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The Tomorrow People: Set 1 (1973) - DVD Review

By ScottC - posted 11.27.05 @ 2:19 am

Film:
DVD:

Series Created by Roger Damon Price
Starring Nicholas Young, Peter Vaughan-Clarke, Philip Gilbert, Sammie Winmill, Stephen Salmon, Elizabeth Adare

Features:

  • All twenty-six episodes from the first two seasons
  • Running audio commentary by actors Young, Vaughan-Clarke, and Gilbert on "The Slaves of Jedekiah" moderated by Nicholas Briggs
  • The Origins of the Tomorrow People
  • Cast biographies

Released by: A & E Home Video.
Rating: NR
Region: 1
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.

My Advice: Rent it if you want a nostalgia fix.

As children undergo adolescence, they go through various physical changes. Anyone who's been in Sex Ed is familiar with these. But for a few children, they experience changes not featured in Health class...like being able to hear thoughts, move objects with their minds, and the power to teleport from one place to another. These children are the first of the next phase of humanity, The Tomorrow People. Some alien races have made this genetic leap as well and provide our heroes with assistance, the most important help being the powerful sentient biotronic computer they've been given, Tim (Gilbert). However, Tomorrow People are bound by a strict moral code. They cannot take life and have the duty to protect the planet for the destructive acts of Homo sapiens, or "saps," and also from alien criminals and aggressors. And they must keep their powers a secret to prevent persecution or exploitation. So the Tomorrow People--John (Young), Carol (Winmill), Kenny (Salmon), Stephen (Vaughan-Clarke), and Elizabeth (Adare)--fight to give Earth a better tomorrow.

While not on the same level as Star Trek or Doctor Who in cult status, this series still has a decent fan following. The appeal of this show is simple: kids with cool powers saving the world. Well, in this case, teenagers. How many of us wished we could be special, be part of an exclusive group and have exciting adventures? That wish has been part of children's literature from The Chronicles of Narnia to Harry Potter. However, the show suffers from that common condition of children's media where producers lower the bar on quality since they believe children to be a less sophisticated audience. So you get science that is several levels below Trek technobabble, special effects that are several levels below old school Who, and writers using the plot device so much that it needs new batteries.

Things do improve when Winmill, who overacted to the point of parody, and Salmon, who underacted to the point of invisibility, were replaced. Young does well as the leader who feels he has to be an example to the others even though he is still a normal teenager. Adare is also good, adding a down-to-earth attitude to the strangeness that the Tomorrow People routinely deal with. Still, even with the ridiculous plots the show has, like a group of fanatic military men hijacking a nuclear-equipped space station to destroy a peace conference, there are glimmers of what the show could have been. How many children's shows mention Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, hmm? In another, the Tomorrow People travel in time to Roman Britain to stop a timeline where the Roman Empire never failed. It could be that suggestions of complexity also resonated with children and helped the show continue its popularity after the show ended and even led Big Finish Productions, makers of the Doctor Who audio adventures, to start a new Tomorrow People series.

The extras are pretty standard. There are short biographies of the series and its stars. While they aren't exhaustive in detail, they give a lot more detail than most biographies included on a DVD. The commentary for the first episode, "The Slaves of Jedikiah," is very informative, quite funny, and above all honest. The three stars talk about how bad the special effects were even for the times, the glaring plot holes, and how much London has changed from when the show was originally filmed. But you can tell they see their experience as a good one. There is a problem because the stars mention recording other commentaries for other episodes. A little Internet research later, I found that Big Finish Productions released the Tomorrow People series for the PAL video format with commentaries for every single episode. In fact, the commentary on the A&E box set is originally from Big Finish. Now I can understand why A&E might not want to include all the commentaries (okay, no, not really), but they could have included one for the episode "The Blue and the Green" which introduced Elizabeth.

In short, while fans will enjoy the DVD set, I am doubtful that a modern audience may get the same level of enjoyment. The series is dated, but if you appreciate Brit retro sci-fi, it might be worth a look.


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ScottC's full name is Scott Campbell: writer, actor, critic, and debauched libertine who serves as Need Coffee's Minister of Naughty Bits. When not engaged in matters of perfume, sex, and rock lobsters, he lends his body to The Mickee Faust Club and his voice to Curious Echo Radio Theater. He can be found on Twitter sexually harrassing all and sundry. He has written 435 posts. See them all here.

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