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Out of This World and Out of the Unknown: bringing science fiction to the small screen
May 16, 2012 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Irene Shubik started as a television script-writer, first writing for Encyclopædia Britannica Films (some videos on Archive.org) in the United States before moving back England, where she was hired on at Associated British Corporation. There, she worked as a story editor for the prolific TV producer Sydney Newman on the anthology series 'Armchair Theatre.' A long-time fan of science fiction, Shubik approached Newman about creating a science fiction version of 'Armchair Theatre,' and Newman agreed. The result was 'Out of This World,' which ran for a single season in 1962. Shubik followed Newman to BBC, where they continued the theme of 'Out of This World' with a new program, 'Out of the Unknown.' Between the two series, 63 episodes were made, though only 21 episodes survive in full, and audio and video clips survive from another 18 episodes. The videos and original short stories are linked below the break.

An adaptation of John Wyndham’s short story Dumb Martian was originally intended to launch the series. However, Sydney Newman elected to broadcast the story as part of 'Armchair Theatre' the week before 'Out of This World' made its debut. The play ended with an epilogue by Boris Karloff introducing and previewing the new spin-off series. As such, Dumb Martians is generally included in the episode list for 'Out of This World.'

The show's single season consisted of 13 hour-long programs, each hosted by Boris Karloff. All but two episodes were adaptations of sci-fi short stories. The series ran in 1962 on ITV, where it rated quite well. A second season was a sure thing, but it didn't happen as Newman left ITV for the BBC, inviting Shubik to join BBC.

Shubik accepted, on the condition that she be promoted to producer within a year. She started at the BBC as a story editor for another anthology series, 'Story Parade.' After that program featured an adaptation of Isaac Asimov's novel 'The Caves of Steel,' Shubik asked Newman to do another science fiction anthology series. In 1965, Irene Shubik was the producer of 'Out of the Unknown.' Similar in format to 'Out of This World,' but Karloff was no longer the host.
"I had to read hundreds of stories to pick a dozen." She later recalled. "You have no idea how difficult some of these authors are to deal with, and it seems a special thing among SF writers to hedge themselves behind almost impossible copyright barriers, even when they have got a story that is possible to do on television. So many you can't. Either the conception is so way out you would need a fantastic budget to produce it, or the story is too short, too tight to be padded out to make an hour's television."
30 of the first 38 episodes were adaptations of existing stories by Asimov, Ray Bradbury, J. G. Ballard, Larry Eisenberg, and others. Shubik produced the first two series and commissioned the scripts for the third series, but the third and fourth series were produced by Alan Bromly. Bromly shifted the series from science fiction to what he called "plays of psychological suspense," full of "supernatural thrills." The fourth and final season featured an additional eleven episodes, but only one was adapted from a prior work.

Unfortunately, of the 49 episodes, only 20 are known to have survived the BBC's wiping of old programs, but missing episodes have surfaced from time to time, with the latest being found in 2006 in the archives of a European broadcaster. 625.org.uk has summaries and information on episodes from seasons 2 through 4, and a number of the original short stories are available online. Additionally, YouTube user Pam1927 has uploaded the extant episodes.

Out of This World
0 “Dumb Martian” by John Wyndham (Archive.org book scan)
1 “The Yellow Pill” by Rog Phillips (story posted on a forum)
2 “Little Lost Robot” by Isaac Asimov [Google of quickview “I, Robot,” which includes this story; original PDF; video in 4 parts on YouTube: part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4]
3 “Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin (online short story; alternative source)
4 “Impostor” by Philip K. Dick (PKD fansite listing)
5 “Botany Bay” by Terry Nation (original story for the show)
6 “Medicine Show” by Robert Moore Williams (snippets of a review of the episode, and some info on publication history)
7 “Pictures Don't Lie” by Katherine Maclean (source anthology info and plot summary)
8 “Vanishing Act” by Richard Waring (original story for the show)
9 “Divided We Fall” by Raymond F. Jones (Internet Speculative Fiction Database entry)
10 “The Dark Star” by Frank Crisp (based on his novel Ape of London) (Internet Speculative Fiction Database entry)
11 “Immigrant” by Clifford D. Simak (story summary, in a review of Galactic Empires Volume 1)
12 “Target Generation” by Clifford D. Simak (txt converted to PDF)
13 “The Tycoons” by Arthur Sellings (Internet Speculative Fiction Database entry)


Out of the Unknown
101 “No Place Like Earth” by John Wyndham [ISFDb entry; full episode on YouTube]
102 “The Counterfeit Man” by Alan Nourse [Wikipedia entry with plot summary; full episode on YouTube]
103 “Stranger in the Family” David Campton [press and review clips; original story for the show; full episode on YouTube]
104 “The Dead Past” by Isaac Asimov [Google books; full episode on YouTube]
105 “Time in Advance” by William Tenn [Wikipedia entry with plot summary; full episode on YouTube]
106 “Come Buttercup, Come Daisy, Come...?” Mike Watts [press and review clips; original story for the show; full episode on YouTube]
107 “Sucker Bait” by Isaac Asimov [ISFDb entry; full episode on YouTube]
108 “The Fox and the Forest” by Ray Bradbury (full story online; newer audio dramatization from the 1984 production Bradbury 13)
109 “Andover and the Android” by Kate Wilhelm (press and reviews of the original 1965 broadcast; Whozine has similar collections for other episodes, too)
110 “Some Lapse of Time” by John Brunner [ISFDb entry; full episode on YouTube]
111 “Thirteen to Centaurus” by J. G. Ballard [Ballardian review; full episode on YouTube]
112 “The Midas Plague” by Frederik Pohl [Wikipedia entry on 'Midas World,' a collection of short stories; full episode on YouTube]

