This tape opens with the end credits of Grotbags, on CITV. There’s some distracting tape damage on this, as Tommy Boyd does the continuity.
Then. the first episode in a new series. A young man is washed up on a beach. He finds a strange hatch in the ground with cryptic markings on it. Is it Lost? No, it’s the 1992 reboot of Roger Price’s seminal Science fiction series The Tomorrow People, retooled with 90s special effects, and actors from Neighbours.
Of the four lead actors, three of them are called Kristian, Kristen or Christian. This must have made conversations on set complicated. And I bet Adam Pearce felt a bit left out. Maybe that’s why he gave up acting – This is listed as his only credit on iMDb.
We meet two of them, riding the bus to school. One of them has an American accent. I don’t yet know why.
They shoot water pistols at a couple of dodgy looking older kids from the top of a bus, then have to run away. Nothing like a bit of false jeopardy to start off a new show.
Cut to somewhere else, and a man dressed as Uncle Sam is carrying some balloons. Is this supposed to be set in America? But the last scene was definitely in London, with a London bus.
We meet more characters, a mother and daughter, putting on a dress for an event later. “There’s going to be a real Hollywood producer there” says mum. Both have American accents.
We then cut back to the strange beach, and what’s inside the strange hatch. It looks surprisingly like a modern Tardis set.
Back to the two schoolkids. We learn that the red-haired American boy lives in a huge house, and his father works for the US Embassy as a science attaché, the kind of title that only seems to exist in fiction.
They do a bit of card prediction – much like in The Sender only this time he gets the answers right. Young Kevin doesn’t want ESP, though, he just wants to be normal.
OK, I’m going to assume that the mother and daughter are in America, as they arrrive at the talent show (in a very English looking red brick building) in a checkered taxi with an American number plate. So Uncle Sam earlier was in lieu of actually using an establishing shot of somewhere that’s actually in America.
The two boys are alone in the house, playing video games. “These graphics are amazing” says the redhead, who is apparently called Megabyte. Kevin confesses that he can, actually read minds.
Back to Lisa, our girl who doesn’t want to go to the talent show. Her act doesn’t start well, as she shambles on stage, fumbles and drops the mic, and the audience start laughing – rather mean spirited of them at a talent show. But her closer is knockout, as she vanishes into thin air.
Lisa reappears and plunges into the ocean near the beach. Kevin is dreaming about her, and suddenly disappears himself, almost drowns, and is rescued by Lisa. But then, when she slaps him on the face to try to get him to wake up from what is obviously a dream, he transports back to the bedroom he was sleeping in.
At the talent show, lots of shifty looking special agent types have turned up, along with Hugh Quarshie as Professor John Galt. Is that some kind of Ayn Rand reference? I’m not sure I really want to know.
There he meets Colonel Masters, from the US Scientific Intelligence Agency. In this case, I suspect the name is a deliberate nod back to the original series, where Colonel Masters was an evil scientist experimenting on Tomorrow People, in one of the best stories of the old series.
They set up equipment where Lisa disappeared, hoping to capture her when she reappears. “We caught one a few weeks ago. We used a touch too much power. There wasn’t very much left of the poor chap.”
Lisa, meanwhile, has found a tent on the beach, with some clothes drying, so she changes out of her wet dress. Then she examines the hatch and falls through it like the boy earlier.
Kevin and Megabyte head off to school, but the two bullies the squirted are after them, and they catch up with them on the bus, leading to Kevin once again teleporting into the sea.
And that’s the end of this episode. Packed with poor acting, not just from the children. What is it about some Children’s TV that leads decent adult actors to give bad performances?
Also, this feels like it’s really stretching out the story. I’d have to watch the originals to see if it’s quite as drawn out, but they’ve not even properly introduced their star Neighbours actor – he was in it at the start, but not seen again.
After this episode, Tommy Boyd says how brilliant he thought it was, and it’s followed by the start of an episode of Blockbusters, a great quiz show with one of the greatest theme tunes ever. Delightfully, it starts with the classic “I’ll have a P please, Bob.”
After a delightful few minutes of this, recording switches to BBC2, and a trail for Mick Hucknall on Later with Jools Holland.
Then, Star Trek, with a classic episode The Conscience of the King. It starts with a bloody stabbing – but it’s a production of Macbeth. Kirk is in the audience, and the man he’s with tell him to match Macbeth carefully. He tells Kirk that the actor Anton Karidian is actually Kodos the Executioner, an infamous dictator and mass murderer.
The accusing man soon turns up dead. Perhaps he was right about the murdering dictator.
