Superior children's drama series with a distinguished cast of adult actors telling a tale of riches to rags of the Bulman family and in particular young Dominic, played by 13-year-old Murray Dale, the son of Carry On stalwart Jim Dale, in only his second professional engagement.
The main setting is Yorkshire in the year 1820 although the adventure is enacted on two continents thousands of miles apart - the story opening on the wild and barbaric coast of Africa, where Captain Charles Bulman (Richard Todd in his first television series) loses his ship -The Bright Star, when it runs aground off the north coast. An Arab finds him lying on the beach and, mistakenly thinking he is dead, strips him of his valuables and identification. When he does come round, he is captured by slavers. In England, where his wife Emma (South African born actress Hildegarde Neil, also in her first television series) is left destitute. With no income and with no word of the fate of her husband, and believing he has been lost at sea, she is forced to sell their Greenwich home and move to Yorkshire with her son where they throw themselves on the mercy of Lady Bulman (Mary Morris), who turns them away as money grabbers.
With nowhere else to go, they throw in their lot with an old seafaring friend of Charles, a drunken old salt by the name of William Woodcock (Brian Blessed). Having served under Captain Bulman at the Battle of Trafalgar, Woodcock feels he owes the family a favour as a debt of gratitude, and soon falls under the spell of the beautiful Lady Bulman. Together they open a guesthouse catering for patrons from all walks of life and of varying notoriety, whilst she strives to clear her husband's name after accusations are made that he deliberately sunk his ship to claim the insurance on it.
Richard Todd had long wanted to appear in the leading role in a television series, but until Boy Dominic came along, he'd never really found the right vehicle. Best remembered for his role as Wing Commander Guy Gibson in the classic World War 2 film The Dam Busters, and having made numerous stage appearances, Todd told the readers of Look-in magazine 'I have always got on well with Jess Yates, the executive producer, and was very impressed with the casting of the series. I had just finished a play in London and was able to fly straight to Tunisia, where the first part of the filming was done.'
Hildegarde Neil, who met Brian Blessed on the set of Boy Dominic and later married him, also enjoyed a fine reputation on the big screen in movies such as Anthony and Cleopatra and A Touch of Class in which she shared George Segal's affections with Glenda Jackson.
Murray Dale made his professional debut at the age of 8 when he appeared on the West End stage in It's Two Foot Six Above the Ground World and at the age of ten he appeared in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Edinburgh Festival. The two Dominic series were his only television roles.
Among the credits were three top directors: John Davies had previously directed War and Peace (a 20 episode BBC series in 1976), the twice-weekly saga United (1965-1967), Z Cars and Doctor Who (The Macra Terror) - Gareth Davies had directed 165 episodes of the BBC soap Compact and had won awards for Tom Brown's Schooldays - Jeremy Summers had directed a number of ITC classic series such as The Saint, The Baron, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), Jason King and The Protectors and would later go on to Tenko, Coronation Street, The Bill and Brookside. The producer was Terence Williams who made Hadleigh.
Events take a turn when Charles Bulman suddenly returns to England having survived slavery and prison and seeks revenge on those that sabotaged his vessel. All's well that ends well and the family are reunited at the end of the first series. However, there was worse awaiting the Bulman lad in series two. The saga begins with the brutal murder of his parents and sets the course for his revenge.
Dominic, now 16 years-old (the 'Boy' part of the title was dropped for the second series), now going by the name of Nick Bulman, sets about finding the reason for the double murder. Along the way he finds himself involved in smuggling, gets thrown into dungeons, trapped in a cave by the fast-rising sea and is abandoned in a 'haunted' crypt.
The characters in the second series include Bartholemew Finn (Gordon Gostelow) - known to friends as Barty, the landlord of the Eight Bells, a lonely cliff-top inn on a bleak stretch of the Yorkshire coast; his daughter Lucy (Stacey Tendeter) who befriends Nick; Lord Stainton (Thorley Walters), the local chief magistrate; Captain Beever (John Hallam) a trusted friend of Charles Bulman; Lady Harriet (Louise Jameson); Bessie Dearlove (Ruth Kettlewell) a faithful old nurse; and Wardley (Edwin Richfield) a bailiff who is out for what he can get - by fair means or foul, who will readily turn his allegiance to the highest bidder.
More adult in tone than the first series, Dominic was full of intelligent twists and intrigues and involved the secret of a Hunter – a gold watch found at the scene of the murder, which carries an engraving on the back of the family crest of Lord Stainton.
Published on March 25th, 2022. Written by Malcolm Alexander for Television Heaven.