The Box of Delights – Episode Five – Beware of Yesterday

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Beware of Yesterday is where we really see Abner Brown begin to lose his grip on reality.  His obsession with finding the Box has driven the plot so far, but now even loyal henchman like Joe are beginning to question why he’s scrobbled so many clergymen (not to mention choirboys).  Joe then mentions to Abner that the Church at Tatchester is due to celebrate the Thousandth Christmas Midnight Service this year and all the disappearances have stirred up a great deal of publicity.  But Abner will brook no compromise –

If the Box is not delivered to me by midnight tonight, I will stop their precious ceremony if it’s the last thing I do!

Robert Stephens is gloriously deranged throughout the episode, whether he’s ranting at Joe or counting his jewels and debating whether to leave everybody (including Sylvia) behind.  As I’ve mentioned before, it’s such a wonderful pantomimic performance (apt for the time of year) that really makes the story zing.  I also love the idea that his alter-ego, the Reverend Boddledale leaves to deliver his Christmas lecture to the pensioners.  It would have been lovely to see that!

Apart from showing us Abner’s continuing fruitless searches for the Box, the other major plot-thread concerns Kay’s quest to find a solution.  The Inspector is still no use – he refuses to believe that the Reverend Boddledale (a man he knows well) could possibly be a criminal – considering Kay’s continual accusations to be nothing more than an “hobsession”.  So Kay decides to try and find Arnold of Todi.

This won’t be easy – as Arnold is stranded somewhere back in time.  Herne agrees to send an image of Kay (which will cast no shadow) back – and there’s a possibility that he will be able to return to the present unscathed, although there’s no guarantee.

Although Kay shouldn’t cast a shadow he clearly does (but then it would have been impossible to totally remove it) and he is successful in finding Arnold (Philip Locke) who lives in a fairly unconvincing world of CSO.  It wasn’t uncommon for productions from the 1970’s and 1980’s to somewhat overdose on what CSO could do (and as we can see here, clearly couldn’t) and The Box of Delights certainly used CSO to the limit.

Kay wants Arnold to take the Box back into the past (despite the fact we’ve been told several times that it’s impossible to do so).  Arnold’s not interested, so this whole sequence doesn’t really go anywhere (and could easily have been excised).

Kay does make it back in one piece and returns to spy on Abner.  But he loses the Box – which is a problem since he’s reduced himself to only an inch in height.  Abner has problems too – Charles, Joe and Sylvia are convinced that he’s going to double-cross them, so they decide to double-cross him first.

Next Up – Episode Six – Leave us not Little, nor yet Dark

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