Kirk is still sceptical about the charges, and when the daughter of Karidian asks him to take her and her company to their next engagement, he agrees because He’s Captain Kirk and she’s a woman.
But Kirk is still suspicious. He’s one of the few people who could identify Kodos, and when he discovers that a young officer, Kevin Riley, in communications was also an eyewitness, he has him transferred to engineering, making Spock suspicious.
Riley gets bored in Engineering, so Uhura plays him a love song, “Beyond Antares”. Sadly, it’s so distracting that he doesn’t notice a shadowy figure spray poison into his drink.
Spock has made the connection between eyewitnesses to Kodos’ crimes and people dying when the Karidian Company were in the vicinity.
There’s a great scene where Kirk and Spock hear a phaser on overload somewhere in his cabin, which he finds behind the red alert light.
Riley recovers from the poison, and hears McCoy making a log entry about Karidian being (possibly) Kodos. Kirk is still conflicted, not wanting it to be true, despite voice print giving a close match. And Riley wants revenge.
With all of this going on, they still let the company put on Macbeth.
But it’s Lenore who has been killing all the witnesses, she’s totally bonkers and ends up accidentally killing her father. So I guess that’s a happy ending?
BBC Genome: BBC Two – 18th November 1992 – 18:00
There’s a brief tantalising glimpse of Jon Pertwee’s Doctor Who before recording switches again.
We’ve got the end of Grotbags again, then more Tomorrow People. Kevin almost immediately teleports back to the bus, and the two of them get off, leaving the bullies covered in seaweed.
As they run away, there’s a man walking along the pavement taking a tortoise for a walk. No, really. This is the kind of wacky, zany comedy we can expect.
Back to the beach, and Lisa finally meets mystery boy, whose name is Adam – even more confusing as that’s the real name of the actor playing Kevin.
Kevin’s disappearance and reappearance on the bus has attracted attention, and word gets over to Col. Masters and Professor Galt.
Adam tells Lisa what he’s learned about the strange alien spaceship buried under the beach. “Whoever left it here knew that teleporters would evolve on Earth eventually”
Adam learns he can heal, when Lisa burns her hand on a light.
Kevin and Megabyte see a report on Lisa’s disappearance on the news, and decide to fly to America to find her. With no passport of his own, Kevin dresses up as Megabyte’s sister and uses her passport. There’s even some actual footage of them in a taxi somewhere that looks vaguely American – although when they pull up to the place where the talent show took place, it looks suspiciously like the same cab Lisa and her mother arrived in.
Amazingly, they can walk right in to the auditorium where Galt’s machine is working, waiting for Lisa to return, with no guards or anything. These scientists aren’t much good at security.
But Masters’ henchman, Gloria, catches them. Like a blonde Magenta DeVine.
Lisa teleports back, wanting to see her mother again, and is trapped by Galt’s machine. Kevin teleports away from Gloria’s clutches, and Megabyte smashes up the machine, releasing Lisa to teleport away.
Just before the next episode, more introductions from Tommy Boyd, then episode 3.
The alien spacecraft has a weird travel tube which carries people into and out of it – if it’s for people who can teleport, why not just teleport them into and out of it? Presumably because Adam and Lisa can’t control their powers – although last episode we saw Adam teleport short distances to show off to Lisa.
God, every single character that appears is doing that ‘acting for kids’ things. Kevin teleports to the back of a bus – presumably the one he was on before – parked in the bust station at night and is confronted by a security guard. Phrases like “snivelling little oik” are used. Then when kevin climbs on the top of a double decker, the guard decides the best way to get him down – remember, this is a 12 year old boy we’re talking about – is to take the bus for a drive with Kevin on top.
I know this show is supposed to be about fantastical mental powers, but I can’t help thinking it would work a lot better if the rest of the world and the people in it bore a slightly closer resemblance to reality.
Still, they do actually drive the bus around Piccadilly Circus, so we get something approaching production value.
And now the police are chasing the mad bus driver – who is actually laughing maniacally.
It’s the kind of worthless faux-action sequence that probably originated at a production meeting where one of the team said “I know a bloke at London Transport who can lend us a double-decker.”
“You can’t arrest me. I’m an official security officer. I’m wearing an official security officer’s peaked cap.”
Colonel Masters leaves Megabyte with Professor Galt and Gloria, who take him back to the UK. Masters reports to General Damon on a secure video link – can’t they afford colour?
Also – It’s Ed Winchester, from The Fast Show!
