Raven (BBC TV series)
Series 7/8 opening title card
|Theme music composer||David Brockett|
|Country of origin||Scotland|
|No. of seasons||10|
|No. of episodes||200 (List of episodes)|
|Producer(s)||Colin Nobbs (Series 1)
Matthew Napier (Series 2–7)
Dougie Napier (Series 8–10)
|Running time||24–28 minutes|
|Picture format||16:9 widescreen|
|Original run||16 December 2002– 11 March 2010|
|Related shows||Raven: The Secret Temple
Raven: The Island
Raven: The Dragon's Eye
Raven was a multi-BAFTA-winning BBC Scotland children's adventure game show that aired on CBBC in the United Kingdom and on BBC Kids in Canada from 2002 to 2010 over the course of ten series, with three spin-off series. It was hosted by James Mackenzie in the title role, who conducts a group of children, known as warriors, over five days through a series of tasks and feats. At various stages in the adventure, the group loses the least successful warrior, until two go through to the final week to compete for the title of Ultimate Warrior.
The show consists of six children who compete in various challenges, originally set over five shows in one week, and three groups per series; as such, each week brings a new set of six warriors. One warrior is lost each day except for the first, until there are two warriors left at the end of the week. These two go through to the fourth and final week to compete against the winners of the other two heats.
At the start of their quest, each warrior is granted a number of lives, represented by raven feathers on a standard, and a particular element or feature (such as a mountain or the sun) which appears on their standard and outfits. Warriors then compete in challenges in which lives may be lost by failing, and regained by collecting rings during the challenge, which are placed on the warrior's standard until enough rings are collected. In the first three series, each warrior was granted seven lives, and from the second series, winning seven treasure rings would win back a life. From Series 4, this number changed to nine lives and rings.
Should all lives be lost, that warrior is eliminated. If no-one has been eliminated by the end of the day, the warrior with the fewest lives and rings must face Way of the Warrior. If they complete this difficult task, they continue their quest, and the warrior in second-to-last place must take up the challenge. If two warriors have an equal number of lives and rings, a black feather is drawn from a bag to decide who must face elimination.
Raven (James Mackenzie): Originally from the Island of Alaunus, Raven is an ancient, immortal Scottish warlord and the warriors' guide throughout the quest; his name refers to his ability to shape-shiiors' thoughts, recap what has happened previously, and both giveth and taketh away the warriors' lives from their standards. He has an elaborate style of speech, which has generated some catchphrases, including, "Are you ready? Then let the challenge... begin", and "may the luck of the Raven's Eye be with you". He always keeps a deadpan face when describing their demonic foes.
Nevar: A mysterious figure who wears a black-hooded cloak and an iron mask, introduced in the second series and whose name is the reverse of Raven. The forging of the six symbols long ago, which brought sorcery back to Raven's land, also brought the scourge of Nevar who attempts to spread darkness once more. His appearance is in some ways similar to the Death Eaters, from the Harry Potter series. He wears a silver mask much the same as the Death-Eaters.
All that can be seen of Nevar's true form is his eyes, which have red irises and red-pink, scorched skin around them. Nevar is described as "the enemy of all that is good and true" by his arch-enemy Raven, and is responsible for the demons featuring heavily in the warrior's tasks in an attempt to impede their progress. He is often seen watching the warriors' progress in his castle and only appears in person at The Last Stand as Guardian of the Portal, where he does his best to stop the remaining warriors from winning. In Series 9 and 10's Last Stands, he has also shown he can teleport.
In Raven: The Island, Nevar's story was relayed by Princess Erina to Haryad. At that time, he had ruled the Island of Alaunus with his dark magic for four years, making Staffs of Power from the Enchanted Oak to arm his demons, in order to stop the warriors from reaching his fortress. Nevar was once a normal human, no more than an upstart baron with a band of brigands as his followers, and considered no more than an irritation on Alaunus. However, he became twisted and corrupt when he stole the Enchanted Oak and used it to create a Staff of Power for himself; as a result, each time he uses his Staff for evil, half of his remaining life-force is taken away, taking its toll on his mind and his body. His iron mask and his cloak hides his scarred, burnt face, marks given to him from a battle with Raven. Until the third series his mask resembled many small pieces of metal covering his face, before becoming a full metal mask in series four.
In Raven: The Secret Temple, Nevar is thought to have been slain, until the last ten seconds of the show, where he is shown to have survived the temple falling on him.
