I was convinced that many of the episodes no longer existed - probably because all I could find from my friends was a black and white copy of the first story ... but it seems I was wrong, and they do all exist. And what's more they have all been released on DVD ... And so to the watching ...
The first story ('The Slaves of Jedikiah') follows the breaking out of a new TP, Stephen (Peter Vaughan-Clarke), and how the others help him to understand and come to terms with his new powers. Mixed in around this is a plot by an alien called Cyclops (Robert Bridges) to try and escape from where he is trapped in his spaceship using a robot servant called Jedikiah (Francis de Woolf). There's much to like here ... the acting from John and Steven is excellent, and sort of makes up for the dreadful overacting of Carol and Jedikiah, and the acting 'blank' that is Kenny. Helping Jedikiah are two thugs, Leftie (Derek Crewe) and Ginge (Michael Standing), and while Leftie is rubbish, Ginge is pretty believable.
The story sets everything up nicely, and director Paul Bernard does a good job of bringing it all together. This is like kid's Doctor Who in many ways - played more for laughs (the thugs all fall over themselves all the time) and not wasting time on explanations.
The second story is 'The Medusa Strain', and here Count Rabowski (Roger Booth) rescues the robot Jedikiah from space, and in a different, and much better acted, form (Roger Bizley), it tries to get its revenge on the TPs. There's a nice idea in the Medusa - a plant like thing which can mute the TP's powers, and lots of running about. Overall it's not bad, but let down a little by Count Rabowski who comes over as more like one of Lost in Space's comedy aliens rather than a serious threat. Much of the cast spend most of the time locked in little cells here, and Peter (Richard Speight), the other captured telepath, and one of the Time Guardians, is very effete in his open-to-the-navel shirt and britches. At the end Jedikiah is sent to Mercury in the distant past ... a point which becomes important later on ...
The final story of the season is 'The Vanishing Earth', and this plays with some more nice ideas, introducing Spidron (John Woodnutt) as the main alien threat, assisted by the easy on the eye Joy/Sandor (Nova Llewellyn). Spidron is very creepy indeed - masked in a sort of Klu-Klux-Klan mask and with tendrilly fingers. His voice is sibilant and John Woodnutt does a brilliant job of making him credible and scary. Sandor however is good when she's pretending to be a girl at the funfair (in Clacton of all places) but when she gets into her space-leotard, she goes all posh and forgets how to act. Topping the guest cast though is Kevin Stoney as Steen, another telepath who has been hunting Spidron.
So Season Two kicks off with the producers apparently realising that Kenny and Carol were useless and so had to go ... to be replaced with Elizabeth (Elizabeth Adare), who is much better. Poor Ginge and Lefty get edged out too, to be replaced by Chris (Chris Chittell). More to the point, why does everyone play a character with the same name as the actor!
The opening story 'The Blue and the Green' is perhaps the best in the entire run of The Tomorrow People. It's an original concept - that an alien can affect the mood of people and turn them against each other via a 'weather' painting which can look peaceful or stormy ... and the idea of giving out badges which cause the wearers to side against each other in irrational anger and violence is pretty good too. The only weak element in the story is the old grandfather, played in doddery form by Nigel Pegram. The alien boy, Robert (Jason Kemp) is both creepy and sympathetic, and the idea that they are 'seeds' which need the violent emotional outburst from humanity to send them out into the stars is an unexpected conclusion. We spotted a very young Pauline Quirk as one of the schoolkids, and apparently Linda Robson is there also!
The final story of Season 2 is 'The Doomsday Men' and ... oh dear ... in a move which will become increasingly prevalent, the writer, Roger Price, seems to want to put his kid actors in kilts now ... and there's a cringe-worthy scene where they talk about the fact that nothing should be worn under the kilt! It's all a little sado-masachistic with poor Stephen being kilted and then bound and left outside in the cold ... not sure what any of this has to do with the plot mind you ...
The story as a whole is lightweight - there's a space station orbiting Earth with lots of nukes on it ... and a group called The Doomsday Men want to gain control of it to hold Earth to ransom. Quite why getting Stephen into a Scottish school helps is uncertain ... and the whole thing shudders to a weak ending.
What's most interesting for me, is that episode two is the title sequence I recorded the audio for off the telly all those years ago as I liked the title music and was compiling a sort of 'mix tape' of them for my own pleasure. Others on the tape as I recall included The Zoo Gang and the Armchair Thriller episode 'Quiet as a Nun' ...
