Professor Quatermass –
Paula Quatermass –
Leo Pugh –
John Dillon –
Gordon Briscoe –
OTHER QUATERMASS SHOWS
The Quatermass Experiment (1953)
The Quatermass Experiment (2005)
Professor Bernard Quatermass faces a second alien invasion attempt when he stumbles across a facility for the making of synthetic food that happens to look exactly like the secret plans for his own moonbase. The food, though, is a deadly poison and is housing aliens that are falling from the skies in meteorites and taking over human bodies.
QUATERMASS 2 is a less successful series than its predecessor, but not because of a lack of ideas. Writer Nigel Kneale welds together alien bodysnatchers, synthetic food, hive mentalities, malfunctioning nuclear rockets, duplicated moonbases and secretive government bureaucracy into a six part mystery that is solved in four and has two all action final episodes. Some of the stuff here is chilling even today, though at the time it had a huge impact and even prompted the BBC to issue a warning ahead of at least one episode.
The main problem here is actually Quatermass himself. John Robinson plays the scientist with an overdose of gravitas, delivering each line as though it was a declaration of global importance. It's a one note performance and the show suffers as a result of it.
Some of the special effects also show their age quite badly, whilst others hold up quite well, and scenes such as the luckless man emerging from a dome doused in corrosive slime are remarkably memorable.
Having to create something a bit larger in scale (this is a sequel after all), QUATERMASS 2 isn't as tight and compelling as the original, but it is still so packed with ideas that almost struggles to contain them all.Top
An army radar training station picks up some strange readings near the research base of Winnerden Flats. The head man is dating Professor Bernard Quatermass' daughter and since the moon colonisation programme is on hold following a disastrous atomic engine failure, Quatermass agrees to take a look. What they find is objects that might be alien in nature and designed to fall to earth. Then they discover that the research plant is a dead copy of Quatermass' design for his moonbase and then one of the objects opens and something leaps out onto the soldier's face.
Nigel Kneale returns to his character of Bernard Quatermass with a fine opening episode that doesn't quite pack the punch of the original series, but has lots of his trademark touches. The dialogue is well written and though John Robinson delivers every line as if it is the prophecy of doom, other characters do better and even the more minor characters get some good stuff such as the trainee in the radar van who seems to know more than his instructors.
This is more of a mystery story than the first and it builds up to an exciting climax as something leaps out onto an unsuspecting soldier's face.Top
Guards from the plant take John Dillon away for 'treatment' and Quatermass learns of a whole town that has been built to service the plant. Nobody there is willing to help and the police are under orders to stay away from the place. Only in Whitehall does anyone know anything about it, but they bear the same mark as his fallen soldier friend.
This episode is much more slow-moving as Quatermass slowly amasses information about the mystery behind the secret site. The plant is supposed to be producing synthetic food, but has no transport network or sales force. There are also other plants in other countries that are identical.
It quickly becomes clear that this is a bodysnatcher story with people being taken over by whatever lies within the pods and that the conspiracy already lies deep in the heart of government.Top
The one man who was fighting the bureaucracy keeping everything going on inside the plant is taken over and Quatermass turns to the head of the Science ministry for help. Together, they find a way inside, but don't learn a lot that can help. Meanwhile, the source of the falling meteors is discovered and it's approaching the Earth.
This third episode reveals the bodysnatching nature of the threat and introduces the bigger threat of an invasion force approaching. This ups the urgency of the plot and makes future episodes look all the more exciting.
The model of the observatory is a bit obvious, but the use of real locations for the plant make that much more impressive.
The emergence of the PR man out of the corrosive atmosphere within the pressure domes is a moment of pure drama, heightened by the twisted angles, and the fate of the family innocently holidaying on a nearby beach is shocking.Top
Having escaped from the facility, Quatermass tries to get the word out to the wider world. His main contact at the ministry is compromised, but he makes contact with a reporter, who he takes to the workers' town in order to tell everything. The arrival of a meteorite gives the necessary evidence and the man gets his story off before the creature that has infected him takes him over.
The pace of the story has picked up with the imminent arrival of potentially thousands of the alien creatures, aliens that might be able to grow and change within the pressurised vat at the plant. That something is glimpsed at the end of the episode and proves to be surprisingly well realised for the budget and effects of the time, well enough, at least, for the BBC to put out a warning to anyone of a nervous disposition prior to the episode being transmitted.
Roger Delagado is a welcome face as the reporter, Conrad, and would later go on to be the Master to Jon Pertwee's Time Lord in DOCTOR WHO.Top
Quatermass is almost taken prisoner, having seen the aliens growing in the pressure dome, but is saved when the workers from the plant rebel and take over the control them. From within, they start pumping oxygen into the dome, but the alien-controlled forces find a brutal way to stop the flow. At the rocket base, military forces commanded by John Dillon take over to prevent the rocket launch.
The explanations are over and this becomes an action episode. The firefight between the unarmed workers and highly armed security forces is somewhat unbelievable, but the manner in which the aliens seal the pipe carrying the deadly oxygen is realistically brutal, giving the events a harder edge.
The siege in the control room is meant to be tense, but the attempts by the aliens to trick the humans out into the open are painfully obvious and only succeed right at the end by having one character completely change his behaviour.Top
Quatermass manages to goad John Dillon into fighting off his alien control for a while, long enough at least to see the atomic rocket launched into space with a two man crew. The aim is to use the faulty atomic motor to blow up the asteroid carrying the alien intelligence. This, though, is likely to be a one-way mission.
Following the explosive conclusion to the facility providing the colony for the aliens, this episode feels a bit like an afterthought. It is also the episode that contains the most special effects and is therefore the episode that comes of the worst as a result. The model work of the rocket is not up to some of the earlier process work, the wires visible and the swaying of the model clearly visible.
Worse still are the space suits that are convincingly bulky and unwieldy, but which are hardly airtight. The destruction of the main alien releases the influence over all the humans affected, something that is explained away by its being a composite being, but it does not explain the sudden disappearance of the disfigurement caused.
The ending is also very abrupt, leaving Quatermass stranded in space alone and with only a chemical rocket to get him back to Earth.Top
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