Quatermass

(United Kingdom | BBC / ITV | 1953 / 1955 / 1958-9 / 1979)

Quatermass
Series Background

Written and created by Nigel Kneale, the four Quatermass serials following the exploits of Professor Bernard Quatermass have long been singled out as being amongst the finest science fiction dramas ever to be produced in the UK.

The first six-part story, The Quatermass Experiment, was broadcast on the BBC from 18 July 1953, and involved the launching of the first manned rocket, designed by Quatermass himself, and the strange disappearance of two of the three crew members while in space. Like the two subsequent BBC serials, The Quatermass Experiment was broadcast live, and on this occasion the lead role was taken by Reginald Tate.

A movie version was subsequently filmed by Hammer in 1955 as The Quatermass Xperiment, with Canadian actor Brian Donlevy as Quatermass. Readers from the United States may be more familiar with the movie under the alternate title The Creeping Unknown.

The second six-part serial, Quatermass II, appeared in 1955, a year after Nigel Kneale and producer Rudolph Cartier had collaborated on a controversial and highly successful adaptation of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, and just a month after The Quatermass Xperiment had debuted in UK cinemas. This new production saw John Robinson step into the lead role at short notice after the sudden death of Reginald Tate, and involved another alien invasion, this time via a mysterious chemical plant, which had been built to the same design as a planned moonbase, and a hail of apparently toxic meteorites. The series concluded with Quatermass launching the Quatermass II rocket and travelling to a nearby asteroid — the source of the alien invasion.

A movie adapatation of Quatermass II was to follow from Hammer under the title Quatermass 2, and the 1957 production would see Brian Donlevy reprise his role as Quatermass — the only time a screen actor would ever play the role on more than one occasion. Having been unhappy at the earlier movie, Nigel Kneale himself would share scripting duties with Val Guest, who would once again be in the director's chair. A change of title would once again be required for the American market, and it was eventually released as Enemy from Space.

The third and final of the BBC's Quatermass stories, Quatermass and the Pit, was broadcast live in late 1958 and early 1959, and yet again there would be a new lead actor in the form of André Morell, who had appeared as O'Brien in Kneale's adaptation of Nineteen Eighteen-Four some four years previously. This final black and white production involved the excavation of an alien craft at a derelict bomb site and ultimately results in an unusual discovery about mankind's ancestry

All of the existing episodes from the three BBC serials were released as a DVD box set during 2005 to great acclaim, having been extensively restored from the original archived materials.

Yet again Hammer would produce a film version, although the colour production of Quatermass and the Pit wasn't to be released until 1967, this time with Scottish actor Andrew Keir as Quatermass. As with the two earlier black and white adaptations, a change of title was deemed necessary for American audiences, and it was released across the Atlantic as Five Million Years to Earth. Keir would later get the chance to reprise the role, albeit on radio, for BBC Radio Three's The Quatermass Memoirs in 1996.

The success of the Quatermass and the Pit movie prompted Hammer to consider making an original production, but their plans would fall through — not the first time this has happened. An earlier attempt to film an original Quatermass story had been mooted back in the 1950s between the two Donlevy movies, but after Kneale had turned down Hammer's request to film an original story, it would be re-written and eventually released under the title X the Unknown.

By the early 1970s the BBC felt the time was right for Quatermass to return to television and a brand-new story was commissioned from Nigel Kneale. Sadly, excalating costs forced the serial to be abandoned, although some modelwork was completed before the plug was pulled.

Several years later and the unproduced BBC serial would be picked up by Euston Films, the film making arm of Thames Television. Starring Sir John Mills, Quatermass would show a civilisation on the verge of collapse, with a now elderly Quatermass searching for his missing granddaughter whilst battling against an alien force that, for unknown reasons, is harvesting the younger members of the population.

Fittingly, Professor Bernard Quatermass finally met his end as a nuclear bomb was detonated to destroy the alien menace...

