Web Page No 2442
22nd January 2018
First Picture: The First Professor Quatermass Reginald Tate
Second Picture:The Second Professor Quatermass John Robinson
Third Picture: The Third Professor Quatermass Andre Morrel
Forth Picture: Quatermass LP Cover
The Quatermass Experiment.
Were you like me? Scared stiff and watching from behind the safety of the sofa?
This page looks at the original three TV series and does not touch later revivals and films.
Professor Bernard Quatermass was a fictional scientist, originally created by Nigel Kneale for BBC Television. An intelligent and highly moral British scientist, Quatermass was a pioneer of the British space programme, heading the British Experimental Rocket Group. He continually found himself confronting sinister alien forces that threaten to destroy humanity.
The role of Quatermass was featured in three influential BBC serials of the 1950s and again in a final serial for Thames Television in 1979. A remake of the first serial appeared on BBC Four in 2005. The character also appeared in films, on the radio and in print over a fifty-year period. Nigel Kneale picked the character's unusual surname from a London telephone directory, while the christian name was in honour of the astronomer Bernard Lovell.
The character of Quatermass has been described by BBC News as Britain's first television hero, and by The Independent newspaper as "A brilliantly conceived and finely crafted creation.
Little is revealed of Quatermass's early life during the course of the films and television series in which he appears. In The Quatermass Experiment, he at one point despairs that he should have stuck to his original career as a surveyor. In Nigel Kneale's 1996 radio serial The Quatermass Memoirs, it is revealed that the Professor was first involved in rocketry experiments in the 1930s, and that his wife died young. The unmade prequel serial Quatermass in the Third Reich, an idea conceived by Nigel Kneale in the late 1990s, would have shown Quatermass travelling to Nazi Germany during the 1936 Berlin Olympics and becoming involved with Wernher von Braun and the German rocket programme, before helping a young Jewish refugee to escape from the country. According to The Quatermass Memoirs, during World War II Quatermass conducted top secret work for the British war effort, which he subsequently refused ever to discuss.
By 1953 Quatermass is the head of the British Experimental Rocket Group, which has a programme to launch a manned rocket into space from a base in Tarooma, Australia. Although Quatermass succeeds in launching a three-man crew, the rocket vastly overshoots its projected orbit and returns to Earth much later than planned, crash-landing in London. Only one of the crew, Victor Carroon, remains, and he has been taken over by an alien presence, eventually forcing Quatermass to destroy him and the other two crew members who have been absorbed into him in a climax set in Westminster Abbey.
Despite this trauma, Quatermass continues with his space programme, now called the British Rocket Group, and by Quatermass II (1955) is actively planning the establishment of Moon bases. In this serial we see his daughter, Paula Quatermass, who works as an assistant at the Rocket Group, but there is no sign of a wife or other children. In the fourth episode of the serial he mentions that he never reached his twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, tying in with The Quatermass Memoirs' later assertion of his wife's early death.
At the beginning of the third serial, Quatermass and the Pit (1958–59), Quatermass's funding is being cut back and the Rocket Group is being handed over to military control, much to his disgust. Command is to be handed over to Colonel Breen and Quatermass senses that he is being forced out: however, after the events of the serial, Breen is dead, Quatermass has helped to save the world and London is recovering from chaos.
It is not clear what happens to the Rocket Group immediately after this: the next time Quatermass is seen on screen he has long been retired, living in retreat in the Scottish Highlands. He has recently become the guardian of his teenaged granddaughter Hettie after her parents were killed in a road accident in Germany. After Hettie runs away from home, he travels to London in search of her. Quatermass and the scientist Joe Kapp establish that an alien probe is causing the collapse of society in London, by feeding on the world's youth and Quatermass forms a plan to drive the intruder away by the detonation of a nuclear bomb. He presses the button to detonate it himself, with Hettie's help, and they are killed in the blast as the planet is saved.
The first actor to play the Professor was Reginald Tate and he was succeeded, on his death, by John Robinson. The third and final actor to play the part in the 1950’s and 60’s was Andre Morrell. There were further TV roles in the 70’s and beyond as well as film versions of the stories.
The first series was a success, with the British Film Institute later describing it as "one of the most influential series of the 1950s." The following year the BBC's Controller of Programmes, Cecil McGivern—who had initially feared that viewers would not accept such an unusual name for the leading character—noted in reference to the impending launch of the rival ITV network that: "Had competitive television been in existence then, we would have killed it every Saturday night while [The Quatermass Experiment] lasted. We are going to need many more 'Quatermass Experiment' programmes."
A sequel, Quatermass II, was commissioned in 1955, but Reginald Tate died of a heart attack only a month before production was due to begin. With very little time to find a replacement, John Robinson was picked as the only suitable actor available. He was uncomfortable about taking over from Reginald Tate and with some of the technical dialogue he was required to deliver, and his performance has been criticised as "robotic", although others praised him for doing compelling work after the initial episode of the serial.
Of the TV serials, Quatermass II and Quatermass and the Pit have been preserved in full. Only the first two episodes of The Quatermass Experiment now exist.
Parodies and homages
In February 1959 The Goon Show broadcast a parody of Quatermass and the Pit, entitled "The Scarlet Capsule". Harry Secombe played his regular character Neddie Seagoon, in turn playing "Professor Ned Cratermess, OBE." This was followed later in the same year by a spoof on another BBC radio comedy show, That Man Chester, which launched a regular strand entitled "The Quite-a-Mess Three Saga", with Deryck Guyler as "Professor Quite-a-Mess". However, the "Quite-a-Mess" name and references were dropped after only three of the episodes under pressure from Nigel Kneale, who felt that a 13-week spoof would be to the detriment of the original character. In the early 1970s, a British progressive rock group named both themselves and their both themselves and their first album "Quatermass".
A television spoof appeared in a 1986 episode of The Two Ronnies, which featured a sketch entitled "It Came From Outer Hendon” and starred Ronnie Corbett as "Professor Martin Cratermouse".
But whatever the history of the programme all I know is that it scared the hell out of me!!!!!!!!!
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ON THIS DAY 22nd JANUARY 1960-1965
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