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Out of the Unknown

Entry updated 19 November 2023. Tagged: TV.

UK tv series (1965-1971). BBC TV. Produced by Irene Shubik (seasons 1 and 2), Alan Bromly (seasons 3 and 4). Script editor Irene Shubik (seasons 1 and 2), Roger Parkes (seasons 3 and 4). Writers included Terry Nation, J B Priestley, Troy Kennedy Martin, Clive Exton, Julian Bond, Nigel Kneale and Robert Muller. Directors included Michael Ferguson, Peter Sasdy, Philip Saville, Philip Dudley and Eric Hills. Four seasons, 49 episodes, each 50 minutes in first season, 60 minutes thereafter. Seasons 1-2 black and white, thereafter colour.

This sf Television Anthology Series, originated by Irene Shubik – previously story editor on Out of This World (1962) – dramatized the work of many well known sf writers. The adapted stories and novels included, in broadcast order:

Series 1: 1965. "Time to Rest" (1949 New Worlds #4 as by John Beynon) and "No Place Like Earth" (Spring 1951 New Worlds as by John Beynon) by John Wyndham, combined under the latter title as the inaugural broadcast; "Time in Advance" (August 1956 Galaxy) by William Tenn; "Andover and the Android" (in The Mile-Long Spaceship, coll 1963) by Kate Wilhelm; "Some Lapse of Time" ([February] 1963 Science Fantasy #57) by John Brunner; "Thirteen to Centaurus" (April 1962 Amazing) by J G Ballard; "The Midas Plague" (April 1954 Galaxy) by Frederik Pohl.

Series 2: 1966-1967 "The Machine Stops" (November 1909 Oxford and Cambridge Review) by E M Forster; "Lambda I" (December 1962 New Worlds) by Colin Kapp; Level 7 (1959) by Mordecai Roshwald, adapted by J B Priestley.

Series 3: 1969. Immortality Delivered (October 1958-February 1959 Galaxy as "Time Killer"; 1958; exp vt Immortality, Inc. 1959) by Robert Sheckley; Liar! (May 1941 Astounding; rev 1977 chap) by Isaac Asimov; "The Last Lonely Man" (May/June 1964 New Worlds) by John Brunner; "'You'll Never Go Home Again!'" (July 1951 Fantastic Adventures; vt "Beachhead" in Beachheads in Space, anth 1952, ed August Derleth) by Clifford D Simak; "Random Quest" (in Consider Her Ways and Others, coll 1961) by John Wyndham; "The Little Black Bag" (July 1950 Astounding) by C M Kornbluth; The Naked Sun (October-December 1956 Astounding; 1957) by Asimov; "The Yellow Pill" (October 1958 Astounding) by Rog Phillips; "Dreams are Sacred" (September 1948 Astounding) by Peter Phillips, as "Get Off My Cloud".

Despite budget limitations, the standard of production was often very high, and good actors were used; one episode was designed by Ridley Scott. The quality of the scripts varied, some of the writers assigned being unfamiliar with sf. After three seasons the BBC decided that the series lacked mass popularity, and for the fourth in 1971 switched it from sf to supernatural stories, all but one of these being original teleplays – including "The Chopper" (1971) by Nigel Kneale. The book Out of the Unknown (2004) by Mark Ward, based on BBC records and the memories of production staff, includes over 2000 photographs and stills from the series. [PN/JB/DRL]

see also: Dream Hacking.

further reading

  • Mark Ward. Out of the Unknown (Handsworth Wood, Birmingham: Kaleidoscope Publishing, 2004) [nonfiction: introduction by Irene Shubik: illus/photographic: pb/]


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