Little Gems - Snippets from the past
Come Back Lucy by Pamela Sykes
Come Back Lucy was a superb children's fantasy drama written by a wonderful children's author called Pamela Sykes in 1973. It was adapted for television in 1978 and produced by ATV (who later went on to become Central television). Who can forget the programs titles where a little girl goes into a bathroom to check her hair, sees her reflection in the mirror and then turns to leave but the reflection remains static. Finally when the reflection does turn around, there is no face underneath the hair.
The start music can be heard by clicking here (650Kb mp3)
The end music can be heard by clicking here (1.21Mb mp3)
Out of all the television tie-in book releases that I have seen and collected over the years, Come Back Lucy, by far commands the highest price at on line auction. An average paperback copy will go for at least £12-15 on a a normal day and command prices as high as £20 towards Christmas when the silly season starts. Even battered damaged copies with hand writing on it will go for £10 with around five or so bidders. Not sure why this is the case, perhaps this children's drama and its haunting theme music are mostly remembered by people who wish to read the story again.
The television tie-in book was released by Puffin Books back in 1977 with illustrations by Tessa Jordan.
The US title for the book was "Mirror of Danger."
There were six episodes each lasting approximately 25 minutes. The story concerned a little girl called Lucy who lived with her Aunt Olive (played by Aimee Delamain whose acting career was vast and is sadly no longer with us). Lucy was played by Emma Bakhle who sadly only played (to my knowledge), one other role and that was in a story called Sweet William in 1980. I have not been able to find out any other details of Emma Bakhle since that time.
Main Characters from the series
Orphan Lucy liked the past and Aunt Olive came very much from the past as her house was Victorian and was full of old Victorian items. Everything Aunt Olive owned had been delicate and beautifully made. Hence Lucy was happy being around old things and liked the quiet life away from noisy events and happenings. However, all good things must come to an end and alas for poor Lucy, Aunt Olive eventually dies. After the funeral, Lucy learns that she cannot remain in the house on her own and worse still she must leave before Christmas as the house must be sold. She goes to stay with her cousins whom she does not really know very well (the only other real alternative would be Boarding School). Her Aunt and Uncle though are happy to look after Lucy as she is a very quiet polite young girl but her three cousins are to obsessed with fashion and modern living to be interested in Lucy. Lucy hates the crisps and chips they eat as well as their fashionable clothing. Although everyone tries, the children Patrick, Rachel and Bill just do not get on. Aunt Gwen was played by Phyllida Law whose acting career is huge, appearing in the Sara Jane Adventures in 2007 right back to Jackanory in 1966 where she told the nation's children stories of Rupert Bear. Lucy feels quite at home in her new house.
The new house though is huge and has lots of rooms. It is just outside London. Whilst exploring the house, Lucy goes upstairs to an old attic room. She finds that it is full of old pieces of Victorian furniture, chairs and everything is covered in a thick layer of dust. Lucy comes across some old picture frames and an old mirror with a heavy gold frame. As soon as she removes the dust from it, the ghost of a girl called Alice appears. Alice, at first glance, appears to be of a similar age, she is polite and courteous but she soon develops into quite a nasty piece of work with a sinister agenda. Alice stands there wearing a long pinafore type dress and states that her name is Alice and that she lives here but the real question should be "who" looking at Lucy "are you?" As Lucy glances around her, the attic room no longer has old cases and furniture in it but it now has an iron bed with a chair and chest of drawers. The old wooden horse is there but is not old and dusty, it is brand new. Lucy asks where she is and Alice tells her that she is now in "Flo's bedroom, but that she is safe must hush or someone would hear her." Alice is not at all impressed with Lucy's appearance especially with the drab looking clothes.
Initially Lucy likes Alice as she is from the past (over one hundred years old) and prefers things to be in a Victorian order but soon Alice is bent on holding Lucy in the past and tries to prevent her returning to her own time. Alice is very much the friend that Lucy is needing after the death of her Aunt Olive. But the friendship soon turns to fear when Alice starts to twist things around to her advantage. Alice takes Lucy Carol singing, to a Victorian Christmas party, gives her a new dress and plays and talks to Lucy as if though she were her very best friend. Alice is conscious that Lucy's clothes must not be seen by Mademoiselle and so Alice insists that Lucy keep her coat buttoned up until they can get her into some new clothes.
Alice gives Lucy a new party frock and Lucy is over the moon as it really is a beautiful hand made dress. Later back at the family's house the group are in the front room listening to carol singers outside. Lucy watches them from a distance but realises that they are from the past. She goes to another window and sees Alice waiting for her. Lucy goes outside to see Alice and they join in the festivities.
Alice tries to persuade Lucy that there is nothing better than being friends forever and that by staying in the past she and Alice would be forever together. Lucy finds it more and more difficult to resists becoming trapped in the past with Alice. Later in one of the rooms, Aunt Gwen talks to Lucy about things in general. As Lucy leaves Aunt Gwen hears voices and realises that the house may indeed be haunted.
