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Chocky's Children

Review by: 
Blackgloves
Release Date: 
1985
Studio: 
Revelation Films
Genre: 
Sci-Fi
Format: 
DVD
Region: 
2 PAL
Aspect Ratio: 
1.33:1
Directed by: 
Peter Duguid
Vic Hughes
Cast: 
Andrew Ellams
Annabel Worrell
Angela Galbraith
Prentis Hancock
Michael Crompton
Movie: 
4
Extras: 
1
Bottom Line: 
4

With the success of the British script editor and writer Anthony Read's Thames TV adaptation of John Wyndham's novel "Chocky" in 1984, there came a rare opportunity to expand on the original story and explore related themes in greater detail when the Wyndham estate allowed Read to pen this, his own follow-up, entitled "Chocky's Children". Screened the following year, with all the main characters initially returning to take up the baton from where the previous six episodes left the story, the series retains much the same feel as the original, with a familiar unflashy charm that places the thoughtful development of character above fast-paced plotting and overblown Sci Fi cliches . Read recaptures the mood of Wyndham's low-key suburban science fiction wonderfully, providing in the process a master class in the art of the sequel. Similar countryside and English village settings are deployed to recapture the sedate atmosphere of the first series, and Matthew's parents Mary (Carol Drinkwater) and David ( James Hazeldine), as well as little sister Polly (Zoe Hart), return in the first episode, but only for just long enough to establish continuity with the previous series before they're packed off on a holiday abroad, while Matthew (still played brilliantly by Andrew Ellams) visits his artistic aunt Cissie in the countryside.

Rather than recapitulate another version of the original story, Read instead makes the effects of Chocky's prolonged contact with Matthew followed by her absence, the main focus of this sequel -- at least to start with. Indeed, it is not until episode three that Chocky even makes an appearance in this series. Instead, it starts out as a tale about someone who has been made the recipient of an extraordinary experience which has set them apart from most other people, and examines how they learn to cope in the aftermath of it -- and then what happens when they unexpectedly find someone else they can make a connection with.           

The story is taken up again about a year after the events of the original series. Matthew Gore (Andrew Ellams) continues to hone the artistic skills first developed while previously under the influence of the alien intelligence nicknamed Chocky, and has just won the National Schools' Art Competition prize for the second year running. Some of his drawings and sketches are incredibly detailed though, depicting, for instance, the intricate workings of a windmill, despite his never having had any real knowledge of them. Others display famous landmarks or accurate images of streets in foreign cities which he has never visited. Matthew's father wonders if he has copied them from books or movies but Matthew claims not  -- they just appear to him inside his head, although sometimes he gets headaches just as the vivid images occur.

Matthew misses the other-worldly thoughts and intimate company of Chocky, and the family are still somewhat traumatised by the whole ordeal, particularly because of the abduction which occurred after Matthew's powers were made public and which was organised by some sinister forces involved with big business. The prospect of the development of a source of infinite 'cosmic' energy which could come about as  a result of the information provided to Matthew by Chocky, would have a huge impact on the business interests of  the vast power generating industries, perhaps rendering them obsolete overnight; Matthew's father is convinced that the faceless people who run such organisations would have no qualms about the permanent 'disappearance' of one little boy if it meant maintaining their global markets. The Gores are trying to live a quite life then, and attempting to keep themselves out of the spotlight. Matthew's father has even become rather suspicious of former family friend, psychiatrist Roy Landis (Jeremy Bulloch) --  who first identified the existence of Chocky -- believing him to be involved with the previous abduction. It was he who recommended Matthew be examined by Sir William Thorpe, after all.

Matthew is indeed  being watched by some sinister and shadowy forces. After his parents leave for a holiday in Japan and Matthew is sent to stay with his Aunt Cissie (Angelia Galbraith) in the countryside , Dr Lomax (Ed Bishop) -- the psychologist who attempted to extract the information from Matthew at the secret research clinic to which he was taken after his abduction -- arranges for one of his colleagues, Luke (Michael Crompton), to pose as a gardener at Matthew's Aunt's house to keep an eye on the boy's activities. Chocky left Matthew in order to protect him from the attentions of these people, yet they're still always watching ... just in case the alien intelligence ever returns.

