A journey into the future with BBC 2’s new science fiction series
When man was wholly earthbound and there seemed no prospect of his ever being anything else, writing on science ﬁction themes was labelled fantasy and was, in fact, either nursery entertainment or allegory. But science in the last century offered just a glimmering hope that this world need not be the limit of man’s travels, while at the same time the progress of invention allowed informed guesswork about the physical shape of the future. Jules Verne capitalised on this: H. G. Wells did better, since he not only had a grasp of science, but also the political instinct to have a shrewd idea where human society was heading.
So modern science ﬁction was born. But, oddly enough, things had to get worse, before they got better. The Verne-Wells tradition was left largely in the hands of the American pulp-magazine writers who were working for a readership which demanded ‘bug-eyed monsters’ and such horror-comic elements. Nonetheless, it was from such publications that many of today’s best SF writers graduated and now science ﬁction is an eminently
respectable branch of literature, and of course highly televisable, as the two earlier series of Out of the
This new series, the ﬁrst to be made in colour, is being handled by the team of Alan Bromly (producer) and Roger Parkes (script editor), which was responsible for the BBC-2 thriller serials like The Paradise Makers, which have recently been repeated on BBC-1.
The stories from which the plays have been taken come from such famous SF pens as those of Isaac Asimov, Robert Sheckley, John Brunner, and John (Day of the Triﬂids) Wyndham. The writers who have dramatised them include Clive Exton, Jack Pulman, Julian Bond, David Climie, and the former dramatic critic, now turned dramatist, Robert Muller. In addition, there are three wholly original stories in the series of thirteen, and these are by Donald Bull, Michael Ashe, and Brian Hayles.
There is a noteworthy line-up of actors and actresses appearing.
George Cole in the characteristic part of a lonely little man, Miles O’Shea, that stalwart Irishman, as a dotty professor, Geraldine Moffat as a particularly nasty blackmailer, Trisha Noble, Hamilton Dyce, Keith Barron of Lucky Jim fame and many more.
The series opens with a play called Immortality Inc., which has been written by Jack Pulman from a short story by the American Robert Sheckley. This is based on the intriguing proposition that at some time in the future an ageing man might be able, for a price, to transfer his mind into a young and active body.
This body can be obtained from any area of time; so when one such customer reaches back into the twentieth century for his borrowed ﬂesh, the man from 1969 who is suddenly transported into this world of the far future ﬁnds himself in an environment which is inﬁnitely strange and inﬁnitely terrifying.
With thanks to John Archbold for supplying the original article.