The big-budget, four-part story was broadcast in the October and November of 1979 and was essentially used to re-launch ITV after the epic eleven-week strike which had crippled the network from mid-August onwards. An edited version, re-titled The Quatermass Conclusion, was given a cinema release outside the UK, and included some alternative footage to the original television version.

But although Quatermass had been killed off by Kneale, several further items of interest featuring the character would be produced over the following decades.

A five-part story on BBC Radio 3 in 1996, titled The Quatermass Memoirs, provided a look back at his early adventures and featured Andrew Keir in the lead role, re-recording dialogue extracts from the 1950s BBC serials where necessary.

Back on television, a ninety-minute production of The Quatermass Experiment was produced for BBC Four in April 2005, and in an extremely bold move was broadcast live — the first BBC drama made in such a way in over twenty years. Despite a number of minor hiccups, it proved to be extremely popular, with the lead role being played by Jason Flemying.

Sadly, Kneale died in October 2006 at the age of 84, but he left behind a legacy as one of the finest fantasy television dramatists the world has seen. As well as scripting the three Quatermass serials for the BBC in the 1950s, Kneale enhanced his reputation no end by adapting George Orwell's Nineteen-Eighty-Four for the BBC in 1954 — fortunately, this remarkable and highly controversial production still exists to this day. Later works included the anthology series Beasts for ATV in 1976 and the sci-fi sitcom Kinvig in 1981. Not forgetting numerous one-off plays including The Road, The Stone Tape and The Year of the Sex Olympics — the scripts for which were all published in 1976 under the title The Year of the Sex Olympics and Other TV Plays. His final fantasy work would be in 1989, when he scripted an adaptation of Susan Hill's novel The Woman in Black for ITV. The latter is, arguably, one of the best supernatural stories ever to be broadcast on television.

Anyone wishing to learn more about Nigel Kneale's life and career would be well advised to track down a copy of Into the Unknown: The Fantastic Life of Nigel Kneale, a 2006 biography by Andy Murray.
Archive Status / DVD Releases

As the ability to videotape programmes only became available towards the end of the 1950s, in order to record programmes for repeats or sales it was necessary to make film recordings of the live performances. However, the technology was still very much in its infancy and the resultant recordings of the first two episodes of The Quatermass Experiment were somewhat less than spectacular. Although the exact reason for the non-recording of the final four episodes is not known, it is believed that the poor technical quality of the initial two episodes may have led to the final four never even being attempted. Fortunately, the two episodes which were recorded still exist today and are the earliest surviving examples of television science fiction from the UK.

Quatermass II exists complete in the BBC archives as a set of 35mm telerecordings.

All of the episodes from Quatermass and the Pit still exist as 35mm telerecordings. Also of note is that a great deal of pre-filming was done prior to going into the studio and the original 35mm film footage for this still exists to the present day, albeit cut into a repeat compilation of the serial which was broadcast a year later.

The existing episodes of The Quatermass Experiment have been released on DVD in the UK in the Quatermass Collection box set, which also includes Quatermass II and Quatermass and the Pit. All three stories have been restored, and, in the case of Quatermass and the Pit the original 35mm film inserts have been re-scanned and edited in where appropriate. Even better, the telerecordings for Quatermass and the Pit are of such quality that it was possible to use the VidFIRE process to restore the original video look.

Extras in the Quatermass Collection set include The Kneale Tapes (the Time Shift documentary about Nigel Kneale's TV career) as well as PDF files of the scripts to the final four episodes of The Quatermass Experiment. Also included is an extensive booklet on the making of the three serials by Andrew Pixley. Subtitles.

The 2005 live remake of The Quatermass Experiment has also been released on DVD in the UK. Extras comprise a commentary, photo gallery, making-of documentary and a booklet about the story. Includes subtitles, even for the commentary.

ITV's Quatermass serial still exists in its original broadcast format and has been released on DVD in both the UK and the United States. Both releases have included the original four-part serial as well as the Quatermass Conclusion compilation. Neither release is subtitled.
The Quatermass Experiment

by
Nigel Kneale
Cover image: The Quatermass Experiment, Penguin Books (1959)
Country UK
Format Paperback
Publisher Penguin Books
Publication Date 1959
Original Price 2/6
ISBN N/A

The Quatermass Experiment contains the original scripts to the television serial of the same name.

