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Chocky
cast: Andrew Ellams, James Hazeldine, Carol Drinkwater, and Zoe Hart

producer and director: Vic Hughes

151 minutes (PG) 1984
Second Sight DVD Region '0' retail
Also available to buy on video
[released 7 October]

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Donald Morefield
A children's sci-fi drama made by Thames TV nearly 20 years ago, Chocky was based on the novel by John Wyndham, and starred Andrew Ellams as 12-year-old Matthew, the Surrey schoolboy visited by a strange alien presence...
   The boy's foster parents, David and Mary Gore (James Hazeldine, Carol Drinkwater) first notice something is amiss when Matthew starts 'talking to himself', but they soon realise that 'Chocky' is no run-of-the-mill imaginary friend when their adopted son starts asking curiously philosophical questions about gender, and doing his maths homework in binary code. When Chocky derides the family's brand new car, asserting that mankind is "stuck in the age of the wheel," Matthew has a nervous tantrum, frightening his already worried mum (who is intuitively afraid of the unknown), and prompting his more open-minded dad to call in his old pal, now a noted psychiatrist, to informally assess Matthew's mental state.
   In contrast to the lore of supernatural fantasy, Matthew is not 'possessed', and Chocky appears to have a largely beneficial effect on its human host. Matthew's hand/eye coordination and reaction time are enhanced when he allows Chocky to influence him, so although he burns out a neighbour's home computer deck while playing Space Invaders, he also excels at cricket, hitting a winning six for his school team. Talks with the psychiatrist reveal that Chocky is an explorer, teacher and scout for a peculiar extraterrestrial race of beings that travel as pure energy through space. The Gore family's summer holiday at a riverside cottage leads to news of Chocky broadcast on local radio, when non-swimmer Matthew saves his sister from drowning after a freak boating accident. This unwelcome attention from reporters attracts cranks and alarmingly intrusive nutcases to the Gore household. Then, Matthew's visit to a Harley Street specialist results in examination under hypnosis, followed by a suspiciously 'benign' kidnapping from outside his school...
   Chocky is inspiringly mature and intelligent for kids' TV but, as its source was the mind of one of Britain's finest genre authors, perhaps this is not very surprising. As a TV serial, it has impressive scripting and acting, and decent production values given the decade it was made, even if the unsophisticated visual effects - when Chocky becomes visible - are unexciting if compared to the flashy digital effects of today, and somewhat counterproductive in that their crudeness undermines the mystery of Chocky's non-corporeal nature. What really makes Chocky so worthwhile is its detailed SF scenario, where human traits and conventional ways of thinking are contrasted with a distinctive 'Other' viewpoint that is well and truly from 'outside of the box'. Chocky is comprised of six, 25-minute episodes (transferred to disc here, in their entirety), and its 1980s' success led to sequel series, Chocky's Children (1985), and Chocky's Challenge (1986).
   DVD extras: an informative and entertaining video interview (21 minutes) with scriptwriter Anthony Read.
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