"Torchy, Torchy the battery boy
I'm a walkie-talkie toy!"
is a battery-powered toy boy with a lamp in his hat, and an on-off
switch on his chest. He lives with old Mr Bumbedrop and
poodle Pom-Pom in a little cottage with a large
garden that's always full of
children. Torchy's lamp is magic. He can shine
it away into the night and
talk to people far away, like the toys who live
in Topsy Turvy Land.
Mr Bumbledrop has built Torchy his very own space
rocket too, which can
whisk him away to this amazing realm where the toys
frolic in lollipop
fields and cream buns grow on trees, and there
are lots of exciting things
to do and to discover in Frutown, if your battery
doesn't run down...
"Torchy" was created and produced by
Roberta Leigh via her new production
company Pelham Films, and the first series of
twenty-six episodes utilised
the talents of Gerry Anderson and AP Films.
It was a continuation of the
production relationship they had on The Adventures
of Twizzle, and it
was made with almost double the budget, with each
episode coming in
at around £27,000. The two firms parted company
after the first series
was concluded, but it was an amicable split and Roberta
on to all rights for the show, its music, puppets
and sets. She also took
with her. She produced the second series with Associated
British-Pathe, and you can't see the join between them.
You can see the
strings, however, because this series bridged
the gap between traditional
TV marionettes and the future puppet series Roberta
Leigh and Gerry
Anderson went on to produce.
"I wish I had a little boy of me own
who would help me..."
We find out the whys and wherefores of young Torchy
in the very first episode
and the Toys". The children, Bossy Boots and Bogie, are playing
with kites in Mr Bumbledrop's garden when, in
a somewhat rash act, they
decide to tie a bunch of toys and - yikes!
- Pompom the dog to their kite
strings, and away they sail, off into the sky, ne'er
to be seen again.
Poor Mr Bumbledrop is quite heartbroken at the
loss of his beloved pet,
so he has the inspired idea to to create a his
very own "toy boy" to help him
look for the critter. He settles down to work
at two o'clock, and by six o'clock,
he's built young Torchy. After a brief interlude
in which the duo look for the
old man's glasses, we head outside and watch as
Torchy shines his magic
torch light. And there, his beam illuminates the
toys and Pom-Pom, safe
and well on a twinkling star in the night sky.
But how is he to get them back?
Mr Bumbledrop is once more inspired, and the next
day he builds Torchy
a great fizzing rocket ship which takes him to
Topsy Turvy Land.
By the end of the second episode, Torchy has met
and played with the toys
who have decided to stay on the star to avoid
any further incidents with the
the children in Mr Bumbledrop's garden, and subsequent
Torchy and the kids shuttling backwards and forwards
from the earth to
this extraordinary place, and Bossy Boots and
Bogie are taught several
life lessons along the way...
"Hello, dear old Bumble-wumble-drop,
I'm so glad you've made me!"
"Torchy" proved to be very popular with
its contemporary young audience,
and folks of a certain age still look back
at it with nostalgic affection. It was
packed full of whimsy, with all sorts of a fantastic
occurrences taking place
in Topsy Turvy Land. And from a historical perspective
this was an important
series, involving as it did so many key figures in
British TV puppet circles. It
was another stepping stone to greatness after
"Twizzle", and you can
clearly see the progression as the production
team honed their puppet
construction skills, and developed their skills
with in-camera effects.
Roberta Leigh subsequently brought us "Sarah
& Hoppity" (1962), the sci-fi
extravaganza that was "Space Patrol" (1963-1964),
As for Gerry Anderson and AP Films, well, we all
know what they got
up to over the next decade. What is particularly
interesting here is the way
in which both production teams forged ahead with
ever-more dynamic and
unique supermarionated adventures and indeed,
AP Films made their
change of direction apparent within a few short months,
when the team
headed out West with Tex Tucker and the posse in
Four Feather Falls.
All that tough talk and trigger-happy gunplay really
is a world away from
Torchy's battery-operated whimsy...
Torchy's magic beam only works if he recites the
"Magic beam that is so bright,
will you shine your lovely light!"
The series first aired regionally, on the ITV
network. It premiered in the
Midlands and the North on Sunday, 11th January
1959, and was aired
on a bi-weekly basis...
It took a full twelve months for Torchy to reach
London, when the series
was included as part of ITV's "Small Time"
line-up, premiering on 23rd