Professor Bernard Quatermass was the creation of the very talented screenwriter Nigel Kneale (The Stone Tape/Year of the Sex Olympics/Beasts). A kind of proto Dr Who, Experimental Rocket Group Head Quatermass was drawn into investigating bizarre events and threats to both the UK and the wider world.
Played by a variety of actors, from the completely miscast American Brian Donlevy to the wonderful André Morell, the character of Quatermass was rare in being a genuine humanist, who experienced ethical doubts and tried to use reason as a way to resolve crises, rather than blowing sh*t up or using ‘deus ex machina’ get-outs.
Which brings us to 1979’s bleak mini-series Quatermass Conclusion.
Produced by TV veteran Ted Childs (Inspector Morse), who I had the great pleasure of working with, the series was an attempt by Euston Films to do a US style TV event. Unfortunately the budget wasn’t comparable, but at least it was shot on (35mm) film. Production executive Johnny Goodman (who I also knew, nice chap) commented that the cost was less than James Bond producer Cubby Broccoli “would spend on cigars in a week”.
At some point in the near future, society has broken down and unruly tribes of youths are roaming the land. Kneale was on the ball in wanting the gangs to be punks (a la Mad Max)- but for some reason they were changed to the hippie-like Planet People. Although ‘New Wave’ singer Toyah did feature as one of the hippies, which was kind of odd.
Anywho, the youth are gathering at Neolithic stone circles throughout the country where beams of blinding light apparently take them to a better world.
Played by Sir John Mills, an elderly Quatermass comes out of retirement to find his missing granddaughter (who has joined The Planet People) and investigate the disappearances. At one point, 70,000 youngsters are ‘transported’ at Wembley Stadium, which (in the show) is built on an ancient stone ring.
I won’t spoil rest of the plot, but put it this way, it ain’t exactly a barrel of laughs. But I loved the series, despite its slow pacing and variable acting. The fact that The Planet People look like the cast of Hair on the verge of bursting out into the chorus of Aquarius or Let The Sunshine In doesn’t help.
Least it wasn’t Sodomy.
Time for a Quatermass reboot? eh Acorn? or even (gulp) Britbox? You heard it here first.
Note: the 1970s HTV kids show Children of The Stones (1976) had similar theme to Quatermass Conclusion and was pretty scary for its intended audience. All episodes are available FREE on YouTube