Feeds

back to article 1953: How Quatermass switched Britons from TV royalty to TV sci-fi

In June 1953 millions of Brits huddled around their newly bought TVs - all two million of them - and watched their new young Queen take the Coronation Oath before God, her bishops and peers amidst the gothic splendour of Westminster Abbey. Just over two months later a similar number clustered around their sets again, to watch a …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

The late great Nigel Kneale, truly a man that can put the scare young children without flooding the set in false blood.

7
0
Silver badge
Thumb Up

I can only upvote you once, but I would do more if I could!

0
0
Anonymous Coward

A man whose legacy is, I think, sadly overlooked by many.

1
0

Prof. Quatermass was always one of my heroes: who can forget the way he triumphed over that little bit of local nastiness down at Hobbs End tube station?

13
0
Alien

Not I

Notice how it's spelled, not with a single "b" like the cricketer but with two. Perhaps it's a reference to "Hob" which was an old name for the devil.

Is it safe to come out from behind the sofa yet?

2
0
Thumb Up

Re: Not I

I was only a kid when I watched that with my dad, and that comment about Hobbs End is one of the few bits I can recall...

2
0
Silver badge
Trollface

Re: Not I

"Notice how it's spelled, not with a single "b" like the cricketer but with two. Perhaps it's a reference to "Hob" which was an old name for the devil."

So you forgot the part where that possibility is discussed in detail by two of the lead characters then? 8o)

OWOWOW!

3
0
Silver badge
Pirate

Re: Not I

>Perhaps it's a reference to "Hob" which was an old name for the devil."

You might think that. I couldn't possibly comment.

2
0
Gold badge
Unhappy

"Prof. Quatermass was always one of my heroes: who can forget the way he triumphed over that little bit of local nastiness down at Hobbs End tube station?"

Yes. Something very nasty down in the tube station at midnight.

1
0
Silver badge
Headmaster

"hard for many Britain’s to fill in"

Britain's what?

Or do you mean "Britons"?

8
0

Re: "hard for many Britain’s to fill in"

There's never an editor around when you need one.

1
0

Re: "hard for many Britain’s to fill in"

Yes, and we can also do without the fake Americanism of "gotten", thank you very much.

6
5
Silver badge
Headmaster

Re: "hard for many Britain’s to fill in"

"Gotten" originates in (old) English, so it's really only returning from the colonies.

5
1
Silver badge

Re: "hard for many Britain’s to fill in"

It's been in regular use in the antiopdean colonies for their entire existance too. (Besides, it's a nice shakespearean word)

1
1
Silver badge

Re: "hard for many Britain’s to fill in"

""Gotten" originates in (old) English, so it's really only returning from the colonies."

Upvote for your superior historical knowledge in putting down the anti-American sentiment, sir.

Can we do aluminium/aluminum next?

2
2
Anonymous Coward

Re: "hard for many Britain’s to fill in"

"gotten" was not used in NZ, nor Australia when I was there (NZer).

Actually, even old English did not use it that much and now, when used, it is usually in the wrong grammatical context. Scots courts use "proven"; but that is an archaic usage, damn your eyes. We dropped thee, thy, and most Old English word endings around about the time Norse changed the language irrevocably. Even Shakespeare tended to restrict such endings to particular contexts.

Certain religious immigrant groups to the Americas and Quakers, for instance, in England, consciously adopted archaisms to separate themselves from the rest of us, along with Webster's deliberate and inconsistent spelling changes for the same purpose (come on, how is "color" more representative of how we nearly all pronounce "colour", for example?).

Your trouble is too much USA media and ignorance of your own culture. Shame.

3
1
Bronze badge
Coat

Was it colder then?

"All that stomping around in gaberdine coats, occasionally removed to reveal further layers of tweed and rough knitwear..."

Try Google Image search for 'Bill Brandt Street Photographs' or (early 60s) 'Roger Mayne'. Coats, vests, jackets, shirts, jumpers on what are obviously summer days (shadow angle in Mayne's photos especially when there is some sun).

Was it colder then?

I can remember early to mid 60s, and it was always summer and I was always hurtling around in a T-shirt, shorts and plastic sandals (grew up near the sea). I was probably just being a normal 6 to 9 year old.

Yes, I hid behind the setee when the Darleks arrived.

Mine's the Duffel coat going into the cupboard.

4
0
Windows

Re: Was it colder then?

Remember the winter of 63 / 63?

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winter_of_1962%E2%80%9363_in_the_United_Kingdom)

They still used to get pea soupers because of the amount of coal being burned to heat houses / offices / factories - not many people had central heating, so they put on extra layers of clothing. But I also think that we were a hardier lot; if you were cold, you ran around to get warm!