While exploring the countryside near his aunt's cottage, Matthew discovers the very same windmill from his earlier drawings! Inside he meets a young girl named Albertine Meyer (Annabel Worrell). She is a mathematics protege, already with a scholarship to Cambridge despite being only twelve years old. Her father (Prentis Hancock) keeps her isolated from all other people, teaching her at home using his own learning methods and refusing to let her interact with other children lest it should interfere with her work. Matthew and Albertine soon discover that they have a strange 'psychic' connection though, and are able to predict what the other will say before they even speak. While playing chess, they even stumble upon a degree of psychokinetic power, moving the chess pieces across the board without touching them! Despite the continuing disapproval of Mr Meyer, Albertine and Matthew practice making clay pots on Aunt Cissie's potting-wheel, and Albertine creates exactly the same geometric pattern representation of Chocky's home world as was once painted by Matthew while 'possessed'!

Meanwhile, Luke has observed that Albertine seems to posses similar powers to Matthew and may perhaps  herself be in contact with Chocky. He informs Dr Lomax of this, who tricks Mr Meyer into letting Albertine take part in his experiments. Chocky does eventually materialise to Matthew, in order to warn him that both he and Albertine are in great danger: after the trouble caused by Chocky's invasion of Matthew's mind, the alien intelligence did not leave the planet Earth  but instead developed a way of entering and using the minds of children without them knowing about it. Albertine is one of these children; there are many more, spread all around the world and they are all part of Chocky's mission to benefit the human race by promoting a new level of technological advance. Chocky's previous association with Matthew apparently opened up a psychic channel for him with all these other children: hence his 'visions' of landmarks from around the world, and the windmill drawing, which came about as a result of his link with Albertine. Now Matthew realises that his new friend is in great danger from the same forces which originally took him prisoner. But who will believe him and who can he trust?

"Chocky's Children" starts slowly and builds steadily to a thoroughly engrossing climax. The thrust of the early episodes see Matthew forging a unique friendship with another person his own age for the first time since being left alone by Chocky; but it is common experience of this alien intelligence that initially bonds him to the strange and insular Albertine. Conflict arises because she doesn't realise that her brilliant mind has been developed through association with an other-worldly force, and she's not too keen on accepting the idea. Unlike Matthew, Albertine has been isolated from other children by her obsessive father, who has even risked jail in order to keep her from attending school. While Matthew's alienation was an unwanted side-effect of his strange powers and alien-mediated visions, Albertine's social withdrawal has been ruthlessly arranged by her well-meaning but misguided father. The irony is that it is not even Mr Meyer's rigorous educational routines which have produced his daughter's amazing mathematical brain -- but the subconscious influence of a non-corporal alien intelligence.

Annabel Worrell makes for a great little co-protagonist, sharing great screen chemistry with young Andrew Ellams and managing to seem likable and sympathetic while still portraying the inherent strangeness of a geeky little girl who lives alone alongside a windmill. The machinations of Dr Lomax and his associates play a much larger role in Anthony Read's screenplay than they did in his adaptation of Wyndham's original story, but the balance is just right; Matthew's relationship with Albertine is allowed to grow over the first four episodes before the attentions of Lomax and his sneaky assistant and spy, Luke, become critical. Again, adults abducting children becomes a disturbing central plot element, but the story doesn't really tackle the dubious ethics of an alien inhabiting another person's mind without them ever knowing: it seems equally abusive - given how it affects the unwitting recipient's entire life - to be pumped full of knowledge and given strange mental powers as it is to be forbidden to make friends with other children, yet the story ignores this aspect of the situation by portraying the luminescent alien intelligence Chocky as completely benign and friendly. This is another touching and intriguing little children's drama though with Wyndham's original concept being tastefully expanded to make a series that is fully the equal of its predecessor. 

All six episodes are contained on one disc and there is a text-based interview with Michael Crompton, who played Luke included, also. If you liked the original "Chocky", you should enjoy this follow-up too.

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