Boston, 1835. David Robinson no longer feels fulfilled working as a shipping clerk for his father-in-law, Oscar Wyss. David dreams about moving west in a covered wagon. His wife Elisabeth is not very enthusiastic about this idea. However, she speaks with her father about this matter. With his help David's wish for a change is fulfilled by a position as manager in a new office of Oscar Wyss's shipping line in Canton, China. The rest of the family, the eldest child Ernst, an aspiring writer, the eldest daughter Joanna, a life-loving young woman and the youngest daughter Christina, still a child and full of energy, are excited by the prospect of moving to China.

Soon all trunks are packed and the voyage begins on the Fury, one of the ships owned by Oscar Wyss. Her captain "Carry On" Chisolm is famous for carrying on under full sails even in the worst weather. Part of her crew are the cabin boy Billy, an orphan; a young man called Ben Thomas who used to work as a shop assistant before running away to sea; as well as a pair of shady brothers by the name of Seth and Jed Parsons. Jed is an old sea dog and has lost a hand that has since been replaced by a hook, giving him a somewhat sinister appearance. The Robinsons are not the only passengers on board. Emily Chen, a rich young Chinese woman and her governess, Miss Brown, are also travelling to Canton. Miss Chen does not share meals with the Robinson family and discourages every attempt to have a conversation with her.

Elisabeth is shocked when she finds out that the entire family must share a small cabin. Still, she insists that the trunks that hold their more valuable belongings as well as some food that she has packed in case the food in China is not to their liking are stored in their cabin as well.

The weather is fine and they make good progress on their journey. 78 days out of Boston they are sailing across the Indian Ocean, an area where pirates are to be expected. Another ship is sighted and Captain Chisolm orders all sails to be set in spite of stormy weather. By night fall a fierce storm is raging.

While the Robinsons are dining with the Captain, Seth Parsons tries to enter their cabin to rob them. The door is locked, however. On the floor next to the door Seth finds one of Elisabeth's handkerchiefs that she has lost. He picks it up and returns to his brother. Jed takes the handkerchief from him and gives him a key to the cabin. Seth returns to it and starts searching the trunks. He is caught by Elisabeth who returns unexpectedly after an argument with the Captain. Seth grabs her and covers her mouth with one hand to stop her from screaming. But David had followed his wife and frees her. When he strikes the thief once, Seth stumbles backwards and falls against a wall in such an unfortunate way that he breaks his neck. The children arrive, as do Jed Parsons and Ben. Jed Parsons accuses David of murder. The Robinsons take refuge in their cabin. The storm worsens and the officers call to abandon ship. Jed Parsons seizes his chance and obstructs the cabin door of the Robinsons, to prevent them from escaping. David and Ernst manage to break open the door eventually but when they struggle on deck they find that everyone else has already left the ship.

The next morning the Robinsons find much to their surprise and relief that the ship has run aground near a tropical island. They work together to build a makeshift raft and bring all their trunks and chests on deck as well as the family dog Bruno and all the other animals, mainly hens and pigs, that are an board. Crossing the bay on the raft, Christina falls into the water and disappears. Her father dives after her but is unable to find her. Elisabeth despairs. When they reach the island, David and Ernst begin looking for Christina along the shore, but in vain. The dog Bruno finds her eventually and his barking attracts another survivor. Billy, the cabin boy, finds the unconscious girl and carries her back to her family who is overjoyed at her safe return.

Others have survived as well. Jed Parsons and Ben Thomas have escaped the storm in one of the rowing boats and have also reached the island.

After spending an uneasy night under a makeshif shelter Elisabeth demands that a proper shelter is built. But before they begin working on that, David, Ernst and Billy undertake another journey with their raft out to the wreck to salvage more useful things from it.

While the men are away Elisabeth and her daughters look for a suitable location for their new shelter. In the forest they come across a river. Joanna and Christina take a refreshing bath as their mother walks on alone and eventually finds the perfect spot. Someone is watching the girls by the river unnoticed. When the women return to the beach they discover that someone has stolen some food from their trunks.

Parsons and Ben discover the Robinsons, but are not yet seen themselves. Later, Parsons suffers from a fever and Ben nurses him. One of the chests from the wreck is washed ashore and found by Ben. It contains a telescope, the Fury's log as well as a few supplies.

Ernst, David and Billy load as many things as possible onto the raft. Billy gets trapped in one of the cabins of the wreck. Ernst and his father come to his rescue and all three manage to escape to the raft before the Fury eventually starts to sink to the bottom of the bay.

Upon their return Elisabeth informs her husband, Ernst and Billy about the food theft. When they eat their lunch Billy notices that they are watched. He and Ernst leave the family under a pretence oand sneak around to the person that has been watching them. It turns out to be Emily Chen who has also survived. After initial surprise she is welcomed into the family. When the matter of doing chores arises Emily plainly refuses to help. Elisabeth makes it clear that Emily is to help or otherwise might quickly be left to fend for herself.

