Century Falls is dark. Dark, Dark, Dark. I’m reasonably sure there isn’t another children’s drama series which ends with a suicide. I’m confident that there isn’t another which presents that suicide as the rational response to the events that have gone before.
Century Falls is the creation of Russell T. Davis, later famous for writing Queer as Folk and regenerating Doctor Who. But this is his early work, and as we all know, when you are a talented writer, before you can strike off into your future, you first have to turn back and deal with your childhood. Well, Russell is Welsh. And our story happens in as rural a Welsh setting as you could manage to create on screen without actually setting it underground. Russell was also an outsider teen. And our hero is a fat teenaged girl. We know she’s fat, because we can see she is and we know everyone else sees it too because they regularly refer to her as the ‘fat girl’. She doesn’t get thin during the story. She doesn’t get a makeover. She is a fat girl. Russell doesn’t have to tell us the consequences for her of that fact. He knows and trusts us to know too.
The village is full of old people. In fact, there are usually only old people in the village. The local lordling, Naismith, is a comparative youngster in his forties. Everywhere else, the old women and men shuffle around the cobbled streets of their slate grey world, keeping tabs on each other and on the newcomers- Tess and her pregnant mother.
The only other children are a pair of twins- meek Carey struggling to keep her frankly borderline psychopathic brother Ben from doing too much damage with the psychic powers which seem to be leaking out of him. They’ve been called back to the village by their Uncle, Naismith, for reasons which owe nothing to family affection.
The plot unwinds at a fair clip- Century Falls has been home to generations of psychics. Forty years ago, prompted by the two of them with the strongest powers, they attempted to create a godlike being to protect themselves from the encroaching future. The ceremony went wrong, their temple burt down and from that moment on no children have ever been born in the village.
Now Naismith plans to repeat the failed ceremony, powered by his unbalanced but staggeringly powerful nephew, creating a monstrous immortal foetus which will use its mother as its puppet, never being born. And Tess’ mother and unborn sister will be rewritten, their futures erased as Century’s first victims.
I did tell you it was dark.
So, that’s the plot. But what is is really about?
Oh, you know, loneliness. The loneliness of being an only child. The loneliness of childlessness. The loneliness of being different.
The loneliness of being stuck in a fucking nowhere town, where nothing happens and everyone is ancient. The loneliness of having got old, and finding you’re still stuck in the same fucking nowhere town you’ve lived your whole life and you didn’t really find anyone to share your life.
Afraid of what the future might bring, the villagers destroyed their own futures. Presented with a second chance, they almost make the same mistake. But, this time the impulse is charged with their need to grab at their last chance to create something to outlast themselves. Are there even any villains in Century Falls? Or is everyone too flawed and too human to be classed as evil?
And where is our hope? The pinprick of light in our pitch prison? It comes as Tess takes the step the entire village has been avoiding for 40 years and embraces an uncertain future as a sister. Disaster is only just averted. But I’m not sure we can say we have a happy ending. Tess’ family is saved, but their future is still as uncertain as all of ours is. The villagers accept living the remainder of their lives without being able to control how they will turn out. And the character who has seemed closest to a villain ends as a tragic figure- empty inside, having been hollowed out decades before, she cannot find any future for herself at all, and simply steps off a cliff to die.