OUT OF THE UNKNOWN
CLIPS GUIDE - INTRODUCTION
by Colin Cutler
The following is a guide to all known
extant clips (video, film and audio recordings) 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 an indication of their context within specific episodes.
Relevant updates have also been provided in light of the 2014 BFI DVD
release of the series, which has enabled the majority of this material
to be appreciated by a wider audience.
Although the list aims to be
comprehensive, it does not claim to be entirely exhaustive. There is no
attempt for example, to catalogue the extent of the surviving
Radiophonic Workshop holdings. In some instances however, details of
surviving sound effects and music tracks have been included where
specific information has been available. Some of this material resides
in private collections, such as the surviving recordings from
Immortality Inc. (see separate entry for full details).
The guide deals with these clips on a
chronological episode-by-episode basis, beginning with the extant
material from the two missing productions from the 1965 debut 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 the episodes were first
broadcast. In view of this, a short introductory overview of the origins
of the various clips is given below.
Extant video and film material: A
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.
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. For several years, these clips had only occasionally re-surfaced
(usually in a highly edited form) in a number of other documentary
features. These included appearances in programmes as diverse as The
Late Show, Future Fantastic, Inventions that Changed the
World and Sunday Past Times.
The second category comprises 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), recovered
in the late nineties during the BBC’s systematic conversion of its
archived videotape holdings to D3 digital video format.
The third category concerns material
excised in the early seventies by the Australian Broadcasting
Corporation (who had regularly bought and screened the series between
1967 and 1974), who deemed that cuts were necessary to two b/w 16mm
telerecordings. Following a longstanding policy, 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.
With the exception of the Australian
Archive clips (which to date have not been transferred and returned to
the BBC’s archives), this material was carefully restored for
inclusion in Return to the Unknown (Wr./Dir. John Kelly), a
42-minute documentary included as part of the 2014 BFI DVD release.
This restoration work included the use of
Richard Russell’s colour recovery process, which uses colour signal
information (commonly referred to as chroma dots) embedded in the 16mm
black and white film recordings, to recreate the colour part of
the original signal. The surviving black and white film sequences from
Liar! and Random Quest, were both restored to colour using
Audio recordings: A brief overview
Off-air audio material is currently known
to exist from the following missing productions: Second Childhood,
The Fastest Draw, 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
For several years the existence of
off-air audio recordings from Out of the Unknown 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
A fan of television SF since watching the
original broadcast of Quatermass and the Pit, in 1958, 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.; and the surreal appearance of the Daleks within a boy’s
nightmare in Get Off My Cloud.
In early 2003, a complete audio recording
of the third season play The Yellow Pill play was recovered. This
was 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.
Ironically, it subsequently came to light
that off-air recordings of two further third season episodes - Beach
Head and The Naked Sun – were already held in the BBC sound
archives. Indeed for many years, both items had been easily identified
within the online catalogue of the BBC Motion Gallery (the footage
licensing division of BBC Worldwide), whose listing clearly identified
the recordings as ‘sound only’. To date, there is no information on
their origin or how long they had been held in the archive, although it
can obviously be inferred that the recording of The Naked Sun
stems from its one and only broadcast in the UK during February 1969.
Audio recordings of missing stories from
the fourth and final season remain more elusive. The notable exception
however, is a good quality off-air recording of Michael J. Bird’s The
Uninvited, the first complete audio recording to come to widespread
attention back in 2002. The recording was made by fan Martin Townley,
and originates from the play’s repeat showing in August 1972.
The soundtracks to Beach Head,
The Naked Sun, The Yellow Pill and The Uninvited have
now been carefully restored and utilised to create reconstructions of
these missing episodes (courtesy of the combined handiwork of Derek
Handley, Michael Fillis and Stewart Palmer) and form a welcome addition
to the BFI release. Likewise, some brief sections from The Little
Black Bag audio material were also cleverly used to augment the
closing moments of Jonathan Wood’s reconstruction of this episode (see
separate entry for details).
With many thanks to the following people
whose generosity and guidance has greatly assisted in the development of
To Trevor Wells, Keith Underhill, Martin
Townley, Mark Slater, Roslyn Connors, Paul Hillam and Anthony Carr for
their invaluable help with the surviving off-air audio recordings.
To John Wood, Daniel King, Bernard Newhman and John
Gorrie for kindly helping out with numerous photographs from their
personal collections. Thanks also to Daniel for his diligent research
regarding the surviving material held by the Australian National
To John Kelly, Vaughan Stanger, Mark
Ward, Dave Auger, Steve Roberts, Christopher Barry, Ian Beard, Scott
Burditt, Tristram Cary, Nick Cooper, James Cellan Jones, Andrew Martin,
Erin O’Neill, Dave Rice, Ian Riley, Steve Rogers, Lee Rose, Damian
Shanahan, Neil Somerville, Trevor Ewles, David J. Howe and Malcolm Chapman for their helpful
correspondence regarding background information, reference material,
sources of clips, durations etc.
And finally, to Julian Knott for
continuing to support and host this article!