Not quite old enough to remember the original Quatermass, but I did watch "Quatermass and the Pit" (despite my mother thinking that it was too scary for me). It got me reading a lot of SF once I was able to get a library card.

Things were definitely a bit shabbier then; there were still large areas of major twons & cities that had been damaged / destroyed by bombing and then had been knocked flat for safety; no money to re-build at that time. We used to play games in the abandoned bomb shelters or pillar boxes that littered the landscape, not quite understanding that our parents had used the same places for real.

But there was a sense of optimism; the war was over, the economy slowly improving, new consumer goods available. Lots of really exciting scientific research in all areas. Perhaps not good times, but certainly better than the previous generations ahd had to tolerate.

4
0
Bronze badge
Happy

Re: Was it colder then?

That rather reminds me of black and white photos of football matches from the years ago, where every man in the crowd, and I mean EVERY MAN, wore a hat!

Different days.

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Was it colder then?

Yes. No central heating. And if there was, people were still being careful with money, fuel, resources.

They tell me that there was still rationing on some things, but being only 1 in 1953 I was yet to experience shopping and housekeeping.

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Was it colder then?

Ration cards continued until 1956 or later. There were some cold Winters. Single glazing, draughty chimneys, Jack Frost patterns on the inside of windows in the morning, frozen hot water bottles on the bedroom floor if they fell out of the bed. Villages in mid Devon got cut off regularly by snow. My father, a country doctor, used to walk along the hedge tops to reach patients (most of whom did not have cars even in the countryside), carrying his medical case, because the car could not be used in those conditions. A chap teaching in a market town, some ten miles away, sometimes skied to school when the snow was good enough. So perhaps it was a cool decade.

It was fun actually. Try turning down or off the central heating this Winter. See how many clothes you start wearing.

2
0
Headmaster

Re: Was it colder then?

>We used to play games in the abandoned ... pillar boxes

You must have been a *very* small child at the time!

I think pill-boxes were/are a rural thing - I only started to notice them when I moved out of the city, and there are plenty left, particularly at spots where roads cross rivers or canals. They were, after all, built to last.

I also played on many "bombsites" in my 60s childhood - though on reflection I think most of these were slum-clearances of the 50s and 60s, not actual bomb craters. Manchester wasn't anywhere near as badly peppered as London, or other industrial centres like Coventry.

Mine's the duffle coat with the mittens sewn onto a string running between the sleeves...

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Was it colder then?

I recently bought the DVD of an early Ealing Comedy, 'The Magnet', nice story starring an 11 year old James Fox, and filmed on location around my home town, and over the water on the Liverpool bomb sites.

And yes, I remember our local sweetshop cutting out the coupons from my ration book.

Ah, nostalgia...

0
0

Re: Was it colder then?

We used to dreeeeeeeem of plastic sandals...

0
0

Re: Was it colder then?

and with all the grass and sky and trees in black and white, it was really boring. We couldn't afford coloured flowers till 1959.

1
0

Re: Was it colder then?

> I think pill-boxes were/are a rural thing - I only started to notice them when I moved out of the city, and there are plenty left, particularly at spots where roads cross rivers or canals. They were, after all, built to last.

I was playing in pill boxes, gun emplacements and acoustic mirrors while living in Kent in the 1980's. I think many of them are still there around Hythe, Folkestone and Dover. And there were some awesome (though somewhat dangerously dilapidated) martello towers from the Napoleonic era to be explored around there too.

Ah-ha, at least one of the acoustic mirrors is still there: http://goo.gl/maps/XFyMA

0
0

Great stuff!

Quatermass and the Pit is still genuinely scary stuff - although the production values are higher than the early TV s episodes, of course.

An extra egg to make a cake for the Queen - we're still being patronised in much the same... OH LOOK! A ROYAL BABY!

6
5
Anonymous Coward

A thought

Will all the shite available currently on TV actually be of interest to someone in the future?

3
0

Re: A thought

Of course, recording of Big Brother, Keeping up with the Kardashians, TOWIE, etc. will be used by Alien Historians to deduce why the Human civilization, at the height of it's technical prowess, degenerated into an bunch of brain dead, slobbering zombies.

1
0
Bronze badge
Thumb Up

Brilliant!

Nostalgia - dont'cha love it.

Worth remembering that sugar was rationed until 1957 and farthings we're still very much legal tender (and amazingly, there were sweets that could be bought for a farthing then).

An interesting time and made a lot more interesting by such things as Quatermass and the Goon Show.

Showing my age? Rubbish. :-)

2
0
Happy

Re: Brilliant!

"The Quatermass Experiment", "Quatermass II " and "Quatermass and the Pit " all good early sci-fi, but the one I'm still waiting to see is "Quatermass and the Goon Show", should be excellent.

