Acorn Media’s newest release is The Feathered Serpent – Complete Series on DVD, available now. The 1976-1978 show runs for two series, totaling twelve episodes, in Britain, but has never been shown in the United States. It is set in Mexico around the time of the Aztecs. While the characters and situations are fictional, there are plenty of references to historical facts and beliefs. The sets and costumes, while elaborate, do come across as cheesy now, but thinking back to the 1970′s, there are likely innovative for their time.
The plot of The Feathered Serpent is that Nasca (Patrick Troughton, Doctor Who), a high priest who worships the god Teshcata, a supernatural being who likes bloody sacrifices, wants to topple the emperor, who prefers Quala, a god of peace. Emperor Kukulkhan (Tony Steedman, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Scrooged), not surprisingly, does not last long against his formidable foe. But Kukulkhan’s daughter, Chimalma (Diane Keen, Doctors), and her beloved prince from a neighboring kingdom, Heuman (Brian Deacon, Bleak House), carry on the fight.
Nasca is extremely powerful, having had a series of passages built into the palace, and having allies who can help him overcome all, even death. Xipec (Granville Saxton) is in Cimalma’s council, and secretly works for Nasca in the second series. Keelag (Sheila Burrell) is a witch that can work magical spells for Nasca. With their help, Nasca is a much more terrible threat in series two than in series one. He not only can spy himself, hiding within the palace walls, but has informants within his enemy’s camp.
Strangely enough, for a series that involves praise to a god who loves blood, there is very little shown. The episodes are family friendly enough, and any wounds and deaths are handled delicately. The series itself is the risk, providing something unique to television, and the show is not concerned with showing blood and gore.
Luckily, Chimalma and Heuman have their own allies to fight back against Nasca. Tozo (Richard Willis, Flesh and Blood) is Heuman’s loyal servant who goes above and beyond his duties to uncover Nasca’s secrets and stop him. Tozo may seem the most expendable, and in a way, he is, but he’s also vital to the plot in both series. Otolmi (George Cormack, Doctor Who) is a priest of Quala, blinded by Nasca prior to the series beginning. While the challenges the good guys face are great, working together, they prove up to the task.
Despite the cheesy look and music, again, probably not cheesy in its own time, but certainly not authentic, The Feathered Serpent, as a story, holds up very well. The main weakness is a speech pattern and dialogue that doesn’t even come close to being believable for the time and place. But it looks remarkably good for its age, the picture much clearer than expected. There is deceit and betrayal, danger, politics and religion. The forces of good and evil are both represented in spades. The cast is talented, and take their roles very seriously, committing fully to the strange tale. It is not hard to spend a day watching all twelve 25 minute episodes in a row.
There is only one bonus feature on the two-disc set, which involves several pages of text pointing out the real life references to Mexican culture shown in the series. This mostly involves character names. It’s not particularly exciting, but the point of putting such an old show out on DVD is to introduce it to new audiences, or allow fans to see it again, not to provide a bunch of special features. As such, even without extras, the set is a worthy buy.