Production: GB, 1953-55-58-79.

Cast: Reginald Tate, John Robinson, André Morrell, John Mills.

Without him maybe no Doctor Who, and maybe no Gerry Anderson.
Talking about legendary prof. Quatermass, the star of four  television miniseries, three of them aired in the fifties. The first episode is now almost completely lost, for the old bad habit of video-tapes recycling without saving old transmissions
(for which
a great part of “Doctor Who” episodes before 1970 have been lost too).
The first episode, of six parts, was broadcasted in 1953, titled “The Quatermass experiment”, in which starred Reginald Tate. For BBC it was a real hazard, for the science fiction subject never tried before, and for the miniserie idea, never tried too.
It’s worth to say that writer Nigel Kneale, recently passed away, was not a science-fiction fan and the name “Quatermass” was choosen by chance in the phone directory.
Anyway it was a big hit, and it was decided to make a second episode, “Quatermass II”, starring John Robinson and again divided in six parts aired in 1955.

Now it was a certain success which led Hammer Film to produce a remake for cinema, and first episode, played by Brian Donlevy, was produced in 1956. It’s hard to say how positive was Donlevy’s contribute to the film success: some reviewers appreciate his portrayal of Quatermass, but Kneale once said that american actor drank very much and was hired because his fee was quite cheap… Director was Val Guest who, some time later, worked also for Gerry Anderson, and visual effects were made by Les Bowie, Derek Medding’s mentor. Quatermass II was released in 1957.
In 1958 “Quatermass and the pit” was broadcasted, again a six parter starring André Morrell (unfortunately Quatermass could not regenerate as Doctor Who to justify all those changes).
For third cinema episode things got harder: various and expensive special effects were needed, so it was delayed until 1967, when at last was produced (in colour) and played by Andrew Keir (seen also in “Daleks: invasion Earth 2150 A.D.”). While the first two movies repeated the television success, this was some way disappointing.
Then in 1979, a great surprise: a fourth episode, made by Euston Film, starring John Mills. A four parter this time, titled “Quatermass” simply. This was too a great success, although they were the Tom Baker years for “Doctor Who”…
In this episode guide I will show the original television stories and the differences comparing with the cinema movies.


Professor Bernard quatermass launched an atomic rocketship in space manned by three astronauts,  and is following its flight from his control room with anxiety.
Radio link is interrupted, and the ship crashes in the country. When the door is opened, only one of the astronauts, Victor Carroon, is alive, and the others have vanished. The ship’s interior is covered with a jelly-like matter, the survivor is in state of shock and his skin is like a mummy’s. Moreover, in his delirium he uses languages and scientific terms known only by the other two
While Scotland Yard’s inspector Lomax investigates on what he thinks to be a simply case of murder, Quatermass analyzes the misterious substance, discovering it is living and that it can assimilate any life form also keeping, in some cases, its intelligence.
Meanwhile Carroon escapes from hospital and starts to mutate, making victims, and Quatermass discovers the creature is able to reproduce by spores.
Carroon is pursued, by the time has become a sort of giant blob which is located by a TV transmission inside Westminster Abbey. Quatermass rushes there, and, calling the three astronauts' minds, convinces them to destroy the

monster they are part of. Just a little before assimilating the professor, the monstrous thing dies.
THE MOVIE: it begins with the ship’s crash and the rescues, and the final is quite simpler: the thing is destroyed by high voltage, and in the last shot we see Quatermass launching another missile. It’s worth to mention the cool Lomax played by Jack Warner and the great Carroon’s portrayal by Richard Wordsworth.


A team of soldiers is monitoring a fall of meteorites by radar, and rescue a
couple hit by one of them, which is strangely hollow.
Captain Dillon, their commander, decides to ask Quatermass (who is going to be his father in law) for advice, while the professor is preparing to launch a new rocketship (the “Quatermass II”).
The two men investigate, and discover the man hit by the meteorite acts in a very strange way, and in the village there are rumors about a mysterious scientific base nearby.
They get close to it, and find another meteorite, which blows up on captain’s face leaving a strange sign on it. Before Quatermass can do anything, Dillon is taken away by strange soldiers who order the professor to go away.

