Do you remember the very unsuccessful Wikileaks movie from a couple of years back? The Fifth Estate staring Benedict Cumberbatch as Julian Assange? Well when the publicity photos of Cumberbatch in character appeared it struck a memory for me, one I'd long forgotten about. He bared an uncanny resemblance (in my mind anyway) to a slightly older version of Peep-Peep, the boy from space...
Although a 21st Century Cumberbatch staring remake is unlikely to be on the cards, the original 'The Boy From Space' is preserved for us all on DVD. And it's an odd one to look back on.
As some of you may remember The Boy From Space was broadcast in short segments as part of the BBC Schools programme, Look And Read, originally in 1971 although I would've first watched it in one of its many repeats about a decade later when I was about 8.
It's a science fiction tale of a young alien boy who crash lands in what is essentially a large sandpit. He is discovered by two human children in a scene that (I'm slightly embarrassed to admit) was the cause of several nightmares when I was just a lad...
It's the image of him holding out his hands combined with his weird voice, looking back it's harmless enough and just kind of like some alien Oliver Twist "Please Sir, may I have some more". But at a very young impressionable age it creeped the hell out of me - and this was IN school!
The two children name the albino alien Peep-Peep, and with the help of their star-gazing friend Mr Bunting they eventually discover that Peep-Peep's equally albino father has been imprisoned on their spaceship by the bad guy of the story (who slightly resembles Peter Cook with a pigmentation disorder), known as The Thin Space Man.
On the DVD you can choose to watch the original Look And Read episodes or the complete 70 minute unabridged version of The Boy From Space. When viewing this version, at first I was instantly taken right back to being 8 years old. There's a whole ominous vibe that runs throughout, and although the story may be very simplistic and quite clunky at times, you have to remember that it is aimed at primary school children. But that's also why it's also such an oddity, if the idea was to scare kids into learning their ABC's then it's spot on.
It's the sum of the parts added together that make The Boy From Space; the haunting theme tune, the eerie synthesised electronic score, the chase scenes shot from the POV of the stalker, all of this builds tension. It's like a junior introduction to classic slasher movies.
Things I learned? Well, the series was written by Richard Carpenter, not the musical one but rather the guy responsible for plenty of other 70s classics like Catweazle, The Adventures of Black Beauty and The Ghosts of Motley Hall. Also that haunting theme tune, Space Goes On Forever, was sung by none other than children's television legend Derek Griffiths.
It might be a stretch to class it as 'classic sci-fi', but for many kids of that generation it's a memorable as any other genre broadcast. What you don't remember, though, is how absolutely cheap and cheerful the whole production was, from the silver spray painted wellies, to the mime acting portraying an 'invisible' force field, to the props straight out of a Blue Peter project. It really makes 70s Doctor Who look like it was the work of Industrial Light & Magic.
The Boy From Space is truly a product of a simpler time, albeit a time when you could scare the crap out of kids... IN school! I can't see children today sitting still through all 70 minutes of it, but for a nostalgia trip for those of us who have buried this somewhere in their deepest darkest memories then it's a great way to spend an evening. And watching it again with grown up eyes might just help put some of those nightmares to bed!
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