A mysterious Punch and Judy man, two trainee priests and a train journey home to start the Christmas holidays. It’s all straightforward until a lost ticket and a chance conversation reveal that the wolves are running and a dastardly plot to spoil Christmas is under way.
The story is The Box of Delights, John Masefield’s magical tale of a Christmas adventure. First published in 1935, the BBC made a classic adaptation which was screened in the run-up to Christmas 1984. It starred Patrick Troughton, better known as the second Doctor Who, and a young Devin Stanfield.
The six-part serial tells the tall story of Kay Harker as he seeks to stop the sinister Abner Brown from getting the Box of Delights. The mysterious box has special powers including the ability to go swift (fly) or small and a chance to look into the past.
Young Kay soon discovers that Abner will do everything he can to get his hands on the box, including kidnapping, unleashing harsh winters storms and trying to stop Christmas from happening.
The magical production enchanted millions when the BBC aired it from November 21 to Christmas Eve. The special effects were state of the art at the time and included scenes where Kay transformed into a stag, riding a flying horse or navigating a river on a toy boat.
While it looks dated now compared to modern special effects, the story is still spellbinding. So much so that when I became a Dad I vowed that The Box of Delights would become one of our family traditions in the run-up to Christmas.
This year, to celebrate its 30th birthday I’m inviting you to join us.
The story is in six 30-minute episodes, so as a family we gather every Sunday to watch in true Flash Gordon style. Each week ends in a cliffhanger too.
My children love it – while getting the DVD to prepare for this post, my seven-year-old started jumping up and down in excitement. Yes, she’s excited alright.
We’ll be starting our watch this year on Sunday, November 16 with the first episode, When The Wolves Are Running.
The DVD was released by the BBC 10 years ago and is available to buy from The Hive for just £4.59. We like the Hive because it supports local independent bookstores – you can order online and collect from
• Wordplay in Caversham
• RISC One World Shop in Reading
• Chapter One in Woodley
• Bookends in Wokingham
• The Bell in Henley
I’ll do some commentaries after each episode, complete with comments from my children – will you join us? It’s a magical way to countdown to Christmas … and the ending is truly magical.