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"The Boy From Space" is a 1971 Look and Read serial originally broadcast in Black and White, but later broadcast in colour in 1980. It was a 10-part series directed at the 6-8 age group as part of their spelling and grammar education.
The story begins with three aliens coming home from Mars after collecting meteorites. One of the aliens (The Thin Man) - however - wants the meteorites for himself and a fight breaks out on board, which results in the ship unintentionally crash landing on Earth. All three survive the crash, but the confused and frightened little boy escapes from the ship and flees. His father, meanwhile, is captured and imprisoned by the Thin Man who arms himself with a ray gun and sets off in pursuit.
In his pursuit, the Thin Man encounters two Earth children - Dan and Helen - who narrowly escape from him when he pursues them. The children themselves then find the alien boy; befriending him and naming him Peep-Peep due to the noise he makes when trying to communicate. Taking him to the local observatory, Peep-Peep's ability to interpret complicating star charts convinces Mr. Bunting (the observatory's owner) that he is indeed an alien. Mr. Bunting decides to take Peep-Peep to a hospital, but they are watched by the Thin Man, who intercepts them by firing his ray gun at the car. The ray disables the vehicle and both Peep-Peep and Mr. Bunting are taken prisoner (with the Thin Man using his ray gun to make the car vanish into thin air). Aboard the spaceship, a strange argument develops between the Thin Man and Peep-Peep’s father – the former wants the latter to start the spaceship, but he refuses to and apparently wins the debate.
Dan and Helen are able to decipher Peep-Peep's writing and (together with another observatory worker named Tom) try to track down Peep-Peep and Mr. Bunting as they haven't heard from them in a while. They soon find two sets of Tyre tracks that suddenly stop and a book dropped by Bunting – which contains a hidden message from Peep-Peep, alerting them to the situation. While searching for the pair, the trio become trapped in an invisible force-field. Somehow managing to break through it, which unknown to them sets off an alarm aboard the spaceship, they come to the realization that Bunting and Peep-Peep are being held underwater. Tom scouts around the lake for the entrance to the spaceship, and is soon captured by the Thin Man, but once in the cell he is able to show Bunting how to read the aliens’ writing. The Thin Man attempts to capture Dan and Helen as well - with Dan ending up in the force field and unable to escape. Helen saves him, however, by using her mirror to shine light in the Thin Man's eyes and allow Dan to escape - with him sneaking aboard the ship via a teleport device used to enter/exit the spaceship.
As Helen is captured, Peep-Peep is able to write instructions on the cell door/window for Dan to follow, which comes out the right way around and so he is able to understand it and free them. The group quickly overpower the Thin Man and rescue Helen, with the Thin Man himself been taken prisoner by Peep-Peep and his father. Mr. Bunting explains the Thin Man's motivations as well as why the aliens write in reverse. Before the aliens leave, Dan gives his compass to Peep-Peep as a gift, before the group watch the aliens leave Earth.
The alien's species is not named, while only three are shown in the series. The three shown are a young boy (later referred to as Peep-Peep), his father and another alien later referred to as 'The Thin Man'. Their planet is also unnamed but is been described as been 'Earth-like' and 'a very long way away'. On their world, meteorites are very valuable (just as Gold is valuable on Earth), with it been the Thin Man's greed that leads to the crash landing in the first place.
The species have apparently come to Earth before as there is a plastic bag on-board the ship from one of their past visits, but due to being inside out and the words on it reversed, the aliens don't speak English (speaking in garbled voices) and write it in reverse - as shown when Peep-Peep writes using his 'writing ring'. Another ability the aliens apparently possess is telekinesis - judging by the fight between them before the crash and when the Thin Man is captured - while a weakness they have is an aversion to bright light. Helen learns this weakness from Peep-Peep and later uses it to save Dan from the Thin Man.
They are shown to have advanced technology, such as the ray gun the Thin Man uses which can disable electronics as well as make objects disappear. It's likely the gun could kill humans as well, as the Thin Man uses it to threaten others. The ship itself is capable of been hidden underwater, with a teleportation device been used to transport more than one life-form too and from it. The ship can also monitor what is happening outside it and create force-fields to trap lifeforms outside - although an alarm on-board will sound if the trapped life-form is able to break free. Inside the ship, the room housing the meteors is shown as been used like a cage, with rotatable levers to open and close the 'window/door' that blocks all sound.
The Boy from Space (1971)
The Boy from Space (1980)
- Many people reported having nightmares from watching the series during their childhood, with notable instances including the sandpit scene with the Thin Man as well as the scene in which the Thin Man makes the car disappear.
- The serial was written by Richard Carpenter, who had completed work on the LWT time-travel comedy Catweazle and would later create a number of other exceptional series including The Ghosts of Motley Hall and Robin of Sherwood.
- The atmospheric music for the serial was provided by Paddy Kingsland, who was later famed for his work on Doctor Who and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
- John Woodnutt, best known for his many and varied supporting roles in programmes like Doctor Who and Children of the Stones, portrayed the villainous Thin Man.
- Gabriel Woolf - who is famed for his deep, sibilant voice that has been used in many radio plays and indeed in his memorable portrayal of Sutekh the Destroyer in the Doctor Who story “The Pyramids of Mars” - appeared as Peep-Peep’s father.