title Prince Caspian, which was chosen by the publisher. He preferred either Drawn into Narnia or A Horn in Narnia and in the end insisted that Prince Caspian be subtitled Return to Narnia.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

In the novel The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, before boarding the Narnian ship it is explained that the only ship Eustace had ever been on previously had been the ferry to the Isle of Wight, however this fact is never mentioned in the television adaptation. The Isle of Wight is not the only island omission, as Burnt Island does not appear in the serial either. Another minor difference is that in the novel the Dawn Treader is a galley, able to be propelled by oars as well as sail, with the vessel seen in the television series purely a sailing ship.

Making

Prince Caspian's principal location filming took place in Hawkstone Park in Shropshire, with the folly standing in for the ruins of Cair Paravel. The railway scenes were filmed at Arley Station on the Severn Valley Railway and Miraz's Castle was Pembroke Castle.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader involved a lot of location filming. The island scenes were filmed on Tresco, Isles of Scilly. Plas Newydd3 in Llangollen stood in for the Magician's House, home of the Dufflepuds. The Dawn Treader herself was the sailing vessel Carrie, adapted by Square Sail, Bristol. It took five months to convert the ship, with the high sides added. The figurehead was polystyrene covered in fibreglass, and the ship was based in Milford Haven. The top deck of the Dawn Treader was designed to be removable, which meant that after the location filming finished it was taken off the Carrie, moved to Studio 3 at Ealing where it was erected on a hydraulic platform. This enabled the filming of additional scenes made under studio conditions, but with the ship still able to rock and sway as if it was at sea.

For example, it was at Ealing that the attack by the 20-metre long sea serpent was filmed. The serpent itself was made of plastic tubes covered in a rubber and sawdust mixture, along with seaweed to make it look suitably aquatic. Its opening jaws could be controlled by compressed air with a giant water hose also allowing it to squirt water. Another impressive costume was that of the dragon, which contained smoke effects and animatronics and was controlled by Ailsa Berk, the main puppeteer behind Aslan.

Aslan, the legendary larger-than-life lion, was the same highly sophisticated costume with animatronic elements as used in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Inspired by lions at Longleat Safari Park, yak hair was used to create Aslan's glorious mane, with the rest of his fur made from car seat covers. Voiced by Ronald Pickup, his face and body were controlled through animatronics and puppetry, with two performers inside the lion costume and one operating other animatronic elements outside. The other animal characters, Reepicheep, Trufflehunter and the werewolf, were costumes.

Broadcast

The serial was broadcast on Sunday afternoons from mid-November to December 1989, capturing a family audience. The show was heavily promoted, with Caspian and Reepicheep reprising their roles for an episode of Blue Peter broadcast in early November 1989. The series was nominated for numerous awards including BAFTAs for Best Children's Programme (Entertainment / Drama), Best Make Up, Best Design, Best Costume Design, Best Video Lighting and Best Video Cameraman.

Review

Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader remain highly enjoyable adaptations, building on the success of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. By compressing two novels into one series the adaptation has a quicker-pace, ensuring the viewer is soon thrust into the story.

Despite only lasting two episodes, Prince Caspian remains fairly faithful to the novel and does not feel too rushed, nor that too much is left out. The battle scene between the Old Narnians led by Caspian and the human Telmarines may perhaps not be as effective as the battle at the climax of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Nevertheless, what the show may lack in the way of numbers of extras, the actors more than make up for with their enthusiasm. The audience may not have a clear picture of how these two opposing sides can effectively unite, yet as it is clear that good has triumphed over evil it seems silly to quibble. It has been suggested that CS Lewis' inspiration for the war between Old Narnians and the Telmarines was English history, particularly the conflict and later unification between Saxons and Normans, so who are we to argue with history?

The biggest flaw in both Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is in the stories written by CS Lewis. At the end of Prince Caspian we are told that Peter and Susan are too old to ever return to Narnia, and similarly at the climax of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Edmund and Lucy are too old. Yet Aslan had previously said 'Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen', and Narnia is a land full of a whole race of humans, the Telmarines, descended from people from Earth. So why does the age limit only apply to the Pevensie family4?

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is beautifully realised. It is an episodic tale in the tradition of The Odyssey. Caspian is on a quest and visits various islands, with a different adventure awaiting on each one, as the ship sails closer and closer to the edge of the world. It is a tale that truly captures the imagination as each island has its own unique but magic identity.

One of the strengths is the special effects and costumes, which are much better and more sophisticated than in the first series. For example, Trufflehunter the badger actually looks like a badger, rather than the almost egg-on-legs appearance of the beavers in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In the first Chronicle, only four humans and the human-shaped witch were seen in Narnia, yet now people predominate, which means that the costume and effects department are able to show the few non-human characters that do appear really effectively.

There is a particularly impressive use of split-screen that convincingly blends the bottom half of a moving horse with the top of an actor to bring a centaur to life. The use of animation too is more restrained, but much more focussed, blending much more with the action rather than almost competing with it, instilling a sense of magic in the Magician's book of spells. The only failure is the scene where the trees have woken and started dancing. This does not quite work, with the animation unclear as to what the trees are doing and why it might be important.

One very minor criticism that can be made against the show is the use of the same map opening sequence as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. While the beauty of this sequence is never in doubt, Prince Caspian is set one and a half millennia after the first Chronicle. The map of Narnia is centuries out of date, with Cair Paravel shown as a warm, welcoming castle with flags fluttering in the breeze, yet when the Pevensie family visit, only a few walls and stones remain. None of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is set in the land of Narnia; everything takes place on the ocean to Narnia's east. A map of the islands and seas would perhaps be more relevant.

1Walden Media's film rights to the Narnia series expired in 2011 and were not renewed. 20th Century Fox was purchased by the Walt Disney Company in 2017.2'Narnia' should not be confused with the name of the Narn Homeworld in Babylon 5.3Not to be confused with Plas Newydd, Anglesey.4The final Narnia novel The Last Battle has an even more inexplicable rule, stating that anyone who likes wearing lipstick and nylon stockings cannot come to Narnia.

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