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Box of Delights, The

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 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 at the time were the best and most ambitious attempted for a British TV series.

Kay Harker
Devin Stanfield
Abner Brown
Robert Stephens
Foxy Faced Charles
Geoffrey Larder
Chubby Joe
Jonathan Stephens
Heidi Burton
Joanna Dukes
Flora Page
James Grout
Caroline Louisa
Carol Frazer
Crispin Mair
Herne the Hunter
Glyn Baker
Sylvia Daisy Pouncer
Patricia Quinn
Bishop of Tatchester
John Horsley
Helen Fraser
Cole Hawlings
Patrick Troughton
Old Lady
Anne Dyson
Pirate Rat
Nick Berry
Pirate Rat
Stewart Harwood
Bill Wallis
Chief Constable
Charles Pemberton
Old Jim
Johnny Casino
Simon Barry
Waterfall Boy
Jason Kemp
John Styles