THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE SILVER CHAIR
All of the BBC Narnia adaptations were beset by cheap production values. The Silver Chair is no different in this regard. In particular, the effects are let down by the same shabby opticals all the scenes with dragons and owls flying, of the giants interacting with the humans contain grainy and obvious blue screen work. The creature effects here are probably the best of all the series, with some convincing owl costumes (even if it is obvious that the actors underneath are just wearing masks), although the serpent that turns up at the end is very rubbery. There are some decent sets, particularly imaginative being the journey through the Underworld, which is filled with lakes stretching through caverns and a vast hive of industry and with everything going up in a moderately impressive mass destruction sequence. The Silver Chair itself is an impressively designed artefact, all in skeletal metal and backlit in light.
The Silver Chair is also weighed down by C.S. Lewiss often heavy-handed and preachy Christian polemics. (It seemed as the books went on, this element became more overt). As soon as she arrives in Narnia, Jill is given a lesson in faith when she goes to drink the water at the stream, she must blindly decide whether Aslan the lion will devour her or not. This is a scene that seems stretched in terms of plausibility in order for C.S. Lewis to make his point, as nowhere else in the series do we get the impression that Aslan is a predator. The biggest problem I had with The Silver Chair was the climax, which becomes a heavily laboured parable about faith. Here the Green Lady tries to blot out the memories of the party and make them believe that her underground realm is the only reality, but Puddleglum stands up to say that if the world that they remember is only a dream then it is a dream he chooses to believe in because it is far better than the miserable world that she lives in. It is clear here that C.S. Lewis is creating an allegory that equates the dreamed (above-ground) world with Christian faith and the belief in unseen things and the underground world (ie. the world that can be seen) with atheism and rationalism. (Lewis even associates the Green Lady with industry and, with contrived symbolism, later has her turn into a serpent). Personally, I found this section insulting to rationalists and atheists in its equation of a rational view of the world as being miserable and unhappy and the absurd notion that one should have faith and believe in Heaven simply because it is a happy place.
Despite the numerous problems bad effects, C.S. Lewiss heavy-handed preaching The Silver Chair is probably the best of the BBC Narnia adaptations (by a narrow margin). There are some odd unconvincing points all the talk about having you for the feast when the party arrive at Hartfang Castle makes it really, really obvious to everybody what fate is in store for the characters well before they find out. Seeing many of the aspects of Aslans prophecies fall into place in particular, the identity of the masked stranger and that it will be he that calls out in the name of Aslan are obvious too. Generally though, The Silver Chair works reasonably well as a story. Dramatically, the sequences in Hartfang Castle work the best, despite the weak giants/humans opticals.
Tom Baker is cast as Puddleglum, although seems to still be stuck in his role as the fourth Doctor Who (1963-89), albeit a gloomier version of The Doctor nevertheless he provides the series with a degree of liveliness. On the minus side, The Silver Chair brings back the horrendously overacting Barbara Kellerman, who played the White Witch in the first series and casts her as the Green Lady. As before, Kellermans absurdly shrieked performance is ghastly to watch.
The people behind the big-screen adaptations of the Narnia books during the 2000s have been promising to make a film out of The Silver Chair for some years but the poor box-office returns of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) have cast some doubt over any of the subsequent books emerging.
Full mini-series online in several parts beginning here:-