1 9 8 4 (UK)
6 x 30 minute episodes
Based on the classic children’s novel by John Masefield, the story follows the exploits of a young boy, Kay Harker (Devin Stanfield), who finds himself drawn into a world of magic and danger when he encounters an old Punch and Judy man.
Described by some critics as capturing the true spirit of Christmas better than any other children’s drama – and surpassing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as the ultimate winter’s tale – The Box of Delights begins with Kay’s train journey to Seekings near Tatchester, where he will spend his Christmas holiday from school.
On the journey, he meets Cole Hawlings (Patrick Troughton), an old Punch and Judy man who tells Kay that “the wolves are running” – a warning that evil is close at hand.
Hawlings is the keeper of the elixir of life, as well as the custodian of a magic box that has the ability to make the owner ‘go small’ and ‘go swift’.
But in order to keep his secret and to stop the box from falling into the hands of wrongdoers, he has been on the run for 700 years – occasionally requiring the help of a human ally.
He is being chased by a magician called Abner Brown (Robert Stephens) and his gang, which includes Kay’s former governess.
With the wolves closing in, Kay agrees to take the box home with him, and so begins an adventure that takes the young boy back into the past “when the wolves ran wild across England” and to ancient Greece, where he meets the inventor of the box.
The BBC sold the series to 215 American PBS stations, where it was shown during prime time with the six 30-minute episodes being shown as three 60-minute broadcasts.
Most of the budget was spent on special effects, which today look very dated but were the best and most ambitious attempt for a British TV series at the time.
Foxy Faced Charles
Herne the Hunter
Sylvia Daisy Pouncer
Bishop of Tatchester