Hide and Seek is a Canadian-made, CBC-TV adaptation of Thomas Joseph Ryan’s novel The Adolescence of P-1; the book’s first edition was released in Canada in 1977. In a tale that’s somewhat similar to Colossus, the 1966 novel by Dennis Feltham Jones that served as the basis for Universal Studios’ Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970), Ryan’s novel also features a sentient artificial intelligence that goes rogue, taking over other computers as a form of survival. The novel is noted as one of the first fictional depictions of computer viruses.
In the novel, which begins in 1974, Gregory Burgess, the story’s protagonist-hacker, is a liberal arts major enrolled at the University of Waterloo. When he discovers the school’s IBM System/360 mainframe for the first time, he changes his major to computer science; he becomes obsessed with using A.I. protocols to crack other systems.
In this adaption that appeared as part of the daytime, young adult anthology series For the Record, the story is reset in a Toronto high school and Gregory is now a high school computer whiz, nicknamed “Hacker” by his friends, who develops P-1, a computer program that becomes self-aware; as P-1 begins taking over other systems to expand its consciousness, it logs onto the mainframe of a nuclear power plant, with plans to use it as a weapon to subjugate man.
Many sci-fi fans have made the point that Hide and Seek is a “ripoff” of the better know WarGames (1983), which is a disservice to this well-produced CBC effort. The genesis of the MGM/UA film began in 1979 with The Genius by screenwriters Walter F. Parkes and Lawrence Lasker. So while Ryan’s 1977 novel came first, the initiation of the CBC-TV production was obviously inspired the success of the MGM/UA film, but certainly not a ripoff. (Parkes and Lasker would go on to write another “ancient future” caper, 1992’s Sneakers.)
Back in 1975, Gerry Anderson, between the first and second seasons of Space: 1999, produced a British-Canadian TV pilot movie, The Day After Tomorrow, which was imported to U.S. television that same year as part of NBC-TV’s late-afternoon weekday programming block, Special Treat, under the title, Into Infinity (trailer). While Hide and Seek doesn’t have that installment’s production values, considering it was, itself, a daytime public television production, it would have been a perfect fit for a U.S. rebroadcast as part of the analogous “Big Three” network’s ABC’s Afterschool Special and CBS’s Schoolbreak. Why the CBC failed to license Hide and Seek for a U.S. rebroadcast — especially in the wake of WarGames and the fact that all three U.S. anthology series were still on the air — is unknown. It did, however, become part of U.S. PBS-TV’s WonderWorks programming block that adapted hour-long movies from children’s books from 1984 to 1992; as result of its “for children” stigma, the many tweens and teens for which Hide and Seek was intended, bypassed the programming (but it was my first exposure to the film).
If you’re a fan of (and, most importantly, appreciate the production values of), PBS-TV’s late-’70s rebroadcasts of BBC-TV’s Dr. Who (The Tom Baker years! Davaros!) and remember the 1980 public television production of Ursula K. LeGuin’s A Lathe of Heaven (starring Bruce “Willard” Davison), then you’ll enjoy watching the intelligence behind Hide and Seek — in spite of its budgetary restraints and dated material. When it comes to “ancient future” flicks regarding the dangers and horrors of computers, this one’s well worth your time.
If you haven ‘t guessed, we’re big fans of the U.S. “Big Three” network’s daytime TV movies for young adults, so be sure to check out these reviews:
ABC Afterschool Special: The Amazing Cosmic Awareness of Duffy Moon
ABC Afterschool Special: Blind Sunday
ABC Afterschool Special: Hewitt’s Just Different
CBS Schoolbreak Special: Portrait of a Teenage Shoplifter
NBC Special Treat: New York City to Far From Tampa Bay Blues
As for Hide and Seek, you can watch it on You Tube. And be sure to check out our other “ancient future” film reviews all this week.