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.

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