Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Guest Post: THE TOMORROW PEOPLE: "Into The Unknown"

Here's our first Guest Post on Space: 1970, from Star Kid Venger Satanis

I'm not personally familiar with The Tomorrow People at all - it aired in the UK from 1973 to 1979, and while it was syndicated in some U.S. markets (and on Nickelodeon in the 80s), it never played anywhere I could see it. It dealt with the "next stage in human evolution," and centered on a group of young people with a range of mutant psionic powers. Sounds like the X-Men to me! It's been remade twice - in the 1990s, and most recently, for the CW in 2013.

I used to watch the mid-seventies British TV show, The Tomorrow People when I was a kid.  This was in the U.S. during the 80s.  I remember seeing various episodes more than once, so Nickelodeon must have replayed the episodes over and over again.  Lots of interesting sci-fi ideas and adventures that could only be fully appreciated by a 10 year old boy.

Today, I'd like to write about one story in particular.  I already looked on the internet and couldn't find more than one review of the four episodes comprising this tale, and the reviewer wasn't complimentary.  He thought it was boring.

However, what "Into the Unknown" lacks in action, it makes up for in cosmic horror.  Not the kind of cosmic horror you'd find in that Space: 1999 episode with the Lovecraftian monster lurks at the center of that starship graveyard, but another kind.  This cosmic horror is a slow and subtle dread.  A haunted house in space that brushes its inhabitants up against the unknown.  As Lovecraft stated, fear of the unknown is the greatest of all human fears.

So, this Tomorrow People story is well named.  Why is the title apt?  

There's a hole in space.  It's black, but it's not a black hole.  It's not really identified or identifiable at all, except for the aforementioned description.  By the time the viewer reaches episode three, the main characters find themselves journeying through that space hole.

It reminded me of the 1963 film The Haunting.  Isolating, dark,unexplained, vulnerable... the characters are at the mercy of forces they don't understand.  We, the audience, don't understand them either.  The starless void is clearly not where human beings are supposed to be.  It seems actively hostile - or ambivalent, at the very least - as the characters' ship travels onward.

Little things like losing control, the ship speeding up or slowing down on its own, the darkness and then light.  No one knows exactly what the Hell is going on.  Such weirdness would be merely a novelty if the characters didn't have any agency.  Thankfully, they do.  In fact, they have to make a major decision that will affect the outcome.  This decision point has to be made without much to go on, being in the midst of an alien phenomenon.  The lack of clarity only makes it more terrifying.  The characters can either trust their instincts or the supernatural, neither of which is particularly reassuring.

And in the end, we never get a full account of what that hole in space was.  Oh sure, there are subjective interpretations - a sort of circularity, perhaps - but nothing concrete, nothing official, nothing we can point to that will comfort our fear of the unknown.

I won't spoil the thing by going through every detail with a fine-toothed comb, but wanted to give you enough information so you could judge whether to watch it for yourself.  As a 10 year old boy, I was fascinated by this story's feeling of dread.  Re-watching it last week, the impression is nearly as strong as it was three decades ago; however, I can better appreciate what the writer was trying to convey.

Who am I?  Venger Satanis, of course!  If you have any interest in paper & pencil roleplaying games, check out my site:


  1. Loved The Tomorrow People! Watched it on Saturday mornings on the CBC here in Canada.

  2. The UK-released DVDs (watch out for your region codes) are well worth getting just for the commentary tracks from the cast.

    The 1990s remake is also available on disc (albeit without any commentaries) whilst the ropey (what was going on there?) remake has not - to date - been released to my knowledge.

    We must be due another remake circa 2030.

  3. the music is awesome and for a kids show had some nightmarish stuff like robot jedikiah torturing kids and the guy with a hood kidnaping ppl, Gave me lots of nightmares. I still enjoy it but im sure i saw a edit with terrible waa waa waa waaa sounds added to terrible gags which wasnt in version i ended up getting

  4. I remember watching "The Tomorrow People" on Nickelodeon back in the early '80s. I always associate it with an original sci-fi production Nick aired around the same time called (I think) "UFO Kidnapped", featuring some of the cast of "You Can't Do That on Television."

  5. I loved this show, especially the theme music. One of my favorite stories was about the drum that if enough people heard its beating would bring the devil into the world. "Heart of Soggoth" or something like that.