“Time In Advance” was broadcast on 1 November 1965.
Cast: Nicholas Crandall -, Edward Judd; Otto Henck – Mike Pratt; Polly – Wendy Gifford; Marcus Henson – Dyson Lovell, Marie –Judy Parfitt ; Paul Ryman – Jerome Willis; and Dan- Michael Danvers Walker.
Script by Paul Erickson
Director ; Peter Sasdy.
“Time in Advance” is based on a short story by William Tenn (the pseudonym of Philip Klass) published in 1956
The story is set in a future society where you can opt to serve your sentence before committing the crime. It begins with Nicholas Crandall (525509) and Otto Henck (5245514) returning to earth after seven year hard labour on the colony planets. The two prisoners have survived the rigours of their hard labour by looking after each other, although Crandall has lost his hand in a lava accident. (They arrive aboard a convict spaceship called the Jean Valjean, incidentally, please note Victor Hugo fans.)
The “pre-criminals” as they are known leave through the “Liberty corridor” and are now free to commit the murders that they have confessed in advance that they intend to commit. The media are there as they emerge, eager to know the names of their victims. After checking whether they still want them, the Examiner hands Crandall and Henck their licences which allow them “To go forth from this place and kill one man or one woman of your own choosing.”
They lodge at the Hotel Capricorn Ritz, where you check in with a handprint and the drinks are served by a machine. Whilst in the bar they see their arrival announced on television, “It might be you they are after,” teases the newsreader. Henck intends to kill his unfaithful wife, Elsa: Crandall has not publicly revealed his victim, but we learn that it is man called Stephensen, who stole his work for a unlimited power source and has made a fortune whilst Crandall has been in prison.
In the bar Crandall meets Paul Ryman, a former work colleague, who cannot get away from him quick enough. (We later find out that he betrayed Crandall by assisting Stephensen). It’s the first in a series of encounters with people who fear him., including his ex-wife Polly who believes that she is the victim because she was unfaithful to him, unknown to Crandall. ” I made a mistake. I thought he loved me. I would never have divorced you if I had known what he was really like… Please don’t kill me,” she begs. When his brother Dan tries to kill him with a weapon, we learn that it was he that had the affair with Polly. Crandall lies to the police to save his brother from prison.
Henck has failed to locate his wife. She has moved, her flat been demolished and the area is now a huge nature park . He tells Crandall, “It’s the last thing I expected, I just stood in the middle of the park not knowing what to do.. You don’t understand Nick. .All the time we were away , all the while I keep thinking of how it was going to be when I finally caught up with her. The times I dreamed of it and it always happened in that place. It just isn’t there any more.”
Marcus Henson from a media company offers Crandall 50,000 credits for an exclusive story. “The public is excited by it. They have been lapping up the details ever since you landed… But the biggest thing they want to know about, and that’s why we are prepared to pay so much, is that special piece of information that just clinches your story…What do you think they are all excited about? What do you really think they are guessing at? …They are trying to figure out who your victim is going to be. You tell us. We follow your story. We’ll be there when it happens, and you can retire a rich man, while at the same time completing what you set out to do.” Crandall turns down the offer.
Henck finally discovers that his wife has been dead for two years, and is now bitter about his decision. “Seven years of my life gone for nothing and now no future, nothing to show for it, not even the satisfaction.” Crandall responds, “I’ve spent those last seven years hating one man, wanting my revenge, only to find the others, the ones I loved and trusted, meant no more to me in my life than Stephensen. I don’t know what it’s about anymore, I don’y know love and hate mean . I only know thatI iam tired. All that effort trying to keep alive on the colonies. I am beginning to think there was point in it, no point at all. “
Crandall makes an appointment to see Stephensen at his laboratory, while Marie, a betrayed ex-lover of Stephensen’s, gives him a weapon. But the meeting does not go the way Crandall expects.
Strip away the futuristic gloss from this story (the shiny sets look like the future as imagined by Tomorrow’s World) and it boils down to an old-fashioned moraility tale: that dreams of revenge can destroy you. Despite the premise, there is hardly any tension in the story. Rather than racing to complete their tasks, the two men spend much of their sitting around in the hotel bar drinking (two credits for a drink, by the way). By the end you are not sure whether care very much about what you have just seen.
Most of the cast wear blond wigs, remarkably similar to the ones we saw in a previous episode, “The Counterfeit Man”. Perhaps they were recycled?
The background electronic music is very good.
Mary Crozier reviewed the episode for the Guardian on 2 November
There is no doubt that when science fiction is bad it is very bad indeed and last night’s play illustrated this ecellently . “Time in Advance” by William Tenn was based on the quaint notion that on the earth of the future those with a criminal tendency can apply for lience to commit a crime – but first they have to serve a penal term in Outer Space.
The opening of the story was about the best bit where the convict ship was nearing earth and the ex-convicts were shuddering, trapped in their bunks in the orbital countdown. This was horrid, of course, and in the fashion of science fiction, some of them had hideous growths or wounds on face, chest or hand. But at this stage you could not tell quite how dull it was going to be on earth when the two would-be murderers started their grim work. The action took place in a singularly hideous hotel called the Hotel Capricorn Ritz where all the gimmicks of the future were singualrly scientific and unhomely.
The precriminals as they were called got mixed up in many complications and the story was so stupid that it seemed only natutral that the transmission broke down altogether as if in despair. It is amusing to make fashion note on science fiction; all the men and women in this programme had the regulalion fair, shaggy hair combed forward and the regulation tunics so that they looked like a cross between pupils of a progressive school and pre-Revolution Russian peasants.
The great difference between this play and the recent “The Counterfeit Man” was that the characters were totally uninteresting and the plot incredible. But the sound effects by the radiophonic workshop were very clever indeed.
Where have we seen them before ?
Peter Erickson wrote “The Ark” for Doctor Who, broadcast in 1964.
Wendy Gifford played Miss Garrett in “The Ice Warriors” (1967) in Doctor Who. She played Dr Susan Calvin in “Liar!”, an episode in series 3 of Out of the Unknown.
Jerome Wills appeared in “The Dark Star” (1962), an episode in the series Out of this World. He played Stevens in the memorable Doctor Who episode,”The Green Death” (1973).
Edward Judd had a leading role in The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961) , a British science fiction film in which the earth is threatened with destruction after two atomic bomb tests blow it out of its orbit. He also appeared in Invasion (1965) , another British science fiction film in which aliens (who are played by Japanese and Chinese actors) arrive in pursuit of an escaped prisoner taken into a hospital. The story was thought up by Robert Holmes, although he did not write the script. (Holmes later used some elements of his story for an episode of Doctor Who, “Spearhead from Space” (1970).)