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Out of the Unknown
Spaceship Dispatcher
I'm just starting on the new collection from the BFI featuring all surviving episodes of this show. Part of the BBC's long history of quality science fiction and fantasy programming that has included not only Doctor Who and Blake's 7 but also Survivors, Quatermass, Andromeda, The Omega Factor, Day of the Triffids and many more classics, Out of the Unknown was an anthology series commissioned - like Doctor Who, The Avengers, Armchair Theatre and others - by the legendary Sydney Newman. There's no point in posting too many detailed comments on the episodes, as I'm sure most here won't have the dvds, but I'll be posting a blog as I go with points of interest related to narratives or cast and crew...

No Place Like Earth

There's no place like Earth because it's been destroyed, but there are colonies of surviving humans on Mars and Venus; the former group are integrating with the Martians, but those on Venus are enslaving the indiginous population. We follow one character on a personal journey as he leaves his friends amongst the Martians for promises of a better life on Venus, only to be disillusioned with the dystopia he finds when he gets there. For anyone familiar with Doctor Who and Survivors, this one is like taking the plot of Lights of London and setting it in The Macra Terror; there are quite a few members of the cast familiar from Dr Who too with Hannah Gordon, Alan Tilvern, George Pastell, Roy Stewart and Geoffrey Palmer all making appearances! A much better story in practise than it sounds in summary...

The Counterfeit Man

Perhaps a little contrived, but an enjoyable hour of space fantasy; a mission from an alien world finds itself infiltrated by alien shape shifters amazingly like Doctor Who species the Rutans! The effects department even use the same special effects as we see later in Horror of Fang Rock, so perhaps this coulden even be worked into a common continuity. Directed by George Spenton-Foster, with a decent cast including Charles Tingwell and David Hemmings, this is perhaps more style than substance as the plot mechanics don't really add up. As most of these were adaptations of written works, perhaps it worked better in print.

Comments from anyone else with this series are of course most welcome on the thread!
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
rojkerr1
great stuff, working my way through it myself, some super stories, genuinely strange, especially Lambda 1 and the Man inside my head. Shame the Chopper episode and the John Rankine story non- existant, watched To Lay a Ghost last nite
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Stranger in the Family

Quite an interesting contemporary London set story, with echoes of The Midwich Cuckoos sequel Children of the Damned; a film released only the previous year. Children with special powers have been born simultaneously and are being collected together by the government for observation. This play follows that process from the viewpoints of the boy, his parents, the authorities, and the marketing media as they too pursue his powers. It's quite a deep drama, containing some very strong Midwich inspired scenes of the boy taking control of others' minds. Justine Lord stars as a woman the boy befriends, one of my favourite actresses of the period. A good story, and one that keeps the fantasy element far enough in the background not to lose the atmosphere of the real London that events take place within.

The Dead Past

This is my favourite so far! Set in the future, it follows the attempts of two academics to illegally build what's essentially the Time Space Visualiser from Dr Who serial The Chase in an attempt to reveal the new science to the world and expose the government for concealing its existence. The story looks good, has really committed performances, is based around an interesting premise, and finally takes a few intellectual and philosphical twists and turns as characters learn about and change their own beliefs and motivations in response to events. Top quality.

Time in Advance

This one looks good, and very much shares the same view of the future as 60s Doctor Who; with polished metallic surfaces, glowing luminescence and lots of reflections being the order of the day. But the premise doesn't really stand up to even the briefest scrutiny, with a legal system that literally allows you to serve 'time in advance' for confessing intent to commit a crime and grants you a written licence to carry it out upon release with no punishment. The twists and turns of the fairly standard crime drama that follows, albeit with plenty of fantasy science elements, and the various personal journeys of the characters are somewhat undermined by the implausable idea at the heart of the narrative. Edward Judd, Mike Pratt and Judy Parfitt star along with Dr Who guest actors Wendy Gifford, Jerome Willis and Peter Stephens.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
briggsy1
I never saw this on first broadcast (before my time), but I like the premise of a sci-fi anthology series: - if you dislike a storyline there's always the chance that the next one along will be more your cup of tea - what a great idea. I wonder why the anthology concept went out of favour?
It was evidently a very successful series since according to Roger Fulton's guide it run for four seasons over a period of six years from 1965-71. It utilised stories from all the great sci-fi writers of the period including Isaac Asimov, John Wyndham and Ray Bradbury. Had I been able to watch it at the time I'm sure I would have been a big fan of the series.
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
briggsy1 wrote:

...but I like the premise of a sci-fi anthology series: - if you dislike a storyline there's always the chance that the next one along will be more your cup of tea - what a great idea. I wonder why the anthology concept went out of favour?