Warriors are given four, five, six or seven-letter names composed from letters selected from their real surnames and first names. Each warrior is given a standard with their lives and treasure rings on it. They often feel very nervous when this happens. There is always 6 warriors in each of the 3 weeks, including the final week. Sometimes there might be 7 in one week if there is an extra replacement warrior, and normally in nearly every week, with the exception of the final week, there are three male and three female warriors, however in Week 3 of Series 4 there were 4 male warriors and 2 female warriors. There are six different designs and colours to differentiate the contestants: a red outfit containing a sun, a beige outfit containing a cloud, a yellow outfit containing a mountain, a green outfit containing a tree, a blue outfit containing a wave, and a dark grey outfit containing a moon. In the Series 1 there were no symbols and the colours were different (Mauve, Light Blue, Green, Black, Olive and Light Brown). The emblems were first introduced in Series 2, in Series 3 the designs changed and again in Series 4 the designs of the emblems changed and stayed the same from onwards to series 10; however, from series 8 and onwards the color of the emblems changed slightly, so there are three different designs of the emblems; the first ones from Series 2, the second ones from Series 3, and the third and final ones from Series 4 all the way to Series 10. As well as the designs and colours of the emblems changing, the warriors' outfits and boots changed. From Series 7 they had hoods on the back, and then from series 8 the outfits were changed again and were almost similar to what they were like from Series 2 to Series 6. From Series 7 onwards, each warrior had boots of exactly the same design and colour, but in Series 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 the warriors in grey with moon emblem would normally have purple boots, the warriors in red with the sun emblem would either have dark red boots or brown boots, the warriors in white with the cloud emblem would either wear white boots or brown boots, the warriors in yellow with the mountain emblem would wear dark brown or light grey boots, the warriors in blue with the wave emblem would wear blue boots, and the warriors in green with the tree emblem would wear either yellow or brown boots. The emblem designs have become bolder through the series, and in the seventh series, the emblems feature more prominently. It is explained that the symbols were forged long ago from gold in order to vanquish the darkness that once shadowed the land. On completion of the final symbol, light and sorcery returned to the land before the evil Nevar appeared, who tried to return the land to darkness.
The winners from each series are known as an Ultimate Warrior. Their prize is a warrior's "heart's desire" - in certain cases this proved to be a holiday of some sort - and from series two, the Ultimate Warrior was also presented with a Staff of Power. In reality, they do not get to keep this; in later series, the three finalists each won a trophy, which was not shown in the programme.
* Emblems not used in this series.
The many tasks and feats in which the warriors have to compete vary from series to series, some having been tweaked over time, and some only used in certain series. They test a variety of virtues, such as strength, agility, and teamwork, depending on the challenge. Warriors play games to win treasure rings, and should they fail the challenge, they will forfeit any rings gained playing the challenge, as well as lose one of their lives. Challenges that have been played in each and every series are Way of the Warrior, Deep Loch, Leap of Faith, and Riddle Bridge.
The Last Stand
In series 1, the Dark Pools wisdom challenge was played to decide the two who would go through to the final, and a similar game was used as the final challenge of the series to select a winner. However, the second series introduced the Last Stand as the final challenge. Played at the end of each week, it is used to determine which warrior will go through to the final, and in the final week, to determine who wins the whole series. Like many challenges, it has changed over the course of the series.
In series 2 and 3, the two warriors in first and second position play against each other to collect and assemble four components of a key from the battlefield without being blasted by Nevar's lightning. Each warrior has the same number of lives as are remaining on their standard, and being blasted will make them lose a life; they are eliminated if they lose all their lives. The winner is the first to use their constructed key to open the portal and go through to the next stage of the quest. A second round is then played with the loser of the first round racing against the warrior in third place.
From series 4 onwards, the Last Stand was changed into an assault course for the three remaining warriors, their remaining lives and rings determining the relative time they are released from their starting cages. In its current configuration, they must drag a key across an overhead maze to unlock a cage containing puzzle pieces, which are assembled to vanquish the demon in their path. Retrieving a lever, they must scale a wall and crawl under a net to engage the lever in the slot, vanquishing a second demon. This will allow them to pick up a cylinder containing symbols, which they must attach to rope; after climbing up a waterfall and sliding down with the cylinder, it must be placed correctly in the slot to activate the portal to escape. After one warrior has taken out all their demons, Nevar attempts to attack the two remaining warriors; when two warriors have gone through the portal, his next shot causes instant elimination to the remaining warrior. In the final, the first warrior through the portal wins and the other two are blasted by Nevar. The final Last Stand of series 7, 8 and 9 had only two warriors, so the first person to reach the portal won, while the losing warrior was blasted.
