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back to article Signing out of a broken Britain: The final Quatermass serial

Nigel Kneale was one of the best British writers of the past 50 years, but thanks to enduring British snobbishness about both TV and stories of the imagination, the name is met with blank looks today. Luvvies and critics have never taken to Kneale's Professor Quatermass character - and perhaps more people will recognise the name …

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Powerful stuff

I remember the final Quatermass as more powerful than it seems now, even though we are rapidly heading toward a world not unlike the one he portrayed. I think the Planet People seem less likely than they did, but that's about it. But there is no doubting the complexity of the vision and the depth of detail that went into creating the world in which the story took place, far more than in the earlier stories where it was somehow not necessary: they had a contemporary setting, this last one was near-future.

Ringstone Round is a thoroughly clever British invention. It sounds right. It sounds like it really exists, and there are some people who claim the children's chant is traditional.

OK, there is something of 'Midwich cuckoos' in the denouement, and some of the acting is a little perfunctory. But the story remains tight, faithful to the Genre, and has that same sort of 'that would explain a lot' quality of the The Pit . I thought in that the Hobs Lane and medieval mythology was handled with a light enough touch to be realistic, or at least not break the disbelief, and the idea of finding a rational explanation for stone circles in the last story has that same deftness of touch.

Yes. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed them all, and this was part of the set. The whole series had some of the qualities of Britishness that makes doctor Who interesting, while still being proper, serious, story telling. I'd put them up there with Day of the Triffids and War of the Worlds, as fine quality SF on our own turf.

Out of interest, who is writing SF with a British background now? Is there a hole in the market?

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Re: Powerful stuff

> who is writing SF with a British background now?

Peter F. Hamilton. See the Greg Mandel series, and the recent Great North Road, all very readable.

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Re: Powerful stuff

..... who is writing SF with a British background now?

I guess that would be Russell T Davies, which means that there is indeed a hole in the market. A very specific type of hole in fact.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Powerful stuff

Peter F Hamilton, The Great North Road, is set in (future) Newcastle, if that's what you mean? Best of British SF at the moment I'd say.

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Re: Powerful stuff

eh?

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Re: Powerful stuff

" who is writing SF with a British background now? Is there a hole in the market?"

Ken Macleod (The "Fall Revolution" and "Engines of Light" sequences, The Execution Channel, The Night Sessions, Intrusions, etc, etc) and Charles Stross (The Laundry books are very British - just possibly not quite the Britain we inhabit..., Halting State, and Rule 34).

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Big Brother

Just a little ahead of its time then?

Quote

Outside the Quatermass serials, Kneale continued to produce challenging and original writing backed by a BBC willing to take risks. In his satirical 1968 drama The Year of the Sex Olympics, a United Nations plan to pacify the population by beaming a stupefying mix of live pornography and reality TV

We are more than half way there now aren't we? When isn't there some 'reality TV' being broadcast?

BB simply because I was surprised to find that it was still on TV. Oh well, I guess that there are some numbskulls out there who find this <redacted> interesting.

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Unhappy

Re: Just a little ahead of its time then?

"We are more than half way there now aren't we? When isn't there some 'reality TV' being broadcast?"

In book form the idea was also explored in the little known "The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe," filmed (with Harvey Keitel) as "Deathwatch."

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Happy

OMG The Year of the Sex Olympics. Anyone remember "Grimblendon Down?"

The Bill Tidy strip in the New Scientist?

I was reminded of their "Contraceptive Pornography" unit, whose most famous work was called "Plastic Pigsty Orgy" IIRC.

Weirdest moment. Realizing "Holy S**t, it's Brian Cox."

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Unhappy

I'm surprised you haven't mentioned his excellent 7 part comedy series "Kinvig" aired in 1981, but never repeated as far as I know. It ended promising us another series which never materialised.

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WTF?

From what I heard Kinvig was *weird*

I mean. Nigel Kneale does "comedy"

For bonkers never-seen-again TV I've also heard of the equally bizarre "The Adventures of Don Quick."

And I'll throw in the equally weird early 80s play "Psych Warriors."

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Alien

Re: From what I heard Kinvig was *weird*

"The Adventures of Don Quick."

Dear God, I'd forgotten that. Broadcast in 1970, Don Quixote in Space, written with acid trip sensibilities. Seriously weird.

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WotW a Western

HG Wells’ War of the Worlds, were really updates of the Western genre.

I must have missed the western with huge metal tripods, and an educated man going through what looks like to him, the extermination of mankind.

Never saw that on bonanza!

/sorry my fav book of all time, western pah!

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Facepalm

Re: WotW a Western

Not to say that the War of the Worlds (1898) predates any Western by a comfortable margin and features no good guys.

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Didn't this start on the first evening back after the great ITV strike of '79?

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Who is writing British SF?

Depends on whether you mean for the screen only or in general?

Books wise - Alastair Reynolds - astrophysicist. Many fiction books - stuffed full of great ideas. Kind of like the spiritual successor to Asimov/Clarke - in that he's a scientist first and a writer second.

I don't really read much scifi these days, but always take the time to get his latest book.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Who is writing British SF?

Not specifically British SF, but every year I buy one of the "Best of" anthologies to keep up. I try to get the Dozois one, but I'm not sure it matters really - unless you like a stupefyingly detailed review-of-the-year in sf publishing :-)

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Current British science fiction writer

From the British SF writers I quite like Charles Stross, with "Halting State" and "Rule 34" being particularly good examples of near future british science fiction. Ken McLeod is generally worth a read as well.

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Best part of this is when the professors gets mugged near the start, by a thuggish Equity hoodlum with a perfect diamond-cut Oxbridge accent.

Today everyone would be speaking eshchewawy and trying to sell you something.

Kneale was well ahead of the game - the thinking person's Terry Nation.

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@TheOtherHobbes Ignore

"Kneale was well ahead of the game - the thinking person's Terry Nation."

Would that not be Victor Lewis Smith?

Mine will be the jacket with what appear to be stains of "White wee wee."

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Huffety Puffety

Yes, I can remember the Ringstone Round song, even now.

I'll need to see if I can find this series on some internet thing...

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Did you see the wrist phone?

In "1968 drama The Year of the Sex Olympics"

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We are only a few years from predicted power outages, and most of the rest is already happening; we just need a big surge in scientology and us oldies will be able to sit back and wait for the giant space jellyfish to start feeding on the chavs and other social security leeches.

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The fly was not trapped on the camera

The fly was on the screen it was filmed off. Back then getting from TV to film essentially meant filming off a TV screen.

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Future History

Slightly off topic but does anyone remember the Play for Tomorrow series, I think it was on around the time of Blake's 7?

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Huffity, puffity, Ringstone Round,

If you lose your hat it will never be found,

So pull your britches right up to your chin,

And fasten your cloak with a bright new pin,

And when you are ready, then we can begin,

Huffity, puffity, puff!

still gives me the chills when I hear it :D

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