Sky

1975 | United Kingdom

Out of the sky falls a youth, not of this place or time, "part-angel, part-waif", a youth with powers he can neither control or understand.

The mysterious youth and his attempts to rejoin his own time and dimension, and the three teenagers who discover him and set out to help, without really knowing what is going on, provide an unusual story for this seven-part children's drama from HTV.

Sky, written by playwrights Bob Baker and Dave Martin was filmed in such legend-rich locations as Glastonbury Tor, Avebury and Stonehenge.

Sky - Look-in cover 1975

Baker and Martin say their strange youth from space communicates in part by telepathy. "He is part-angel, part-waif, totally ignorant of the world in which he finds himself. He is menaced by forces teenagers who help him cannot comprehend."

Nature itself rejects him and takes on the cadaverous body of Goodchild in sinister personification of the forces of opposition, who can materialise or dematerialise at will.

Sky 1975 TV series

Although Sky is immature, he can compel humans to do what he wants. Sky must find the mysterious Juganet, the cross-over point in time, that is the key to his return to his own dimension and do so before the opposing powers grow too strong to resist.

He speaks of time travellers -"Gods you call them" - who had tried again and again to help the people of Earth. His enigmatic comments contain dire warnings.

Sky TV series 1975
HTV publicity material

The 1970s brought with it a growing maturity in children's television drama having spent the previous decades giving us (with some exceptions) swashbuckling heroes, adolescent detectives-space explorers-or-adventurers, and variations of Agatha Christie's Famous Five. Arguably, the turning point came in 1975 when HTV presented the seven-part series Sky, a show as far removed from the exploits of Sir Francis Drake or the un-famous five from Adventure Weekly as possible. Sky pulled no punches - its messages were clear. It was about all aspects of humanity, ecological issues, relationships, how life is not just black and white but all different shades, and about the balance between good and evil.

Bristol born Bob Baker and Birmingham born Dave Martin had met at Bristol University which meant that they were often referred to as "The Bristol Boys". In fact, they didn't form a partnership at university. Baker did various jobs including restoring old houses, one of which he turned into a small shop.    

Sky TV series 1975
HTV publicity material

Baker recalled: 'I stocked Gauloises for him (Martin), and he came in just as I was about to close most nights, to get another packet of fags. We started talking, and suddenly realised that we both had a similar ambition, that we wanted to write movies. I was working on a particular thing, and he said, "Let’s write it." So we just started writing. For about two years we didn’t get any work, we just kept piling up script after script after script, until we had a roomful, really, of ideas and scripts and bits and pieces.'

Leonard Rossiter and Nina Baden-Semper
Leonard Rossiter and Nina Baden-Semper in 'Thick as Thieves'

A productive collaboration with the producer Patrick Dromgoole at HTV generated a number of projects including their first television play and two dramas, Thick as Thieves (1971) and Machinegunner (1976), both with Leonard Rossiter. A comedy script that they submitted to the BBC in 1969 had landed on the desk of Terrance Dicks which led to an offer to submit an idea for Doctor Who. 'Dave and I learned the Doctor Who formula with The Claws of Axos. Said Baker. 'It took us a year to write that. I think Terrance Dicks was pleased with it, and he hinted that if we came up with the right story, he'd like to use us again.' Between 1971 and 1979 they wrote eight Who stories (Baker did one more on his own) including the tenth anniversary tale which was the first to bring together the incumbent and previous Doctor's in a single adventure, and they also created Tom Baker's robot dog, K9.

Sky TV series 1975

With Sky, it was another collaboration with Dromgoole who was by now the Assistant Managing Director of HTV. To produce the series HTV brought in the legendary Leonard White who had produced such television classics as Armchair Theatre and The Avengers. Cast in the main role was seventeen-year-old actor Marc Harrison who failed to match the fair-haired, blue-eyed description of Sky that they originally envisaged. However, the team were so taken by Harrison's presence and inner strength that a blonde wig, blue contact lenses and pale make-up were enough to transform him into the ethereal being they wanted.

Sky 1975 TV series

Although Sky was made and broadcast for a young teatime audience, its themes were very adult and thought provoking. The story begins when West Country farm boy Arby (Stuart Lock) goes looking for an injured pheasant from a shooting hunt. There is a sudden change in the weather and as a strange storm brews he can telepathically hear a voice calling for help. Arby discovers Sky, a golden-haired youth with solid blue eyes, who has arrived on Earth accidentally and in the wrong time. He tells Arby that he expected to arrive 'after the Chaos' and instead has arrived during the 'Decline.' Following the Chaos man has learned to live without machines and has learned to live once more with nature. As a result, Sky has no intention of altering the impending future. But nature has other ideas. As soon as Sky arrived on Earth it turned against him creating the ruthless, menacing form of Goodchild (Robert Eddison) , a being created out of wind and leaves.

Sky 1975 TV series

Goodchild is an Earth spirit in the form of the Green Man, regenerated by the planet as a dark force which represents both the rejuvenation of the spring as well as the death and decay of the autumn. The Green Man doesn't work for the benefit of man - it works for the benefit of nature.

Sky 1975 TV series

Arby's sister, Jane (Cherrald Butterfield), discovers Arby's secret and both come under the spell of Sky so that he may find the Juganet but before they can help Goodchild causes Arby's mother (Frances Cuka) to be hurt in an accident. Sky uses all his energy to help her but is left in a very weak state. Concerned that Sky is going to die, Jane and Arby take him to hospital where his condition baffles all the doctors except one - Goodchild has taken the form of a surgeon, but with the help of Jane and Arby, Sky manages to escape. In search of the Juganet, Sky visits Glastonbury Tor, Avebury and finally Stonehenge where his search finally proves fruitful. As Sky prepares to depart Goodchild fades into nothingness - only his cloak is left. But it is not Sky who travels but Arby, who has accidentally triggered the Juganet.   

Sky 1975 TV series
Richard Speight, Cherrald Butterfield and Stuart Lock

He arrives in a time after the Chaos where the world has returned to nature and the people to live off the land. But when Arby tries to speak to them, they are incensed that he has spoken out loud rather than use telepathy and decide to sacrifice him to the gods. Sky arrives in time to save his friend and explain that he has been sent to guide these people forward in order that they may achieve their full potential.

Sky 1975 TV series

Bob Baker: 'He's neither hero nor villain, but his power over mortals, his distance ahead of them, makes him a god.'

Published on March 10th, 2022. Written by Malcolm Alexander for Television Heaven.