Based on the beloved autobiographical novel by Elspeth Huxley, BBC miniseries The Flame Trees of Thika
brings an eventful childhood in Eastern Africa to vivid life. In 1913, 11-year-old Elspeth Grant (Holly Aird) traveled with her mother, Tilly (Hayley Mills), from England to Kenya to help build a coffee plantation. (Born in 1907, Huxley was actually six at the time.) Her father, Robin (David Robb), who had preceded them, was waiting to greet his family in the arid town of Thika. Also waiting for them were lions, elephants, giraffes, and countless other creatures (the 18-week production was filmed on location in Kenya).
Directed by Roy Ward Baker (A Night To Remember) and written by John Hawkesworth (Upstairs, Downstairs), The Flame Trees of Thika isn't just about one girl, or one family, adrift in an occasionally hostile foreign land, but also about the dangers of colonialism. The Grants, their neighbors, the Palmers (Nicholas Jones and Sharon Maughan), and most of the other Europeans in Thika feel certain they're bringing culture to the uncivilized, without realizing what they're destroying in the process. Ian Crawford (Ben Cross from Chariots of Fire), is one possible exception to the rule, but he brings another kind of danger in his pursuit of Mrs. Palmer.
Since their actions are seen through the eyes of a child, The Flame Trees of Thika is never preachy, but the meddling of these adults--however well intentioned--in the affairs of the Masai, the Kikuyu, and other locals frequently creates tension. As Tilly notes, "It's like two whole separate circles revolving around each other--their world and ours--and only just touching occasionally." What began as Elspeth's coming-of-age story, becomes one for her parents, as well, in this sensitive and engaging series. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Classic television drama set in colonial East Africa around the beginning of WWI. Eleven-year-old Elspeth Grant (Holly Aird) arrives in Africa with her parents Tilly (Hayley Mills) and Robin (David Robb), who are planning to build a coffee plantation, and is enthralled by the beauty of its landscape. With her parents busy at work, Elspeth finds plenty of time to explore and soon makes a number of friends amongst the Africans and the British settlers, bearing witness to both the natives' ancient tribal traditions and the scandalous intrigues of the colonials.