THE TOMORROW PEOPLE - SERIES 6, 7 & 8
Region 2 Edition
Reviewed by Matt West
Peter Webb, Leon Thau, Peter Yolland, Vic Hughes, etc.
Nicholas Young, Elizabeth Adare, Mike Holoway, Misako Koba
The Tomorrow People,
for those who don't know, is a children's television series from the
1970s. It’s often been called “ITV's answer to Doctor Who”.
series concerns a group of evolutionarily-advanced human beings known as
Homo Superior (stop sniggering at the back). These oiks took it
upon themselves to protect us mere Homo Sapiens (“Saps”), by
battling conspiracies and alien attacks on a daily basis. Each of these
so-called “Tomorrow People” can teleport, communicate telepathically and
... make ghosts appear. Whatever. Anyway – the group is led by John
(Nicholas Young, above, left) who has an advanced talking computer called TIM (voiced
by the late Philip Gilbert), which was given to him by the Galactic
Federation, who are quite simply the bastard love children of Rainbow
and Play for Today.
The Tomorrow People was a series in desperate need of a budget. The
concepts and scripts were there, but the cash wasn't, and, in many cases,
the lack of proper realisation leads to derisory efforts at best. But it
lasted for eight seasons and very few programmes, especially
science-fiction ones, can make that claim.
Well, that’s if you can really call them seasons. Doctor Who had
shorter seasons towards the end, but The Tomorrow People takes the
Season five showed a new direction of shorter more compact stories and
this is continued here in seasons six and seven. Two-part stories are
hurriedly whisked out and, in the opinion of this reviewer, are all the
better for it.
Revelation have taken quite a gamble releasing this series. It’s hard to
believe it’s one for casual buyers or telefantasy (bleurgh) fans alike.
These season box sets are probably their best bet for shifting units.
was only three years old when The Tomorrow People ended. For me
The Tomorrow People means exchanging eighth generation VHS tapes with
like-minded people. For a long time my holy grail was The Thargon
Menace and, for the first time ever, in this set I got to see it
– more on that later.
What we have here are some exceptional stories. We also have some utter
rubbish. Where these stories fall with true The Tomorrow People
fans I don’t know, but I really enjoyed them all – not least because if
you don’t like one it’s over in two episodes and you’ve moved on to the
next one! Hurrah!
The Lost Gods:
This really is hard work and made me really concerned for what lie ahead.
It’s really only worth mention as it introduces Hsui Tai (pictured, above,
in the middle image of the top row of photo's). Now … being as
tactful as I possibly can – surely there were better, more coherent
actresses out there than Misako Koba?! You can develop a migraine trying
to translate some of her lines and the looks of pain on some of her
cast-mate’s faces are hilarious.
Hitler’s Last Secret:
I love this. There are no fresh science fiction ideas to be found here.
Everyone from The New Avengers to Wonder Woman has had a
crack at a “What if Hitler were still alive?” story, but this is more grim
than most. Michael Sheard’s deadly serious performance as the Fuhrer (seen
a certain gravity to the situation, and, for once, some nice set design
(specifically the café) really shows a different side to this series.
There are scenes of fourteen year-old boys gunning each other down in the
first three minutes that you’d never have seen in Doctor Who at
that time. So much is packed into these two episodes, but possibly the
finest moments are the opening scenes with John and Hsui Tai, where he
repeats every one of her questions clearly before answering it. Me? I was
The Thargon Menace:
Oh dear. I had hoped, as this was the only story I’d not seen before, that
this would be something amazing and it really isn’t. My wife walked into
the room while I was watching this – saw the glove puppet robots and
walked straight back out again shaking her head and muttering.
yet once again the acting towers above the series set design, script and
direction. There are some fine guest performances, and - not wishing to
continually compare the two - in a time when guest stars were just plain
taking the piss in Doctor Who, it seems quite the opposite in
The Tomorrow People.
Castle of Fear:
We have yet another new homo superior breaking out, and this one’s
wearing a skirt. Nigel Rhodes turns up as Andrew and this story again is
over so quickly that it really does no harm. Dominic Allen is a strong
I don’t know how this is rated by hardcore fans but I thought this was
absolutely brilliant! A double-act straight out of a Robert Holmes script
is introduced in the form of Hilary Minster and Christian Rodska. They
trip camply through the script and play off each other brilliantly.
Gabrielle Beaumont (who would later direct various episodes of Star
Trek and SeaQuest DSV) keeps the action moving and seems to
shove the regular cast to one side in favour of new boy Andrew. He and
Hsui Tai are the only ones who have anything to do. If you have a two part
story, and your regular cast have nothing to do, it suggests that the
series is in trouble!
The Living Skins:
Bang! Yet again another classic is fired from the canon! This is great,
virtually an unofficial third Auton story! From the funky music in the clothes
shop, to the utterly stupid balloons (bringing back thoughts of
Futurama… “Balls thoroughly licked”, etc.) these are two episodes of
action-packed brilliant stupidity. Ralph Lawford plays a
brilliantly-sinister shopkeeper, and yet again doesn’t try to play it for
laughs. This is what makes The Tomorrow People work so well: the
actors treat the scripts with absolute respect and refuse to mock
themselves, in spite of their surroundings.
The War of the Empires:
Finally, we have a massively-convoluted, plodding story to end the series.
What a shame they didn’t end with The Living Skins. This is like
watching the lowlights of The Phantom Menace. I must admit … I only
got through the first two episodes. Deathly dull and a sad end to an
inventive but silly series.
usual the episodes look and sound generally fine. There's a lot of characteristic cross-chroma
interference which is typical of PAL material of this era, but otherwise 1970s videotape has rarely looked so good.
A pass through the BBC's Transform decoder, now routinely used by the
Doctor Who Restoration Team, would probably have cleaned the PAL
artefacts up. Even
the film sequences (which are usually pretty grotty in TV series of this
vintage) are clean and relatively pleasant. A grading pass would have
ironed out the inconsistencies between shots, and between the studio
material and the film inserts (which generally have a not-uncommon sickly
yellow-green tinge to them - in the grab of the crashed glider, above, for
example: roll your mouse over it for a colour-corrected version). Owing to the short episodes there are no
problems at all with compression, and the average 4-5Mbp/s is adequate for this material.
surprised Revelation never took the opportunity to put some sort of
documentary on any of these discs. At least they offered some
extras instead of putting in no effort in at all. But, especially given
the spare disc space on season eight, it might have been fun.
Revelation have, as usual, packaged the DVDs with commentaries on every
episode, fact files and photo galleries. I notice that a change on the
commentaries is now that the language is bleeped out. This isn’t always
the case however and a few words which are beeped elsewhere are still
present on some episodes. Since all the discs are now PG it’s really down
to the parents to worry about.
commentaries are so samey for these releases. The cast really only react
to what’s on screen rather than give any real insights into production,
probably because having recorded five series worth of commentaries
already, they’ve said all these is to say. The result is like watching the
stories with a group of people down the pub. I don’t enjoy these
commentaries, much as the cast just seem to take the mick out of each
other, and effectively waste their only opportunity to justify what they
were doing twenty-five years ago. So when Revelation plaster the words:
“CONTAINS THE FUNNIEST COMMENTARIES EVER ON DVD” across the cover, you
really wonder if they really had the series’ best interests at heart.
spite of the bad episodes mentioned above this is a cracking set. There
are so many classics in there and the good really do outweigh the bad.
Even then the bad will do fine on a rainy day.
A Roobarb's DVD Forum thread
discussing this release can be found