It had come as quite a surprise to me to learn that the 2011, supposedly one-off, ITV drama, Marchlands, was getting a ‘follow-up’ series this year, called Lightfields. I confess,the name put me off a bit to begin with. Initially it sounded as if they had just lazily inverted ‘Marchlands’ to make a new name that that some connotation of the old one (Why not Octoberfields?). Nevertheless, I thought, at least I’ll have something to watch on a Wednesday night. At least for a few weeks anyway, because, no doubt, they’ll only be about 6 episodes. See my thoughts on that here. Regardless, it was a nice surprise because I did enjoyed the first series, and it is very seldom that these sort of British dramas get any sort of continuation. So, I am now rather looking forward to this ‘second series’, of sorts, even if it is two years since the first one.
Seeing as it’s been so long since Marchlands aired, my memory of it is a big fuzzy. I remember enjoyed Alex Kingston’s role but have a vague feeling that the original story kind of being dragged on and fizzling out a bit. Mostly it consisted of tragic deaths from the 1950s/60s coming back to haunt the same house, with a new family, in the 1970s/80s, and, further still, another family in the present day. I think I found myself disappointed that there wasn’t a more satisfying climax but, instead, a lot of creaky floorboards and dizzying flashbacks. All I know of this series, Lightfields, is that it is set in the same sort of place, a isolated country farm / haunted house, with the same past-present, chopping and changing sequence as the premise . I like this idea, though, because it gives it an American Horror Story-esque essence to it.
So, upon watching the first episode, straight away I was kind of rolling my eyes at the opening scenes, thoroughly cynical, as a group of wartime-looking countryfolk ran towards what looked like a massive barn fire. They’re screaming ‘Lucy’ in a thick accent that I hadn’t yet managed to place (definitely not a Yorkshire twang this time, though) and a young boy is focused on. The scene then switches between him and an elderly man, in the present day, rifling through an old photo box looking distressed. He utters ‘I’m sorry!’ at a photo of a bunch of people from the 1940s. Okay, so we can gather that he probably had something to do with ‘Lucy’s’ death/accident/disfigurement (whatever it will turn out to be!). And, if Marchlands, is anything to go by, I’m sure we’ll get the odd guest appearance from her ghost apparition, or at least a few wailing pipes.
After the eerie credits have rolled, it is revealed to be 1944 and a young girl (presumably Lucy) strolls through a field and towards a farm singing ‘Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree’ (how predictable! All she needs is a gas mask?). Her mother is hanging out the washing (it is Lucy) whilst her father potters around and, of course, the old man/little boy, Pip, who is her little brother here. Some posh bird arrives to tell Martha, the mother, that she’s been drafted in from the city to help with the war effort. Bit of a tired old cliche: posh, city girl has to rough it with the countryfolk for the sake of the war.
Positives: Jill Halfpenny, a good, well-known actress, is the mother, Martha, and the new girl, Eve, who I’ve just realised is damaged, too-cool-for-school, Franky, from the latest series of Skins (she looks odd with long hair) seems a fairly interesting character. Anyway, it’s all pretty standard stuff until it switches us to 1975 to introduce the next time strand.
Now Lightfields Farm is a old dilated house being bought by hippyish, middle-aged writer, Vivien, who has brought teenage daughter, Clare, away with her for the summer. She is obviously about 40 because she apparently stayed in the nearby village with her aunt as a child. She’ll probably turn out to be relation of Eve, I’d imagine. The characters seem fine, initially, but the daughter is already asking her mother, ‘have you been here before?’ and ‘what’s wrong?’, making my eyes roll again. Then a crow suddenly dives out of a cupboard at them like a rabid dog, making me laugh out loud. It all seems a bit contrived.
The time rushes forward to the present day (well, 2012) and we find out where we are: Suffolk. So the action has moved from North Country (in Marchlands) to East Anglia. Now we are following a set of middle-aged grandparents, Barry and Lorna, running the house as a bed and breakfast and looking after their deceased (presumably) daughter’s son and butting head with his ‘waster’ father. Good point: the granny is played by Psycho Stella from Eastenders, so we are in for a treat in seeing the actress in a horror genre.
The stories move on swiftly: Old Pip is the father of the 2012 grandfather, Barry, and living back in his childhood home with his son. Vivien seems real anxious to finish a novel over the summer (even though she is a teacher) and Eve is not so straight-laced after all, leading young Lucy astray.
Vivien turns out to be the younger sister of Eve who (conveniently) can’t remember anything about ‘that summer’, yet keeps throwing shifty looks around the 70s incarnation of Lightfields village. She has a husband and has, more or less, escaped her difficult marriage to get away and work – in a haunted house, no less. She, and her daughter, spend the majority of the episode being tormented by Lucy’s giggling ghost. Meanwhile, in the 40s, Lucy has ditched nice, but dull, suitors, Tom and Harry, for the sinister, and charming, American soldier who Eve fancies as well. All About Eve reference, by any chance? Clare goes to a disco in the village and there is a bit of Mean Girls bitchiness between her and a pretty, blonde white girl, perhaps a subtle racial reference? (Clare is mixed race) It is supposed to be the 70′s after all. As for the modern day inhabitants not much happens expect the little boy seems to make reference to the ‘Tooth Fairy’, which is obviously Lucy and kind of puts me in mind of Sixth Sense.
The last ten minutes are the best portion of the episode, as Lucy walks down to that fateful barn to meet her American, only for it to explode into a fiery inferno. Meanwhile, Vivien seems to be losing the plot and can hear Lucy’s ghost counting (weird). Overall the plot seems to be moving along much more seamlessly than Marchlands’ did, and seems to have upped the stakes in the horror/frights department. I think having the ghost as a teenager (in Marchlands it is a little girl) makes it more ominous and will, ultimately allow for more plot development, as opposed to the, unfortunately, jarring pace and dragging plot-lines that befell Marchlands.
Let me know what you thought of Marchlands and the start of Lightfields? Also be sure to keep an eye up for my review of Episode Two.
This article was first posted on March 5, 2013