A basic Out of the Unknown episode guide, in Microsoft Word format, is available here.

An earlier Out of the Unknown clips guide can be found here.



by Colin Cutler


This guide attempts to catalogue all known extant clips (video, film and audio) from otherwise missing episodes of the BBC series Out of the Unknown (1965-71). In each case, a detailed summary is given of the content of these clips, alongside some indication of their context within specific plays.

Although the listing aims to be the most comprehensive summary of extant clips from the series to date, it does not claim to be entirely exhaustive. There is no attempt for example, to catalogue any surviving material that may exist in the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop holdings. In some instances however, details of surviving sound effects and music tracks have been included where specific information has been available.

The guide deals with these clips on a chronological episode-by-episode basis, beginning with the surviving material from the two currently missing productions from the first 1965 season. Approximate durations are also given for each individual item.

Naturally, the circumstances surrounding the survival of the video and film material differs markedly from that of the various audio clips, which in each case are off-air recordings made by fans of the series at the time of the original broadcasts. In view of this, a short introductory overview of the origins of the various clips is given below.

Extant Video/Film Material: A brief overview

Extant video/film material is currently known to exist from the following missing productions: The Fox and the Forest, Andover and the Android, Satisfaction Guaranteed, Immortality Inc., Liar!, Random Quest, The Little Black Bag and The Last Witness.

For the most part, this material falls into three main categories. The first involves a number of clips utilised within two editions of the BBC documentary series Towards Tomorrow in the 1960’s, both of which showcased the work and ideas of SF writer Isaac Asimov. Although the existence of these clips has been known about for some time, their exact content, duration and documentary ‘source’ has been less widely documented. Over recent years, many of these clips became familiar to fans through their re-use in a number of other documentary features, although often in a highly edited form (including brief appearances in programmes as diverse as The Late Show, Future Fantastic and Inventions that Changed the World).

The second category comprises previously unknown material fortuitously discovered within the BBC’s own archives, the most prominent example being a number of consecutive fragments from the third season play The Little Black Bag (see separate entry). Whereas most finds of this nature are in the form of film recordings of the original material, these fragments were especially notable since they had survived in their original broadcast format (625-line colour 2” videotape).

The third category concerns material excised in the early seventies by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (who had regularly screened the series between 1967 and 1974) who deemed that cuts were necessary to two b/w 16mm telerecordings. This material was then retained within the Censorship Board Repository in the Sydney based Australian Archives. It was subsequently located by researcher Damian Shanahan, further to his pursuit of similar ‘censored’ material from Doctor Who in the mid-nineties.

Audio recordings: A brief overview

Off-air audio material is currently known to exist from the following missing productions: Second Childhood, Satisfaction Guaranteed, The Prophet, Immortality Inc., Liar!, Beach Head, Something in the Cellar, Random Quest, The Naked Sun, The Little Black Bag, 1 + 1 = 1.5, The Fosters, Target Generation, The Yellow Pill, Get Off My Cloud and The Uninvited.

At the time of writing, off-air audio recordings from the series remain few and far between. Indeed for several years it was rarely the subject of any discussion or speculation. By the late nineties however, a number of fragments identified as hailing from the missing second season play The Prophet, alongside some brief clips from the third season finale Get Off My Cloud had begun trickling into circulation on collector’s circuits (mainly as a result of both plays having production-design connections with Doctor Who). Both sets of clips originated from the fairly extensive reel-to-reel tape collection of Trevor Wells, which also thankfully contained a whole host of representative clips from other missing second and third season stories.

A fan of television SF since watching the original broadcast of Quatermass and the Pit, Trevor considered Out of the Unknown a “must see” during this era. Having initially used a two-track machine (a BSR Sound Riviera) to make his first recordings, Trevor later replaced this by a four-track recorder (an Elizabethan LZ34) and he was able to reuse many of his old tapes to record new tracks at a slower speed. In each case, Trevor recorded only fragments of the broadcast plays as ‘snapshots’ of the various stories; in any case, he found that the cost of tapes prevented him from recording the plays in their entirety.

Despite the relative quality of several of these recordings having deteriorated over the years, Trevor’s ‘snapshots’ currently remain the only known record of many missing Out of the Unknown episodes. These include several classic moments from the series: the bizarre philosophical sermons articulated by a rogue ‘reasoning’ robot in The Prophet; the time-transplant operation that opened the ambitious third season play Immortality Inc; a fragmentary glimpse of Ed Bishop’s Commandant Decker attempting to communicate with an alien life-form in Beach Head; and the surreal appearance of the Daleks within a boy’s nightmare in Get Off My Cloud.

Ironically, another memorable moment, the dramatic plot-twist that features in the final scene of Season Three’s The Yellow Pill, was also to be found amongst the batch. In early 2003 however, a complete audio recording of the play was recovered, located amongst approximately seventy reels of material owned by Keith Underhill, a SF fan who had also routinely taped various broadcasts using reel-to-reel tapes since 1968.

Some patient detective work on the part of his friend Mark Slater (alongside some deft repairs to an aging reel-to-reel recorder), enabled the recording to be sifted out from the numerous boxes in which the reels had been stored for several years. Keith recalled that The Yellow Pill had probably been retained because he considered it such a strong story. Having regularly taped numerous Gerry Anderson productions as a boy however, he also admits that the appearance of Francis Captain Scarlet Mathews might also have had a direct hand in its survival! Sadly, a few other complete recordings made of the Out of the Unknown series (including Liar!) were unfortunate casualties of the tapes being re-used.

Audio recordings of missing stories from the fourth and final season have proved more elusive. The notable exception however, is a good quality recording of Michael J. Bird’s The Uninvited, the first complete audio soundtrack to come to widespread attention back in 2002. The source tape was once again an old reel-to-reel recording (1.7/8ips) taken off-air by Martin Townley. The Uninvited proved to be Martin’s favourite episode from the season, with the audio recording stemming from the play’s repeat showing in August 1972.






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