THE THORN BIRDS: THE MISSING YEARS. (A 1996 CBS MINI-SERIES.) DIRECTED BY KEVIN JAMES DOBSON. BASED ON THE BOOK BY COLLEEN MCCULLOUGH. STARRING RICHARD CHAMBERLAIN, AMANDA DONOHUE AND MAXIMILIAN SCHELL. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. © This made-for-television mini-series supposedly fills in the gaps left by the original mini-series, the phenomenally successful THORN BIRDS. In the original show, Meggie Cleary and the long-time love of her life, the handsome Fr. Ralph de Bricassart- yes, he’s a priest!- make love for the first time. Then, the action rather frustratingly cuts to ‘nineteen years later’ in the plot, when Meggie has two grown-up children; a daughter, Justine, by her husband Luke, and a son, Dane, by her beloved Fr. Ralph. In THE MISSING YEARS, we start off when Dane is about ten and Justine a year or two older. Meggie left her he-man husband, sheep-shearer and cane-cutter extraordinaire Luke O’Neill, before Dane was born, because he promised her love and an equal marriage and then fecked off to cut cane and hang out with his boozy, womanising mates. All this while Meggie languishes with a family who need a housemaid. Quite the comedown for the lovely daughter of the Cleary clan, masters of Drogheda! Now, Meggie is back home on the family ranch of Drogheda with her two children. Luke O’ Neill comes back, after all these years, at rather an opportune time. That part of Australia has been experiencing a two-year drought, and the ranch is desperately in need of a man about the place. Luke promises to give Meggie everything she’s been ‘missing’ in the way of love and affection and sex all these long, lonely years, and Meggie succumbs. She’s only human, after all. Her kids in particular are delighted. Justine, who has never really had her mother’s love because she’s ‘only’ Luke’s child, is hostile to Meggie and absolutely determined to become a daddy’s girl straightaway. Dane, who thinks he’s Luke’s son, is happy too to suddenly have a dad, though his desire to be a Catholic or ‘mick’ priest doesn’t sit well with his he-man ‘father.’ Wonder where he gets his priestly leanings, lol…? Meanwhile, we see how Fr. Ralph has helped Jews to escape the wrath of Hitler during World War Two, even going so far as to shelter them in the underground caves beneath the Vatican. He behaves heroically and selflessly and gets no thanks from his superiors for it. Remember the way Fr. Ralph and the Church somewhat dubiously inherited Mary Carson’s millions and the estate of Drogheda in the original mini-series? Well, now, for using Drogheda money to help the Jews, Fr. Ralph is ‘banished’ by the Church to Australia once more, supposedly to hold talks with the Australian government about taking in some of the displaced victims of the war. Not much in the way of politics gets done as Fr. Ralph is enmeshed once more in his love for the beautiful and feisty Meggie Cleary and hers for him. Fr. Ralph’s being back in Oz bodes ill for the touching re-union of Meggie and Luke, and both Luke and Justine are furious to see him back there, taking up all of Meggie’s time and thoughts. A really dirty custody battle ensues over the one child Meggie would be truly devastated to lose. She could get her son back in an instant by proclaiming to the world at large whose boy Dane really is, but not even Ralph knows this fact. Also, Ralph’s career as an Archbishop would be ruined by the stunning revelation. Who does Meggie love more, and who will she choose to save, Dane… or Ralph…? Richard Chamberlain is the only actor from the original mini-series who appears in THE THORN BIRDS: THE MISSING YEARS. Rachel Ward as the original Meggie is replaced by Amanda ‘get your kit off’ Donohue, so for this reason I was expecting the sex scenes to be practically x-rated, lol. But no, surprisingly the show keeps its lovely romantic-rather-than-smutty feel, with the love scenes taking place this time around in an isolated cabin in the Australian outback rather than on the dreamy shores of Matlock Island, where the besotted pair first made the wild, passionate love that resulted in a son, Dane. Fr. Ralph has a pretty sweet deal going on for himself in this show, as in the original. Much as I love- and fancy him- as a character, he led poor old Mary Carson on something rotten, and used her legacy, the legacy which was rightfully meant for the Cleary family, Mary’s true relatives, to better himself and climb the ladder of success in his precious Church. He’s kept Meggie on a string for years, enjoying her adulation and her hero-worship and even her body, but always pulling away from her in the end, saying that he loves God more than he loves her. How that must have stung Meggie, but there’s nothing much she can do about it. The heart wants what the heart wants, allegedly. This 1996 show was criticised for its many inconsistencies and deviations from the original plot, but we’re not going to get into these inconsistencies here. They’re fun to spot when you watch it, though! It’s a different big house and ranch too, as the ‘sequel’ is filmed in Australia and not in California, where the original was made. There’s no topping the original mini-series for romance and sheer romantic pain and longing, but I feel that this second mini-series holds its own, after a ropey start. It becomes really exciting once the whole Meggie-Luke-and-Ralph love triangle kicks off, and the fist-fight between Luke and Ralph is genuinely entertaining and nail-bitingly enjoyable to watch. Luke, damn you, you had it coming…! Enjoy the ‘sequel,’ if for no other reason than you get to hear Henry Mancini’s dreamy score again.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234