201 “The Machine Stops” by E. M. Forster [short story online; full episode on YouTube and on Google Video]
202 “Frankenstein Mark II” by Hugh Whitmore (press and reviews of the original 1966 broadcast; original story for the show)
203 “Lambda 1” by Colin Kapp [story summary; full episode on YouTube]
204 “Level Seven” by Mordecai Roshwald [story summary and review; full episode on YouTube]
205 “Second Childhood” by Hugh Leonard (press and review for the original episode; original story for the show)
206 “The World in Silence” by John Rankine (press on the original episode)
207 “The Eye” by Henry Kuttner (press on the original episode; Private Eye, probably the original story)
208 “Tunnel Under the World” by Frederik Pohl [Story on Project Gutenberg; full episode on YouTube]
209 “The Fastest Draw” by Larry Eisenberg (episode summary)
210 “Too Many Cooks” by Larry Eisenberg (press on the original episode)
211 “Walk's End” by William Trevor (press on the original episode; original story for the show)
212 “Satisfaction Guaranteed” by Isaac Asimov (short story on Scribd; surviving clip on YouTube)
213 “The Prophet,” based on the short story “Reason” by Isaac Asimov (Google quickview; original PDF)

301 “Immortality, Inc.” by Robert Sheckley (Google books)
302 “Liar!” by Isaac Asimov [Google of quickview “I, Robot,” which includes this story; original PDF; surviving clips stitched together on YouTube]
303 “The Last Lonely Man” by John Brunner [episode summary; full episode on YouTube]
304 “Beach Head” by Clifford D. Simak (press and pictures of the episode)
305 “Something in the Cellar” by Donald Bull (episode summary)
306 “Random Quest” by John Wyndham (Wikipedia entry on the story, including references to the 1971 British film re-titled Quest for Love [first 9 minutes] and the 2006 updated adaptation [part 1 of 6])
307 “The Naked Sun” by Isaac Asimov (Google books preview)
308 “The Little Black Bag” by C. M. Kornbluth [Story on Project Gutenberg Canada; the extant half of the episode on YouTube]
309 “1+1=1.5” by Brian Hayles (episode summary; original story for the show)
310 “The Fosters” by Michael Ashe (episode summary; original story for the show)
311 “Target Generation” by Clifford D. Simak (episode summary; first adapted for 'Out of This World')
312 “The Yellow Pill” by Rog Phillips (episode summary; first adapted for 'Out of This World')
313 “Get Off My Cloud” by Peter Phillips (press and pictures for the episode)

401 “Taste of Evil” by John Wiles (episode summary; original story for the show)
402 “To Lay A Ghost” by Michael J. Bird [extended press and screencaps; original story for the show; full episode on YouTube]
403 “This Body Is Mine” by John Tully [episode summary; original story for the show; full episode on YouTube]
404 “Deathday” by Angus Hall [book review; press clipping and information on the surviving video; full episode on YouTube]
405 “The Sons and Daughters of Tomorrow” by Edward Boyd (episode summary; original story for the show)
406 “Welcome Home” by Moris Farhi [episode summary; original story for the show; full episode on YouTube]
407 “The Last Witness” by Martin Worth (episode summary; original story for the show; remade as an episode of Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense under the title “A Distant Scream” [full movie] in 1986)
408 “The Man in My Head” by John Wiles [episode summary; original story for the show; full episode on YouTube]
409 “The Chopper” by Nigel Kneale (episode summary; original story for the show)
410 “The Uninvited” by Michael J. Bird (episode information from the MJB Tribute site; remade as an episode of Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense under the title “In Possession” [full movie, part 1 of 7])
411 “The Shattered Eye” by David T. Chantler (episode summary; original story for the show)
posted by filthy light thief (4 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
How cool, thanks for putting this together.
posted by lubujackson at 10:04 AM on May 16, 2012


Thank you for this thorough compendium. Posts like this make MetaFilter the great resource it is.
posted by incandissonance at 10:55 AM on May 16, 2012


Some really great SF stories in there. One of my favorites is The Cold Equations, I've seen a full length made for TV movie of this story, which was good, only because such a great story is really hard to screw up (although they tried really hard).

But, from the link:

The Cold Equations
by Tom Godwin ©1954 (Public Domain)


No, there's no such thing as Copyright + Public Domain, it's one or the other. This is definitely copyrighted.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:56 AM on May 16, 2012


charlie don't surf: Some really great SF stories in there.

That's what got me interested in these series in the first place. The idea of anthology shows with episodes adapted from existing stories fascinated me, as I assumed most TV shows are written specifically for TV.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:03 PM on May 16, 2012


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