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Mork calling Orson... come in, Orson...
on 23 March 2011
Who could resist this? I was about eight when I first saw this show and thought I'd spend a happy few hours perusing Memory Lane and see if it rang any bells.
I am left with mixed feelings. Series one, based on an excellent John Wyndam novel, is engaging, rather well acted, and has a plot that leaves you gripped. Well, that's where it ends, really.
Series two and three are, to be completely frank, total rubbish...
Series one tells the story of a twelve year old boy who suddenly develops an imaginary friend called "Chocky", who turns out to be the entirely real mental projection of the mind of an extra-terrestrial, scouting the universe.
Chocky attempts to school Matthew in advanced knowledge, but with depressing predictability, something so valuable, instead of being valued and venerated by the human race, is regarded as something to squabble, kidnap and threaten over.
For Matthew's sake, Chocky departs his life forever (yeah, right!) saying to his father that all she'll do in the future is prod earth scientists in the occasional right direction over a century or two.
Chocky's Children then explodes that entirely and retcons Chocky's intentions. Although she hasn't been directly communicating with anyone else, she has been prodding them with a much larger stick than she said she would at the end of series one. This produces, among others, a girl called Albertine who is a maths prodigy who it proves can communicate telepathically with Matthew.
The last two episodes rehash Matthew's fate at the hands of government forces in series one, with the exception that Matthew rescues Albertine and the evil bad guys are laid low with some bizarre powers. (They are somehow knocked out with mass telepathic mumbling.)
Chocky, for a super intelligent being, doesn't learn basic lessons however, so it's then on with Chocky's Challenge, in which many children she has "coached" come together in Cambridge to work on a device for generating power through the capture of cosmic radiation. (So much for the subtle approach, eh?)
This series is a garbage-fest of Jedi mind powers, the worst acting until Eldorado, and yet more hokey bad guys, this time from the British government.
Somehow, in both series two and three, the police turn up as a deus ex machina at precisely the right moment and arrest all the government officials.
Chocky herself evolved from someone who can barely communicate with anyone into someone who can materialise at will to anyone she chooses. In series one the barely audible electronic warble of her voice conveys that only Matthew is able to hear her and it adds mystery and imagination to what she really is. By the end of series three hardly ten minutes goes by without a blue whispy thing manifesting and warbling to everyone in earshot with perfectly audible tones.
Whereas in series one the only irritating thing about the cast was that James Hazeldine (easily the best actor in all three series) didn't staple Carol Drinkwater's mouth shut (she will REALLY get on your nerves by episode six), series two and three, neither based on books by Wyndam but created freestyle to only bear the lightest of passing resemblances to the original, comprise of plots that make no sense, constantly contradict the past and are full of actors who can't act and spend long amounts of time repeating the word "Chocky!" over and over, in a bleating, talentless monotone.
This is particularly true of the girl who is allegedly from Hong Kong, but actually sounds like Helena Bonham-Carter. Casting director Julian Oldfield didn't ever deserve to work again.
Among the child actors, Andrew Ellams (Matthew Gore - central protagonist of series one) is the only one with a grain of talent anywhere at all. He carries the first series. But Annabel Worrell who plays Albertine Meyer from series two onward is irritating and mostly talentless. I say "mostly" because Freddie Brooks (annoying Michael Jackson wannabe), Katrina Wilsher (from Hong Kong, twinned with Knightsbridge) and Paul Russell (the one who does nothing but grin gormlessly, cry and put up missing posters looking for his chin) produce performances that are entirely talentless.
Now this is cannot ENTIRELY down to them. Series 2 and 3 are produced in such a shambolic, unprofessional way that there is little chance they could have been anything else. Even Ellams comes across as dull and listless from series two onward. His being in the whole series would have added something to series three, but at the time he was more concerned with his O Levels and so was largely written out. Because of that the focus was on Albertine, which was a critical mistake. (Although not so big a mistake as bothering to produce the second and third series at all.)
And Ellams appearing dull points out the biggest flaw of the latter two series: the first consisted of a plot written by a very talented writer (John Wyndam) that conveniently fit into six episodes. Two and three were money-making exercises cobbled together out of bric-a-brac by a second rate screenwriter, that consisted of a non-plot that should have been stretched to three at most, but were extended, like a man on a torture rack, to the full six so they could get a series out of them.
I would still buy it though, because the first series is worth it and the whole thing is a nostalgiafest for me. Just don't expect the latter two thirds to entertain you. Use the DVD's as mug coasters or something.