In that area all people behave strangely and have the same strange signs on. Moreover, the scientific base is a perfect replica of a moon base designed by Quatermass which did not receive the necessary funds.
Paula, professor’s daughter and captain Dillon’s fianceé, doesn’t have news about the captain; Quatermass decides to ask inspector Lomax’s help, but he has been transferred, and his substitute advises the professor to use his acquaintances in the government.
Luckily, a member of Parliament named Broadhead is making an enquiry about the base, which should be a factory for synthetic food. But the members of his commission have those strange signs on too.
Quatermass meets mr. Rupert Ward, who visited the factory several times, and
convinces him to go there again together. Ward enters a dome and comes out covered with a deadly mix of  ammonia, methane and hydrogen.
Quatermass has to run, while the soldiers, all infected, try to shoot him. Meanwhile his assistants have discovered that meteorites are containers for alien life forms which take over human bodies, and a mysterious asteroid is orbiting around Earth, clearly the alien base.
The professor convinces the factory workers (still uninfected) to fill the domes with oxygen, to kill the creatures. But aliens obturate the tubes with some workers’ bodies, so the rebels destroy the domes using a bazooka.
Other similar bases exist around the world, and Quatermass decides to lift off in his rocketship to destroy the alien asteroid.

He succeeds in mining it, but is forced to get rid of his assistant Pugh, who is infected too.
The asteroid explodes, all the infected people on Earth regain control and Quatermass returns with his ship.
THE MOVIE: it begins with the couple hit by the asteroid, instead of captain Dillon we have one of professor’s assistants, Marsh, and there isn’t any daughter. There is inspector Lomax again, and it is a very odd presence because is played by a different actor (John Longden), so it is not clear why the character has been kept while it was not in the original story.
Broadhead enters the dome, and there is no Ward.

The rocket launched to destroy the asteroid is remote-controlled and destruction happens by a simple collision.


While digging the foundations for a new block of flats, some workers find the skeletons of some prehistoric ape-men and what looks like an unexploded V2 missile.
Quatermass investigates, and discovers that the skeletons are five millions years old and the missile is surely an alien ship.
Anyone who enters the ship has strange visions, and since a long time there

were rumors about ghosts in the nearby houses.
The ship’s aliens were a race of giant insects, who used the apemen as slaves but helping their evolution.
It looks as if the ship possesses the power to increase the paranormal faculties when is touched, and Quatermass succeeds in projecting the visions of a person who is in contact with it: thousands of those creatures are seen in what seems to be a ritual massacre. The visions caused all the human legends about daemons and witches.
The ship absorbs the city’s energy, and reactivates itself, causing a complete black-out and all the population to go insane, while buildings collapse and explode.
Only Quatermass and a little number of people are not taken over by the ship, while London is menaced by the shadow of a giant alien insect.
The professor tries to throw a chain against the shadow to destroy it by short-circuit, but he is taken over too. It is his friend, the paleonthologist Rooney, who succeeds, dying in the explosion.
NOTES: instead of a palace foundations an underground train tunnel is used. This time the movie is directed by Roy Ward Baker instead of Val Guest. There is a policeman played by Grant Taylor, “U.F.O.”’s general Henderson.


It is the year 1979, and many things have changed. Quatermass, now in his eighties, has retired and lives in Scotland, while hippy bands of young people named “planet people” gather all around the world, which is under anarchy and is taken over by bands of  robbers.
Quatermass is invited in London to appear in a television programme, where he meets the astronomer Kapp who tells him about strange facts.
Near his observatory there is a ring of stones (like “Stonehenge”) where “Planet People” gather, convinced that aliens will soon arrive to take them to a new planet, and a light beam really appears and they vanish.
Similar facts happen all around the world, and Quatermass suspects that really aliens are involved, and that the youngsters are not taken away but killed: the stone rings
are used to attract them.
The assumption is confirmed by the horrible death of a girl survived to the light beam, who after some days becomes a piece of crystal and crumbles.
A space mission sent to investigate ends in tragedy. Quatermass begins to think under the stone rings are concealed alien transmitters which can receive the light beams from space, and the ancient civilizations have built the temples as danger warnings.
Assuming that aliens attract only young people, probably to feed themselves, Quatermass builds a trap with some old people’s help. The trap consists in simulating the presence of thousands of youngsters near a stone ring by means of  speakers and other devices, detonating a bomb when the light beam

appears. But a remote control would not be secure, so Quatermass activates the bomb manually, sacrificing his life and averting the alien menace.
NOTES: Kneale wished to shoot the story really at Stone henge, but the authorisation was obviously denied…
One of the players is Barbara Kellerman, the brunette swallowed by the dragon in “Space: 1999”. In one of the last episodes of classic “Doctor Who” professor Quatermass is being quoted.


HOME                              SERIES