Some time later Ernst, Billy and David look at the spot that Elisabeth has chosen for their new shelter. They like it and decide to built a treehouse there. David confides that he finds the challenge of surviving on a tropical island exciting. Work on the treehouse moves on apace and the Robinsons are settling in on the island.

Parsons's feverish delirium lasts for three days. He is grateful to see that Ben has not abandoned him. Still Parsons is possessed by his thought of revenge. He forces Ben to take an oath to help him take his revenge on David Robinson, before they start exploring the island.

Finally the treehouse is finished. Just as the family is moving in Parsons and Ben find them. Parsons attacks David. Ernst fetches the pistol and musket that they have salvaged from the Fury and manages to send Parsons and his reluctant accomplice Ben running for their lives.


Ernst's Journal

Marooned. Shipwrecked. A family of castaways. At times the island felt like a paradise and that the dear Lord was watching over us. Other times, that he had forsaken us and that we would never be rescued and returned home. And now the island and all that we endured feels almost like a dream. Did we really encounter the ghost of Raven Jones? Cut-throat pirates? But I'm ahead of myself.

Our adventures began in Boston in the year 1835 at the offices of my grandfather, Oscar Wyss. My father worked there for many years as a shipping clerk as did many other men. The only difference being that he must have come to a point in his life where he no longer felt fulfilled. Like forest fires great adventures often begin with tiny sparks. Like the spark burning deep within my father's breast. He was in search of something more. And suddenly he made a decision. Enough was enough! The decision took everyone by surprise. No one more than my father himself. Little did we realise how much my father's decision would affect our lives. It all began at a family meal around the Robinson table.

Later that evening, when my father returned home he was unaware - as was my mother - that each of them had made their own secret plans which were one and the same. And which were destined to change the course of the entire family's lives forever.

Our adventure had begun. If only we had been aware what actually lay in store for us. But first came the preparations and the packing. My mother seemed intend - as did my sisters Joanna and Christina - on moving the contents of the entire household from Boston to Canton.

And as we set sail few could ever have foreseen how some of the passengers and crew were destined to play such an important part in our lives.

The beautiful Emily Chen intrigues us all. She certainly wants nothing to do with the Robinson family for she dines alone. Her only companion is her governess, a Miss Brown. I have secretly named Miss Chen 'The Ice Maiden'.

We are 78 days out of Boston and having rounded the Cape of Good Hope we are crossing the Indian Ocean. Rapidly approaching an area notorious for pirates.

The following morning the family struggled up on deck. Disillusioned. Afraid. But so far we had survived. We fully expected to be surrounded by miles and miles of ocean. Everyone was surprised by what we actually saw. We could hardly believe our eyes.

The first thing that father and I did was to go down to the master's cabin and survey the chart for our last known position. Christina was more interested in finding Bruno and checking if the other animals were still alive. While father and I set about trying to build a raft, mother and Joanna searched for anything that could be of use. Although neither of them had ever undertaken such hard manual work, between them they managed to haul onto the deck all of our trunks and chests.

Despite my father's reassurances there is still no sign of Christina. But we continue to have faith in the Lord and look to each other for comfort. Forever hopeful that our search will not be in vain.

Having been reunited with first Billy and then Miss Chen I wonder if it is possible that there are still other survivors on the island. While Billy works along side us on planning our new shelter, Miss Chen remains aloof and very much a great mystery to us.

During the days that followed it seemed that a transformation was taking place. My father was doing the work of a labourer. And my mother - who never went near a kitchen at home - was to be seen baking bread over an open wood fire. Christina now seemed to have no fear of the water whatsoever and Joanna had become quite adept at discovering exactly where our hens had laid their eggs. There was only Miss Chen who continued to set herself apart from the rest of us. Helped along by my father's constant enthusiasm our treehouse quickly moved on apace.

Although we had successfully defeated Parsons and his reluctant accomplice Ben somehow I had the ominous feeling that they would be back And that we would encounter other dangers. And adventures. But for the moment celebrations were in order.

© Cloud 9 Screen Entertainment & CLT-UFA International


Original US Airdate: 1-3, September 1998
(each 75 minute episode was devided into 3 parts)

Screenplay by Mervyn Haisman
Directed by John Laing

Guest Cast:
Ken Blackburn (Oscar Wyss)
Diana McFarlane (Bridget)
Lewis Martin (Captain Chisolm)
Todd Rippon (Blake)
Jed Brophy (Seth Parsons),
Dagmara Smith (Miss Brown)


Swiss Family Robinson
German Site
Kieren Hutchison