You Gotta Make Way (Again) For The Homo Superior

‘Jaunt’ author Andy Davidson on bringing the Tomorrow People’s story up to date.

Way back when I was less than half my present size, a regular Thursday night fixture would see me and a group of friends gathering around a few carefully curated DVDs and as much booze as we could legitimately consume on a work night.

One night, one of those friends – who was part of a burgeoning independent publishing company – remarked casually (I thought at the time) that nobody had written a book about The Tomorrow People and asked what I thought of it. I told him it was cheap, silly and that I’d rather not think of it at all. Then, with an evil glint in his eye, he produced a DVD of the second season adventure “A Rift in Time”. An hour later I started taking notes.

You see, the thing about The Tomorrow People is that while it was let down occasionally by its shoestring budget, the ideas that the show explored were revolutionary for children’s television at the time. Chaos theory, organised religion, international relations, sexual and racial prejudice, tribalism, fascism and youth culture; these are what The Tomorrow People was really about. All these and crucially, how the youth of the time had the power to influence and change the world for the better. It wasn’t just the Tomorrow People; every child had the potential to become homo superior. And if a silver spray-painted cup from the Thames TV canteen glued to a mop didn’t make for a convincing spaceship, then so be it – the drama, the characters, the pragmatic optimism and the sheer energy of the programme more than made up for any technical shortcomings.

In the year that it took to write the first edition of Jaunt, I fell in love with The Tomorrow People and was lucky enough to get to know both the people who made it and the people who grew up to be inspired by it and become the next generation of scientists, thinkers and educators.

With typically perfect timing, I finished the final manuscript of Jaunt just days before The CW announced it was remaking the show. Faced with the choice of either delaying publication until I’d had a chance to properly do justice to the new series or drawing a line under things to focus just on the “classic” eras, I took what I believe to be the right decision and the book was, I’m pleased to say, a modest success.

When Ten Acre Films approached me last year about a possible new edition, I first wanted to revisit the most recent incarnation of the Tomorrow People. The CW’s version was, it’s fair to say, less than it should have been. The basic concept may have been the same as Roger Price envisioned back in the early 1970s – that of a generation of young people trying to find their place in a world which it seemed was not ready for them, or they it – but the execution was quite different. I wanted to understand why the modern incarnation had veered so far from the programme’s roots and whether the programme it did become deserved to be more of a success than it eventually became.

Writing that new segment of the book got me thinking about a bigger story. The Tomorrow People is one of those ideas that just won’t stay down. It has existed as a high profile SF adventure during three separate eras. And those eras each saw a seismic shift in the way television – not only for young audiences but television in general – was being made. That gave me a unique opportunity to use the three main incarnations of The Tomorrow People – the TV incarnations – as a means of contrasting and comparing not only the technology and process of how television was made during the early 1970s, 1990s and 2010s but also how broadcasters set out to entertain young audiences during those periods.

Look-in magazine was a goldmine for Tomorrow People stories. Here’s an interview with Nicholas Young from the 20/08/77 edition.

I originally intended to expand the introductory chapters for each series with a brief snapshot of the way things were done at the time, but as I delved more into the history of children’s television, I became ever more enthused by the subject. The result is a major new section in Jaunt which seeks to explain why the programmes of their time were made the way they were against the backdrop of an evolving broadcast industry. It’s also given me several ideas for what I want to write about next, assuming I can entice a friendly publisher.

In addition to more than 30,000 new words, I’ve added new interviews with cast and crew, revisited and re-evaluated the 1990s series and thanks to the generosity of series creator, Roger Price, been permitted to reproduce his original pitch to Thames Television in its entirety.

Then, just as I was finishing the manuscript (again), I received an email from a friend to say that a writer they knew had stumbled across a file of production material belonging to Paul Bernard, director of the first series of The Tomorrow People and would I be interested in giving it a home? A great deal of The Tomorrow People’s early documented life was lost in a fire at Thames, and this was something which I had never even considered might exist. But there it was – budgets, casting suggestions, call sheets, SFX breakdowns and a host of internal memos from the various high-ups at Thames. Bernard’s file helped fill in several missing pieces of The Tomorrow People story and to give readers a better understanding of how the show was created, I’ve included a selection of key documents from those early days.

The resulting book is something quite different to the original Jaunt. The story breakdowns, reviews and occasional attempts at wit are all there, but I hope that in addition to bringing the Tomorrow People’s story up to date, I’ve been able to bring a new sense of context to the series, how it was made and how it fits into the overall television landscape.

‘Jaunt’, a revised and expanded edition of the viewer’s guide to The Tomorrow People by Andy Davidson, with a foreword by series creator Roger Price, is published 11 July 2022 from Ten Acre Films, £16.99. Pre-order here:

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