The first story is 'Secret Weapon' and introduces a character called Colonel Masters (Trevor Bannister). Now whether this is another nod to 'the Master' on Doctor Who I have no idea ... but Masters has a creepy female sidekick (Ann Curthoys) and a plan to capture the TPs and use them as a weapon. The willingness with with Stephen reveals all their number and secrets to Professor Cawston is amazing, and the whole thing trundles off into military espionage territory - so the same sort of ground as 'The Doomsday Men'.
'A Man for Emily' is next and ... oh dear oh dear. I really can't decide whether this is a work of genius, or it's just the most execrably bad thing ever shown on television. A spaceship arrives around Earth carrying three humanoids: The Momma (Margaret Burton), Emily (Sandra Dickinson) and Elmer (Peter Davison). These three characters overact and ham it up so badly that it's painful to watch. With crazy ideas like 'tickling boots' to keep Elmer in line, the unlikely 'Doozlum Pin' for transporting to Earth, and the fact that they eat their mates after mating, the story is a mess of ideas and tone - the comedy is pronounced, but they also kill a shopkeeper (who Stephen brings back to life using his 'special powers'), intend to eat John alive, and can destroy the Earth. The Momma wears a silver leotard (and she's a *large* lady) while Emily wears a Tee Shirt and pair of hotpants ... Elmer meanwhile dresses in what looks like a onesey when he's not in cowboy garb. There's a comedy chase with police being bothered by bees (which is even speeded up at one point!), Tyso and Stephen mug and laugh their way through, while it's only John and Elizabeth who take it in any way seriously. It's a mad, crazy, over the top, totally irredeemably rubbish set of episodes, which only make sense in the context of children's television, where hammy overacting and throwing of mashed potato is deemed funny and acceptable. This set of episodes is so out of kilter with the rest of the series to date, that it really stands out.
The other thing which is becoming apparent is that they have no idea what to do with Tyso - he's done nothing significant since joining at the start of the season ... You can understand why Kenny was written out - he did nothing too, but he was there at the start, when presumably the dynamic was not known and understood. The show can easily be carried (and is) by John, Elizabeth and Stephen, so it's a mystery why they wanted to add someone else.
The final story of the third season is 'The Return of Jedikiah' and it's a return to the earlier stories. The robot Jedikiah was apparently rescued from Mercury by the Khultan and used to replace an Egyptian Pharaoh ... but was then mummified and discovered in the present day by an archaeologist who Jedikiah promptly kills and takes the shape of ... it then pretends to be Stephen and teams up with a magician (Ali Bongo) on the television talent show Opportunity Knocks (not sure why) and then, in this runaround episode, pretends to be just about every other cast member - leading to lots of people not knowing who anyone is, and the audience getting bewildered trying to follow the plot which back-references just about everything! Colonel Masters is shot dead (without even showing his face), the telepath, Tricia, played by Ann Curthoys reappears, as does Cawston, as does Timus and Tikno, even the original overacting Jedikiah makes an appearance (Francis de Woolfe), there's references to Peter and Kenny, the Time Guardians ... it's all crammed in here ...
It ends the season with the Tomorrow People being taken off the Earth to attend the Galactic Trig, and, apparently, was intended as an overall end to the series. It certainly finishes in a fairly definitive way, with the Earth control room being darkened, and the credits playing against that image rather than the usual 'lava lamp' graphics.
Next up is another good science fiction tale, 'Into the Unknown', where the TPs pick up a distress call from a rocket far out in space. They go to investigate and find a kid there Kwaan (Stephen Garlick). He is trying to get help (I think) for the FatherShip which is plunging into a strange hole in space. The commander is Tirayaan (Geoffrey Bayldon of Catweasel fame) and the FatherShip has been taken over by sort of military thugs. But it's not being drawn into the hole, it is being piloted there ... It's not bad this, but hampered by an episode of doing nothing but going through a wormhole, and an unexplained plot point of what actually happened to Mike at the start in the ship (he's apparently attacked by a statue but this is never referred to or has any relevance to anything else). I liked that the aliens spoke an alien language as well, but that the TPs could not translate it, and that they got cold even though they were wearing spacesuits (or Mike is anyway). This seems to be typical of the series that internal continuity is lost, forgotten or changed depending on how they feel. This is the first and only Tomorrow People story not to be written by Roger Price.
