The Boy From Space

The Boy From Space is not a supernatural drama, so technically does not fall within my own hastily defined remit.  However due to it’s exemplary record of scaring the living daylights out of  three decades worth of children I’m making an exception just this once.  I myself I should add remain psychologically undamaged by this 1971 BBC broadcast for schools as I never saw it at school.  Not for me the rare treat of sitting cross-legged on a gym mat in the Art Room (where they kept the big TV) that usually accompanied  Look and Read  broadcasts.  No, we had to listen to it on tape, with only a pupils pamphlet between three (it was the ’80s) to hint at the unsettling visuals that accompanied the television version.

It’s actually the audio of the Boy From Space that re-piqued my interest in it, having recently managed to track myself down a rather lovely mint condition copy of the accompanying Boy From Space LP which came out on BBC Records as part of their Study Series (pictured below with one of the Ghost Box Study Series 7”, for obvious reasons).  It will have been a copy of this LP that my teacher lovingly, albeit illegally, recorded onto a  Dolby  cassette for our education and enjoyment.  Only I’m not sure he had the patience to record both sides of the record as for some reason we only got half way through  the series before it was abandoned.  Perhaps he thought being easily distracted children we wouldn‘t notice.  I can assure you I did notice and exactly how it ended troubled me for years, so perhaps that bit about me not being psychologically damaged by the Boy  From Space was a lie after all.

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It is, even by Look and Read standards, almost unbearably slow.  The events unfold through the dry well spoken monologue of Helen, who despite being well into her teens chooses to spend the summer holidays hanging out with her younger brother Dan in their makeshift observatory in a hut in the woods.  Yes, they’re those sort of kids.  Helen is played by Sylvestra Le Touzel, probably most fondly remembered for the ’water in Majorca’ Heineken advert.   One day after witnessing  an astral anomaly Helen and Dan go to investigate with the aid of Dan’s compass (which he wears round his neck like a medallion for the course of the next nine episodes).  Suddenly they notice no birds are singing and the compass has started spinning furiously.  Helen thought something frightening would happen at any minute.  Helen doesn’t specify exactly what the frightening thing would be, but it’s unlikely that she could have guessed it would be Andy Warhol from space coming out of a sandpit.

For  is not the title character, or ‘Peep Peep’ as Tom and Helen dub him upon finding him, that caused anxiety amongst  those that were treated to this at school, but the Andy Warhol character or ‘thin man’.  I have heard from more than one source of  Boy From Space induced nightmares, or children having to be ushered from classrooms in fear.  Whilst this seems a little silly now, it’s worth remembering that TBFS was initially pitched at the 7-8 year age group which may be a bit young to deal with the sight of a sweaty albino man in a tracksuit looming at you unexpectedly, Jimmy Saville excluded.  Just Google ‘boy from space nightmare’ if you don’t believe me.

One thing that sets the Boy From Space apart from some children’s drama is the ease with which the children manage to convince the adults that something is afoot.  Mr Bunting who runs the local observatory with his assistant Tom can’t believe his luck when presented with an alien boy, spaceship-wrecked whilst collecting meteorites from Mars.  Peep Peep goes on to astound him by writing in a cryptic code (like English, but back to front) and making computer noises out of his mouth, though the afternoon goes down hill after the thin man erases his car and then imprisons him on a spaceship underwater.  It’s the BBC though, so we know everything will turn out alright in the end.

And  so it does.  A bit of cunning subterfuge and the thin man is captured and revealed to be a crazed coveter of meteorites who hijacked the family spaceship.  The rightful order of command is restored, Peep Peep and co go back to space and the story concludes with a wry chuckle.  Not really worth waiting  25 years for, but still, revisiting children’s tv programmes can be a bit hot or miss.  Some are an absolute delight, others amusingly aged and sometimes there’s a form of catharsis involved as you piece together remnants from your memory.  I’m afraid the Boy From Space may be none of these, so be warned before you rush off to YouTube, this might be one that lives on more happily as a few fragmented images in the back of your mind., though the fight scene in the last episode to is something pretty special indeed.

~ by hazyhazy on May 7, 2012.

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