The Boy from Space (1980) - Episode Guide
|#||Title||Studio recording||First broadcast|
|1.||The Meteorite||Fri 9 Nov 1979 at 2:45pm||Tue15 Jan 1980 at 10:16am|
|2.||The Spinning Compass||Fri 9 Nov 1979 at 8:30pm||Tue22 Jan 1980 at 10:16am|
|3.||The Man in the Sand-pit||Sat 17 Nov 1979 at 2:45pm||Tue29 Jan 1980 at 10:16am|
|4.||In danger!||Sat 17 Nov 1979 at 8:30pm||Tue5 Feb 1980 at 10:16am|
|5.||The Hold-up||Thu 13 Dec 1979 at 2:45pm||Tue12 Feb 1980 at 10:16am|
|6.||Where is Tom?||Thu 13 Dec 1979 at 8:30pm||Tue26 Feb 1980 at 10:16am|
|7.||The Hunt for the Car||Fri 4 Jan 1980 at 2:45pm||Tue4 Mar 1980 at 10:16am|
|8.||The Lake||Fri 4 Jan 1980 at 8:30pm||Tue11 Mar 1980 at 10:16am|
|9.||Captured!||Wed 16 Jan 1980 at 2:45pm||Tue18 Mar 1980 at 10:16am|
|10.||In the Space-ship||Wed 16 Jan 1980 at 8:30pm||Tue25 Mar 1980 at 10:16am|
The studio sequences for the episodes were recorded in pairs. A recording day involved a rehearsal from 10:30am and the recording of the teaching middles to one episode after lunch at 2:45-4:15pm. This was followed by more rehearsal, and after dinner the recording of the teaching section to the next episode at 8:30-10pm.
Each recording day was booked into an available studio at BBC Television Centre. Episodes 1 & 2 were made in studio TC3, episodes 5 & 6 in studio TC4, and episodes 9 & 10 in studio TC1 (I don't know the venues for the remaining episodes).
The space-people in the film story of The Boy from Space speak to each other and attempt to speak to the human characters, but all the humans - and viewers - hear is strange beeping noises. The dialogue was fully scripted and spoken by the three actors, but played into the film it has been reversed and electronically processed to make the distinctive beeping sounds.
In the original scripts it was referred to as 'space-speech.' But as the BBC Written Archives could not provide the original drama scripts (as described in the introduction to the 1971 guide), how can we tell what is actually being said?
The LP reading of the 1970s story (which is available in full on the DVD release) provides a way in to understanding some of the space-speech, because short snippets are spoken by the characters during the reading, reversed but only slightly processed in comparison with the TV production. A good clue to what is happening here is also given in reading the title of Chapter 4, which is given in mirror-writing and read out in reverse. By playing the snippets of the LP backwards some basic pieces of dialogue can be clearly heard.
As this speech was never really meant to be comprehensible to listeners it is not always specifically relevant - for example during chapter 8 when the thin space-man is trying to force Peep-peep's father to help him start the space-ship a piece of space-speech from episode 6 is used on the LP, in which Peep-peep (who doesn't actually speak in the chapter 8 scene) talks to the thin space-man. So this gives us some indication of the dialogue but not the whole story.
The most obvious way to tell what is being said in the space-speech is obviously to take the soundtrack of the TV episodes and play it backwards, but this does not make things much easier. The reversed speech is not only heavily processed and distorted to make it sound like peep noises, it is also chopped up and played backwards in unpredictable ways - sometimes entire chunks of dialogue are simply played backwards and other times phrases or sentences are individually reversed.
Thankfully, some help is provided by the existing studio script to the 1971 production of episode 4. In this episode the presenter Charles Collingwood goes back over the first part of the film story in which Peep-peep, Dan and Helen first try to communicate with one another, and the script provides the film dialogue from this part of the story to help with timing the replay of the film. This includes Peep-peep's (he is referred to in the script as Space-boy) dialogue in space-speech as well as the comprehensible, human dialogue, and gives definite confirmation of what is being said. This is especially helpful as this dialogue includes Peep-peep using the thin space-man's real name, an unusual word which is never used in any printed texts or spoken forwards, and which is extremely difficult to make out simply by listening to the TV audio backwards. All is revealed in the guide to episode 4, and some additional space-speech from this script which is not present in this 1980 production is described in the guide to episode 4 of the 1971 production.
Although an attempt is made to 'translate' all of the space-speech in this guide, some of the translations not assisted by the studio scripts or LP recording are fairly tenuous, best-guess interpretations of what can be heard. I would welcome further theories, suggestions or corrections on what the space-people actually say to each other. Please get in touch by email!
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