11
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: till waiting to see

rofl .. can't be clicked too often!

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Already done

The Goons did an episode called "The Scarlet Capsule (or Quatermass OBE)", which was based on Quatermass. I think it would lose something if they tried to put it on the screen...

3
0
Silver badge

Re: Already done

"Mind the door"

Was that the episode that featured the line "Stand on my shoulders and pull me up"? Somethings just work better on the radio!

1
0
Gold badge
Unhappy

Re: Already done

You mean "Minador". That cryptic word heard in the darkness that Professor Ned Quatermass spends much time attempting to discern the meaning of.

Unfortunately you've just given the game away.

0
0
Bronze badge

More power to it's elbow, a real homegrown classic but didn't really cut it for me. I prefer the dulcet tones of the late, great Rod Serling myself!

Cue music....* doo-de-doo-de-doo-de-doo-de *

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Six of one and half a dozen of the other...

0
0

Nigel Kneale was fantastic

... and the Stone Tape is the scariest thing ever broadcast on British TV.

5
0
Silver badge

Re: Nigel Kneale was fantastic

Seeing 1 minute of the Stone Tape in a documentary was scary enough. Ditto The Road.

0
0

scariest thing?

I thought that was Ghostwatch? :-)

2
0
Silver badge

Re: scariest thing?

Actually the scariest thing ever is The Apprentice.

A whole level of horror that mere fiction can't touch.

2
0

How much the Doctor owes to the Professor...

It's been said plenty of times before, not only how Nigel Kneale coined the three basic plots of British TV sci-fi with the three Quatermass serials (in order: "we go to them", "they come to us" and "they've always been here"), but how much "Doctor Who" openly borrowed from the shows, even to the point of three whole "Who" stories from the Pertwee era, being specific tributes to them.

"The Ambassadors Of Death" (1970) is practically a rewrite of "Experiment" (British astronauts make contact and aliens send replicas of them back to Earth); "Spearhead From Space" (1970) does the same for "Quatermass II" ("meteorites" bring an alien intelligence to Earth, launching a covert invasion); and "Quatermass And The Pit"'s "alien present on Earth for centuries, seen as the Devil" plot was the basis for "The Daemons" (1971).

Not that Kneale was flattered (at least, not that he admitted) - he reputedly hated "Who" and criticised it scathingly as a silly children's show that plundered his work (you judge).

Also: worth mentioning that "Experiment" was remade by the BBC in 2005, and broadcast as a live performance, just as its ancestor had been. Ironically, David Tennant (Dr Briscoe) had just heard a few days before, that he'd landed the role of The Last Time Lord, so during transmission a fellow cast-member changed a line to greet him as "Doctor"!

2
0
Bronze badge

Re: How much the Doctor owes to the Professor...

There were a lot of programmes in the 1950s which set the standards for what followed. Blue Peter as the foundation for all the magazine-style shows of today, from news to Top Gear, is only the most obvious.

3
0
M7S
Bronze badge

Re: How much the Doctor owes to the Professor...

There's also a namecheck in "Remembrance of the Daleks" whilst some non-Terrans are giving it large to the local soldiery:

Rachel: 'I wish Bernard was here,'

Allison: 'British rocket group has its own problems,'

A nice touch.

I hope there will be mention of the (Sir) John Mills version sometime. I was lucky enough to see the full length version once.

1
0

Re: How much the Doctor owes to the Professor...

Not forgetting that Tom Baker fought the Krynoid - a nasty space plant that had a taste for human flesh in 'The Seeds of Doom'. One of the more terrifying bits of my childhood.

0
0
Bronze badge

Re: How much the Doctor owes to the Professor...

Don't forget The Sky at Night, started in 1957, and still going strong.

1
0
Silver badge

Re: How much the Doctor owes to the Professor...@M7S

I was just going to mention the late '70s version with Sir John Mills. So sad, and a really horrifying picture of societal breakdown. I have the book, and still read it every now and again when I feel sufficiently brave.

2
0

A pedantic ex-BBC VT engineer points out...

In 1953 the BBC was still five years away from having any kind of magnetic video recorder. VERA arrived in 1958 and used spools of wire. Most programmes were done live, and a film recording (Cine camera pointing at a monitor with a long persistence phosphor) would only be made if there was a chance of an overseas sale.

9
0
Silver badge
Alien

Re: A pedantic ex-BBC VT engineer points out...

But despite that many episodes of Quatermass still exist. Lots of them now reside at archive.org.

2
0
Coat

Re: A pedantic ex-BBC VT engineer points out...

And the quick sample I've just looked at all show the classic signs of FR, soft, vignetting around the edge and, as someone mentioned in another comment, things crawling across the screen.

0
0

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.