The book includes eight pages of black and white photographs in the centre.

Back Cover Blurb
Here is the script of the first of the three Quatermass serials presented on B.B.C. Television. The Quatermass Experiment was produced when space exploration still existed only in the imagination. And no other television serial has had such a tremendous impact. The story concerns the first manned rocket to be sent into space. When finally the rocket is brought back to earth by Professor Bernard Quatermass, there has been a mysterious change which threatens the future of life on our planet.

The horror of the story is intensified by its realistic setting: a cinema in Pimlico, St James's Park, and finally Westminster Abbey. And Nigel Kneale's brilliant imagination holds the reader spellbound, so that the impact of his story is as powerful in print as on the screen.
Other Editions
L'esperimento Quatermass
Italy | 1961
The complete scripts to The Quatermass Experiment were translated by Gerardo Lanceri and were first released in Italy as part of a science fiction anthology titled Il Secondo Libro Della Fantascienza.
Cover image: Classici-Fantascienza, (1979) L'esperimento Quatermass
Italy | 1978
A collection of the scripts to all six episodes of The Quatermass Experiment, released as Issue 19 of Classici-Fantascienza magazine. This edition also includes a translation of Nigel Kneale's introduction. As with the original Italian release, the scripts were translated by Gerardo Lanceri.
Cover image: The Quatermass Experiment, Arrow Books (1979) The Quatermass Experiment
UK | Paperback | Arrow Books | 1979 | 95p | 0099213605
This edition includes a foreword by Nigel Kneale, and was re-released, along with the script books to Quatermass II and Quatermass and the Pit, to accompany Arrow Books' novelisation based on the then brand-new Quatermass serial on ITV. Like the original Penguin edition, it includes eight pages of black and white photographs in the centre.
The first manned space-rocket plummets back to earth long overdue. Professor Quatermass and his team from the British Experimental Rocket Group wait anxiously for the crew to emerge.

But only one man is left aboard — a man too shocked to tell what happened to his colleagues. It is the beginning of a reign of terror which will hold London in its merciless grip — and threaten the entire world!
Television Story
The Quatermass Experiment
6 × 30 Minutes | BBC | Black and White

18/07/53 Episode One: Contact Has Been Established Nigel Kneale
25/07/53 Episode Two: Persons Reported Missing Nigel Kneale
01/08/53 Episode Three: Very Special Knowledge Nigel Kneale
08/08/53 Episode Four: Believed To Be Suffering Nigel Kneale
15/08/53 Episode Five: An Unidentified Species Nigel Kneale
22/08/53 Episode Six: Stae of Emergency Nigel Kneale
Notes
  • The Quatermass Experiment was the first of the three famous serials written by Nigel Kneale for the BBC during the 1950s, and is widely regarded as a landmark moment in television science fiction.

    Prior to this date, UK sci-fi TV productions had largely been based on existing plays and novels, while in the United States things had advanced little beyond the weekly movie serials of the 1930s and 1940s, with series such as Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, Captain Z-Ro and Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers filling the schedules. The years following The Quatermass Experiment saw little change across the Atlantic, with new series of Flash Gordon, Captain Midnight, Commando Cody and Rocky Jones, Space Ranger.

    That's not to say that all science fiction in the US was throwaway stuff aimed at children — the 1950s also produced anthologies such as Tales of Tomorrow, Science Fiction Theatre and The Twilight Zone — but, in general, the UK was ahead of the game as far as original science fiction for adults was concerned.
  • When the Quatermass Collection DVD set was released in the UK in 2005, the four missing episodes of The Quatermass Experiment were represented by PDF files of the scripts which could be accessed via a PC or Mac. Sadly, the quality was poor at best, and one page from the final episode was accidentally omitted.
Back cover blurb for the Penguin Books edition supplied by Stephen Barker
Quatermass II

by
Nigel Kneale
Cover image: Quatermass II, Penguin Books (1960)
Country UK
Format Paperback
Publisher Penguin Books
Publication Date 1960
Original Price 2/6
ISBN N/A

Quatermass II contains the original scripts to the television serial of the same name.