And that's it for the season ... two stories!
Following this we have 'A Much Needed Holiday' which is something of a strange piece where the TPs head for another planet for a holiday only to get embroiled in child slavery ... the kids are awful, the costumes fetishistic and the whole thing is just strange. And when two of the local kids are called Trig and Trog, you know they're just not taking it seriously! Interesting to me (at least) was that the aliens are called the Klepton - a name from the Doctor Who comics!
The series is now descending into the two-part format which typifies it's latter seasons, and the stories are just no good. There's no sense of purpose or of the show even taking itself seriously, and to be honest, the bleak horror of 'The Dirtiest Business' doesn't sit well with the childrens' television sensibility that the show is developing and increasingly moving towards.
The final story is 'The Thargon Menace' and this plumbs new depths with the most rubbish puppet robots ever seen on television, and with stupid Kids' TV character voices to boot. I wonder which meeting they were in when they agreed that these things (called 'Thing') were a good idea and good enough to show on Telly. The plot revolves around a couple of kids who have escaped from Thargon justice ... Flyn (Michael Audreson) and Sula (Jackie Cowper) are terribly acted and barely believable ... and there's a Tin Pot Dictator too in the form of Papa Minn (Olu Jacobs)!
'Castle of Fear' kicks off a new season with, yes you guessed it, another new Tomorrow Person. This is Andrew Forbes, a 13 year old Scottish lad who is creating ghosts at his father's Loch Ness hotel ... it's not a bad little story to be honest, nicely done, and with the main weak point being when Andrew and the other TPs stage a battle of imaginary Highlanders and Redcoats in the grounds. There's still nothing for Hsui Tai to do, and Elizabeth is now back with no explanations. Nigel Rhodes as Andrew is pretty good for his age and the tale doesn't outstay it's welcome.
Next up is 'Achilles Heel', another space adventure where a couple of aliens wanting to mine something called barlumin on Earth arrive in a ship and check in at Andrew's hotel (convenient). The barlumin removes the powers from TPs which is why the aliens want it, but they are kids' TV silly with malfunctioning translators and misunderstanding clothing and umbrellas. It all gets even dafter when all the TPs end up on the ship with their dog-faced pilot, and all have their powers removed. It's down to Andrew and his dagger to rescue the day! I *think* the spaceship used here might be one from the Doctor Who story 'Frontier in Space' ... and one of the two aliens is played by Hilary Minster (General Klinkenhoffer from 'allo 'allo).
Finally we have 'The Living Skins' and in a bound, The Tomorrow People is back to doing what it does best - Earth-set adventures with creepy aliens and good ideas. The idea is a retread of previous stories - teen fashion takes over the teens - so we're in 'The Blue and the Green', 'Heart of Soggoth' and 'Hitler's Last Secret' territory again, but it's well done, and the director even manages to make a bunch of orange inflatables look scary! There's a very dodgy shot of Mike Holloway in his pants ... and the idea of John's cold defeating the aliens is taken from War of the Worlds but never mind. The idea of plasticky fashion jumpsuits being the spearhead of an alien invasion harks back to Doctor Who's Autons, and overall it's a good end to the season.
I spotted musical cues from Doctor Who's 'Inferno' in this one too. Oh, and the Y-wing fighters (models by Martin Bower) look very Star Wars to my untrained eye. I guess that this significant and influential film is impacting on The Tomorrow People as it did with Doctor Who.
So we got to the end of the viewing, and I have to say that on balance I was pleasantly surprised. I had remembered much of the latter seasons as being unwatchable drivel, and while there are some real klunkers there, and some design and voice decisions which drag the whole thing down, overall it manages to maintain its head above water.
The show is also a strange mix of extreme Children's television with daft puppets, forced comedy voices, incompetent, bumbling police, traffic wardens and officials of all types ... but then you get some very creepy horror with young girls being walking bombs (who then die!), lots of threat and violence, and body/psychological horror of loss of identity and mind ... it's like the show didn't really know what it wanted to be all along.
I'm so glad to revisit it though - it's been a pleasure. And now that it's being re-worked again for a 2013 audience, maybe it will manage to find the narrative consistency and drive again and deliver thrills and excitement as a whole new generation of Tomorrow People 'break out' and start to Jaunt once more.