For sheer impact on my life – and yes I’m well aware of just how over dramatic I’m being (I blame Shakespeare for that) – this series is one of the most profoundest.
My favouritest ever TV show is The Mysterious Cities of Gold, an epic 39 episode story which has aged a bit now but is still a monumental achievement in children’s programming.
Imagine floating through space, through a giant dust cloud, towards a galaxy hanging in the vast blackness, then quickly cutting to the far away earth that moves quickly closer. Down through the cloud cover we drop until we see a ruined city, we zoom right into the cavernous opening at the top of the biggest building, it’s here we see the detail of every brick….
By this point I was as impressed as I had ever been in my young life and that was only the beginning of the adventures…..
The plot is more epic than you would imagine for a young persons show, Set in 1532 and primarily following the adventures of three children hunting for the titular Cities of Gold, this basic premise is opened out with plenty of back story for the various kids to be uncovered, it also tackles such ideas as slavery, loyalty, heritage and greed and to my mind its greatest strength the historical and mythological content.
Furthering this content of learning are the short documentaries at the end of each episode. For some reason the BBC originally chose not to show these shorts, it was only when buying the DVD version that I saw them. Grainy footage abounds on them but I found that they did enhance the sense of wonder and compelled me to pick up even more books on the Americas.
The soundtrack is the real key to the programme, I have been humming a certain tune of the show for years, even after the memories grew dim that always stayed with me, listening to the music out of context doesn’t really give much of an impression but seen through the eyes of our child protagonists experiencing these wonders or the first time makes it more powerful.
The sense of the unknown and the strange is constant as the wonders of the new world greet our travellers and remind us of a time when the unknown was a powerful force that drove people to explore and gave rise to many wondrous myths.
Everyone has their own favourite show but one that teaches you things, or at the very least gives you the urge to look up places and cultures seems to be something rare these days. I know that a lot of what I’m saying (bar the documentaries) is rooted in nostalgia but there is a wealth of impressive features that give it longevity. The sheer size of it and the wealth of characters makes it seem like a real adventure, something tangible, couple this with the variety of places and the music which help give things an emotive feel and the sheer wonder makes the world seem like a special exciting place again. it’s amazing what seeing all those bricks close up does to an impressionable young mind.