The Boy from Space (1971) - Episode 4: In danger!

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This page is about the original, black-and-white version of The Boy from Space broadcast in the early 1970s. No recordings of this version are believed to exist, and the guide below is based on the original camera script, plus pamphlets and other surviving records.

There is a separate page about the revised 1980s version of this episode, which is available on DVD, and notes below explaining the differences.

Studio recording: Friday 24 September 1971, 5:30pm in studio TC5 Edited: Tuesday 28 September 1971 First broadcast: Tuesday 12 October 1971, 10:25am on BBC1 Last broadcast: Friday 12 October 1973, 10:00am on BBC1 BBC Genome listing: 67d1118306... BBC programme number: ESB1013L

Story Part 1

The boy tries to communicate, talking in the strange beeping sounds and using mimes. Slowly Dan and Helen manage to show they are friendly. The three use gestures to understand each other, and Dan and Helen give their names. The boy says his name too, and Dan decides to call him 'Peep-peep' as that is the sound he hears.

Peep-peep miming collecting meteorites

Dan and Helen want to take Peep-peep to Tom for help, but at the observatory they can't find him. Peep-peep seems unwell in the bright sunlight so Helen goes inside to find Mr Bunting, but she struggles to persuade him that she has met a boy from space. Mr Bunting is astonished to meet the boy.

Teaching Middle

Over a close-up still of Mr Bunting's face Charles describes how he must have thought meeting a space-boy was "amazing, incredible, super-surprising, quite fantastic!"

He talks about how difficult it must have been for the children to communicate "with someone who speaks in such a funny way". He shows the film of the children trying to talk to Peep-peep again, with captions showing what they said, and explains how they pointed and used gestures to understand each other. He shows the name that Dan made up, Peep-peep, and asks us to read it from the screen, and explains how you would smile rather than frown to make someone believe you're friendly.

Charles speculates that if the boy really is from space then he must be from millions of miles away, and recalls Tom saying that "space keeps going forever." He talks about the Earth orbiting the sun, and other planets including Mars. He has made a mobile of the sun and the first four planets with their names written on the back, and suggests viewers could do the same in their classroom.

Example of a solar system mobile from the teacher's notes

What do you see when you go outside and look up? An animation about the final long sound -y explains that you see 'sky'.

Charles spots his telereader and looks through it to reveal another animation about short vowel -e- with words including 'hello' and 'Helen'.

Charles hears a knocking noise coming from a bin in the studio (the script does not specify whether it is a 'space-bin'!) and he sees the lid bouncing up and down. When he opens it, a card appears with "tell them we he" written on it. He puzzles over this for a while and when he sees the letter 'e's jumping up and down he realises that the 'e' sounds in the first two words are different from the 'e' sounds in the second two words. The bin is then heard to march away.

We then read the story from the screen, from "that bit when Dan was trying to talk to Peep-peep."

Story Part 2

Using a 'map' of the solar system and a meteorite from Mr Bunting's desk Peep-peep mimes that he is now on Earth, and had been to Mars to collect meteorites.

Peep-peep eagerly writes a message with Mr Bunting's pen but nobody can read it. Peep-peep then staggers and falls to the floor.

Peep-peep's mysterious message

Production notes

Another joke added during recording of the teaching middle which wasn't in the original script: when Charles is dealing with the bin he was scripted to say "All right, all right! I'll pass the message on... in writing, of course!" but this was changed during recording to "All right, all right! Keep your hair - I mean your lid on!"

Differences from the 1980 programme

The break in the film is moved by a few seconds. Here in 1971 the first part of the film ends with a 5 second close-up on Mr Bunting's astonished face as he is introduced to Peep-peep. The 1980 version ends slightly earlier, just before Peep-peep comes in, with Bunting's bored face trying to get on with some work.

The second part of the film in 1971 begins with a shot of the telescope, which is not present in the 1980 version. In the 1971 film this shot probably prefigured Peep-peep asking "This is your observatory?" although he asks this in incomprehensible space-speech so that no viewers could possibly understand him, only the production team!

As always, this site's description of the 1980 episode includes translations of the space-speech including a cracker earlier in this episode where Peep-peep refers to the thin man by his real name! Or at least, it offers translations of the space-speech which made it through to the edited 1980 version of the story. The 1971 studio script for this episode includes the film dialogue from the first part of the story to provide timings of the film to be re-shown during the teaching middle, and this reveals some short segments which do not appear in the 1980 edit.

In the 1980 version after Helen first asks the boy "Who are you?" there is a shot of the boy gesturing and adult Helen narrates "The boy did not understand." In 1971 Charles had exactly the same line of narration, but the script also included the boy saying in space-speech "I don't understand."

Later as the three hold out their hands in a gesture of friendship and just before Helen says "I think he wants to come with us," Peep-peep says another sentence. In the 1980 version the line heard (in reverse space-speech) is "you must help me." But the script originally had Peep-peep here saying "I know you are my friends. I'm sorry I jumped like that."

Extract from the script of the studio recap sequence from this episode, including space-speech dialogue from the original film, which was not used in the actual recap (hence it is crossed out) and was also not used in the 1980 version of the episode.

The timings of the film story in this episode:

1971 version 1980 version
Story Part 1 Approx. 5:00 4:25
Story Part 2 3:11 2:48
Total Approx. 8:11 7:13

Source: the 1971 scripts describe the first part of sound film in this episode as lasting for 6:02, including opening titles for 0:57, part 1 of the story for 4:08, and ending with a close-up on "Bunting's astonished face" for 0:05. Which doesn't add up to 6:02, and would make the 1971 first part of the film shorter than the film shown in the first part of the 1980 episode, even though the 1980 episode cuts away earlier (and coincidentally it would make the total duration of the film story in both 1971 and 1980 versions of the episode roughly the same). So my best guess is that the first part of the 1971 story film lasted for approximately 5:00. Incidentally the full 6:02 sequence was trimmed down to 5:57 on recording of the studio segment; the 1971 PasB record does not clarify things as it has a huge number, 450 feet of sound film used which would take up 12 minutes across the whole episode. Possibly this includes both the film story itself and the re-use of the film while Charles is re-capping the story during the teaching middle; 1980 episode recordings

Approximately 1 minute of film from the 1971 episode has been trimmed from the 1980 episode. The dialogue tweaks covered above could account for a few seconds of this total.

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