'The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader' - the BBC Television Series
Created | Updated May 19, 2020
Animation: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
BBC: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe | Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader | The Silver Chair
Walden Media: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe | Prince Caspian | The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
In 1988 the BBC's television adaptation of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had met with widespread international success. This led to a second series being commissioned, again based on the classic novels by CS Lewis, though this time the decision was made to adapt two books in the same series. The resulting six episodes 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.
The two novels were adapted into two separate stories, both directed by Alex Kirby.
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, while talking animals and mythical creatures hide, 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 killed Caspian's father 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 where the lion Aslan was resurrected after having sacrificed his life, Caspian uses Susan's magical horn to summon help. This horn had been given to Susan by Father Christmas as the reign of the White Witch was ending and, when blown, will always bring forth 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 after the events of Prince Caspian, Edmund and Lucy are staying with their hated cousin Eustace. They admire a picture of a ship which they feel reminds them of a Narnian vessel but Eustace laughs 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. These men were his father's closest friends; when his father was killed 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?
Characters and actors whose names are in Bold appear in other stories in the Narnia series:
|Lucy Pevensie||Sophie Wilcox||Both|
|Edmund Pevensie||Jonathan R. Scott||Both|
|Caspian||Jean-Marc Perret||Prince Caspian|
|Samuel West||The Voyage of the Dawn Treader|
|Peter Pevensie||Richard Dempsey||Prince Caspian|
|Susan Pevensie||Sophie Cook||Prince Caspian|
|Trumpkin||'Big' Mick Walter||Prince Caspian|
|King Miraz||Robert Lang||Prince Caspian|
|Dr Cornelius||Henry Woolf||Prince Caspian|
|Trufflehunter||Julie Peters (Body)||Prince Caspian|
|Joanna David (Voice)||Prince Caspian|
|Nikabrik||George Claydon||Prince Caspian|
|Old Hag||Barbara Kellerman||Prince Caspian|
|Werewolf||Martin Stone||Prince Caspian|
|Eustace Clarence Scrubb||David Thwaites||The Voyage of the Dawn Treader|
|Captain Drinian||John Hallam||The Voyage of the Dawn Treader|
|Princess||Gabrielle Anwar||The Voyage of the Dawn Treader|
|Dufflepuds||Kenny Baker & Jack Purvis||The Voyage of the Dawn Treader|
|Ramandu||Geoffrey Bayldon||The Voyage of the Dawn Treader|
Warwick Davis as Reepicheep steals the show. A highly respected actor, he is perhaps best known for playing the Ewok Wicket in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983), as well as in the Star Wars prequels and sequels and the Ewok sequels. He even played Yoda for one scene in 1999. He appeared in films including Labyrinth (1986) and played the title character in Willow (1988). He played both Professor Filius Flitwick and Griphook in the Harry Potter films (2001-2011). In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005) he appeared as Marvin the Paranoid Android and also was in the 2008 film adaptation of Prince Caspian as Nikabrik. He has appeared in other notable fantasy television series including 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 and Willow. 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.
With Prince Caspian being edited down to a two-part adventure, the story had to be compressed. Some changes improve the way the 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 this book at all. Another difference is 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 in the television version 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 has been cut out.
Curiously, CS 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, while the vessel seen in the television series is purely a sailing ship.
Prince Caspian's principal location filming took place in Hawkstone Park in Shropshire, with the folly there 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, including adding the high sides. The figurehead was polystyrene covered in fibreglass. The top deck of the Dawn Treader was designed to be removable, so that after the location filming finished it could be taken off the Carrie and moved to Studio 3 at Ealing where it was erected on a hydraulic platform. This enabled the filming of additional scenes 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, and a giant water hose allowed 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 voiced by Ronald Pickup, 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 being made from car seat covers. His face and body were controlled through animatronics and puppetry, with two performers inside the lion costume and one person operating other animatronic elements outside. The other animal characters, Reepicheep, Trufflehunter and the werewolf, were also costumes.
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.
Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader remains a highly enjoyable adaptation, 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 but 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 gain a clear picture of how these two opposing sides could 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?
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 magical identity.
One very minor criticism that can be made against the show is the use of the same map opening sequence as in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. While the beauty of this sequence is never in doubt, Prince Caspian is set more than a millennium after the first Chronicle so the map of Narnia is centuries out of date. Cair Paravel is shown as a warm, welcoming castle with flags fluttering in the breeze, yet when the Pevensie family visit it 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.
One of the strengths of the series 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. While it is unclear what is happening in the scene where the trees have woken and started dancing, animation instils a real sense of magic in the later scene featuring the Magician's book of spells.
Overall the second series of The Chronicles of Narnia even more confidently takes its viewers on a non-stop magical journey.