‘Landscape versus Science and the Law: The Box of Delights (BBC, 1984)’
Landscape gardens in television fiction are rarely discussed, yet they have often played significant aesthetic roles, in some cases constituting figures of narrative design. This paper will discuss The Box of Delights (BBC, 1984) as a children’s landscape narrative. The young protagonist, Kay acquires the persona of the genius loci through his performance in a series of gardens, by turns picturesque and magical realist; his narrative arc is mapped in the contours of these landscapes. How a landscape is perceived, the programme reminds us, depends on the dimensions as well as the ideological perspective of the figure in the landscape; a child’s imagination and smallness are depicted as virtues. In a magic cartoon wilderness inside the box of delights, Kay must constantly alter his form to blend in and conceal himself from predators. Survival and aesthetics become melded. In order to spy on the villain Abner Brown, he must trespass on private property, shrinking his body. In this way, Kay learns to read the landscape. Whereas the police are fooled by technology and blind rationalism, the lessons Kay reaps from parabolic landscapes enable him to pinpoint Abner’s rural hideout.