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The Tomorrow People:
Into The Unknown
cast: Nicholas Young, Peter Vaughan Clarke, Elizabeth Adare, Dean Lawrence, and Michael Holoway

producer and director: Roger Price

85 minutes (U) 1976
Revelation DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 2/10
reviewed by Tom Matic
After years of trying to overcome BBC1's Saturday teatime ratings supremacy, by scheduling big budget American imports like Lost In Space and various glossy but empty Gerry Anderson offerings opposite Doctor Who, Thames Television produced this homegrown SF series for ITV. Though it was scheduled for Wednesday rather than Saturday afternoon, the post-school children's TV slot, it still feels like a poor relation to Doctor Who, which is like being the broke younger brother of someone who is far from well off himself. The difference is that Doctor Who did a lot with a little, whereas The Tomorrow People did a little with even less. The Tomorrow People even boasted a signature tune recycled by Doctor Who's then composer in residence Dudley Simpson from his incidental music for the Who story Frontier In Space. The trouble with Simpson's eerie theme and the title sequence's unsettling succession of bizarre monochrome images (including a hand opening, a flower, a foetus, an eye, a weird honeycomb pattern, a group of indistinct figures behind what appear to be a scaffolding) was that they always promised far more than they delivered. It has a thin nostalgia value now: watching this moribund story from the series, which should have been called 'The Partridge Family In Space', you can almost smell the ink on the pages of a copy of Look-In.
   Inspired by the ideas of Dr Christopher Evans, who also acted as the show's 'scientific adviser', as well as by a line about 'homo superior' in one of David Bowie's songs, The Tomorrow People was an uneasy mix of space opera and pop culture. Its central premise was the existence of a group of young people, the vanguard of a new, more advanced human species, with special powers and belts that enable them to teleport through space, known as 'jaunting'. Their leader John (Nicholas Young) has built a computer called TIM, a sophisticated, giant lava-lamp, to help them in their various missions, voiced by Philip Gilbert who also plays Timus, the deus ex machina from the Galactic Federation in this story. It begins with one of the younger homo superiors, Mike (Michael Holoway) being teased by the more superior 'superiors' John, and Elisabeth (Elisabeth Adare), for using TIM's mental powers to help him compose a rhyme scheme for his new 'smash hit pop song' - a real cockney rebel, that Mike. Funny to think that in the same year, Holoway's real-life band Flintlock was to split up in shock at the Sex Pistols effing and blinding on Bill Grundy's Today show.
   Mike barely has a chance to send his 'chart topper' to the top of the hit parade, before the gang are stranded on an alien vessel in hyperspace, after answering a distress call. They are out of contact with TIM and unable to use their jaunting belts. However, luckily Elisabeth manages to jaunt up with a fun-size version of TIM, allowing him to vie with Blake's 7's Orac for the prize of the 'Most Irritatingly Pompous Portable Computer in a 1970s' SF TV series'. Nevertheless the superiors are still trapped in hyperspace, heading towards a hole in space that leads to who knows where. But their problems don't end there. For one thing Mike's worried that his spacesuit makes him look like a berk. Never mind. There's a button on the suit that can make it look like whatever he wants it to. So he adjusts it to resemble his normal outfit of stay-press trousers, nasty pullover with rolled up sleeves and dark brown shirt lapels hanging down like drooping dog's ears. Still, I shouldn't be so harsh. At his age, I had the same foul haircut as he, which probably helped me to identify with him when I watched it.
   I could forgive the sartorial lapses of the Tomorrow People's younger members, or even their wooden, sub-school play-acting. Nicholas Young is good in the role of the senior 'homo superior' John, a solid, upright head-boy type. But neither actors of the calibre of Geoffrey Bayldon guesting as a horribly wigged alien, nor the moderately interesting SF concept of space folding onto itself, can compensate for static, turgid direction and leaden, uninspired design.
   Of the special features, which include a picture gallery and commentary by Nicholas Young, Peter Vaughan Clarke and Michael Holoway, it is worth reading the character biographies if you are not already familiar with The Tomorrow People backstory. There is also a trailer for a new Tomorrow People audio drama, which sounds a lot livelier than this serial, from Big Finish Productions, responsible for some excellent new Doctor Who audio adventures and who also produced the commentary for this DVD.

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