Saturday, 20 July 2013

Doctor Who Vs. The Quatermass Experiment (1953)


The television adventures of Professor Bernard Quatermass celebrate their diamond anniversary this month.
The first entry in this seminal series began in the summer of 1953 with the broadcast of The Quatermass Experiment
Sixty years on, this science-fiction classic is seen as the precursor to much of the BBC's adult drama output as well as greatly influencing a fledgling TV genre that would introduce Doctor Who a decade later.

Set in the near future, the serial tells the story of the first manned flight into space. Supervised by Quatermass, the British Experimental Rocket Group (BERG) attempt to return it's three-man crew safely to Earth, but their ship crash lands in Wimbledon. Two astronauts are missing, and the sole survivor, Victor Caroon behaves erratically - he has been infected by an alien presence. The Professor must prevent the entity from destroying the world, resulting in a climatic showdown at Westminster Abbey (scene of the Queen's recent Coronation).

The Quatermass Experiment was penned by Corporation writer, Nigel Kneale (1922-2006), and directed by Austrian Rudolph Cartier (1904-1994) - they next collaborated on George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty Four the following year. Kneale's hero - portrayed here by Reginald Tate (1896-1955) - was named in honour of astronomer Bernard Lovell (1913-2012) and his surname came from a London phone directory.

The thriller was transmitted live from Alexandra Palace over six consecutive Saturday nights, from July 18 to August 22 1953, and only the first two episodes now exist in the archives. Two sequels - Quatermass II and Quatermass and the Pit - followed in 1955 and 1958/59, whilst all three stories were later adapted for the cinema by Hammer. Kneale finally wrote the conclusion to his saga for Thames TV in 1979, and BBC Four re-staged the original drama - again live - in 2005.

The Quatermass Experiment  featured twelve Doctor Who cast and crew connections:
  • Paul Whitsun Jones (Fullalove) played Squire Edwards in The Smugglers, and the Marshal in The Mutants
  • Duncan Lamont (Victor Caroon) was Dan Galloway in Death to the Daleks
  • Moray Watson (Marsh) was Sir Robert Muir in Black Orchid
  • Peter Bathurst (Greene) was Hensell in Power of the Daleks, and Chinn in The Claws of Axos
  • Neil Wilson (Constable) was Seeley in Spearhead from Space
  • Keith Pyott (Minister) was Autloc in The Aztecs
  • Alan Casley (Crowd) was Miro in Planet of the Daleks
  • Paddy Russell (Passenger/On-looker) was a stage manager for Cartier, before becoming a director in 1962 -  she later helmed The Massacre, Invasion of the Dinosaurs, Pyramids of Mars, and Horror of Fang Rock
  • Malcolm Watson (the only actor to appear in all three Quatermass serials of the 1950's) and Aubrey Danvers Walker (both Photographers here) were Council Members in The Dominators 
  • Jack Kine (1921-2005) co-founded the BBC Visual Effects Department in 1954 with Bernard Wilkie (1920-2002) - together they provided special effects on The Mind Robber, Kine even featured as the 'Big Brother' type leader (albeit on posters) of the parallel Earth in Inferno, whilst Wilkie worked on An Unearthly Child, The Ice Warriors, Colony in Space, The Curse of Peladon, Frontier in Space, and Planet of the Spiders
  • lighting engineer Michael Leeston Smith also became a director and later helmed The Myth Makers

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