There’s the ghost of an old recording at the start of this tape, with a couple of credits for a film – Music by Harry Robinson, Executive Producer Beryl Vertue. Some iMDb spelunking suggests this was The House in Nightmare Park, starring Frankie Howerd and Ray Milland, and co-written by Dalek creator Terry Nation. That would explain Beryl Vertue’s Exec Producer credit – in those days she was Terry Nation’s Agent. These days she’s Steven Moffat’s mother in law.
In any case, this recording is soon overwritten by Flight of the Navigator, an 80s SF movie that’s fondly remembered by those who saw it.
The opening has some nice misdirection. It opens with a flying saucer flying over a city, but reveals that to be a frisbee, thrown as part of a dog and frisbee competition. The year is 1978. David is a young teenager, with the usual problems a teenager has – an unrequited crush on a local girl, and an annoying younger brother.
But when he goes through the woods to meet his brother, his dog hears something in a cutting, and he falls into the cutting. He seems to be unharmed, but when he returns home, he discovers two old people living there, and no sign of his parents.
When the police find his missing persons report, they’re confused, and when they drive David to where his parents now live, he sees why. His parents are suddenly much older, and he’s been missing for years.
Meanwhile, Nasa scientist Howard Hesseman finds a genuine UFO, floating in mid-air after it had collided with an electricity pylon. And when David is wired up to a brain scan, he can somehow communicate directly with the computer, which suddenly draws a schematic of the UFO, so Hesseman wants to find out why David has a link with the craft.
Sarah Jessica Parker works at NASA delivering mail and meals. So she befriends David.
When David is wired up to machines at NASA, his mind is able to answer questions subconsciously without him knowing the answers. Professor Hesseman tells him that he must have somehow travelled faster than the speed of light in order to be gone only a few hours, but for eight years to pass for everyone else.
Then, he manages to escape his locked room, with Parker’s assistance, inside the remote controlled mail delivery robot, accompanised by some kicking 80s synthpop on the soundtrack. He makes his way to where they are keeping the UFO, and it helpfully opens a door for him, in some great 80s level CGI.
David’s head is full of star charts, put there by the ship, which needs him to get home, since he is the navigator. And when the ship scans his brain, it suddenly turns into Pee Wee Herman (with Paul Reubens doing the voice).
NASA in this movie appear to have a lot more muscle than I suspect they actually do. At one point, they’re able to put David’s parents under virtual house arrest.
I think the movie suffers a bit from a lack of real jeopardy once David goes aboard the spaceship. He spends most of the rest of the movie bantering with the ship’s systems, and flying around looking for Fort Lauderdale
But the spaceship is nice, all chrome surfaces, and some early CGI for a lot of the flying sequences.
BBC Genome: BBC One – 29th December 1990 – 17:25
After the movie, there’s a trailer for Clive James on 1990, then a bit of strange recording, with a part of Return of the Jedi, interspersed with a bit of the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, which then starts fast-forwarding – clearly a bit of tape dubbing I was doing, but for what purpose, I don’t know. The recording finishes shortly after.