The Boy from Space (1971) - Episode 5: The Hold-up

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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 8 October 1971, 6:15pm in studio TC5 Edited: Sunday 17 October 1971 First broadcast: Tuesday 19 October 1971, 10:25am on BBC1 Last broadcast: Friday 19 October 1973, 10:00am on BBC1 BBC Genome listing: 80b0e160e5... BBC programme number: ESB1014F

Story Part 1

Peep-peep is helped outside by Mr Bunting and the children, but the sun seems too bright for his eyes.

Peep-peep recovering outside the observatory

Mr Bunting sets off to drive Peep-peep to the hospital, unaware that the thin man is watching them.

Helen and Dan wait inside the observatory. Helen takes a telephone message from a Mr Miller, and Dan puzzles over Peep-peep's mysterious written message.

Teaching Middle

Charles wonders whether Dan will find out how to read Peep-peep's writing. He invites viewers to read from the screen that "the telephone began to ring," "Helen picked it up," and "'this is Dratton Observatory,' she said."

He shows us how to make a telephone out of a plastic cup and a piece of string, speaks to us through his and invites us to make out own after the programme.

He uses frames from the film and captions to review what is happening in the story in detail. Peep-peep is ill, Mr Bunting is taking him to the hospital over Rabbit Hill, and the thin man is outside the observatory.

Through the telereader we see an animation about the short vowel sound -i- in words such as 'Rabbit Hill' and 'Miller', with a reminder that it was Mr Miller who telephoned the observatory.

The space-room receives an announcement to "prepare for space-ships" and Charles excitedly looks outside to see a fleet arriving. Two space-ships approach, showing the letters 'd' and 'r', and when they dock they join together to make dr-. They make the words 'drop' and 'dry', then the first letter changes to make cr- words, then tr- and br-, with words to read from the screen each time. The space-ships fly off again.

Charles wonders whether Peep-peep's space-ship was like one of those, and he shows us models of different types of space-ships which it could have been like instead. In the space-room Charles has his own collection of meteorites. He reminds us that Dan called it "a stone from space," and meteorites could be stone, or iron, or both. He describes a series of photographs of real-life meteorites and craters, and reassures us "Don't worry! Most meteorites fall quite slowly. They won't hit you on the head." Meteorites fall on other planets too, and Dan thought that Peep-peep had been to Mars to collect them.

He has an idea to have a meteorite space-race, prompting an animation about words ending in -ing. Then we go back to reading the story.

Story Part 2

Helen realises that she can read Peep-peep's message in the mirrored reflection of Dan's compass.

Mr Bunting and Peep-peep drive towards the lonely Rabbit Hill, with the thin man tailing them in Tom's car.

Dan and Helen have read 'danger' in Peep-peep's message. They determine to tell Mr Bunting, but have to keep waiting until he arrives at the hospital.

The thin man reaches the top of the hill first and hides in the trees. He points a space-gun at Mr Bunting's car which causes it to stop.

Mr Bunting's car mysteriously stops

Differences from the 1980 programme

Like several of its predecessors, the break in this episode is shifted by just a few seconds but in a way which makes the mid-episode cliffhanger quite different. Here in 1971 the break comes at a close-up of Peep-peep's writing as Dan muses "I wish we could read it…" In 1980 the film plays on as Helen spots the reflection and realises that it is mirror writing. They don't read the message out loud but we do see it on screen to give viewers a chance to understand.

The 1980 version also makes deliberate reference to the storyline oddity that the thin man's car is trailing Mr Bunting's at the bottom of the hill, and then a few shots later the thin man has parked up and hidden on top of the hill while Bunting is still driving up it. This is not mentioned in 1971, Charles simply narrates that "the thin man hid in the wood on Rabbit Hill." In 1980 adult Helen's narration explains that Mr Bunting told her later what happened on the hill, and that "by the time Mr Bunting got up onto Rabbit Hill, the thin man had somehow got in front!" Similar references to the implausibility of the movements are added to the 1980 pupil's pamphlet and teacher's notes.

The timings of the film story in this episode:

1971 version 1980 version
Story Part 1 3:07 3:25
Story Part 2 3:41 2:20
Total 6:48 5:45

Source: 1971 scripts; the 1971 PasB record matches, showing 254 feet of sound film which would take approximately 6:46; 1980 episode recordings

Just over a minute of film story has been lost from the 1980 version of the episode, most of it from the second part.

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