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Out of the Unknown, series 1, episode 12. The Midas Plague by Frederick Pohl, December 1965.

“The Midas Plague” was broadcast by the BBC on 20th December 1965.

Cast: Morrey Anderson – Graham Stark, Edwina – Anne Lawson, Fred – Sam Kydd, Sir John – John Barron, Wainwright – Victor Brooks, Judge  – A J Brown, Analyst- David Nettheim,  Henry- Anthony Dawes, Gideon – Graham Lines and Revolution leader – David Blake Kelly.

Script: Troy Kennedy Martin. Director: Peter Sasdy.  Producer and Story Editor: Irene Shubik

Special Sound: BBC Radiophonic Workshop.  Incidental music: Max Harris.

This episode  is a comic  satire on the consumer society.  Based on a short story written by  Frederick Pohl in 1954,   it follows  in the vein of his most well-known novel The Space Merchants (1952), also  a satire on consumerism, which was set  in a  future in which advertising  relentlessly sells pointless products  to the public, including the idea of a colony on Venus.  

Pohl was clearly  extrapolating  from the post-war consumer society he saw developing in the USA, particularly  through the advertising on television of  the new consumer products pouring off the production lines and the creation of brand loyalty though the relentless repetition of  slogans and images.  (Vance Packard analysed this phenemenon in his influential book The Hidden Persuaders (1957).

The episode opens with shots of robots, very crudely made,  accompanied by jaunty, humorous music,  thus  setting the tone of the episode. Our hero Morrey,, a radio economist by trade,  has been summoned for a reprimand by his superior  Wainwright  after a report from the Ration Office. Morrey is Class 7  citizen and on his way up. “ It is your duty as a Class 7 consumer to consume the  rations of consumer goods allocated by the state as befits your status.” Morrey pleads that he is  doing his best and trying to consume everything he has been told to.

Wainwright  explains that society is  undergoing a severe   economic crisis and that  the public  needs to “let out their belts, take their shoulders  off the wheel,  they have to  eat more, drink more,  drive more cars, wear out  more clothes, and work less. This country is over producing,  our automatic factories, our  robots are making much too much of everything and  it has  to be consumed.” Morrey suggests that they  should cut down  production. “Then underprivileged  citizens like myself wouldn’t have to eat and drink so much and live in such big houses and drive big cars and wear themeslves out enjoying themselves.” 

Wainwright riposts:   “How do you cut down production without destroying the whole system?“By programming the robots to use up the good themselves,” counters Morrey, but Wainwrights is aghast: “This is heresy, the robots are made to work,  not to have a good time.” Morrey suggests that they build  the satisfaction circuits he is been working on into the robots, but this idea  is not well received At the end of the interview  he is told to work less and consume more and reminded:  “Robots are here to serve you.”

Morrey and his robots

We accompany  Morrey to his home  where  on arrival the robots do everything for him. The house  is packed  full of furniture with  more being delivered. “But we haven’t  worn out the other two yet,” he protests futilely. His  wife Edwina is fed up  and loses her her temper. Morrey admonishes her:  “Not in front of the robots.”  Things seem to be  frosty in the bedroom as Edwina pleads:  “Consume me, consume me little” but he says he does not have time.

 A row ensues and  Morrey escapes to the pub, complete with robot barman, gets drunk and burns his ration book. He is arrested by the robot police and appears in court  before a judge (human, for once)  who turns out to be his father-i-n law. He is reduced to class 10 which means working less and consuming more. Edwina leaves him with mountains of junk carted away in her cars,  while to remedy  his anti-social behaviour Morrey  is sent to an analyst. who  administers a truth drug. He  decides that the root of  Morrey problem is that he  got a robot intead a puppy when he was a child and that  subconsciously he hates robots.  “You should love robots, they are there to please you, they do what you tell them to do and yet you hate them.” Angrily Morrey  says that   all his  consumption is making  him “more a machine than they are” and marches out to  get drunk again

Fred, Morrey and Edwina

In a turning point in the story, when fleeing from the robot police after he tells the barman  to pour some  whiskey   down the drain, Morrey is helped to escape by Fred  who reveals himself to be be a member of  a  group of revolutionaries dedicated to overthrowing society.  They ask Morrey to assassinate the Pime Minister, Sir John,  tempting him with a vision of the future.  “Once he is dead we will come to power, you will have mnay privileges. You will never have to consume again. Except a lightly boiled egg for breakfast, a grilled sole for lunch with salad, a litlle roast beef   in the evening with half bottle of wine…And we let you work all week.” But he rejects their offer.

