If you have access to BBC iPlayer, then you may already know the broadcaster’s 1958 serial Quatermass and the Pit is available to watch right now for free – and a terrific piece of vintage SFTV it is too.
Running over six Monday evenings between December 1958 and January 1959, the series, starred André Morell as Professor Quatermass, the third actor to take the role.
(Morell had previously appeared as O’Brien in Kneale’s adaptation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four for the BBC).
Quatermass again battles an extraterrestrial threat, an ancient and hostile intelligence from Mars – and we’re treated to both an exciting and intelligent story, inventively making the most of the era’s limited visual effects.
The serial’s script was first published by Penguin Books in 1959.
Watching this vintage SF thriller led me to discover, belatedly, We Are The Martians: The Legacy of Nigel Kneale edited by Neil Snowdon, published, finally, by PS Publishing in 2017, after its original publisher, Spectral, went out of business.
In many ways the father of television drama in the UK, Thomas Nigel Kneale was also, in every way, a successor to H.G. Wells and M.R. James in his impact, described by the publisher as “the missing link in the genre chain that leads from Wells to J.G. Ballard”.
Despite the enduring success of the Quatermass stories, which made the jump from the small to the big screen, Kneale is little known outside of the Science Fiction community. Perhaps because he was a screenwriter in the days before TV thought to preserve its output, and because many of his most successful works dealt with SF and the Supernatural.
But he was a pioneer, who pushed the medium in a new direction with The Quatermass Experiment, forging a more vivid, more cinematic means of telling stories, with Producer/Director Rudolph Cartier. He demanded more from television… in terms of style, and content.
Filling his stories with ideas as well as emotion, time after time, he broke new ground, tested the boundaries; provoked as he enthralled, and with dramas such as the early Quatermass stories, Year of the Sex Olympics and The Stone Tape, made us think as he made us feel…
In the UK, there’s not a single TV drama dealing in speculative ideas that does not owe him a debt; directly, or by the ripples of influence that preceded them.
In We Are The Martians, authors, critics and screenwriters who have been moved and influenced by his work, come together to celebrate his life, his work, and his extraordinary legacy. Edited by Neil Snowdon, contributors include author and actor Mark Gatiss, horror authors Ramsey Campbell and Kim Newman, SF author Mark Chadbourn, comics creators Stephen Bissette and Maura McHugh – and more.
The book also includes an interview with Nigel Kneale himself and conversations with creators including film director Joe Dante and Kneale’s widow, author Judith Kerr, a terrific author in her own right.
Editor Neil Snowdon is a writer, editor, film programmer, and publisher whose work has appeared in the pages of Video Watchdog, Rue Morgue and FEAR.
He’s also the Commissioning Editor of Electric Dreamhouse Press, a new cinema imprint formed in conjunction with PS Publishing, Series Editor of the ‘Midnight Movie Monographs’ line, and co-founder of Novocastria Macabre with author Stephen Laws (also a contributor to We Are The Martians) an umbrella organisation bringing genre events to Newcastle and the North East of England.
• Buy We Are The Martians: The Legacy of Nigel Kneale from AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)