1 9 5 8 – 1 9 5 9 (UK)
6 x 35 minute episodes
The third (and perhaps the best) Quatermass serial from the team of writer Nigel Kneale and producer/director Rudolph Cartier, Quatermass And The Pit was a cabalistic tale of the excavation of an ancient insect capsule in Knightsbridge, London, with Professor Quatermass battling to prevent the reawakened influence of the Martians on the human race.
This time, the professor was played by André Morell, the third actor to take the role.
Morell, who had previously appeared as O’Brien in Kneale’s adaptation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1954), typically played clipped-voiced officer types – as he did in David Lean’s The Bridge On the River Kwai (1957) – and he brought a natural authority to the part.
Running over six Monday evenings between December 1958 and January 1959, the series, like its predecessors, was compulsory viewing.
The story begins with the discovery by workmen of a curious skull. Further digging uncovers what appears to be an unexploded bomb – not an uncommon find more than a decade after the war.
The professor gets involved when it becomes clear that the skull represents a previously unknown human relative, and that the ‘bomb’ is in fact an alien vessel.
A tense narrative, superbly filmed in chilling monochrome by A.A Englander, was atmosphere-laden, with darkly weird noises provided by the fledgling BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
Although the special effects may appear crude now, the series remains powerful today thanks to an exciting climax and some genuinely thought-provoking ideas.
Like many of Kneale’s later works, notably The Stone Tape (1972), Quatermass and the Pit puts a scientific spin on the supernatural tale, in this case suggesting that mankind was visited in its distant past by an evil alien force, which left its mark in our own vicious nature and inspired our ancestors’ depictions of demons and devils.
The final episode drew an audience of 11 million viewers.
Quatermass And The Pit (1967) was later filmed by Hammer for theatrical release.
Professor Bernard Quatermass
Dr Matthew Roney
Colonel James Breen