Out Of The Un­known

TV ar­chae­ol­ogy un­earths clas­sic an­thol­ogy

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Dvd & blu- ray -

Re­lease Date: 24 Novem­ber

1965- 1971 | 15 | DVD Cre­ator: Irene Shu­bik Cast: David Hem­mings, Milo O’Shea, Patsy Row­lands, Yvonne Mitchell, An­thony Ain­ley

Sur­pris­ingly so­phis­ti­cated and un­apolo­get­i­cally chal­leng­ing, Out Of The Un­known was, for two sea­sons at least, one of the jew­els of ’ 60s sci- fi. A BBC an­thol­ogy se­ries cre­ated by Irene Shu­bik – another fe­male pro­tégé of Syd­ney New­man, brought with him from ITV, just like orig­i­nal Doc­tor Who pro­ducer Ver­ity Lam­bert – it adapted sto­ries by SF leg­ends ( John Wyn­d­ham, Isaac Asi­mov, JG Bal­lard) for TV au­di­ences with­out ever a thought for dumb­ing them down.

The re­sults may have dated in terms of pro­duc­tion ( like early Doc­tor Who, it was recorded “as live” in a se­ries of long, con­tin­u­ous takes), and there’s the oc­ca­sional amus­ingly naive SF faux pas, but the sub­ject mat­ter is of­ten as fresh and rel­e­vant now as it was then. Some episodes, such as the EM Forster adap­ta­tion “The Ma­chine Stops” are quite sim­ply small- screen SF mas­ter­pieces. The va­ri­ety of sto­ries also im­presses; there are even a cou­ple of gen­uinely funny com­edy episodes.

With sea­son three the show was broad­cast in colour for the first time, but the sto­ries have a slightly less am­bi­tious, Tales Of The Un­ex­pected vibe to them. The se­ries re­ally came off the rails with its fi­nal sea­son, which, un­der a new pro­duc­tion team, es­chewed SF in favour of su­per­nat­u­ral hor­ror; pretty bog- stan­dard, oc­ca­sion­ally down­right misog­y­nis­tic su­per­nat­u­ral hor­ror at that. Sadly, as with Doc­tor Who, the BBC junked many episodes from its ar­chives in the early ’ 70s. This im­pres­sive BFI box set col­lects to­gether all 20 sur­viv­ing episodes, and adds re­con­struc­tions of four more cre­ated from audio record­ings and pub­lic­ity pho­tos.

It’s worth buy­ing for those early episodes alone, which stand the test of time. The hor­ror episodes, though, are sadly very much a prod­uct of their time.

Ex­tras: Eleven episodes have audio com­men­taries fea­tur­ing an im­pres­sive range of sur­viv­ing cast and crew mem­bers; th­ese are mod­er­ated by co­me­dian/ clas­sic TV geek Toby Hadoke with his usual af­fa­ble en­thu­si­asm. There’s a slickly- made Mak­ing Of fea­turette ( 42 min­utes); an in­ter­view with TV di­rec­tor James Cel­lan Jones; stills gal­leries; and a minute- long shot of the side of a house from “Death­day” – you need to be a com­pletist to ap­pre­ci­ate that! An ex­haus­tively in­for­ma­tive 44- page il­lus­trated book­let com­pletes the pack­age. Dave Golder

Ri­d­ley Scott got one of his first screen cred­its as the de­signer on the se­ries one episode “Some Lapse Of Time”.

“Just a sham­poo and set, please.”

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