Series 8 last stand
The location change precipitated a complete change in the Last Stand:
- Two large ramps to carry letters for a word puzzle (in series 9 and 10 the word puzzle was changed to a shape puzzle forming a bridge that led to a shield)
- A shield with two emblem shape pieces for each warrior that fit in.
- A framework with ropes attached to form a maze to navigate through, followed by another two emblem shape pieces to collect each.
- Two diamond walls with a hand battering ram to smash through them, with the last two emblem shaped pieces beyond.
- A different ram hung from chains to burst open a final gate, after which the portal may be accessed.
Way of the Warrior
The Way of the Warrior is a difficult challenge played at the end of most days, used to test a warrior to the limits. The heavily-padded warrior must cross the golden path without falling at any point. It consists of many obstacles designed to knock the warrior off the path, and the configuration up to series 7 was largely as follows, with various subtle changes made over the years.
|Series||Way of the Warrior|
|1||Swinging Dummies||Boulder Hurl||Boulder Carousel||Narrow Beam with Rocks||Chain to Pull Down Drawbridge and one Treasure Ring||3 Shield Section (With 4 Shields)||Spiked Barrel||Swinging Blades|
|2||Swinging Dummies||Boulder Hurl||Boulder Carousel||Narrow Beam with 2 Rising and Falling Objects||Skull Swing to open Drawbridge||3 Shield Section (With 4 Shields)||Spiked Barrel||Swinging Blades|
|3||Swinging Dummies||Swing Rope to Balance Beam||Cross Balance Beam whilst avoiding falling rocks and Swing Off||Swinging Gate||Boulder Carosel||Narrow Beam with 2 Rising and Falling Objects||Skull Swing to open Drawbridge||3 Shield Section||Spiked Barrel||Swinging Blades||Gnashing Teeth|
|4||Swinging Dummies||Cross Rope to Balance Beam||Cross Balance Beam whilst avoiding falling rocks and Cross second rope||Swinging Gate||Boulder Carosel||Narrow Beam with 2 Rising and Falling Objects||Skull Swing to open Drawbridge||3 Shield Section||Spiked Barrel||Swinging Blades||Gnashing Teeth|
|5-6||Swinging Dummies||Rising and Falling Blocks||Swinging Gate||Boulder Carosel||Narrow Beam with 2 Rising and Falling Objects||Skull Swing to open Drawbridge||3 Shield Section||Spiked Barrel||Swinging Blades||Gnashing Teeth|
|7||Swinging Dummies||Rising and Falling Blocks||Swinging Gate||Boulder Carosel||Narrow Beam with 2 Rising and Falling Objects||Skull Swing to open Drawbridge||Swinging Blades||Spiked Barrel||3 Shield Section||Gnashing Teeth|
- A short tunnel, with two swinging sackmen, and a row of blocks on the path that rise and fall; a dropbox half-way opens above, releasing falling rocks.
- A gate that swings left-to-right, followed by a carousel of heavy leather balls that swing round at speed.
- An elevating leather ball and spiked barrel above a zig-zag balance beam path; at the end, the warrior uses a skull attached to a rope to aim for a target, opening the drawbridge in front.
From this point, a warrior must not make contact with any of the mechanical devices or they will lose the challenge; the shields may be touched, but if they push the warrior from the path, they are eliminated.
- Four swinging blades, followed by a large swinging spiked barrel that the warrior must squeeze underneath on ropes.
- Three shields that push in and out from the walls at different angles, followed by three metal jaws that open and close vertically.
After the walls, the portal may then be accessed. The move to Aviemore in series 8 facilitated a change to the challenge, which saw most elements altered:
- Three hanging horizontal logs to cross, followed by a platform, and another hanging log placed lengthways, before another short platform with two large skulls that move up and down.
- The left-to-right swinging gate returns, followed by a balance beam section and two shields that move in and out.
- A set of blades attached to rotating horizontal poles to navigate through, followed by the returning barrel section.
- The three shields, followed by the swinging axes.
Series 9 way of the warrior
- Three hanging horizontal logs to cross followed by a platform.
- A platform with a red swinging blade which may be touched.
- A hanging log placed lengthways before another platform with two large skulls that move up and down.