There were quite a few anthology series back in the 60s and 70s with this show, the similar Out of this World that preceded it, Armchair Theatre in both its guises, Armchair Cinema, Armchair Thriller which was serialised but again unrelated stories, Hammer House of Horror, and of course the excellent intelligence based show Espionage; there's probably more that I have missed off the list too. There have been one or two half hearted efforts in recent years, like Canterbury Tales, but nothing serious that I can think of. Certainly a good science fiction anthology show would be welcome, but modern tv execs would find it hard to limit themselves to clever story-telling without visual hooks like loads of gore and fancy costumes.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
briggsy1
How many of the 49 episodes stll exist?
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
briggsy1 wrote:

How many of the 49 episodes stll exist?

Twenty episodes I believe, with ten of those being from series one; but the dvd collection also includes a number of episode recons taken from amateur audio recordings and telesnaps, although I have not seen any of these yet.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
BradPaula
Would this be appropriate for a rewatch? I was able to get some discs from a fan a few years ago and don't know exactly how many episodes are on them- but I would imagine all that exist are on the discs. I've only seen The Man in my Head so far- but want to watch the rest eventually.
Zil: Oneness must resist the Host.
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
BradPaula wrote:

Would this be appropriate for a rewatch?

Absolutely! Definitely rewatch material. I just got your PM and will be interested to see how many episodes you have; it's unlikely that you have Level 7 if it's an old set of dvds, as that episode was only found in 2006...
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
BradPaula
SD: I just checked my discs and I seem to have 22 episodes plus two audio only. I also do have Level 7 on the discs. I PM'd you the listing.
Zil: Oneness must resist the Host.
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
BradPaula wrote:

SD: I just checked my discs and I seem to have 22 episodes plus two audio only. I also do have Level 7 on the discs. I PM'd you the listing.

Cheers Paula, you seem to have everything plus the only surviving episode of Out of this World from 1962 as well Happy
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Come Buttercup, Come Daisy, Come...?

The Little Shop of Horrors reimagined as 'kitchen sink drama' but not very well; I can only say in defence of the script editor that their attention must have been drawn away by...

Sucker Bait

...by Isaac Asimov, an absolutely excellent space exploration fantasy! We follow a colonisation ship from Earth on their mission to a distant world, with a part of that mission to investigate the disappearance of a previous human settlement there. When watching old Doctor Who adventures, and seeing the time travellers encounter many other colonists and space crews, I'm always drawn to imagining those scenarios in the decades that those characters live through besides that one moment where the Doctor drops into their lives and drops out again as quickly. Episodes like this fulfil those dreams, showing space travel and colonisation of alien worlds sans mad man with a box...
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Another three episodes in one hit this afternoon...

Some Lapse of Time

Excellent! This was a nuclear hysteria-themed futuristic timey-wimey hospital drama with a fantastic twist. Visually good, but with top drawer acting and a really intelligent concept. There was a casting point of interest too, with Delena Kidd from the classic sf serial Secret Beneath the Sea playing a language expert.

Thirteen to Centaurus

Another winner, and another clever idea. Further evidence too in support the argument that Doctor Who, even through the classic era, has always enjoyed mixing references from other shows into it's canon. My favourite element of Invasion of the Dinosaurs, the fake spaceship full of people duped into believing they're on a colony ship? Taken almost entirely from this episode, shown only a few years previously on the same channel. Not that copying the idea is a weakness, as I still maintain that weaving familiar references and elements into new storylines is a strength; but I was excited to see the original portrayal of the idea here, matching so closely and even featuring Noel Johnson in virtually the exact same role in both stories! Another familar face here was John Abineri, excellent as always.

The Midas Plague

hmm... some commentators do say that comedy dates more quickly and completely than other forms of drama. On this evidence, they're not wrong.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
rojkerr1
Doomwatch obviously investigating in the Stranger in the family episode!
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
rojkerr1 wrote:

Doomwatch obviously investigating in the Stranger in the family episode!

A series that I have never seen, but would like to...

Managed all four surviving episodes from s2 today! Grin

The Machine Stops

We visit a machine dependent underground society on the day that, yes you guessed it, the machine stops! Its a very good 'end of civilsation as they know it' story, and would even have benefitted from being a little longer to set things up. Plot wise, we see elements very familiar from two Dr Who serials in this one: The Krotons and first four episodes of Trial of a Timelord, interestingly Robert Holmes first and last scripts for the show. In terms of casting, fans of HTV's Patrick Drumgoole historicals might like to know that Michael Gothard is the lead actor...