Back in court again before his father-in-law Morrey is now reduced to Class 12, backdated one year,  and ordered to consume seven dozen cases of whisky in a fortnight.  Edwina  is deposited back home  with all her luggage while more goods pour in to their house.  Fred the revolutionary turns up again   and reveals that he  is a burglar, but a burglar with a difference, in this society  he breaks into people’s houses and leaves more goods.

The robots having a great time

Together they break into the Ministry building and steal the “satisfaction circuits” and  then implant them into Morrey’s robots. They  now display  very human characteristics ;  over-eating, getting drunk  and generally enjoying themselves smashing things up. Herded  into the basement they rapidly  consume or wear out all the goods allocated to Morrey in a comic filmed sequence.

Morrey is  now hailed  in the press for his outsranding consumer record.  Wainwright pays him  an unexpected visit  but they manage to hide  the robots in time. He  tells Morrey:  “You are going to be the biggest hero in the whole country. You are going to be given every honour. Sir John himself is very interested in you and I  want you to come back and work for my department.” Morrey says he will consider it when he is less busy.  As he leaves Wainwright offers him three days work if he returns.

 Robot George consumes so hard  that he  blows up and is mourned by the other robots. When Morrey and Fred try to fix him they  discover that is a special  Mark 4 roobt opereated from a central control room  in the Prime Minister’s office. They realise that Mark 4 robots  are spying on the population. 

Morrey is summoned to see the Prime Minister. who  tells him , “All the world knows Mr Anderson  that robots are our servants. They exist to serve us and  make our life easy. They exist so that men  do not have to work. This is the time of the Millenium. Man has only to consume and  what has been his wildest dreams has come true.  But a few men have  become dissatisfied with this state of affairs. Jealous intefering rebels  who have the cheek to say that man has become the slave  of automation.”

Sir John

Sir John has a truth gun trained on him and Morrey is forced confesss to having met the rebels and agreeing  with them.  Suddenly he twigs that  Sir John is a robot as well.  He burst through a secret door and, pursued by police robots,  he heads for the Master Switch (helpfully  marked “Master Switch in large  letters).  When he throws this all the robots freeze, including Sir John and Wainwright.  Edwina and her father  arrive and so Fred and the revolutionaries  having formed a provisional goverment  (Fred is the Minister for Justice). The leader  declares that Morrey is “the hero of the Revolution”  and will be in charge of seeing that everyone gets less in the future.  He also  declare a national holiday “so that everyone can go and work“. Finnaly he  declares  that all robots will be done away with. But then the implications of this  begin to sink in  and they decide they need to keep Morrey’s robot Henry, as well bar tenders, policemen, street cleaners and a growing list of others. “Here we go again, ” says Morrey  ruefully to camera.

With a good script, excellent cast and direction which supports the humour, this is a very enjoyable episode.

 

 

 

 

 

Out of the Unknown, Series 1, episode 11: “Thirteen to Centaurus” by J G Ballard,

“Thirteen to Centarus” was broadcast on 13th December 1965

Cast: Dr Francis – Donald Houston, Abel Granger – James Hunter, Colonel Chalmers – John Abineri, General Short – Noel Johnson, Dr Kersh – Robert James, Zenna Peters – Carla Challoner.

Script: Stanley Miller

Director:  Peter Potter

Designer: Trevor Williams

Producer and Story Edtor: Irene Shubik, 

Associate Producer: George Spenton-Foster.

J G  Ballard was one of the most influential  post-war British writers. His work includes novel such as The Drowned  World, The Crystal World, Crash, High Rise and Concrete Island.  Whether or not he was a science fiction writer in the classic sense is open to debate –  his  preoccupations are often inner space, rather than outer space –  coupled with dystopian tales  of modernity in Britain:   Ballard’s manor  is  the world of supermarkets, motorways and high rises.

