History of the Tomorrow people (1973-1979)

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History of the Tomorrow people (1973-1979)

Post by Admin on Mon Sep 22, 2014 7:21 am

The Tomorrow People Was a British children's science fiction television series, created by Roger Price. Produced by Thames Television for the ITV Network, the series first ran from 1973 to 1979.

Premise: All incarnations of the show concerned the emergence of the next stage of human evolution (Homo superior) known colloquially as Tomorrow People. Born to human parents, an apparently normal child might at some point between childhood and late adolescence experience a process called "breaking out" and develop special paranormal abilities. These abilities include psionic powers such as telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation. However, their psychological make-up prevents them from intentionally killing others.

1973-1979 History: The original series was produced by Thames Television for ITV. The Tomorrow People operate out of a secret base, The lab, built in an abandoned London Underground station. The lab was revamped at the beginning of Series 6. The team watches for new Tomorrow People "breaking out" to help them through the process and sometimes deal with attention from extraterrestrial species as well as facing more earthbound dangers. They also have connections with the "Galactic Federation" which oversees the welfare of telepathic species throughout the galaxy. In addition to their psychic powers, they use advanced technology such as the biological (called in the series "biotronic") computer TIM, which is capable of original thought, telepathy, and can augment their psychic powers. TIM also helps the Tomorrow People to teleport long distances, although they must be wearing a device installed into a belt or bracelet for this to work. Teleportation is referred to as jaunting in the programme. The team used jaunting belts up to the end of Series 5, after which they used much smaller wristbands.

In the original series, the Tomorrow People are also referred to as Homo superior. This is the term that comics writer Stan Lee has his Magneto character use to refer to mutants in X-Men #1, 1963. The same term later appeared in David Bowie's 1971 song "Oh! You Pretty Things": "Let me make it plain. You gotta make way for the Homo Superior." This term came up as part of a conversation between Roger Price and David Bowie at a meeting at Granada studios in Manchester when Price was directing a programme in which Bowie was appearing. Price had been working on a script for his Tomorrow People project and during a conversation with Bowie, the term Homo superior came up. Bowie liked the term and soon afterwards wrote it into his song, pre-dating the series itself which was eventually produced by Thames TV in 1973. Price has sometimes been quoted as saying that the lyrics to this song were inspired by the series, not the other way around.

Alistair McGown of Screen Online cites the book The Mind in Chains by Dr Christopher Evans as a primary source. Evans also became a scientific advisor for the series. He would be credited as such on every single episode but most people working on the show seem to recall that he only had involvement in the first couple of series. McGown also suggests a similarity between The Tomorrow People and the children's fantasy fiction of Enid Blyton.

While they reveal their existence to some, the Tomorrow People generally operate in secrecy for fear that normal people (whom they term "Saps", an abbreviation of Homo sapiens) will either fear or victimise them because of their special powers or try to exploit them for military purposes. In order to defend themselves they must use non-lethal weaponry such as "stun guns" or martial arts due to their genetic unwillingness to kill, referred to as the "prime barrier". In early series they would have the aid of "Sap" friends such as Ginge, Lefty and Chris who would usually handle the rougher stuff that the pacifist TPs could not deal with. Also in the second and third series they become friendly with a psychic researcher named Professor Cawston who assisted them and vice versa.

Price initially offered the format to Granada but was turned down so offered it to Lewis Rudd at Thames Television who commissioned a 13-episode series, having seen the potential of the format. At this time, ITV was keen to find its own answer to Doctor Who, although Price never really envisaged the show as such but more as an outlet for his own personal ideas and beliefs. Very early on, Ruth Boswell was brought in as associate producer and script editor as she had experience of children's fantasy drama (Timeslip and Tightrope) while TV dramatist Brian Finch was hired to co-write the scripts in view of the fact that Price had little experience of writing drama. Thames enlisted the services of Doctor Who director Paul Bernard to help set up and oversee the first series. He would be credited as director for two stories but was unofficially a third producer. Bernard was very heavily involved in the creation of the memorable title sequence which involved a mixture of haunting images and facial shots of the main cast zooming towards the camera in monochrome, with an eerie theme tune from Dudley Simpson playing behind. He got inspiration from seeing billboards rushing towards him when driving. Amongst them were a human foetus, shadowy figures behind scaffolding and even the insides of a bell pepper (a somewhat exotic fruit in the UK in the 1970s).

Nicholas Young was cast as the group's leader, John, while Peter Vaughan-Clarke was offered the role of Stephen after Price saw him in a Manchester rendition of Peter Pan with Lulu. Ruth Boswell wanted Lynn Frederick (later the last wife of Peter Sellers) for Carol, the female lead, but following a meeting with her, Paul Bernard felt she was a bit too upper-class and precious for what he had in mind as he saw the character as being similar to Doctor Who's Jo Grant. They finally settled on Sammie Winmill who was relatively well-known for playing Nurse Crumpton on the popular Doctor at Large situation comedy (also a Thames production). The role of Kenny, the youngest TP, was given to Stephen Salmon after he had been discovered in a drama workshop while theatre actor Philip Gilbert was selected to provide the paternal tones of biotronic computer TIM. Making up the team were two Sap friends, a couple of bikers called Ginge (Michael Standing) and Lefty (Derek Crewe) who encounter the Tomorrow People when acting as henchmen for the villainous shape-shifter Jedikiah in the opening adventure. Stephen would be very much the show's hero and focus for the audience while John was something of an authoritarian figure who took his responsibilities for the species' future and welfare very seriously. Early publicity included a photo session of the cast with the Doctor Who star, Jon Pertwee, to indicate a friendly rivalry between the two shows.

