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ON TV:Wednesdays 6th & 13th September 2006 on the CBBC Channel
ON VIDEO:No longer available on video, you might be able to get it second hand, or just tape it off TV yourself
> More information on the official BBC Schools Programme Guide

The Legend of the Lost Keys Introduction

A passive re-invention of the Look and Read formula, that maintains the classic structure of episodes but does something that hadn't yet been managed in the programme's thirty year history: it seemlessly blends the teaching bits in with the story bit. The storyline is about twins on holiday with their uncle George, who discover that this uncle is descended from another world and is guardian of the gateway between this other world - Heritron - and the Earth, in the form of a mysterious old box. When some scientists come and take away the box, George realises that the evil rulers of the other world are trying to open up the gateway, which would allow them to come through and enslave Earth's children. He and the twins have to get the box back, find the three ancient keys which work it, and seal off the other world permanently. They are aided by two surviving rebels from Heritron living in secret in an abandoned shop, who use an old prophecy called the Legend of the Lost Keys to give guidance and advice. This prophecy comes in the form of various riddles and poems, one of which must conveniently be solved in the middle of each episode - they form the teaching bits.

The Plot
WARNING! SPOILERS!   Reading this bit will give away the whole storyline and ruin your enjoyment if you haven't already seen/read it.

Twins Mark and Lisa go to spend their annual holiday with their Uncle George, when they are disturbed by tycoon Sir Derek Janus and two scientists, Waters and Burns, who've got a court order to break into an ancient building on George's land and rob off with an old box that they find there. George then reveals himself to be descended from another world, Heritron, whose inhabitants are called Takers, and who used to send Catchers to kidnap Earth children to use as slaves on Heritron. This also means he has powers of telekinesis. Ages ago a rebellious Taker had closed the box thing, which is the gateway between Heritron and Earth, and George as his descendant is now the Guardian of the gateway. There's this ancient Heritron prophecy that says that in order to permanently save Earth from the Catchers the box must be opened using three special keys and then closed again by the 'Children of Heritron', who turn out to be Mark and Lisa. There are still several Watchers from Heritron on Earth who are trying to open the gateway. Janus is the chief of them, Burns is also one and in a plot twist George's housekeeper Erica transpires to be one too. The twins go and find the three keys, beginning to use their own powers of telekinesis. Janus soon nicks the box off of Professor Waters, who had been studying it and is just a normal Earth bloke, along with the three keys, but Waters gets the police to help him get everything back. George opens the box but can't close it again. Consulting two other Heritron rebels on Earth, Anna and Ariana, he discovers that someone has to go through the tunnel and lock the door on that end. George goes through but is captured. The children, after nearly being abducted by Erica but rescued by Waters, go through after him, rescue him with their mind powers and then lock the door. The connection between Heritron and Earth is severed forever, the box disintegrates and everyone returns to their normal lives.

Episode Listings

1.   The Box
Mark and Lisa must help their uncle prevent an ancient and mysterious box from being opened. For the box is a doorway to a dark and menacing world.
2.   The First Key
George and the twins begin the search for the keys to the box of destiny. Lisa is woken in the night by intruders.
3.   The Watchers
Lisa and Mark search for a second key, and are followed by the Watchers who have been ordered to kidnap them.
4.   Kidnap
Having thwarted an attempt by the Watchers to kidnap them, the children team up with Uncle George and locate the final key at the Roman baths.
5.   The Crystal Connection
George and the children have all three keys and they persuade Professor Waters to take them to the Box.
6.   The Trap
When George breaks into the Janus Foundation to get to the Box, the children realise it is a trap.
7.   The Box is Opened
The doorway to Heritron is opened. George and the children escape from the Janus Foundation, but are betrayed by Erica who is revealed as a Watcher.
8.   Into the Box
Professor Waters gets the Box back from the Watchers, and George goes through to lock the doorway into Heritron. But the Catchers are waiting for him.
9.   Betrayed
George is held captive on Heritron. Anna tells the children they must rescue him.
10.   The Final Hour
Lisa and Mark find George trapped in a crystal cell. They manage to set him free, but can they escape from Heritron?

Cast and Crew

Written by
Music composed by
Executive producer
Jim Eldridge
Debbie Wiseman
Anne Brogan
Cas Lester
Colin Cant
education officer Chris Hughes, production manager Terry Wright, programme co-ordinator Nicki Coles, location co-ordinator Elaine Herraghty, programme cost co-ordinator Paulette Gardiner, digital effects Ian Simpson, Paul Kavanagh, animation by Ealing Animation, graphic artists Barbara Horne, Monica Herman, calligraphers Hammond & Hagon, art director Sarah Milton, properties buyer Nick Barnett, property master Martin Carley, standby props Simon Bailey, Ray Morgan, make-up designer Kay Smith, make-up design assistant Ashley Johnson, costume designer Eric Doughney, costume design assistant Sue Burrows, digital sound editor Kian Wong, dubbing mixer Chris Graver, sound recordist Brian Robinson, sound assistant David Webster, gaffer Jim Russell, best boy Tom Shirley, grip Richard Toomey, rigger Andy Robertson, vision engineer Peter Lester, cameraman Dave Hunter, on-line editor Duncan Bragg, off-line editor Peter Harris, lighting director John King, production designer Alan Spalding