- A swinging gate that moves left-to-right followed by a log that tips up and down.
- Two giant hammers which smash together.
- A set of blades attached to 3 rotating horizontal poles to navigate through.
- The swinging barrel returns followed by the three shields.
- The swinging axes return.
- After the swinging axes there is nashing teeth after that the portal.
The challenge is considered very difficult, with many warriors mistiming the three shields that push in and out from the walls. Only four warriors have completed the challenge in the history of Raven, though none of them went on to become the Ultimate Warrior. From series 7, these warriors are listed on a board outside the entrance to the challenge. They are:
- Ishal (Series 2), leaving Dyasa to attempt the challenge. (Ishal repeated the challenge in the final week but failed at the boulder carousel)
- Varna (Series 2), leaving Kinia to attempt the challenge.
- Worjo (Series 3), leaving Brena to attempt the challenge.
- Kinsa (series 4), leaving Wenra to attempt the challenge.
No-one since series 4 has completed the challenge. The closest to do so is Danil of series 7 who, whilst crossing the final metal jaw just before the portal, grazed his leg against the side, and was eliminated from the final week, coming third.
Production and Awards
The series was first produced by BBC Scotland in 2002. For the first seven series it was shot in the grounds of Castle Toward 8 miles (13 km) south-west of Dunoon, near Toward Point and the village of Toward. The production includes many CGI effects throughout, including the appearance and disappearance of objects and characters (including contestants), rapidly encroaching lava flows, burning targets and fizzing gases, and the zoomorphism of Raven in the title sequence. The show has won two BAFTAs for Best Children's Programme, in 2003 and 2006 for Series 1 and 4.
The first series in 2002 was executive produced by Nigel Pope who devised the format. Producer was Colin Nobbs who stayed on as the Executive Producer for Series 2 and 3. Matthew Napier produced 6 series in total, from series 2 through to series 7. Series 8 to 10 were produced by Dougie Napier, who directed the previous two series. The set and games designers are Tom Barker and Liz Barron, who created the look and helped format the show as well as devising most of the challenges. The directors have changed between series:
|1||Brian Ross, Bob Harvey|
|2, 5||Bill McLeod|
|3, 4||Paul Hineman|
|6, 7||Dougie Napier|
|8||John Payne (Weeks 1 - 3)
Dougie Napier (Final Week)
|9, 10||Dougie Napier|
Series 8, which introduced a number of changes to the programme, was produced under a slightly different production crew, including the director and editors; filming moved to Aviemore being based at Lagganlia Centre for Outdoor Education at Kincraig, rather than the previous location of Castle Toward.
Three spin-off series have been produced. The first, Raven: The Island, takes place on the Island of Alaunus, Raven's homeland, taken over by Nevar and his demons. His trusted friend, Princess Erina, guides the warriors on their path. The series differs in that three teams of four warriors compete, and if a warrior is eliminated, they cannot return.
The second, Raven: The Secret Temple, features Raven taking four teams of four warriors to an Eastern land (actually filmed in India, but never mentioned on the show as such) after his home was frozen by Nevar. He and Satyarani, a friend fashioned from the earth itself, guide the young warriors in the hopes that they will reach the Secret Temple to retrieve an elixir that will allow his homeland to return to its former glory. Unfortunately, Nevar has followed him there and is determined to stop his warriors from completing their quest.
The third spin-off series, Raven: The Dragon's Eye, has Raven travel with another set of 16 warriors to a forgotten kingdom governed by forest spirits, with the intention of locating and destroying a stone with immense evil power called the Dragon's Eye, protected from mortals by a rapidly weakening magical barrier, in order to prevent Nevar from obtaining it and using its power for his own needs. Raven, along with an enigmatic woodsman named Ervan, whose true intentions are unknown, and has an uncanny knowledge of the Dragon's Eye's power, assist the warriors in their task of reaching the kingdom and recovering the Eye before Nevar reaches it first. This series was filmed in October 2008 based at Lagganlia Centre for Outdoor Education, Kincraig and filmed around Aviemore. Filming was completed in mid-November,[when?] and the new series was broadcast over four consecutive weeks on the CBBC Channel at 4:00 pm.
- Detailed under "Any other information". "James Mackenzie, actor, Casting Call Pro".
- IMDb. "Raven (2002)".
- Raven at the Internet Movie Database
- Official CBBC Raven Website[dead link]
- The Force of Raven Discussion Forum
- The Raven's Eye Magazine