Region 2 Edition

Reviewed by Matt West

Directors Peter Webb, Leon Thau, Peter Yolland, Vic Hughes, etc.

Featuring:  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”.

The 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 biscuit.

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.

I 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!

Very briefly:

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 below) lends 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 in stitches.

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.

And 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 guest star.

Achilles Heel: 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.


As 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.

I’m 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.

The 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.


In 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 here.











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