Even for the time, some of the special effects of the show were considered sub-par, largely attributable to its small budget.[5] Series one's recurring villain, Jedikiah, was originally devised to be a long-running foe but after seeing the poorly designed robot that was the shape-changer's true form, an unimpressed Price elected not to use the character again until the finale of series three which was planned at the time as the series' finale (the robotic form noticeably fails to appear). Despite this, the series proved popular with its young audience who watched in large numbers, even denting the figures for the popular BBC magazine programme, Blue Peter.

The success of the first series saw another thirteen episodes go into production, but with a number of changes. Off-screen, both Bernard and Finch departed leaving Price to take more control as writer, director and producer, while on-screen Kenny and Carol disappeared (sent to the Galactic Federation's headquarters The Trig to work as ambassadors for Earth). Salmon was simply not asked back as there was a feeling the character had failed to work and his acting was wooden, while Winmill's departure was voluntary. In their place came student school teacher Elizabeth M'Bondo, portrayed by Elizabeth Adare. Adare initially thought her character was to be a teenage girl and made every effort at her audition to look and act like an adolescent. However Price and Boswell were suitably impressed to change the Elizabeth character so that she breaks out at an older age due to a latent puberty. Elizabeth is uncovered by Stephen when working at his school. This was the start of a near annual event where a new TP would be introduced in the first story of each series, a handy way of maintaining interest for returning viewers and a convenient way for Price to re-establish the basic premise of the show for new audiences every year.

Filming of Series 2 began in late 1973 with Michael Standing returning as Ginge, but on the first day he fell off his motorbike and broke his leg, prompting a speedy rewrite whereby Ginge's younger brother, Chris (Chris Chittell), was now seen as the new Sap regular. Chris was mentioned in the dialogue as already being known to the Tomorrow People, so little in the way of changes had to be made to the script. Ginge's absence was explained on-screen by his having been admitted to hospital following a fall from his motorbike – reflecting Standing's real-life accident.

In 1975, the third series added Dean Lawrence as gypsy Tyso Boswell. Chris disappears after only appearing in one episode (his absence is never explained) while telepathic secret agent Tricia Conway appears in two stories before fully breaking out in the series climax which saw the young heroes menaced by old rival, Jedikiah. This series also saw the group visit an alien world for the first time when the Galactic Trig dispatches them to help the telepathic population of the planet Peerie. A comedy script was attempted in the much-derided "A Man for Emily" as Price was keen to get more into humorous writing. The negative backlash to this experiment resulted in a planned sequel story being quietly dropped but such actions added to Price's increasing frustration with the show. Philip Gilbert also made the first of several on-screen appearances as Timus Irnok Mosta, an ambassador from the Galactic Federation who had a hand in building TIM thus sounding alike. Timus was a clone and his brother, Tikno also appears. They would make semi-regular appearances until the final story in 1979.

As the programme continued, Price became tired of his creation and attempted to end it by killing off the leads at the conclusion to Series 3 (Ruth Boswell made him rewrite it so that they survived). However Thames Television had a ratings winner (as well as excellent overseas sales) and insisted he continue the programme, albeit in shorter, staggered series from now on. Price only ever allowed one attempt by another writer to work on it solo, with John E. Watkins penning the story "Into the Unknown" broadcast in early 1976. Having fewer episodes to write, Price would have more time to work on his comedic and light-entertainment productions which he enjoyed more than the demanding sci-fi drama. At the start of the fourth series he attempted to give a boost to the format with the introduction of teenage idol Mike Holoway as Mike Bell. Holoway was the drummer with pop band Flintlock and Price hoped that his young charge would be Britain's answer to Donny Osmond or David Cassidy. Although Series 4 features five Tomorrow People, this later led to the decision to sack Vaughan-Clarke as Stephen, who is not given a leaving scene at the end of Series 4. With this change, it was noticeable that John and Elizabeth took on a more parental role as both actors entered their mid-20s. Tyso also vanished after the fourth year but his character had been mostly redundant for some time due to not having been written into scripts that year. His late inclusion was only addressed a couple of weeks before filming started when Price discovered from Lawrence that he was still available to appear in the programme. This meant Tyso only had limited screen time and very few lines.

Vic Hughes took over as producer for Series 5, which began transmission in early 1977 and was the only series not to introduce a new Tomorrow person. All three adventures were two-parters which allowed Price to write them quickly and remove any unwanted excess padding which tended to slow down the action.1978 saw changes being made, starting with Elizabeth's absence through most of Series 6 due to Elizabeth Adare's pregnancy (on screen Elizabeth is working on diplomatic missions for the Galactic Federation). In her place came Hsui Tai, played by Japanese actress Misako Koba, whose poor grasp of English made her hard to understand and Nicholas Young later recalled that he and other actors found this difficult during production. A new Lab set was introduced with a smaller but now mobile TIM and the jaunting belts were replaced by jaunting bands (worn on the wrists). These changes were forced on the production team following a fire at the Thames storerooms. The new Lab acted as both base and home for the Tomorrow People as they were now seen to be sleeping in their own cabins there.

Series 7 in late 1978 introduced another Tomorrow person in the form of young Scottish lad Andrew Forbes (Nigel Rhodes). He is using his psychic powers to conjure up images of ghosts so as to provide a tourism attraction for the hotel owned by his father. Elizabeth also returned and with inflation out of control in the late-1970s, the budget was stretched to breaking point, a factor which was constantly on the mind of producer Vic Hughes. A dispute over the allocation of studio days ended the show in 1979 when Hughes attempted to gain an extra studio day for the planned ninth series (which fell victim to the ITV strike that summer) following numerous problems during the production of "War of the Empires" (the sole four-part adventure that made up series eight) which had been given only four days in studio. By this point Price had emigrated to America and Thames were reluctant to carry on without him.

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