After a particularly nice time with Alice, Alice again tries to persuade Lucy to stay but Lucy runs away from Alice and back to her own time. Lucy realises she has upset Alice when she cannot see or find her in the house. Lucy looks in all the mirrors and windows but still no sign of Alice. Later Bill goes upstairs to the attic room looking for Lucy. Bill comes face to face with Alice. At first he is not alarmed but Alice is both angry and taken aback that Bill can see her. Bill asks Alice where Lucy is and who she (Alice) is. Alice stares right back at him without saying a word. The look on Alice's face is superb as she starts to cause real fear in Bill. He soon hides his eyes from her and turns away and when he next looks, Alice has gone. Later Lucy is in the kitchen cleaning some glasses. She glances into the bottom of one of the glasses and sees Alice's face staring back at her. She gets such a fright that the glass breaks (whether of not it was Lucy holding it too tight or it was Alice being pure evil - we do not know). Lucy's hand is hurt and she faints. Lucy is taken upstairs to bed and the next day or two she spends alone but being haunted by the voice of Alice. She is so upset that she is eventually given a pill by Doctor Brown which knocks her out and leaves to have a restful night of sleep without Alice interfering.
As the story reaches its climax, Lucy is becoming increasingly distrustful of Alice but finds that she is being taken over by her. Alice lures Lucy outside the house, down the street and into the local Park. It is cold outside and Lucy is wrapped up well. Lucy's hand though is still quite painful. Lucy walks there alone apart from the Alice's voice calling her. Once at the Park, Alice attempts to get Lucy to step onto the Park's small lake which has been frozen over with the cold weather. The surface of the lake though is not strong enough to hold Lucy and starts to creak and crack. Alice knows this but still calls out to Lucy to walk further towards the middle of the frozen lake. Lucy ends up in the freezing water being pulled down by Alice. Lucy struggles to resists but Alice is very strong and so pulls at her legs and arms. Suddenly Lucy feels a tug from above, Bill and Patrick had saved her. Lucy would certainly have died if she had not been rescued and wakes up back in a warm bed inside her bedroom. There the new family gather around her and she realises that she can be happy here.
Back in Rachel's bedroom, Lucy is expecting a row from her Aunt and Uncle. To her surprise, they are not angry but relieved she is okay. Uncle Peter tries to piece together the events and realises that there must be something in Lucy's old bedroom. Uncle Peter leaves and returns with an old book he found. Only now, when Uncle Peter opens it and Rachel reads the last entry do we learn that Alice had indeed lived in this very house many years before and that she had started a diary. The last note in her diary stated that she would do no more writing as they were to start a new life in the country (a bit like Lucy having moved away). The last entry was dated Alice Becket 21st December 1873 with the house address of Lucy's new home. Hence the mystery of who Alice was and why she resided at the house was solved. Alice was very much like Lucy in terms of feelings of loneliness and needing answers to questions.
Brilliantly acted by the the two girls and coupled with a very memorable piece of theme music by Ken Jones (who also did the themes for "Only when I laugh" and "Battle beneath the Earth"), Come Back Lucy is another classic gem of a drama that should be brought back to our screens if only for a repeat showing. The acting and effects were pretty good for their time and would easily entertain today's children (my own children will testify (not again they cry) to that claim).
A sequel book was written by Pamela Sykes called "Lucy Beware." It was published in 1983 and concerned the reappearance of Alice the ghost from "Come Back Lucy." This time Alice appears when Aunt Gwen is ill and Lucy is feeling a bit out of sorts. Lucy though is stronger in this book and she attempts to get Alice to help her in her school project. Alice does indeed offer to help but she still has another agenda centered around Lucy. Alas this book was never adapted for television but these two books "Come Back Lucy" and "Lucy Beware" must offer a very tempting adaptation for today's generation since it covers a diverse array of subject matter. If "Stig of the Dump" can be remade why then cannot this drama ?
The episodes were shown on a Sunday, transmission dates being:
23rd April 1978
30th April 1978
7th May 1978
14th May 1978
21st May 1978
28th May 1978
Below are some Spanish clips taken from television magazines (thankyou to Mirren in Montpellier for sending these to me). Come Back Lucy was shown on Spanish television in 1980.
Come Back Lucy End Credits
|Written by||Pamela Sykes|
|Adapted for Television by||Colin Shindler & Gail Renard|
|Aunt Gwen||Phyllida Law|
|Uncle Peter||Royce Mills|
|Aunt Olive||Aimee Delamain|
|Mr. Peel||Harold Innocent|
|Mrs. Belling (next door neighbour)||Pat Keen|
|Mr. Thomas the Vicar||Stephen Thorns|
|Production Assistant||Rita Darlington|
|Programme Administrator||Ron Brown|
|Make up||Sandy Staples|
|Floor Manager||Sean O'Farrell|
|Vision Control||John Crane|
|VTR Editor||Tim Waddell|
|Music Composer||Ken Jones|
|Produced by||Shaun O'Riordan|
|Directed by||Paul Harrison|
|An ATV Colour Production||Copyright ATV Network Limited 1978|
Anyone having comments, suggestions, questions etc. then please email me at the usual address.