The book includes eight pages of black and white photographs in the centre. The cover art was created by Bryan Kneale, Nigel Kneale's brother.

Back Cover Blurb
This is the script of the second Quatermass serial, as presented on television. The Quatermass Experiment has already been published as a Penguin (see inside back cover), and Quatermass and the Pit will follow shortly. The same central character appears in all three, but otherwise the stories are not connected.

The title of this volume is the code name for a giant rocket, which forms the basis of Professor Bernard Quatermass's ambitious Moon Project. While working on its technical faults at his research station, he is interrupted by a disturbing discovery: here on earth, at a lonely point on the English coast, something weirdly suggestive of his own project is already in an advanced stage of construction.

Quatermass determines to investigate — and finds he has to break through every kind of barrier, from barbed wire and armed security guards to what seems the most perverse brand of Whitehall bureaucracy. What he gradually uncovers is something infinitely more sinister than any of these.
Other Editions
Progetto Quatermass
Italy | 1962
The six scripts to Quatermass II were serialised in the Urania science fiction magazine over the course of six months, between Issues 281 and 286. The individual episodes were retitled (1) Le pietre, (2) L'impronta, (3) La fabbrica, (4) L'arrivo, (5) La furia and (6) La distruzione.
Cover image: Classici-Fantascienza, (1979) Progetto Quatermass
Italy | 1978
Translated by Andreina Negretti. A collection of the scripts to all six episodes of The Quatermass Experiment, released as Issue 4 of Classici-Fantascienza magazine. This edition also includes a translation of Nigel Kneale's introduction.
Cover image: Quatermass II, Arrow Books (1979) Quatermass II
UK | Paperback | Arrow Books | 1979 | 95p | 009921380X
This edition includes a foreword by Nigel Kneale, and was re-released, along with the script books to The Quatermass Experiment and Quatermass and the Pit, to accompany Arrow Books' novelisation based on the then brand-new Quatermass serial on ITV. Like the original Penguin edition, it includes eight pages of black and white photographs in the centre.
For some time, Professor Quatermass has been aware that a series of inexplicable events are the subject of a Whitehall cover-up.

Reports of UFO sightings have been suppressed; no explanation has been given for the extraordinarily high incidence of meteorite strikes on the earth; and an entire village has been razed to the ground to make way for a clandestine Government project.

Quatermass determines to penetrate the web of secrecy — and is soon involved in a desperate race to preserve life on earth.

Cover image: Classici-Fantascienza, (1979) Progetto Quatermass
Italy | Magazine | Mondadori | 2005 | €4,90
Translated by Hilja Brinis. Released as Issue 033 of science fiction magazine Urania.
Television Story
Quatermass II
6 × 30 Minutes | BBC | Black and White

22/10/55 Episode 1: The Bolts Nigel Kneale
29/10/55 Episode 2: The Mark Nigel Kneale
05/11/55 Episode 3: The Food Nigel Kneale
12/11/55 Episode 4: The Coming Nigel Kneale
19/11/55 Episode 5: The Frenzy Nigel Kneale
26/11/55 Episode 6: The Destroyers Nigel Kneale
Notes
  • Quatermass II was the second of Nigel Kneale's three Quatermass serials for the BBC during the 1950s.
  • A film version of Quatermass II, starring Brian Donlevy, was produced by Hammer in 1957 under the title Quatermass 2. In the United States the film was known as Enemy from Space.
  • Any Doctor Who fans reading the early parts of the Quatermass II script book, or watching the DVD for the first time, may find some of the story slightly familiar.

