top of page

Join our mailing list

Thanks for subscribing!

Be the first to know!

Thanks for subscribing!

CHOCKY TV SERIES: ALIEN ENCOUNTERS IN MIDDLE ENGLAND

Updated: Dec 26, 2023



Andrew Ellams in the ITV's Chocky TV series based on John Wyndham's book.
Loving the alien: Matthew Gore (Andrew Ellams) talks to Chocky in the TV series.

IMAGINE being 11-years-old and having an alien in your head. The trials of a middle-class English family are given an unnerving twist in this classic children’s sci-fi drama.


Chocky is a six-episode series adapted by Anthony Read from author John Wyndham’s book, which first aired on ITV in 1984. The Gore family’s comfortable life is thrown into disarray when their adopted son, Matthew (Andrew Ellams), is befriended by Chocky, an alien transmitting its mind across the galaxy.


For years I was haunted by Chocky. Stuck in my brain, there was a half-forgotten recollection of disturbing alien music, which scared me stiff when I was six. It’s taken time to pluck up the courage to revisit it. Was it as scary as I remember?


Wyndham explored inter-generation tension in two classic books. He examined adults’ fears in The Midwich Cuckoos and teenage anxieties in The Chrysalids, both of which delivered world-ending visions of humanity being threatening by super-powered children. While Chocky shares some elements with these works, both book and TV series turn down the apocalyptic fears. It’s also the author’s most personal story (Ketterer, 2008), with Matthew representing his desire to reconnect with an absent father. As a result, it’s a melancholy family drama complimented by an uncannily chilling theme tune.


James Hazeldine and Carol Drinkwater in the Chocky TV series, which aired on ITV in 1984.
United by worry: David (James Hazeldine) and Mary Gore (Carol Drinkwater) become concerned by their son's situation.

Chocky’s mission is to guide humanity to clean energy via Matthew but having an inquisitive alien in your head is difficult. At times, the boy appears to be talking to himself while trying to answer her many questions, which leads parents Mary and David to worry he’s going mad. The Gores are a stereotypically middle-class couple, with a breadwinner husband and homemaker wife, and they have opposing reactions when they discover what’s going on. David is dispassionate and interested, while Mary is angry and concerned.


The fear of being replaced by more intelligent and powerful new generation is a recurring theme in science fiction and horror (Tisdall, 2016), which often leads to violence. For example, in Midwich Cuckoos the children’s threat is ended when the main character sacrifices himself to blow them up. But the inter-generation battles are replaced by familiar family ups-and-downs in Chocky. Matthews’ parents have a natural desire to support him and father and son strengthen their bond because of the situation.


Despite the show’s positive outlook, the darker elements gnaw at the edges. Chocky wants to guide humanity to clean energy, which is still resonant today, but this raises questions about self-determinism and implies a drawn-out doom if the mission fails. Chocky is genderless (Atwood, 2015) but is referred to as female throughout (voiced by Glynis Brooks) by the Gores. Despite caring deeply for Earthlings, she is also a dangerous mix of vast intelligence and naivety, which inevitably endangers her human host. Terrifyingly, she can control Matthew's body at will but only does so to help – most notably rescuing him and his sister from drowning.


While an uncertain antagonist, Matthew fits the ‘younger equals powerful’ criteria which ‘super-children’ often fall into (Baker, 2020). He’s selected by Chocky because his mind is more receptive than other children - making him special - and he’s at an impressionable age. Under the alien’s influence his intelligence grows, which is neatly demonstrated when he swiftly completes a Rubik’s Cube. But his status as humanity’s ‘superchild saviour’ is fragile and ends as suddenly as it starts. Chocky decides to leave Matthew and find a subtler way to influence humanity after the child is kidnapped by shadowy figures eager to steal her secrets. Harking back to Wyndham’s earlier works, being a ‘superchild’ - no matter their intent – is dangerous for humanity and the child.


At the end, the disembodied visitor reveals herself to David and begs that Matthew, who has returned to ‘normal’, keep a low profile to stay safe. Poignantly in the final scene, the father gives his son a medal engraved with Chocky’s name. While the boy received this originally for 'saving' his sister from drowning, the addition of the name symbolises father and son's strengthened relationship and recognises the alien’s role as a conduit for their communication (Ketterer, 2008).


Overall, Chocky is not the scarefest which loomed large in my memory. Instead it’s a grounded family drama charting a very recognisable situation – children’s mental health – with a sci-fi twist. Matthew is neither humanity’s saviour nor destroyer and despite the cosy middle class setting, it delivers uncomfortable moments for adults and children alike.


Chocky and its two follow on series - Chocky's Children and Chocky's Challenge - were released on DVD in By Revelation Films in 2010 and can be purchased online.


References for Chocky TV series

Atwood, M. (2015) Chocky, the Kindly Body Snatcher, Slate. Available at: https://slate.com/culture/2015/09/margaret-atwood-chocky-the-kindly-alien-invader-in-john-wyndhams-last-book.html. (Accessed May 13, 2022).


Baker, KA. (2019) Look Out At Your Children: The Superchild Motif in British Scientific Romance. University of Birmingham. Available at:

Ketterer, D. (2008) John Wyndham’s “Chocky”, The First Alternative World. Science Fiction Studies Vol 35 No 2. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/25475159?read-now=1&refreqid=excelsior%3A281fa214d33b521e0d4e6d86770c79c1&seq=1 (First Accessed: June 6 2022).


Tisdall, L. (2016) The psychologist, the psychoanalyst and the ‘extraordinary child’ in postwar British science fiction, Medical Humanities Special Issue, ‘Science Fiction and the Medical Humanities. Available at: https://ora.ox.ac.uk/objects/uuid:7b50e1d8-a477-4529-9c84-d04a8d970891/download_file?file_format=pdf&safe_filename=The%2Bpsychologist%252C%2Bthe%2Bpsychoanalyst%2Band%2Bthe%2Bextraordinary%2Bchild%2Bin%2Bpostwar%2BBritish%2Bscience%2Bfiction.pdf&type_of_work=Journal+article. (First Accessed: May 10, 2022).


Further Reading


Other Articles on The Hindsight Hut


THE HUT'S TV GOLD: Red Dwarf - Back to Reality


165 views

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page