THE BOY FROM SPACE
Director: Maddalena Fagandini/Pat Farrington/Jill Glindon Reed
Screenplay: Richard Carpenter
Starring: Sylvestra Le Touzel, Loftus Burton, Stephen Garlick, Colin Mayes, John Woodnutt, Anthony Woodruff, Gabriel Woolf
Running Time: 200 mins
Reviewed by Guy Adams
The second vintage TV release from the BFI as part of their SCI-FI – Days of Wonder season comes from the BBC’s Look and Read, an educational strand of programming that this reviewer remembers only too well. Being a bit of an idiot he got in a misguided row over the pronunciation of Christopher Biggins’ character in another fondly remembered serial from the show, Dark Towers (“It’s spelled ‘Benger’ miss, but pronounced ‘Benjer’.” “It’s pronounced however I say it is.” “I’m not sure Mr Bijjins would agree, miss.”)
The format of the program was simple: we’d chance upon sponge alphabet-wrangler ‘Wordy’ (seen here, alongside his human friend Colin on the Word-Lab space station). He would then chuck a bit of basic grammar about before introducing a filmed drama. Said drama would be frequently interrupted by the well-meaning, but slightly bothersome, space lexicographer to check we’d been paying attention. “Where did the children get they’re telescope from, boys and girls?” he’d ask. “They made it,” we’d grudgingly reply, “now can you stop interrupting as we want to the good bit where the aliens turn up.”
The BFI release allows those of us who feel we have sufficiently proven our fact-retention skills to watch the drama in one seventy minute chunk (though, naturally, the full versions are there too, for those who want to brush up on their apostrophes).
THE BOY FROM SPACE is a familiar enough chunk of fun, two terribly well-behaved children find a young alien and attempt to help him escape the clutches of an older, menacing member of the same species (John Woodnutt in a bright blue jumpsuit and gold foundation). Sometimes adults help.
Originally broadcast in 1971, it was reworked again in 1980 with a new introduction and voice over where an actress resolutely avoids conjunctions, making her sound almost as alien as the titular hero. Which takes some doing because the aliens speak BBC Radiophonic Workshop, using a wonderfully bizarre and eerie effect that had stuck in my head during the thirty-odd years between viewings.
It’s all very simple stuff, but charming and lifted by the genuinely eerie touches.
As well as the two presentations of the drama, the disc includes a spoken-word recording of the story from a 1972 BBC Records LP (both in its original form and a film version, reworking the audio alongside some of the filmed visuals) and nineteen of Wordy’s ‘Think-ups’, animated songs designed to hammer letters home just that little bit more. By the time you’ve finished it all you’ll be more than capable of comprehending the — as usual — lovely and comprehensive booklet featuring essays by Ben Clarke, Christopher Perry and composer Paddy Kingsland.