by Allan Fish
(UK 1953-1959 549m) DVD2
Do not proceed beyond this point
p Rudolph Cartier d Rudolph Cartier w Nigel Kneale
Reginald Tate (Prof.Quatermass), John Robinson (Prof.Quatermass), André Morell (Prof.Quatermass), Isabel Dean (Judith Carroon), Duncan Lamont (Victor Carroon), Monica Grey (Paula Quatermass), Hugh Griffith (Dr Leo Pugh), John Stone (Capt.John Dillon), Rupert Davies (Vincent Broadhead), Christine Finn (Barbara Judd), Cec Linder (Dr Matthew Roney), Richard Shaw (Sladden), Anthony Bushell (Col.Breen), Paul Whitson Jones (James Fullalove), Brian Worth (James Fullalove), John Stratton (Capt.Potter), Hugh Kelly (John Paterson), John Glen (Dr Gordon Briscoe), Frank Hawkins (DS Best), Ian Colin (Chief Insp.Lomax), Herbert Lomas, Wilfrid Brambell,
Watching Quatermass over half a century on is rather like a televisual excavation. That is to say, just bear in mind when it was first seen; 1953, coronation year. We had sci-fi on the large screen of course – The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Thing from Another World – but we were still six years off the launch of The Twilight Zone, while The Outer Limits, Doctor Who and Star Trek were still over a decade away. When first shown,Britain effectively shut down for half an hour a week. The original broadcasts in 1953 were live, too, as if their existence wasn’t enough, but it certainly added to the urgency in the performances.
That first series from ‘53, The Quatermass Experiment, sadly only survives in its first two episodes, the latter four only recreated in script form on DVD. It was an immense success, promoting Reginald Tate to stardom after over a decade in bit parts. Sadly, he died just as the second series – Quatermass II, naturally – was about to be filmed. John Robinson would step in, but when the third and final series, Quatermass and the Pit, showed over Christmas and New Year of 1958-1959, we again had another Quatermass, this time André Morell. Even twenty years later he was revived, this time byThames, with John Mills in the role. It set a pattern. Two film versions of the first two series followed in 1955 and 1957, but American Brian Donlevy was brought in by Hammer and was miscast and the episodic nuances of Nigel Kneale’s originals were lost as they were effectively cut in half. The final series would only be filmed nearly a decade later. This time we had a British Quatermass, Andrew Keir, and very good he was, too, but one can only dream of what would have happened if Tate had not sadly passed on or, better still, Morell had kept the role after it had been given him.
The Quatermass Experiment deals with an infected astronaut who brings a deadly alien force back with him when his craft crashes back to earth with his fellow pilots missing. Quatermass II showed how aliens try to infiltrate earth through creating lethal processed food. Quatermass and the Pit has what seems at first a bomb but in actuality an alien craft from Mars turn up just under the surface inLondon, only for it to be dated to over five million years old.
No-one can look back on Quatermass now and not think it dated, but at the time it was revolutionary. Not only would Doctor Who never have happened without it, was perhaps the seed of regenerating Doctors not implanted by the continual recasting of the noble professor? Whatever one thinks of the technical aspects of the show, the scripts cannot be faulted. Kneale was a master at generating tension and it’s a pity that he would never really manage to find anything to top it in later years. For here was TV in its infancy literally growing up before our very eyes. Tate, in the two episodes we have left of him, makes a fine professor in the first series, ably supported by Duncan Lamont as the unfortunate Victor. In the second watch out for old Herbert Lomas and Wilfrid Brambell (as a tramp) as the honours go to Hugh Griffith’s mathematician. In the third, Morell dominates and it’s most certainly the best of the trilogy. Not forgetting the controlled direction of Rudolph Cartier and the use of Holst’s ‘Mars’ pounding over the earlier opening credits (referenced in The Man Who Fell to Earth?). This is the oldest British TV entry and the first great milestone of small screen science fiction.