A Guide to the series on DVD


The first story introduces the idea of a new superior race of human beings, the homo superior - the so-called Tomorrow People, a group with telepathic powers, and technology that enhances their ability to "jaunt", a teleportation system regularly used in their fights against the misguided forces of evil. The Tomorrow People have a secret base in a disused London Underground tunnel, where they are aided by a powerful talking biotronic computer, TIM. The Slaves of Jedikiah pits the Tomorrow People against recurring nemesis Jedikiah, played with obvious relish by Hammer regular Francis De Wolff. In the beginning there were - at least as far as viewers were concerned - only three Tomorrow People: John (the eldest, and their leader), Carol and 12-year old Kenny. In this opening story they're joined by another, Stephen, who we witness "breaking out", as he becomes aware of his supernatural powers. 

This story also introduces Jedikiah's two henchmen: Lefty and Ginge, (who change allegiance at the end of the story, to appear in both remaining stories of the first season). The first episode of the story doesn't feature the famous 'opening hand' title sequence (replete with Dudley Simpson's fabulous theme music), and the story title, (which, like the writer's credit, usually punctuated the main titles), appears over the end of a shot which turns into a negative image (pictured). From the second episode onwards, the normal main titles were used. 

The first and third stories of the opening season were directed by Paul Bernard, who had three excellent Jon Pertwee Doctor Who stories to his credit, including the landmark story Day of the Daleks, which had made extensive use of the then-new and experimental CSO process (a.k.a. Chromakey, the video equivalent of film's "greenscreen" technique). Bernard was hired because his experience would help iron out the inevitable technical problems the new series -  the most ambitious science fiction series tackled by any of the ITV companies - would encounter.

Revelation has chosen a slightly convoluted way of presenting the episodes. After the first episode each subsequent episode originally began with a recap of the events in the story so far, leading up to the title sequence. Although these recaps have (wisely) been retained, they're only accessible from a separate menu. This was probably a well-intentioned choice, designed to make the story flow better as one episode leads quickly into the next, but purists (the core market) would surely rather have had them attached to the episode, with the option of a chapter marker at the end that would make it easy to skip them if so desired. It's also unfortunate that Thames - presumably - have added a modern logo' at the end of each episode (thankfully the contemporary  Thames animated opening sequence is still there).   

Francis De Wolff, chewing the cheap and nasty scenery!The series was made as a mixture of video (for studio-based material) and 16mm film (all the material shot on location). Like many contemporary series, the film sequences are often in mediocre condition, exhibiting a constant speckling of dirt, poor contrast and idiosyncratic and inconsistent colour balance. Unless the original film negatives exist, there's not much that can be done to improve this without exhaustive (expensive) labour intensive restoration. Only the videotape recordings of The Tomorrow People now exist, and so any film flaws that were present in the early 70s are now locked into Thames Television's masters, and these have been transferred faithfully to Revelation's discs, warts 'n all. Picture quality for this first disc is rather poor, exacerbated by Revelation's misguided attempt to cram all five episodes (along with the commentary track and other bonus materials) onto a single-layer disc. The result is an image that's fuzzy throughout. Video sequences are often plagued by the distinctive red and green highlights that are typical of PAL format recordings (it's a result of high-frequency luminance information being mistaken as colour information).


Jedikiah (Roger Bizkey), Coffin (Dave Prowse) and Rabowski (Roger Booth), stealing the Crown Jewels. The Medusa Strain, a four-part story originally transmitted in June and July 1973, is more of a romp than its predecessor. The story picks up more or less where The Slaves of Jedikiah ended: after being defeated by the Tomorrow People, Jedikiah is rescued by a passing spaceship, piloted by a space pirate, in the year 2526. The portly pirate, Captain Rabowski, has the ability to travel through time, thanks to a telepathic young boy (played, incidentally, by Richard Speight, son of Till Death Us Do Part creator Johnny Speight). Jedikiah and Rabowski plan to return to Earth, in 1973, to steal the Crown Jewels, and plot to take revenge on the Tomorrow People. 

