“Beware of Yesterday”
Beware of yesterday, especially when yesterday is achieved with Colour Separation Overlay. Kay goes back into the past in search of Arnold of Todi, the original owner of the Box of Delights. He seems to think that giving Arnold back his box will solve everyone’s problems, although the logic escapes me. Abner clearly doesn’t know where the box is, and Joe’s suggestion that Cole might have given it to Kay is met with derision. I’m not sure why he would think Abner will stop looking for it and let everyone go because it has been passed on to somebody else, even if that somebody else is the box’s original owner. The whole sequence is rather pointless, adding jeopardy but failing to move the story onwards, with Arnold reacting angrily and refusing to take back the box. I suppose his refusal to accept it is interesting, suggesting that the power it brings could be a curse as much as a blessing. Somewhere hidden away here is a theme of being careful what you wish for, but it is buried deep beneath some fairly disposable and momentary danger.
It doesn’t help that the scenes set in the past have not aged well. The idea that the shadow of Kay who travels into the past will himself cast no shadow seems to be a gift in terms of explaining away the problems with CSO, but just about the first thing Kay does is cast a shadow, and keeps casting one whenever he is physically present rather than CSO’d into a scene, despite the lightning director’s best attempts to avoid backlighting him while doing so for everyone else. It just doesn’t work. The representation of the past is also depressingly studio-bound, especially the beach where Kay encounters the Greek soldiers, and it all screams out at the viewer as fake, in a series that has otherwise been thinking much bigger than studio sets, with either animated sequences or stunning location filming for other parts of the story.
When the action shifts to the theological college, matters improve greatly, with a strong sense that things are moving towards a showdown. Abner speaks to the gloriously camp waterfall boy, who teases him with the prospect of having the box “under your hand today”. It’s an odd scene, leaving the viewer guessing as to what this waterfall is where the strange boy can see things that nobody else can see. It feels like a metaphor for something, but I’m not quite sure what. In any case, it adds a touch of mystery and magic to the proceedings. Then we have Abner gloating over the jewels he has stolen from his life of crime, and plotting to betray his associates, before they betray him first. It’s a fun moment, seeing the worm turn, especially downtrodden and bullied “Chubby Joe”, who seems to have a conscience, unlike his boss.
The scenes with the miniaturised Kay work very well at the end, and Devin Stanfield does well to inject a note of panic into his performance, when Kay is locked in the treasure chest and separated from the Box of Delights, a frightening prospect. But in the end this was probably my least favourite episode, perhaps because we’ve moved a little too far away from the aspect of the series that works the best: the juxtaposition of fear and excitement against the magical backdrop of Christmas celebrations. It’s time to bring the snow back… RP
Read next in the Junkyard… The Box of Delights Episode 6