“Thirteen  to Centaurus” is a short story  which was first published in Amazing Stories in  April 1962. This  adaptation follows the story closely with some  minor alterations.

The station crew

Set in a station whose purpose is yet to be revealed,  it begins with the  funeral of the captain with those present heartily singing “Onward Christian  Soldiers” as the coffin is dispatched into, well, where exactly?

In this community,  numbering just a dozen, Dr Francis wields  much authority,  constantly monitoring the behaviour and thoughts of the crew. He orders a young woman  Zenna to report for conditioning which he says is weakening in her: we  see the inhabitants working out in the gym to the accompaniment of a recorded voice, endlessly repeating:  “This is the world and the whole world. There is no other  world but this. There are no other  creatures but the chosen, and their children shall  the universe. This is the world and the whole world…”

But a young man called Abel  (who suffers from a recurring  dream of a burning disk) is asking pointed  questions of Francis.  Abel  is the Einstein of this tiny world. In his essay about the station he called  it “The Closed Community” and  worked out that  the station appeared to be revolving at about two  feet per second.   Francis  decides  is now  time to tell Abel the truth  and puts him  under the  conditioning to bring back his memories.

“When  you wake up you you will know  the truth:  that this station is in fact a spaceship. We are travelling from our home planet  Earth to another planet million of miles away. Our grandfathers  always lived on Earth. We are the first people to  attempt  such a journey. We were chosen from all people.  You can be proud of that Abel.. You were chosen before  you were born.  Your grandfather was a great man,  he volunteered to come – and so  you are here too. Never forget …The station must be kept running properly…this is a multi-generation space vehicle. Only your children will land  and they will be old when they do.”

Dr Francis and Abel

He explains to Abel that the ship set out 50 years ago and is heading for a planet that revolves around  the Alpha  Centauri.“The social  engineering that went into the building of this ship was more intricate than  the mechanical side….One day the project will be you responsibility.”

So now we and Abel  know the truth. Except we don’t know.  For on one of  Francis’s screens showing the starfields a shadow of a man  appears,  prompting  him to go through a hatch  to find himself…not in outer space,  but  firmly on the ground on Earth.

The station is in fact a  scientific project to test the ability of humans to endure centuries of travel to the stars. They have been conditioned not to question why Dr Francis is not an old man.  But the mood of the government and  public has changed since the project began  50 years before.  One of his colleagues tells Francis. “Even the public is beginning to feel that there is something obscene about this human zoo.  What began as a grand adventure has dwindled into a grisly joke.”

The new commander General Short  tells  Francis that a decision  has been taken to shut down the project.  “What we propose is a phased withdrawal, a gradual re-adjustment  of the world around the crew, that will bring them down to Earth as gently as a parachute. Some of you may have other suggestions. But however we do  it, Project Alpha Centari will be discontinued…The returned   crew will have to be given every freedom and every tv station and  newspaper network in the world  will want to interview  each of them a hundred times.”

General Short

Francis  vehemently objects; “It’s crazy. They will be bound to find out the truth… I don’t think you know what you are  saying General.  Bring them back? How can you bring back the dead?  How can you restore  the lost hundred years?… The task of the original project was to get them to Alpha Centauri. Nothing was said about bringing them back. ..I/m thinking about the crew. If it takes 50 years to get them there, it should take the same time  to bring them back. ..What I don’t know is how each individual is going to react. The people inside that dome hav veen taught to believe since they were children that they are living in a world of their own..and that they would never meet anyone else in the whole of their lives. …The people inside that dome do not want to come out. “

Francis suggest  a chilling  alternative solution:  that the project continues but with  no further children being born until the crew  are all dead as the life span within the dome is only 40 years on average.

Back inside the station the balance of power  begins to shift from Francis to Abel who has started an experiment, conditioning  Francis every day for hours on end and unsettling him  by changing the meal times.   Francis stops leaving the station, which worries the controllers of the project.  They prepare to send in a recovery crew,  but Francis threatens to reveal the nature of the project to the station  crew and the raid is called off. Finally he cuts  off all communication  with the outside world  with the words, “I’m going to Alpha Centauri.” Short wonders, “Whose really in control?

