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DVD Review: The Boy from Space

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Film: ★★★☆☆

Release: ★★★

This fascinating children’s drama from the 1970s (repeated in the 80s) is a weird and unnerving piece of work. Brought back into the public’s consciousness by the BFI in this beautifully put together edition released to tie-in with their Sci-Fi season, the programme is a product of its time and features some very stilted acting from the central child actors.

However, to berate it for this would be to miss the point. This is more of a historical and cultural document than a work to be judged by today’s standards.

A bit more context is also needed to fully appreciate what we have here, as this is more than just a science fiction film aimed at children. Though it is presented in an optional uninterrupted film version in this set (which some may prefer), this was aired as part of an educational series on the BBC that aimed to teach children various skills (from scientific knowledge to common sense). This goes some way in explaining parts where characters explicitly state that it is dangerous to put a plastic bag on one’s head.

Obvious acting and safety tips put to one side for the moment, there is a really unnerving oddness to this, and I don’t mean the semi-patronising tone; I’m talking about an element of horror. Sometimes children’s entertainment has a habit of going to the heart of our fears and here it really conjures up an unsettling atmosphere concerning alien invasion. As it happens, the central alien here poses no threat himself. He is a lost boy needing help to return home, helped along by two eager and resourceful children.  

As I have suggested, this isn’t a piece of entertainment for general consumption, but rather an interesting snapshot of a time and method of programme making. For those who find this interesting, it’s an invaluable resource, and a typically excellent release from the BFI.

A note on the release: This is a Standard Definition release as we are working with Standard Definition-originated content. The DVD presents the material as best as it could, but it’s the booklet of extra bits that’s the real gold here, with essays and detail on the programme’s conception.

The Boy From Space is released on DVD by the BFI, Certificate PG. 

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