    Although all perfectly above board, Doctor Who was never afraid to give a nod towards classic books and film/television productions, with the 1970 story Spearhead from Space featuring a swarm of hollow meteorites falling to Earth in the UK and having their descent tracked by the military. Robert Holmes' script was subsequently novelised by Terrance Dicks in 1974 under the title Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion.
Quatermass and the Pit

by
Nigel Kneale
Cover image: Quatermass and the Pit, Penguin Books (1960)
Country UK
Format Paperback
Publisher Penguin Books
Publication Date 1960
Original Price 2/6
ISBN N/A

Quatermass and the Pit contains the original scripts to the television serial of the same name.

The book includes eight pages of black and white photographs in the centre. The cover art was created by Bryan Kneale, Nigel Kneale's brother.

Back Cover Blurb
This is the script of the third television serial involving Professor Bernard Quatermass. The Quatermass Experiment and Quatermass II have already been published as Penguins. The same central character appears in all these, but otherwise they are not connected.

When this story opens Quatermass is in London for conferences at the War Office. His rocket research station, hitherto purely scientific in its objects, is being taken over by the military for the furtherance of a terrible space-war project to be known as the Dead Man's Deterrent.

But the nation whose destiny they are discussing has its attention on the past. The news topic of the moment is a building site at Knightsbridge, where excavations have uncovered fossil bones of man-apes estimated to be five million years old. Then, at a still deeper level in the pit, something else is found which is soon claiming Quatermass's expert attention. It leads him through encounters with superstition, ritual, and magic — to a new and alarming conception of the very nature of humanity.
Other Editions
Quatermass E Il Pozzo
Italy | 1961
The six scripts to Quatermass and the Pit were serialised in the Urania science fiction magazine over the course of six months, between Issues 300 and 305. The individual episodes were retitled (1) L'anello mancante, (2) I fantasmi, (3) Le creature, (4) Gli incantesimi, (5) La cavalcata dei demoni and (6) Il diavolo.

Cover image: Classici-Fantascienza, (1979) Quatermass E Il Pozzo
Italy | 1978
Translated by Andreina Negretti. A collection of the scripts to all six episodes of The Quatermass Experiment, released as Issue 10 of Classici-Fantascienza magazine. This edition also includes a translation of Nigel Kneale's introduction.

Cover image: Quatermass and the Pit, Arrow Books (1979) Quatermass and the Pit
UK | Paperback | Arrow Books | 1979 | 95p | 0099213702
This edition includes a foreword by Nigel Kneale, and was re-released, along with the script books to The Quatermass Experiment and Quatermass II, to accompany Arrow Books' novelisation based on the then brand-new Quatermass serial on ITV. Like the original Penguin edition, it includes eight pages of black and white photographs in the centre.
Hobbs Lane, in central London, has been the scene of mysterious incidents for centuries past. Stories of hauntings and of strange apparitions abound...and now an excavation crew have discovered parts of a skeleton that contradict all previous theories of Man's ancestry.

Professor Quatermass is in London for top-level talks on a military project for the furtherance of space war — an enterprise to which Quatermass is violently opposed. But his attention is drawn away from the battle with officialdom, when the Hobbs Lane site yields an even more startling find — a vast rocket made of metal unknown to science. And soon after that, the terror begins...
Television Story
Quatermass and the Pit
6 × 35 Minutes | BBC | Black and White

22/12/58 Episode 1: The Halfmen Nigel Kneale
29/12/58 Episode 2: The Ghosts Nigel Kneale
05/01/59 Episode 3: Imps and Demons Nigel Kneale
12/01/59 Episode 4: The Enchanted Nigel Kneale
19/01/59 Episode 5: The Widl Hunt Nigel Kneale
26/01/59 Episode 6: Hob Nigel Kneale
Notes
  • Quatermass And the Pit was the third and last of Nigel Kneale's three Quatermass serials for the BBC during the 1950s. The character would later be brought out of retirement for the four-part Quatermass story for ITV in 1979.
Back cover blurb for the Penguin Books edition supplied by Stephen Barker
Quatermass

by
Nigel Kneale
Cover image: Quatermass, Arrow Books (1979)
Country UK
Format Paperback
Publisher Arrow Books
Publication Date 1979
Original Price 95p
ISBN 0099207702

Quatermass is a novelisation of the television serial of the same name.

