This week, there is a rare opportunity to watch Nigel Kneale’s final British science-fiction serial featuring Professor Benard Quatermass, 1979’s Quatermass.
Many look at Quatermass as a major influence on Doctor Who. The series was conceived by Nigel Kneale (author of several regarded television plays such as The Stone Tape and The Year of the Sex Olympics) in 1953 when the BBC asked him to write a six-part serial for Saturday nights. That series, The Quatermass Experiment introduced us to the character of Professor Quatermass, head of the British Experimental Rocket Group. The success of this serial led to the commission of two more series by the BBC, 1955’s Quatermass II and Quatermass and the Pit in 1958. Hammer films would release film adaptations of the serials in the between 1955 and 1967.
Professor Quatermass didn’t return to our screens until 1979 and it is this serial Talking Pictures TV is airing. This final outing was initially announced by the BBC in 1972, but due to mounting production costs, the BBC halted production and the project was eventually finished by Euston Films and aired on ITV in the UK in October/November 1979.
John Mills plays the retired Professor Quatermass who heads to London to search for his missing granddaughter. She has joined a popular youth cult, the Planet People – a cult that gathers at prehistoric sites believing they will be transported to a better life on another planet. After witnessing the destruction of two spacecraft by an unknown force and the disappearance of a group of Planet People, Quatermass starts to investigate further.
Quatermass (1979) – sometimes called The Quatermass Conclusion – will be broadcast Tuesdays at 9pm from 19th May on Talking Pictures TV (Virgin 445, Freesat 306, Freeview or Youview 81 or on the Sky digital satellite platform, channel 328).