1 9 7 3 – 1 9 7 9 (UK)
68 x 25 minute episodes
Although a reboot in name only of The Tomorrow People was made in the 1990s and an American series loosely based on the original programme was produced in 2013, the original 1970s action-packed science fiction series still rules supreme.
Launched on Monday 30 April 1973 by Thames Television, The Tomorrow People revolved around a group of 1970s children who had reached the next stage of evolution – “Homo Superior” – and enjoyed special powers including telekinesis and telepathy.
The Tomorrow People used to teleport through time and space, which they called “Jaunting”.
Intended as ITV’s answer to Doctor Who, the series began with the original group of Stephen, Carol, John, Kenny, Lefty and Ginge establishing their HQ (which they called The Lab) in a disused London Underground tunnel.
24-year-old John (Nicholas Young) was a slightly solemn young man and the closest thing the Tomorrow People had to a leader. His father was a sergeant in the London police force.
Carol (Sammie Winmill) was the 16-year-old daughter of trendy Hampstead parents (a TV producer and a journalist respectively) and felt deeply for the misfortunes of all humanity. She worked hard to preserve harmony within the group.
14-year-old Stephen (Peter Vaughan Clarke) had not yet ‘broken out’ (become a Tomorrow Person) and the whole thing was an exciting new adventure for him.
Kenny (Stephen Salmon) was a young boy who had broken out at a very young age and was developing a most powerful mind.
The group of telepathic kids protected the Earth and its inhabitants with the help of their speaking biotronic supercomputer Tim (voiced by Philip Gilbert).
After the first series, Stephen Salmon was quietly dropped from the cast, whilst Sammie Winmill elected to leave to concentrate on other work. The characters of Kenny and Carol both departed the series off-screen, their absence covered in a few lines of dialogue explaining how they had both left Earth to go and live at the Galactic Trig, home of the Galactic Federation, a peaceful alliance of alien telepathic races.
John and Stephen were soon joined by new Tomorrow Person, Elizabeth (Elizabeth Adare), a teenage trainee teacher at Stephen’s school who ‘breaks out’ in the first story of the second season.
The second series aired weekly from February 1974, opening with the fondly-remembered story ‘The Blue and the Green’, which sees an unearthly influence take hold of pupils at Stephen’s school through a painting of an alien landscape. Stephen’s classmates then all choose one of two coloured badges to wear, and the changing landscape in the painting then urges violent forms of aggression to break out between those wearing badges of the opposing colour.
When The Tomorrow People returned in February 1975, again for another 13 episodes, their numbers were swelled by another new recruit. Tyso (Dean Lawrence) was a young boy who lived with his family of gypsy travellers, and who was the subject of a team of government scientists, led by Professor Cawston (Bryan Stanion), seeking to use telepaths as secret weapons against foreign powers.
The series concluded with the return of arch-villain, Jedikiah (Francis De Wolff), and the reappearance of Professor Cawston, whose young assistant, Tricia (Ann Curthoys), unexpectedly breaks out and becomes a Tomorrow Person.
The Tomorrow People end up fleeing Earth to seek sanctuary with the Galactic Federation, leaving their underground base deserted.
By the fourth series, John, Stephen, Tyso and Elizabeth (but not Tricia, who was never mentioned again) returned to Earth just in time to help another young Tomorrow Person, Mike (Mike Holloway, who at the time was the 15-year old drummer in the teen pop band Flintlock), break out.
Dean Lawrence and Peter Vaughan-Clarke both left the show at the end of the fourth series, reducing the Tomorrow People to a trio of John, Elizabeth and Mike.
A sixth series was planned for 1978 but a fire broke out in the Thames TV prop store between seasons which destroyed all of the standing sets for the show.
Consequently, a new set had to be devised for the series and built from scratch and was noticeably smaller than the original. TIM was now housed in a mobile prop which could move around the set, and at the same time, the iconic ‘jaunting belts’ were replaced by smaller bands that were now worn on the wrist.
Elizabeth Adare was forced to miss the filming of the sixth series, as she was pregnant at the time of filming, and so the character of Elizabeth was said to be away working at the Galactic Federation. A new Tomorrow Person was introduced in the first story – Hsui Tai (Misako Koba), a young Japanese girl.
By the seventh series, Elizabeth had returned and Scottish teenager Andrew Forbes (Nigel Rhodes) joined John, Mike, Hsui Tia and Elizabeth.
The eighth and final, series aired in late January 1979 and featured a single, four-part story, ‘War of the Empires’. A ninth series was planned but plans were thrown into chaos when the whole ITV network was shut down over the autumn of 1979 by a series of strikes, which left the channel off-air for around ten weeks. When the industrial action was finally resolved, plans for a new series of The Tomorrow People were permanently shelved
Three short seasons of a new show called The Tomorrow People were made for ITV in the early 90s but this new series had no connection to the original programme, and was a reboot in name only.
More recently, in 2013, The CW Network in America purchased the rights to the original series and made 22 episodes loosely based on the original first series. This revival was also short-lived, and the series was cancelled after its first year.
For a kids show, The Tomorrow People was quite complex. The following is a brief glossary of essential TP jargon:
Breaking Out: Developing your telepathic skills and becoming a Tomorrow Person. Very painful (sometimes fatal)
Jaunting: Teleporting. Tomorrow People can jaunt but the plain old Saps must use a matter transfer machine.
Saps: Slang term for the inferior Homo Sapiens
TIM: The advanced “biotronic” super-computer that controls the TP’s jaunting belts and bands (amongst other things)
Galactic Federation: An alliance of all telepathic races in the Galaxy.
Galactic Trig: The Space Station where the Galactic Federation meet.
Time Lanes: Routes to and from different time periods. A Time Key is required to use a Time Lane (naturally)
Peter Vaughan Clarke
Voice of TIM
Francis De Wolff