Back Cover Blurb
IN SPACE the Russians and Americans squander billions on pointless projects.

ON EARTH there is anarchy. Civilisation is breaking down.

Gangs of killers roam the rubbish-strewn streets. Fuel and food shortages have made the population desperate. Through the countryside bands of mystics calling themselves the Planet People chant their crazed beliefs.

Professor Bernard Quatermass, once a space pioneer himself, is an old man now. Disgusted and appalled by the state of the world, he has one final mission — to find and save his young granddaughter. She may have joined the Planet People. He follows as thousands of them converge on the ancient stone circle of Ringstone Round.

It is there that he witnesses an event that defies all sanity. For Quatermass it is the beginning of a long horror — a terrifying paranormal power has begun to afflict the Earth.
Other Editions
Cover image: Quatermass, Hutchinson (1979) Quatermass
UK | Hardback | Hutchinson | 1979 | 5.50 | 0091398800
This edition from Hutchinson was the only hardback book based on Nigel Kneale's four Quatermass serials to be published.
It is late in the twentieth century. The Americans and Russians are still managing to make a show of linking up in space. But Britain, like many smaller countries, is teetering into the Third World. Its streets are blocked with barricades and festering rubbish, and haunted by killer-gangs. The Urban Collapse has finally happened.

Old Professor Bernard Quatermass, once a pioneer of space research himself, grabs the chance to appear on a bankrupt TV network to denounce the wasteful Russo-American project... only to witness their satellite linkup mysteriously abort, sweeping bodies and wreckage out into black emptiness. He is aghast to find himself suspected of some sabotage involvement. He escapes from London. All that is left for him now is to continue his obsessive search for a young girl, his missing granddaughter. He suspects she may have joined one of the groups of the Planet People cult who straggle through the countryside chanting their hysterical belief in a better life on another planet. He follows as thousands of them converge on the ancient stone circle of Ringstone Round. It is there that a weird fulfillment occurs. For Quatermass it is only the beginning of a long horror.

Cover image: Classici-Fantascienza, (1979) Quatermass: La Terra Esplode
Italy | 1980
Translated by Vittorio Curtoni. Released as Issue 868 of Urania science fiction magazine.
Television Story
Quatermass
4 × 60 Minutes | ITV | Colour

24/10/79 Chapter One: Ringstone Round Nigel Kneale
31/10/79 Chapter Two: Lovely Lightning Nigel Kneale
07/11/79 Chapter Three: What Lies Beneath Nigel Kneale
14/11/79 Chapter Four: An Endangered Species Nigel Kneale
Notes
  • Quatermass was the fourth and final television story to feature Professor Bernard Quatermass, the character originally created by Nigel Kneale in 1953 for the BBC's six-part science fiction drama The Quatermass Experiment. The character returned to the screen two years later for Quatermass II, before making his final appearance on the BBC in the 1958/9 serial Quatermass and the Pit.
  • Quatermass was the only one of Nigel Kneale's four Quatermass serials which was to be published in the form of a full-length novel, as the books of the three BBC serials from the 1950s had all contained Kneale's original scripts. It would also be the only full-length novel which Nigel Kneale ever wrote, as his original fiction in the past had been in the form of short stories.

    Surprisingly, only one collection of Kneale's original fiction would ever be published, Tomato Cain and Other Stories, in the 1940s. The second edition of the book contained three extra stories, and neither volume is now common, although various of the stories have been anthologised throughout the years. One of the easiest to obtain is probably The Tarroo-Ushtey, which was included in The Television Late Night Horror Omnibus.
  • To accompany the release of Nigel Kneale's Quatermass novelisation, Arrow Books also reprinted the three Quatermass script books, which had first been published by Penguin in 1959 and 1960 — one for each of the BBC's three serials.
Back cover blurb and cover image for the Hutchinson edition supplied by Stephen Barker