Lambda I

An excellent futuristic disaster movie! Exploring the science of teleportation, and taking us into the heart of a teleport accident, this was really gripping and interesting. The model work was pretty good, and this episode really was mid/late-60s Dr Who without the Doctor around.

Level Seven

Another really atmospheric Cold War nuclear hysteria-themed drama, this time in the form a claustrophobic underground bunker story. Notable for being the first episode in the collection, as far as I'm aware anyway, to have a major Blake's 7 connection with the casting in a fairly important role of David Collings; what's more, for any other Bergerac fans out there, his replacement as one of the 'operators' in this story is played by Sean Arnold...

Tunnel Under the World

Oh look, another Dr Who story seems to have been inspired in rather a lot of detail from an episode of Out of the Unknown and its another Robert Holmes serial too! Remember the mini-scope in Holmes penned adventure Carnival of Monsters? Yes, it's here too! I'm loving finding out where some of my favourite Dr Who writers got their ideas from, and seeing further proof (if any were needed) that my favourite show has a pedigree drawn from some of the very best science fiction and fantasy writing of the period.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
rojkerr1
John Paul and Joby Blanshard both in Doomwatch, the movie is quite readily available and quite reasonable, and the two surviving earliest stories are on dvd but very expensive! Most of the series exists, apart from a few stories in the first season and most of the third, the episode Sex and Violence which does exist from the third was banned and never screened. Well overdue for a complete release!
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Watched the only surviving episode of series 3 and the first three of series 4 today; the change of producer from Irene Shubink to Alan Bromly brought a shift to contemporary settings and horror, more like Hammer than what had gone before. At least, that's the impression left by those episodes that do survive.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
The Last Lonely Man

The four surviving episodes of s3 and s4 that I have seen so far have all had contemporary or near-future settings, and I'm missing the futurism and space fantasy of the more optimistic 1960s; apparently it was a creative decision by new producer Alan Bromly to move away from science fiction and look at horror themes because it was felt impossible for tv drama to compete with the real life Moon landings. Having said that, this was also the man who had a breakdown after about a week of directing Doctor Who and had to replaced because nobody else on set would listen to him. This story was one commissioned by the previous creative team, but it's obvious straight away that a certain spark is missing. It was good though to see Peter Halliday and George Cole together on screen, two excellent actors of the period.

To Lay a Ghost

A very effective haunted house story, set in a remote country home. Well set up, with an ending that wasn't rushed, and with a nice guest turn for Peter Barkworth.

This Body is Mine

Quite a good episode, although I'm not into body swap storylines in any series. John Carson is one of my favourite actors, and it was interesting to see Alethea Charlton (Dr Who: 100,000 BC and The Time Meddler)

Deathday

I have no idea what they were thinking with this one, and it won't get a rewatch any time soon. The sleeve notes say that the writer of the original novel hated it too!



One general comment on these episodes, and therefore the Bromly-era in general as far as can be judged from these surviving episodes, is that the grasp of what adult drama is seems to have shifted; for Irene Shubik it meant intelligent writing and ideas that children might find either too dull or too scary, but to Alan Bromly it means sexual violence and threats. All four of the above episodes feature sexual violence, with rape being the central theme and narrative device of both To Lay a Ghost (a filthy double entendre that really does mean exactly what it sounds like) and Deathday. Only two more episodes to go, starring Anthony Ainley and Tom Chadbon respectively, and then a 'making of' documentary.
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
Spaceship Dispatcher
Welcome Home

Thank goodness this had Anthony Ainley in it, or else it would have been at risk from being switched off early. None of the questions raised are answered, the basic premise means it fails as a character drama, and that was one awful cop-out ending!

The Man in my Head

This one is definitely my favourite Bromly-era episode. It has an intriguing fantasy idea, is not over complicated, does not rely on horror or cheap shocks, has great set and costume design work, and most of all it stars Tom Chadbon!
Reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. I bet that means something. It sounds great.

Blake's 7: Trojan Horse (s4 fanfic) - Blake's 7: Through the Needle's Eye (s2 fanfic)

Spaceship Dispatcher's fanfic site
 
President Solvite
Interesting this seems to be exactly my cup of tea, will investigate disk pricing and availability immediately!
 
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