Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Quater-massive Attack!

Greetings Earthlings,
So, a thoroughly home-grown sci-fi icon, Bernard Quatermass is up for the seminal sci-fi moment No.4 accolade.
A very British creation having his roots in BBC serials and radio dramas, he was a rocket scientist who had conducted top secret work for the British War effort, apparently 'mapped the tropics' in his early life, and became head of the British Space Programme to launch a manned rocket into space. What a thoroughly spiffing chap eh? There was even a 'Quatermass in the Third Reich' prequel adventure which never came to fruition, were he was to travel to Nazi Germany during the 1936 Berlin Olympics to become involved with Wernher Von Braun, but end up helping Jewish refugees escape the Nazi regime.
It wasnt until Hammer Studios committed his deeds to the big screen that he received worldwide recognition. Unfortunately they picked an American actor to play the lead, so as not to alienate the American audiences and help distribution.
Quatermass and the Pit was another of Hammer's successes. With the Devil himself turning out to be a huge Martian Entity that came to Earth millions of years ago.
Perhaps not as pro-active as Dr. Who, or as wacky as Doc Brown but definately not a mere sidekick like Doctor Zarkhov, he had become almost ineffectual by the time John Mills played him in the 1979 TV serial The Quatermass Conclusion. Here we see him as a vulnerable and confused old man who just wants to find his missing grandaughter, and for the most part seems little interested with the apparent alien intelligence that harvests young humans from beyond space (Come on! Make the connection Quatermass!).
The show was, perhaps for nostalgia reasons, my favourite of the wily old scientist's adventures.
He would receive a 21st century make-over in the 2005 remake of the Quatermass Experiment, to mixed reviews.
So my seminal moment lies within The Quatermass Conclusion. It has quite a moving ending, and even on re-visiting it several years ago it still brought a lump to my throat.
Its a compelling and intelligent sci-fi drama that was perhaps too British for its own good. As a result there was little interest from film distributors and it acheived very little international presence.
The nursery ryhme chanting which seems an archaic attempt to memorialise the evil of the alien intelligence is an unsettling background accompanyment to almost every episode and its gritty, all too British dystopia really hits home for us indigenous stock. London is inhabited by desperate, bloodthirsty gangs, the police are brutish, thugs and black cab drivers are rude and awkward... Hmmm. When was this set again?
The episode in which the alien intelligence strikes Wembley stadium, and like a diner who has ordered too much, cannot finish his meal, is a perfect example. The vaporised human proteins that the alien cannot assimilate turning the sky green as the sun rises. Quatermass escapes by inadvertently hiding in the underground car park.

The next scene I want to show you is truly chilling.
One of the survivors from the alien intelligence's attacks is at hospital and decides to pay a slight homage to The Exorcist.

And lastly, my favourite quote from the series:

Aaah the voice of a generation: Stop trying to know things...
Tune in to my next blog to see me cry like a little boy...
Big D out.


  1. I discovered, well re-discovered, Quatermass about a year and a half ago after having “Fall out boy” collect the lot for me. I watched them all in a few short days and loved them. These were the days of real speculative fiction, especially the early BBC stuff.
    If only we could have this level of creativity on the box now!
    This has my vote Big D! Anyone reading this should watch these (again?) and try to remember a time when space was an absolute unknown and no one had heard the term “phaser”. A simpler, more wondrous time.

  2. Hehehehehe... Indeed.
    And the problem of saving the Earth could be solved... after a nice cup of tea.
    Thanks for the comment bub!

  3. Did you see the Tennant/ Flemming/ Gatiss remake?

  4. "Stop trying to know things!" HA!
    Simultaneously the worst and best line ever commited to film!!! Love it! HA!