DVD: 2-disc set, BFI, August 2014
Original TV series: 10 Episodes, tx. 21.09.71 – 30.11.71 [10×20 mins] BBC-1
Out there in space
Do we have friends?
Is there a place where the universe ends?
When shall we find it?
Space goes on forever.
What is it about a low budget drama last shown as part of schools’ television over three decades ago that left such an impact on many of those who viewed it? This welcome DVD release gives us the chance to find out.
The Boy from Space was originally shown in 1971 as part of Look and Read (1967-2004), the BBC Schools series for 7-9 year old ’backward readers.’
Look and Read featured a dramatised story told over a number of weeks, alongside educational material on reading which would relate in some way to the drama. The Boy from Space was perhaps the most memorable of these stories for at least two generations of school children.
This BFI DVD release includes almost all that you could ever want from the series in its various permutations – all that still exists anyway (ie. unfortunately not the 1971 series as broadcast). So we have the complete 1980 series in episodic format plus a feature-length ‘omnibus’ version lasting about seventy minutes (an ideal way of seeing the filmed drama without the interruptions and repetitions), the BBC Records audio version from 1972 (though sadly not including John Baker‘s original incidental music) and a BBC Records film version which combines the 1972 record audio with the 1980 visuals to create a new presentation. Finally, there is 1980’s Wordy’s Think-ups, the spirited songs and delightful animations which are like a kind of very English take on Sesame Street. Sheila Steafel in particular does sterling work on the songs.
The accompanying 20 page booklet includes context setting essays from Ben Clarke on The Boy from Space and television historian Chris Perry on Look and Read. The only ‘essential information’ missing is the film locations. There are recollections on the soundtrack from Paddy Kingsland, several b/w stills and a cover featuring artwork from the accompanying pupils’ pamphlet. There is even a reproduction of 1972 teachers’ notes. Finishing touches would have been contributions from producer Claire Chovil, film director Maddalena Fagandini and some of the cast members but I’m not quibbling about that.
It is great to have this series back in the public domain. As a mere ‘schools programme’ I didn’t dare hope that it would ever be afforded a decent DVD release, let alone one as comprehensive and carefully produced as this.