Andrew Sachs as George Gardener
Jonathan Kitchens
as Mark Astor
Abigail Ansell
as Lisa Astor
Sabra Williams
as Erica Turner
Richard Morant
as Sir Derek Janus
David Gant
as Professor Humphrey Waters
Tatiana Strauss
as Dr Burns
Nicole Arumugan
as Ariana
Sonia Graham
as Anna
Sita Ramamurphy
as The Taker
Stafford Gordon
as The Catcher
Donald Greig
Miriam Stockley
Tony Wharmby
Michael Dore
Robert Fardell

Theme Tune

The Legend of the Lost Keys theme tune was an all-instrumental job.

Download MP3 file music by Debbie Wiseman, no lyrics
MP3 file: 31 seconds, 375 kb

> CLICK HERE for the Downloads section, including this and several other theme tunes.


A 1998 Times Educational Supplement editorial by Jon O'Connor heaped praise on Look and Read, and The Legend of the Lost Keys in particular. The full article can be read online here.
     The Legend of the Lost Keys (…) represents a state-of-the-art, multimedia teaching resource. As well as the television programmes, we have a poem and songbook, copymasters, a storybook for pupils, the book of the series, audio cassette and software.
     Teachers and children can really enjoy this series, teasing out the content while getting a grounding in the basic structure of written language. A good yarn is permeated with an exploration of our Roman heritage.
     The storyline is an exhilarating fantasy about the evil rulers of Heritron, hell-bent on opening a time-warp doorway sealed since Roman times. All the drama, fear and excitement that used to be the staple diet of mainstream children's television are included. Needless to say, good triumphs over evil in the end. Would that it were always so in the classroom.
     The 10 programmes are written, performed and produced to a high standard. The Legend of the Lost Keys delivers a brisk narrative offering plenty of scope for teachers to differentiate their teaching for a wide range of abilities. The novel version enthralled my 11-year-old, despite his lofty critique of its appeal for younger readers. The audio cassette provides a soothing rendition of the story by actor Andrew Sachs. On side two, there are lush arrangements of the songs which turn literacy into libretto for each programme.

The Legend of the Lost Keys:
If the Box of Destiny is ever found
Then whosoever finds the three keys
Can lock the doorway open
Or lock the doorway shut.
But above all, they must have the two
Children of Heritron
Then the fate of Heritron will be sealed
For ever.

The revelation that Erica is a Watcher is a pretty hefty plot twist, similar to the disclosure of Turnbull's shenanigans in Fair Ground!, and is the big cliffhanger to Episode 7, so it's surprising that it's spoiled in the episode listings. It is however pretty explicitly foreshadowed as far back as Episode 1, so most kids would probably have sussed it out already.

You can buy a copy of the Legend of the Lost Keys novel by Jim Eldridge, which contains some extra material and incidents that you don't get on TV or in the Story Book (available only to schools). Click any of the images below to read about it at various online merchants.
amazon.co.uk   bbcshop.com   uk.bol.com   whsmith.co.uk

Here is a list of all of the broadcasts of this story on the BBC. Unless your teachers managed to get the video recorder to work, this is when you would have seen it in school. See the Air Dates section for precise dates and times.
      Spring 1998, BBC2
      Spring 1999, BBC2
      Autumn 2001, BBC2
      Spring 2002, CBBC
      Autumn 2002, CBBC
      Spring 2003, CBBC
      Autumn 2003, CBBC
      Autumn 2004, CBBC
      Spring 2006, CBBC


Scroll down to the 'Primary 5' section on this page for a photo of a Primary class working on The Legend of the Lost Keys, using the story books and doing some sort of craft activities too by the look of it.

> CLICK HERE for more general links about Look And Read and schools TV.

Picture Gallery

©BBC  illustration by Peter Ware, text by Jim Eldridge ©BBC  illustration by Peter Ware, text by Jim Eldridge
George, Mark, Lisa and Erica were forced to watch as the three people began to search inside the old building. They found a box. George set the crystal mobile spinning. Lights sparkled. A picture appeared in it. The picture moved. Anna and Ariana were in the picture!

©BBC  illustration by Peter Ware, text by Jim Eldridge ©BBC  illustration by Peter Ware, text by Jim Eldridge ©BBC
> See every Look & Read book cover in the Trivia section
> Get complete books from the Downloads section (but not this one)
On Heritron, George was being held captive by the Takers. They had locked him in a special crystal cell. They locked the door shut with the three keys. The tunnel began to shake. 'The tunnel's starting to break up!' said George. 'Quick! Run!' The story book

Legend of the Lost Keys continuity slide And another one; thanks to Billy Hicks for both

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No malicious infringement of BBC copyrights is intended. Material featured at this site remains the property of the BBC or relevant copyright holders.