Maddigan's Quest

Television, 2005

A Perspective

Set in a post-apocalyptic future, Maddigan's Quest follows the circus troupe Maddigan's Fantasia, who come from the last city on the planet, Solis.

Each year, the Fantasia leave Solis to perform and earn a living. But this year they have a secret mission. They must bring back a solar converter to replace the existing converter — the only source of power in Solis — which is failing. At the centre of the quest is 14-year-old Garland (Rose McIver), the final member of the Maddigan family line. As the Fantasia is attacked, two mysterious boys, Eden and Timon, appear with their baby sister Jewel.

Garland learns they are from the future, journeying back in time to help the Fantasia. They bring magical powers and a talisman that must be protected at all costs. But they also bring danger.

Maddigan's Quest began after South Pacific Pictures approached author Margaret Mahy about creating a children's drama series for television. The idea of a circus had been haunting her mind since childhood, when she organised one in her backyard in Whakatane, complete with a trapeze strung from a pine tree. Mahy was fascinated by how a travelling circus is its own location, "yet the locations around it constantly change". Her concept for the show was further developed by TV veterans Gavin Strawhan (who had spent time in the circus in Australia) and Rachel Lang. Mahy's novel Maddigan's Fantasia was published in New Zealand the same year.

Aiming for a fresh and unique look, the team drafted Oscar-winning British designer James Acheson (The Last EmperorSpider-Man) early on, to work on key images for the show. Later Kiwi Production Designer Gary Mackay set about bringing to life a series of fictional towns, and designing the troupe's vans, "the one constant set that remained the same throughout the show." Shot largely on location, Maddigan's Quest was the first New Zealand drama to be shot on HD cameras.

Visually lush and brilliantly entertaining, what this series lacks in circus action it makes up for in stunning special effects and excellent use of location shoots.

Maddigan's Quest's stars include a number of NZ's most accomplished actors. The child actors give standout performances, especially Rose McIver (later to feature in The Lovely Bones and iZombie) and Brit Jordan Metcalfe (who would play the genie in UK comedy series Genie in the House).

The show screened aired on TV3 in New Zealand, and Nine Network in Australia. It sold internationally to many broadcasters including HDNet in the US, MBC in the Middle East, IETV Israel, LNK Lithuania and Proxima in Bulgaria. Maddigan's Quest had its world premiere on CBBC in the UK in January 2006. The first episode had a promising start with an average audience of 700,000, of which 200,000 viewers were children. Overall, the episode took a 10.1% share amongst children.

At the 2007 New Zealand Screen Awards, Maddigan's Quest won four awards: Best Children's Programme, Contribution to Design, Original Music and Contribution to Sound Design. It also won the Best Dramatic Presentation - Long Form Award at the 2007 Sir Julius Vogel Awards for Kiwi science fiction and fantasy, and two gongs at the 2006 New York Festival.

- Annie Murray has commissioned children's and special interest programmes for TVNZ, and been Head of External Programming at Māori Television. In 2014 she became Senior Commissioner at Sky and Prime TV, focussing mainly on local content.