We discover that Abel in fact   knows  there are people outside the station, something he seems to have known for some time.  When Francis discovers he tells him he should leave and  be free Abel responds, “Free?  What does that mean? Neither of us is free. This is our whole world and these are our people. The burning disk is the eye of God and Abel is his servant,chosen of the Lord.”

Abel  continues his experiment on Francis,   conditioning him to lose  his memories of the outside world. and to make him believe that he  is flying to Alpha Centauri but will never live to get there.  At the end of the episode  Abel plays  a recording he has made himself: “This is the voice of the chosen of the Lord. This is a spaceship.  We are the first people to undertake such a journey Doctor Francis.  This life is your only life. This ship is your only world. You will never see another. You are flying to Alpha Centauri. You can be proud of that, Doctor Francis.”

In  his epic poem Paradise  Lost Milton gave a now famous line to Satan: Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.” Is that the choice that Abel has made?

This is a successful  production, creating  a  distinct claustrophic intensity and makes good use of  the array of   solid acting talent eg Noel Johnson and Robert James  available to the director. James Hunter is particularly  good as Abel, moving convincingly  from gaucheness to  authority in the course of the episode.

 

Where Have I Seen Them Before?

John Abineri appeared in Doctor Who in  “Fury from the Deep” (1968)  as Van Lutynes, in “The Ambassadors of Death” (1970) as General Carrington, in “Death to the Daleks” (1974)  as Richard Railton and in   “”The Power of Kroll” (1979)  as Ranquin

Robert James appeared in Doctor Who in “The Power of the Daleks” (1966)  as Lesterson  and in “The Mask of Mandragora”  (1976) as the High Priest.

Noel Johnson played the effortlessly  suave civil servant  J M  Osborne in A for Andromeda  (1961) and The Andromeda Breakthrough  (1962)

Out of the Unknown, series 1 episode 5, “Time in Advance” by William Tenn

“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

Producer and Story Edtor: Irene Shubik. Associate Producer: George Spenton-Foster.

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.”

Crandall and Henck

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.

Crandall

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).)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out of the Unknown: series 1, episode 3 “Stranger in the Family” (1965)

Written by David Campton. Director – Alan Bridges. Producer and Story Edtor: Irene Shubik. Associare Producer: George Spenton-Foster.

Cast: Boy – Richard O’Callaghan, Paula – Justine Lord, Sonny – Eric Lander,  Charles Wilson – Peter Copley, Margaret Wilson – Daphne Slater, Brown –  John Paul, Evans – Jack May, Hall – Joby Blanshard, Swain –  Brian Vaughan.

This  was broadcast on  18th October 1965.

After the claustrophia and  paranoia of the  previous episode,  “Stranger in the Family” brings us down to earth, specifically  the London of the mid 1960s,  in an original story written by David Campton. Campton (1924-2006)   wrote many  plays for the stage, radio, and cinema for thirty-five years.  The critic Irving Wardle once described  his  work  as “comedies of menace”.  Campton himseself said that “.It seems to me that the chaos affecting everyone today––political, technical, sociological, religious, etc., etc.,––is so all-pervading that it cannot be ignored, yet so shattering that it can only be approached through comedy. Tragedy demands firm foundations; today we are dancing among the ruins.

The  opening  filmed scenes show us a young man visiting the Science Museum and wandering near  the Thames.  apparently tailed by a man.  There are also some shots of a young blonde woman that the young man seems to be following.  When the  man  approaches thhe young man he  shouts at him: “Go away, leave me alone”. The man  backs away and is  run  over by a lorry. The young men then  flees  back to his parents’ flat.

Boy (Richard O’Callaghan)

Here we  learn that  he is  called “Boy” and that he is being hidden away for some as yet unknown reason. His father is angry that Boy  went out alone: “Do you want us to be forced to move home  again?”.Boy tells his parents that a man was following him: “I made him leave me, I think we was killed, I didn’t mean to hurt him”.

The family is being watched by two men who have moved in next door called  Brown and Evans. Their  interest in Boy becames apparent whenit is revealed  Boy  has the mental  power to influence or even compel other people. He poses the question:

“Why am I different?.. I’m a mutant , I’m an improbability that happened. And I want to know how… I know I make mistakes, I try not to  but it is  natural for me to use my will. And then we have to move again. And so I have to be insulated against the world”.

