Saturday, 11 April 2015
135 The Tomorrow People
First watched : Summer 1973
More sci-fi now . I'd never even heard of The Tomorrow People, even though it was coming towards the end of its first run, when I first saw it next door but I liked what I saw. Four young people aged between 12 and 20 hiding their special powers ( telekinesis, mind reading, teleportation or "jaunting" ) from the world until the time was right for them to peacefully take over the world from the hoi polloi . They had a secret den with a talking computer called TIM and were helped out by some rather rum normal-people-in-the-know. These were known as "saps" - homo sapiens as opposed to our heroes being "homo superiors" , a term producer Roger Damon Price admitted to lifting from Bowie's Oh You Pretty Things .
In the first series there were four of them, a rather prissy prefect type called John ( Nicholas Young ) , a slightly dizzy blonde Carol ( Sammy Winmill ) , impetuous black adolescent Kenny ( Stephen Salmon ) and newcomer Stephen ( Peter Vaughan Clarke ) whose "breaking out" set the first episode in motion. Like Dr Who each series comprised a number of multi-part stories, some of which were set on earth and others on alien planets.
I watched the schedules carefully hoping the series would return. When it did I had the battle royal with my sister recounted in the Blue Peter post but won out. She quickly got over it and developed a crush on Stephen.
Carol and Kenny were gone. Sammy Winmill didn't want to continue and Salmon was unceremoniously dumped ; in a series not known for its great acting he stood out as particularly terrible and was never heard from again. Perhaps to cut costs they were replaced by a single black female Elizabeth ( Elizabeth Adare ) a student teacher who breaks out in the first episode , a device used repeatedly by the producers as a handy way of reiterating the show's premise to new viewers. The sap ally, biker Ginge also disappeared because the actor Michael Standing came off his bike for real and so Ginge's hitherto unmentioned brother Chris, played by Emmerdale's Chris Chitell, was quickly drafted in to take over his lines.
Series 3 introduced a new character , gypsy boy Tyso ( Dean Lawrence) though he - and Stephen - spent most of the first story lying comatose in their underpants . Nice work if you can get it. The cavalier treatment of the young cast was illustrated by Lawrence's treatment at the end of the run. Nobody told him he wasn't required for series 4 so he turned up on the first day to find he had no lines. He was - barely -written into a few scenes but sent most of the series just hanging around in the background. That series introduced Mike Holoway , drummer of Flintlock as Mike , a working class lad from a council estate and that finished it off for me. Holoway was in my sister's teen mags and it just seemed too naff to tie the programme in with the promotion of a new pop band who were in fact, shit.
That was , if you like - my first peep behind the curtain as regards television. I recognised a marketing ploy and knew it to be crap. A coming of age if you will. I don't recall my sister continuing with it either, possibly because Stephen was dumped along with the hapless Tyso at the end of that series.
Regardless of my desertion the series ran until 1978. I rather regret missing Series 7 where Elizabeth had to be temporarily written out due to Adare's pregnancy and she was replaced by a Japanese "actress" who the rest of the cast couldn't understand . It also had a storyline featuring Adolf Hitler. Price had been trying to end the show for the past couple of years to concentrate on his light entertainment vehicles but was thwarted by its continuing popularity. A tussle over studio time , Price's emigration to Canada and the ITV strike of 1979 finally ended the show. While being vaguely aware of the 90s revival which ran from 1992 to 1995 I never checked it out nor the 2013 US version shown on E4.
The appeal of The Tomorrow People to marginalised kids who felt their social exclusion might mean they were special was obvious. It has been suggested however that the whole series is a metaphor for homosexuality i.e breaking out = coming out. I've not found any confirmation that producer and writer Roger Price is gay and I'm normally very suspicious of such claims but I think there's some evidence that supports that view. There is a lot of young male flesh on view throughout; many stories involve barely-clad boys often shot from the crotch upwards while Elizabeth Adare's striking figure isn't exploited at all. Many of the young actors were cast despite very little acting experience and then you have Flintlock. It's very hard to account for Price's championing of these useless Roller clones - they appeared in two other Price productions Pauline's Quirkes and You Must Be Joking at the time - unless it was basically sexual with Mike Holoway the Heinz to Price's Joe Meek. I don't however think that John's irritatingly mincing voice was part of the concept; I think that was Nicholas Young's genuine affliction.
Young and Holoway are the only one's who've maintained a career in performing , the latter largely in musical theatre. The others quit acting early for a variety of new careers, for instance Peter Vaughan-Clarke is now a lighting technician while Elizabeth Adare is a child psychologist in local government.