Now we’re introduced to an old woman shooting garden gnomes with a big gun. Really, what on earth is this show doing? She’s somehow interested in the teleporters too, and in cahoots with Col. Masters. But this one scene is all we get this episode.
Galt and Gloria are driving through London in a cab, with Megabyte in a large suitcase. When he needs the toilet, they take him to the Hard Rock Café. I wonder if they got paid for that product placement?
Adam, Kevin and Lisa teleport back to the school where the talent show was held to look for Megabyte, and are pursued by spies – one of them driving a black van is laughing maniacally, again.
Then the show ends on a cliffhanger with Kevin standing in the way of a huge truck. Is that really a credible cliffhanger for this show?
More CITV continuity before the next episode, but not with Tommy Boyd, then the next episode of our thrilling adventure.
To nobody’s surprise, the trio escape ensquashment by teleporting back to the sea, and Megabyte escapes from Gloria by squirting liquid soap in her face. He escapes through a back door to the back of the Hard Rock Cafe. No really, that’s definitely where this is.
He takes off the strange helmet he’s had on, supposed to stop him teleporting, but designed so ineptly by Galt that shaking it about might make it explode, and he throws it at them – Galt hits the deck, but when it explodes right in front of Gloria, she barely shrugs. Which does tend to make me wonder why a faceful of soap – when she’s also wearing large dark glasses – would in any way incapacitate her.
Megabyte rounds a corner, suddenly he’s somewhere else, and runs into a nightclub – full of young people dancing, in the middle of the day. Galt and Gloria can’t get in as it’s an Under 18s disco. When Galt returns to his lab, General Damon comes to see the captured boy, and he has to explain that he’s lost him.
Megabyte, having escaped, has to walk home. We see the bloke walking a tortoise again. The two bullies from the bus see him and chase him, but he’s saved at the last minute by the appearance of General Damon. Who is Megabyte’s dad. Remember that line about his dad being a scientific attaché.
Lisa and Adam teleport to her home so she can see her mum. Of course, the feds are watching the place, and they zap them both with tasers, but Lisa teleports as she’s zapped, and she reappears, unconscious, in the ocean near the beach. Can Kevin rescue her? At last, a genuine cliffhanger. And one that won’t be resolved for us today, as this is the last episode on this tape.
This is really not good at all. The only way in which they’ve improved over the original show is in the photography. It has that vaguely slick, filmy look, with lots of rays of light and extreme blue lighting that lots of drama of the era had – think of Bugs or Crime Traveller. On second thoughts, son’t think of Crime Traveller.
Now, I’ve rewatched a lot of the original show, and I know how awful some (much) of it could be, but at least there were glimmers of something great, and it had some actual good performances. There’s nothing here except the barest minimum of a central concept, and a hopelessly, joylessly, fax-comedic runaround. To think that this was written by the same man who wrote The Blue and the Green or Secret Weapon makes me sad.
And don’t give me the usual excuse that there’s no money for Children’s drama so it all has to be bad. A year before this guff was shown, the BBC broadcast Dark Season, a six part science fiction show for children that was pacey, well acted (featuring Kate Winslet in an early role) often laugh out loud funny, but never in a way that felt like it was laughing at the audience. Of course, it helps to be written by Russell T Davies. I’m sure I’ll get to gush more about it when the tape comes up in my queue, but seek it out if you’ve never seen it. Give this one a miss.
After this, there’s the start of an episode of Famous Names, Famous Places, a very dour quiz presented by William G Stewart. It’s very question-heavy, which makes a change from a lot of quiz shows, but it doesn’t seem like much fun. The tape ends after five minutes of this.
- Bird’s Eye Menu Master
- hard fax 2
- Sun Maid Raisin
- Sega – “Gimme the Cybo Razor Cut”
- trail: Bad Influence – an ITV show about computers and games, presented by Andy Crane
- trail: Bad Influence
- Intercom City
- Kelloggs Pop Tarts
- Game Genie – Codemasters device for hacking and cheating with video games.
- Pop Tarts
- Bluebird Conqueror
- Daz Color – Danny Baker
- Sky Fighters
- Tetley Tea
- Nintendo – Duck Tales
- trail: Bad Influence
- Party Lights Sindy
- Fairy Excel
- Sun-Maid raisins
- Ring Pop
- Batchelor’s Cup a Soup
- Super Mario Land – Game Boy
- trail: Bad Influence
- Bluebird Jumbo Fun Plane
- Radion Micro Plus
- Arrested Development
- The Magic Man
- SNES Action Pack
- trail: Bad Influence
- trail: Bad Influence/Knightmare
- Coco Pops
- Game Genie