Paula (Justine Lord)

Boy goes out again this time to a   bar where he sees the young woman in conversation with a man, Sonny.  He makes Sonny go away and  starts a friendship with the young woman, an actress called  Paula,  that deepens over the next few weeks,  much to the dismay of his parents who fear that it is obsession on his side, calculation on  hers. Paula  has become aware of his powers when, during an argument he renders  her unable to speak, an effective chilling sequence. Sonny,  who is her agent,  plots to make money out of Boy. “You never know, Pussy, this might be the start of something really big.”

The two men  in the flat are revealed  to be scientists. Over a fish and chip supper Evans tells Brown that Boy  “…is something rare and wonderful. At present we don’t know how rare or just how wonderful…Every now and then history throws up a man with unusual powers of persuasion. On his account steady willed, strong minded men behave out of character, irrationally…but the ability to infuence another mind must be there in the brain, rather like our powers of reasoning. Imagine that highly developed,  full of extra sense. And then you have him. There is  great deal more to him than that”.

Paula urges  Boy not to trust her: “This is  a hard world.. you have got to be harder, grab what’s going while it lasts. There won’t be any second chances. I learnt the hard way”. Jealous of Sonny’s relationship with Polly , Boy almost  drowns him in a bath, using his powers, before relenting.    Despite this,  Sonny aranges for Boy to star in a television advert for a cigarette, a bizarre sequence which ends with everyone in the studio demanding cigarettes.

Brown reveals  to Boy that there are others with his powers:  “I guess you thought you were the only one. There are others with your capabilities,t hey al llive together in an old  castle with lovely stone walls and towers, just like in a fairy tale. Each one of them thought he was alone until we brought them together. Wouldn’t you like to join them? It must be lonely life on your own”. He  attempts to inject Boy with a drug of some kind,  but is compelled to inject himself with fatal consequences.

Following this  second death  Evans urges Boy’s parents to allow him to take Boy  to his research establishment for the sake of the  survival of the human race. “When  the mutants were first persuaded to live  together I noticed a struggle  for supremacy going on among them but the conflict was entirely in the mind,  there was no physical struggle as we know it. The strongest will is the winner…If this new species survives,  then wars as we know them will end.. Of course we will  be back numbers , you and I, but at least there won’t be the danger of the world being blown up. There will be a future. This new strain must have every chance.  That’s why I need your son.”

His parents reject Evan’s proposition,  but events force their hand  after  Boy goes to Paula’s  flat and finds her with Sonny. In his anger he compels Paula to wound Sonny.   Evans arrives and  speaks  to  Boy, who  admits,  “I am  sorry.. I hadn’t realised, there  are universes between us…the crack in the ice and the gap grows wider…I must be completely what I am… I accept myself  as I am… That way iIcan grow..I am ready to go now.”

The premise that humanity  might one day evolve new chacteristics is not a new one, it was  posed by John  Wyndham in The Chrysalids, for instance, which I have written about here.  But  by rooting the story in contemporary London, Campton makes it seem both  more real and more disturbing. How would humanity react? Evans defies our expectations by welcoming a new kind of human being, that might be both our saviours and repacements. Is this how the Neanderthals felt when home sapiens appeared?

In many ways the production feels in look and tone  likes a  Wednesday Play, particularly the satirical cigaarette advert sequence,  and indeed the director Alan Bridges directed six Wednesday  Plays, five Plays of the Month and  four Plays for Today.

The one real problem I have with “A Stranger in the Family”  is that Richard O’Callaghan is too old for the part.  He is meant to be 18, just out of adolescence,  and still learning how to be an adult, but he looks in his mid 20s, as indeed Callaghan was.

Where have I seen them before?

Jack May played  Adam Adamant’s manservant  William Simms in Adam Adamant  Lives!  who is given to acerbic limericks often aimed at Miss Jones.

Justine Lord played Sonia (aka Death)  in a memorable episide of The Prisoner;  “The Girl who was Death”

John Paul and Joby Blanshard  were both in the eco-thriller series Doomwatch.