Mary WimbushCentury Falls was one of the children’s drama series that kicked off Russell T Davies’ career: I’ll come clean and say it’s unlikely I’d ever have watched it if not for this connection to Doctor Who – I was curious which of Davies’ current tricks and tics would be apparent early on in his career.

The answer is “most of them” – but Falls is a lot darker and creepier than anything Davies has written for new Who, especially in its early episodes where nothing much has been explained and you’re very unsure who (if anyone!) to root for beyond chunky but obnoxious heroine Tess, a newcomer in a mysterious English village.

The flow of revelations is very well-managed – there’s a new twist or two almost every episode, a little more of the bigger picture being uncovered. Davies is very good at not pushing his central ideas and themes in the viewer’s face – the story is a clever (and nasty) twist on the old Midwich Cuckoos plot, but it doesn’t wear its cleverness too openly.

In fact it strikes me that what Century Falls proves is that “RTD” would have been perfectly adept in the old Doctor Who format – possibly even better, as the half-hour episodes and cliffhangers force him to pace things a bit better and not just throw everything at a big setpiece finish that doesn’t make sense. (Here he doesn’t have the budget for setpiece, and it does make sense…well, sort of).

Other Davies-isms are present and correct: the bits that stick in the memory most are emotional character moments (a very powerful scene between Tess and her mother, for instance); the villains are thoroughly humanised; there’s a rather clumsy message of hope at the end, and it all boils down to the power of love and family. Aww. There’s also two plot threads in the middle (Mrs Cooper’s visit to the Manor House, and the “fire falls”) which seem significant and are then completely dropped. But on the whole it’s a terrific little series, full of ideas and character.

(Even if you have no interest in Doctor Who, a couple of fantastic central performances make Century Falls worth watching. Not the children, who have that very overstated declamatory style most child actors in the 80s seemed to (see also Sophie Allred!) – but Mary Wimbush and Georgina Anderson as the elderly Harkness sisters who act as the conscience of the village and the symbol of its tragedy: Wimbush in particular becomes the real heroine of the story – and gets to beat somebody up with a walking stick. Hurrah for old British character actors, with whom this series is stuffed: if RTD’s rumoured revamp of Last Of The Summer Wine becomes a reality, Century Falls is proof he can pull it off.)