DARYL – Horizon – tape 719

This tape opens with the end of Morris Minor’s Marvellous Motors. It’s not a programme I ever watched, but Bloody Hell, look at this cast.

Grange Hill’s Timothy Bateson

Camille Coduri off of Doctor Who

Original Saturday Live star Tony Haase

Tony Hawks, the skateboarder. No, it isn’t, really. It’s Tony Hawks whose comedy group Morris Minor and the Majors inspired this series.

Sometime Julian Clary sidekick Philip Herbert

Donald Hewlett from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum

Andy Fucking Serkis

and Una Fucking Stubbs.

Not to mention, although he’s not in the section I have here, Hugh Laurie is a guest role.

After this, there’s a trailer for the Eurovision Song Contest.

Then, a film. DARYL (or is it D.A.R.Y.L. I don’t like films with cutesy titles.) It’s an 80s science fiction film, aimed squarely at a younger audience, that’s something like a cross between ET and Wargames.

It opens with a helicopter chasing a car.

Before it plunges to its death over a cliff – got to start the movie with a bang, it drops off a young boy, who’s found by an older couple. He says his name is Daryl. He’s played by Barret Oliver, better know for playing Bastian in The Neverending Story, another film of the 80s that is loved by a lot more people than I think it really deserves.

He’s fostered by Michael McKean and Mary Beth Hurt.

Naturally, he has a young friend, who’s called Turtle. Why don’t the wacky friends ever have ordinary names, like Joe?

The first sign that there’s something odd with Daryl comes when he plays Pole Position on whatever that home computer is that they’re playing. Doesn’t look like an Atari, or Mattel Intellivision. I thought it might be a Texas Instruments TI-99-4a, but that didn’t have a cartridge slot on the top, it had a port at the side of the keyboard. The closest match I can see, after a bit of an image search, is an Atari 800 XL. Certainly, the Pole Position graphics looks like Atari-era graphics.

Daryl is able to get the computer running super fast, and gets a high score. I was going to complain at this point that this isn’t how computers work, but it’s later established that this is just what Daryl can do.

He has an encounter with a teacher at school. This guy is awful, quite the most abusive and snide teacher, so it’s nice when Daryl points out the errors in his quiz.

Michael McKean thinks baseball is really important, of course, in that way that Americans so often do. He gives Daryl a couple of throws, and of course he can hit a home run. Cue a whole baseball game, which Daryl almost wins singlehanded. Then Turtle gives him some advice – that he should fail occasionally, so his mother won’t feel that she’s got nothing to contribute, and then Daryl starts missing the balls. In the end, Turtle manages to be the one who hits the winning run.

Daryl can also use a cash machine to put a million dollars into McKean’s bank account. This is never mentioned again.

The happy family is disrupted when Daryl’s real parents turn up to take him home. The father is played by Josef Summer, the kind of actor who seems so familiar, but I can’t really place from where.

But the parents are really scientists, and Daryl is not an ordinary boy.

Check out the state of the art 3D Graphics

Daryl himself explains his name. Data Analysing Robot Youth Lifeform. Acronyms are hard. Daryl is an artificial intelligence, but somehow in the organic body of a little boy.

Naturally, the project is funded by the military, and the general in charge isn’t interested in Daryl as a person, only in whether he will lead to super soldiers.

Oddly, McKean and family are invited to the facility to see Daryl, and are told the truth about him. This seems very unlikely, given the kind of secrecy such a project would undoubtedly have.

The general orders the project shut down, and Daryl destroyed. But Dr Stewart manages to smuggle him out of the facility, and they escape, pursued by the army. Daryl does some driving.

There’s some really nice car flipping stunts here.

Poor Doctor Stewart gets shot by a cop, and he doesn’t make it.

Luckily, having the ability to affect any computer makes it easy for Daryl to break into a secure airbase and find a little plane to escape with. I say little, I mean the SR-71 Blackbird, the plane the X-Men use. It’s the fastest jet ever built.

He’s heading for the border, but the army have a remote detonation built in, so they give him a countdown, then blow the plane up. But Daryl anticipated this, and managed to eject, in a shot that’s a precursor to a similar shot in Die Hard 2.

He lands in a lake, and Turtle and his sister are there, but it seems that he’s drowned. He’s taken to hospital, but it’s too late. However, the other scientist on the project is there. “I know you can hear me, Daryl.”

And there’s a happy reunion at the end, complete with an 80s power ballad from Teddy Pendergrass, “Somewhere I Belong”

There is nothing really wrong with this movie. There’s a slightly sexist gag with Turtle’s sister having the nickname ‘Hooky’ because she ‘acts like a hooker’ – i.e. she has a boyfriend. But that’s really the only thing that I bumped on. I think this film’s biggest flaw is that it feels quite derivative. A bit from here, a bit from there, and it never really achieves an identity of its own. It’s not bad, but it’s not brilliant, and neither does it have that spark of originality that makes it stick in the memory, like Flight of the Navigator, which feels like a similar film, but I remember much more warmly.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 6th May 1989 – 18:20

After this, recording switches to BBC2 and HorizonJubilee – a retrospective look back at some landmark episodes of the science series. I was amused to see an SR-71 in the graphics at the start,

There’s some really interesting snippets of information. In a programme about the Whaling industry, there were some graphic scenes of a Japanese whaling ship catching a whale, with explosive harpoons and shots of the whale spouting blood as well as water. Those shots came from the Japanese industry because they were part of their promotional materials, and the Horizon producer was discussing with the whalers how they went about their business, and on a big screen they were playing the footage of the attack on the whale. “I conned the Japanese into letting me use that footage” he says.

I also love line the line from When the Chips are Down. “Can we all live on the wealth of automatic factories and the earnings of an elite band of 60,000 software engineers.”  Sadly, that was part of the programme that got blocked, so it’s not on this upload.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 8th May 1989 – 20:10

The tape ends right after this programme.


  1. And of course, Turtle implying that his sister only likes her boyfriend because he’s well-endowed(I assume the BBC cut that bit), which brought out a lot of laughs in the cinema where I saw it (it was the supporting movie for “Silverado.”)
    Excuse me there’s really wrong with “The Neverending Story” well apart from kickstarting Wolfgang Petersen’s fondness for replacing music (Limahl and Giorgio Moroder weren’t in the German cut). I mean it’s no “Explorers” or “Short Circuit”…. neither is “D.A.R.Y.L.”

  2. Deeply average movies that people are 80s-nostalgic about No. 1302: D.A.R.Y.L. It’s just sort of there, you feel you should be interested because it’s science fiction, but it’s really more of a thriller, like a TV pilot.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.