Everything you see here is true.
by Chris Chapman
Millions of fans watch the BBC2 children's show Teletubbies every day. But behind the television facade lies an amazing story.
Very few people know that the programme was originally shot by the BBC Natural History department to show as a fascinating true life documentary series on Tuesday nights on BBC1. It was to be called "Tinky Winky and Company: Life with the Teletubbies".
"We really bonded with the Teletubbies." says Assistant Scooter Sound FX man Simon Liszt in an exclusive interview with Palindrome. "They accepted us straight away. They'd interact, and play little games with us. It was great fun."
The entire crew had a great time making the series, and expectations of audience response were high.
"We knew from the start the show would be a sure ratings winner - it was going out against The Bill. We expected it to be one of the most popular non-fiction series of the year."
However, due to a massive mix-up in scheduling, "Life with the Teletubbies" was put in a BBC2 children's morning slot. As the programme was too close to reschedule, it was retained as part of Children's BBC. It had to be modified - all scenes with David Attenborough were cut, and the brutal scene of Po being ripped to pieces by a malfunctioning Nu Nu was removed, but most of the footage survived intact. The BBC engaged in a huge cover-up, fabricating production crew and news stories, and to this day still maintains that Teletubbies is a fictional childrens show. The program's success has meant prolonging the show's run, forcing filming of new footage by the Natural History unit, and massive recycling of old footage.
Below, available to the public for the first time, are detailed notes on the Teletubby species, assembled from observations and annotations created by the show's film unit.
Teletubby (Tubbis tele)
This mysterious species is still largely unknown to modern science, due to its inaccessibility (it is only found in certain parts of Canada, the north African plains and Bristol city centre).
Teletubbies are typically around 1.2 - 1.6 metres tall, and humanoid. Coloration is varied, but always garish. Movement is clumsy - similar to that of a small person in a highly restrictive outfit.
All Teletubbies have a cranial protrusion that extends vertically and can vary widely in shape and size between different specimens. Its purpose is uncertain but it has been seen to glow on activation of the abdominal television, leading some experts to speculate that it is some form of signal receiving apparatus.
Teletubbies can also be identified by the unending stream of nonsense emerging from their mouths. Identification on this criterion alone, however, is not recommended, as there is a possibility of confusion with the GMTV presenter (Homo moronis).
Teletubbies typically live in groups of four in a communal dwelling. No family connections have been observed within groups and each group seems to be totally isolated from other groups and, indeed, from the rest of the world. This restricted gene pool goes some way to explaining the behaviour of modern Teletubbies.
The preferred environment for a Teletubby dwelling is among many gentle, undulating and very strange looking hillocks. Colonies of rabbits are usually to be found near the dwelling - the relationship between these and the Teletubbies is not known. Also, near a Teletubby residence there seems to be a much greater incidence of poor computer-generated special effects. It never rains near a Teletubby dwelling.
Teletubby residences are sparsely furnished, with one table and a number of small beds. They utilise some form of advanced spatial distorting technology enabling the interior to be significantly larger than the exterior.
The Teletubby species is perhaps unique in the animal kingdom - it is the only known species with a fully functional audio-visual hardware system integrated into the body.
There is a television screen in the abdominal area, and somewhere near the surface of the skin there must be concealed speakers. The audio-visual system is capable of replaying a previously shown sequence upon the voice command 'again'. No other commands have been seen to be used.
The content of the transmissions appears to be fairly bland and formulaic, but Teletubbies derive obvious pleasure from watching it twice.
It seems that only one screen can be active at a time in any Teletubby group. The Teletubby whose screen is active at that time generally seems to experience pleasure, which is strange because that Teletubby, looking at the screen from a sharp angle and upside down, has the worst view of the group.
Another prominent anatomical feature runs down the top half of the rear of the Teletubby torso: it appears to be some form of zip fastening device. Its purpose is unknown and it has never been seen to be used.
Teletubbies are highly social creatures that seem to perform no function or action except recreation. Common Teletubby social activities include playing with balls or scooters, executing highly choreographed dance routines, or trampling innocent rabbits.
Teletubbies, although frequently naked, have no visible sexual organs, and indeed there seems to be no way to ascertain gender visually. However, as with humans, there do seem to be two genders, but it is not atypical for a Teletubby of one sex to act in ways humans would interpret as strange for that sex. One male Teletubby has been observed openly carrying a women's handbag, and in secret indulges in flower arranging and wearing women's undergarments.
The actual act of Teletubby procreation has never been observed, although several mating rituals have been recorded. A common one involves two Teletubbies running towards each other, then colliding in mid-air. The significance of this ritual is unknown.
All Teletubbies currently observed seem to ingest a substance known as 'tubbytoast', which is always provided by means of a machine in the group's dwelling. It is not clear how the species survived before the machine that makes tubbytoast was invented, or indeed who invented it. (The machine itself is rather interesting. It has the amazing property of being able to launch tubbytoast vertically upwards, and yet propel it several metres horizontally to land on a Teletubby's plate.)
The only other substance Teletubbies eat is known as 'tubbycustard', again provided by a machine, and ingested through a curly straw which doubles as a receptacle (a design which would save on cleaning if it were not for the fact that the object's shape makes it very difficult to wash).
The reliance of the Teletubby species solely on machines for survival would seem to be a short-sighted trait. In a situation where one machine broke down a group of Teletubbies would rapidly starve to death or die of thirst. Experts have speculated other sources of nourishment and agreed on the following alternative explanations - water is taken in through microscopic vessels on the soles of the feet, explaining the mysterious behaviour of Teletubbies splashing in puddles which has been frequently observed. And an alternative source of food is provided by the fat, docile rabbits usually found near Tubby dwellings - which a Teletubby could slaughter and devour with no effort whatsoever.
So what's next for the Natural History Unit? Simon Liszt explains:
"We're going back to film a new set of inserts with the Teletubbies this autumn, then after that the unit's moving up to Scandinavia for two months to record a new series of the Moomins."
|This article is © 1997 Chris
Chapman. Written exclusively for Palindrome.
Many thanks to Simon Liszt from the BBC Natural History Unit.
Teletubbies and all related materials are the property of the British Broadcasting Corporation and Ragdoll Productions, and no infringement of their ownership is intended.
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©1997 Chris Chapman