The Medusa Strain is a weak story, but it's helped by some imaginative direction by Roger Price, who even manages to make an asset of the Spartan sets used for Rabowski's ship. The story, now relatively free of the cumbersome need to establish the premise of the series and its characters, benefits greatly from a fast-moving plot. Critics would doubtless say that it's a story that's pretty typical of the series, featuring, as it does, the hilarious, Z-movie blob-like title creature, and Dave Prowse playing Coffin, a rather camp silver android, (providing the actor with a rare opportunity for the actor to use his own, Bristol-accented voice).

Jedikiah (Roger Bizley) holds Peter (Richard Speight) at gunpoint.The series' continuity is strengthened by a couple of casual comments about the Tomorrow People, the extent of their powers, and the way that their evolution will develop, but a throwaway line about a petty con-man from the future who traveled back in time to become Adolf Hitler contradicts the revelations in a much later story, Hitler's Last Secret

Jedikiah's ability to change shape allowed the producers to temporarily re-cast the role of Jedikiah, who is now personified the significantly less charismatic Roger Bizley, leaving the ham to be served by Roger Booth (who plays Rabowski). It says a lot about the show's impoverished budget (and about Price's skill as a writer) that the only other character in the story is a Beefeater in the Tower of London vaults! 

The disc comes with another fun commentary track (by Nicholas Young, Philip Gilbert and Peter Vaughan-Clarke). As well as the usual scathing comments about the show's production values, they discuss their lives after the series ended (Young's career floundered, and he became a theatrical agent, Vaughan-Clarke retired from acting and became a lighting designer). The disc also contains the usual text-based episode guides, production notes and cast profiles, as well as a good Q&A-style interview with Young. There are fewer episodes this time around, but any improvement in picture quality is marginal at best.


The third Tomorrow People story takes them out of their usual environment, and finds them in a decidedly not sunny Clacton, where they discover an alien villain, who has the power to influence the weather (scratchy stock footage ahoy!) hiding in the labyrinth beneath a Haunted House ride. 

The series' famously low-budget production values are further undermined by an indifferent transfer, which finds video sequences once again riddled with chroma noise (something that processing with a decent PAL decoder would eliminate) and an audio mix that seems unbalanced and phasey. The photo’ gallery feature is now bolstered with pointless frame grabs. A jovial commentary track completes the package. The Vanishing Earth disc refused to load in my DVD-Rom drive, but worked in several standalone decks. 

Kevin Stoney as Mavic Chen in "Doctor Who - The Daleks' Master Plan". Photo' © BBC The Vanishing Earth benefits from a notable guest cast, including a couple with impressive TV SF pedigrees. Kevin Stoney (the enigmatic Steen) had been a memorable villain in two  Doctor Who stories, pitted against  William Hartnell in The Daleks' Master Plan (1965-6) and butting heads with Patrick Troughton in The Invasion (1968). He also played the leader of an alien race in the 1975 Tom Baker story Revenge of the Cybermen. Stoney appeared in dozens of TV series, spanning four decades. Other TV credits include The Adventures of Robin Hood, Doomwatch (The Plastic Eaters), The Avengers (Mission... Highly Improbable), Space:1999 (The Last Enemy), two episodes of Blake's 7 (Hostage and Animals) and The Prisoner (The Chimes of Big Ben). He also appeared in several episodes of Bergerac, playing 'Horatio' Nelson, and played the Prime Minister in the 1979 Euston Films version of Quatermass. John Woodnutt (Spidron) was another actor who had appeared alongside three different Doctors in Doctor Who, including playing a couple of roles in the early Tom Baker story Terror of the Zygons. He also had an impressive range of credits, often playing Doctors and butlers, in series like The Sweeney (Stay Lucky, Eh?), The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (The Red-Headed League), Children of the Stones and The Avengers (Quick-Quick Slow Death). He also appeared in several episodes of the Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry adaptation of Jeeves and Wooster, as Sir Watkyn.

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