Director – Alex Kirby, Teleplay – Alan Seymour, Based on the Novel by C.S. Lewis, Producer – Paul Stone, Music – Geoffrey Burgon, Visual Effects Design – Mickey Edwards & Tony Harding, Animation – Animation City, Aslan & Centaur Designed by Vin Burnham, Makeup/Masks – Lesley Altringham, Julie Dartnell & Sylvia Thornton, Design – Sarah Greenwood, Alan Spalding & Adrian Uwalaka. Production Company – BBC TV/Wonderworks
Richard Dempsey (Peter), Sophie Wilcox (Lucy), Jonathan R. Scott (Edmund), Sophie Cook (Susan), Jean-Mare Perret (Prince Caspian), ‘Big Mick’ (Trumpkin), Ailsa Berk, Tim Rose & William Todd-Jones (Aslan Performers), Ronald Pickup (Voice of Aslan), Robert Lang (King Miraz), Henry Woolf (Dr Cornelius), Warwick Davis (Reepicheep), George Claydon (Nikabrick), Julie Peters (Trufflehunter), Joanna David (Voice of Trufflehunter), Barbara Kellerman (Old Hag), Martin Stone (Wolfman), Angela Barlow (Queen Prunaprismia)
In Narnia it is centuries after the reign of Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy. The young prince heir Caspian has heard stories of them, the lion Aslan and how talking animals once roamed the land. However, these stories are ruthlessly quashed by Miraz, the uncle that rules in Caspian’s name and has proclaimed himself king. Caspian’s tutor Dr Cornelius secretly confirms to Caspian that the stories are true. Cornelius is forced to smuggle Caspian away when the queen gives birth to a new son, meaning that Miraz no longer needs Caspian to rule in his name and is free to kill him. Caspian falls in with various dwarves, fauns and talking animals, who proclaim him their king. Miraz declares war. Cornered in a cave, Caspian takes the step of blowing the magic horn left by Susan. This has the effect of bringing Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy back to Narnia from where they sit on a railway station platform and in their time it is only a year after their previous adventures. As they try to find their way to Caspian’s aid, Lucy is guided by the spirit of Aslan who asks that she take a different course of action than the one the others are intent on following.
Prince Caspian (1951) was the second of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books and a direct sequel to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950). The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian was the second of the adaptations of the Narnia books made for tv by the BBC. It was preceded by The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, & the Wardrobe (1988) and followed by The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1989) and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair (1990). In the original broadcast, Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader were shown as one 6-part mini-series, although when it came to the video versions (seen here), the two have been released as separate stories. This does lead to something unweightly. Both the stories that came on either side of the duo, The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe and The Silver Chair, told the C.S. Lewis book in 6 parts, but here Prince Caspian is broken down to only two parts and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is told in four. Why this was the case is not known – maybe Prince Caspian was considered a weaker book and seen as not having enough to it to hold audiences interest for four parts? Maybe the producers were itching to make The Voyage of the Dawn Treader but were unable to without setting up Prince Caspian first?
Whatever the case, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is weakened by its relatively short length (the videotape version runs at just under an hour long). The story feels decidedly truncated – one minute, Caspian has run away and is found by woodland creatures; the very next scene he is being crowned their king and is ordering around an entire army; next Miraz is attacking them. The end of the tape also abruptly segues into the start of The Voyage of Dawn Treader without any transition.
Prince Caspian is marginally better than the previous adaptation made of The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe. The children seem more grown up and grate less in their snobbery, although Jean-Mare Perret’s Prince Caspian still manages to seem insufferably precocious. A major improvement comes in the replacement of Lion director Marilyn Fox with Alex Kirby, who would also direct all the subsequent stories. Alex Kirby, for one, is capable of directing fight scenes that look like halfway credible fights, especially the climactic scenes running through the camp. We even see kids killing adults, something you never would in an American production.
Prince Caspian is certainly a better, tighter production than The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe, although ultimately the adaptation truncates the story too much to be entirely effective. Some scenes like the raising of the White Witch should have been more dramatic than they are – after all in C.S. Lewis’s Christian allegory, the scene is the equivalent of being in a spot of bother and asking The Devil for help. The story could easily have worked more effectively with even one more episode. Prince Caspian is also weighed down by the same weak special effects as the first series was – dodgy blue screen mattes and the same unconvincing animation effects, although to its advantage Prince Caspian is not reliant on these latter as The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe was.
As usual with C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books, Prince Caspian is a parable about Christian faith pitched in the guise of a children’s tale. Each of the Narnia books took up some aspect of Christianity – here the story is about having faith in unseen guidance. The series somewhat unbelievably begins with the four children all in the space of a year having forgotten most of the details about Narnia (even though they spent from youth to adulthood in the land in the first series). When they set out on their own, only Lucy believes in the now unseen Aslan, for which now one is supposed to read a parable about trusting in the guidance of The Holy Spirit. For Caspian, one can read an analogue of St Paul or Peter, trying to sustain a belief in the true gospels long after the fact, when the truth is being clamped down on.
The story was later remade on the big screen as part of the series of big-budget Narnia films made in the 00s with The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008).