OUT OF THE UNKNOWN

SEASON 2 CLIPS GUIDE

by Colin Cutler


This follow-up season has unfortunately fared much worse than its predecessor, with a total of eight out of twelve Season 2 productions absent from the BBC’s archives. Of these eight however, soundtrack extracts are currently known to exist from three productions, whilst a substantial clip ( b/w 16 T/R ) also exists from the penultimate play Satisfaction Guaranteed.

Dr Keppler (hugo Shuster) explains the rejeuvanation process to Charles Dennistoun (Nigel Stock).

SECOND CHILDHOOD

TX. 10th November 1966

Three audio extracts currently exist from this production

Story Context: In a game-show of the near future, sixty-year-old Charles Dennistoun (Nigel Stock) has won the “prize beyond price” – a unique course of treatment resulting in complete physical rejuvenation. Travelling to an exclusive clinic in the Swiss Alps to receive his treatment, Dennistoun meets with the brilliant but aged creator of the rejuvenation process, Dr Gerard Keppler (Hugo Shuster)…

Extract 1. The first extract derives from Scene 4, in which Dr Keppler is explaining the rejuvenation process to Charles.

This extract begins at the point where Keppler is using the metaphor of a clock running backwards to describe the process. Looking at the clock on the wall of Keppler’s office, the Doctor asks Charles to imagine the small wheel turning slowly inside the mechanism. Keppler pictures how this wheel could be stopped and then spun in the opposite direction. When it reaches 9am, it could be stopped again and the procedure reversed – the clock would move forward once more, but now it would be morning, with the long summer’s day ahead of them.

Charles protests that this would only be an illusion, since for other people it would still be the middle of the afternoon. Keppler asks whether Charles is bothered about “what the time is for other people”, to which Charles gives a hesitant “no”.

Keppler goes on to state how the treatment will consist of exposure to a form of radiation. When Charles asks whether this would be all that the treatment entails, Keppler notes that there will also be a “great many injections”.

At this point, Odile Keppler ( the Doctor’s wife ), who has already undergone the rejuvenation process and looks to be about 28, enters the room breezily and says: “I’m ready if the patient is”

Duration: 50"

Extract 2. The second extract covers the operation sequence, in which an anaesthetised Charles is sealed off inside the ‘radiation room’ and monitored closely by Keppler and Odile. The soundtrack features the Radiophonic effects composed for the production, and has no dialogue apart from Keppler’s request to Odile to have Charles’s “Heart X-ray” displayed on a monitor screen.

Duration: 45"

Extract 3. This last short extract is from Scene 32, in which Charles is discussing the post-operative changes in his body with Odile. The latter tells Charles that his ‘selected age’ ( the age determined by the rejuvenation process ) will be that of thirty years.

Charles muses on this: “Thirty eh?… could be worse, couldn’t it? A lot worse”. Odile states that this is a good age for a man, and asks whether Charles was a handsome man when he was thirty. Charles shrugs and says that it is hard for him to catch himself, in his mind, at any particular point in his life.

Duration: 20"

SATISFACTION GUARANTEED

Tx. 29th December 1966

A single clip ( b/w 16TR ) and one extended audio extract exist from this production.

Story Context: Within the home of insecure Claire Belmont (Wendy Craig), a field experiment to test the suitability of a new range of ‘domestic’ robots is about to be conducted. Claire’s husband Larry ( Barry Warren) ) is the executive charged with the task of introducing her to the new robot, known simply as TN-3 or ‘Tony’ (Hal Hamilton)...

Rehersal shot for the surviving scene.Existing Telerecorded material

A section lasting approximately two and a half minutes exists from Scene 4 of the play, in which a bemused Claire is introduced to Tony for the first time and is initially skeptical of its non-human status.

The clip derives from an edition of the BBC-1 science documentary series Towards Tomorrow entitled Robot (TX. 28/12/67. Prod/Dir: Ramsay Short). This edition contained a large amount of interview material featuring Isaac Asimov, in which he related his thoughts on current trends in the field of Robotics. The Satisfaction Guaranteed clip was used in an early segment of the programme, and appears in order to illustrate Asimov’s reflections on the various reasons for creating robots in the shape and form of humans.

The clip begins as Claire, Larry Belmont and Tony, along with company ‘robo-psychologist’ Dr Jensen, gather together in the living room of the Belmont’s home. Asimov’s voice (a continuation of the interview footage which precedes the clip) obscures the first thirteen seconds of the extract’s soundtrack, losing a few pieces of dialogue. The latter comprises Larry telling his wife that his work requires him to go to America for three weeks, and that he loathes leaving her on her own for so long. Also obscured is Dr Jensen’s ambiguous response: “Mrs Belmont won’t be quite on her own”.

The play’s own soundtrack then cuts in, with Larry turning to Claire and saying: “Claire, while we’re away, we’d like you to take charge of TN-3”. Since Clare looks at him blankly, Jensen goes on to explain: “TN-3 is a robot”.

Claire protests against the idea, and Larry attempts to calm her by pointing out that TN-3 is fully programmed – she “won’t even have to press a button”. When Claire suggests leaving the robot somewhere else, Larry explains that their little field-test “isn’t quite legal”, since domestic robots aren’t as yet permitted by law. As a result, nobody must know about ‘Tony’. Again Claire looks at him blankly, to which Larry responds by adding: “I mean that he’s a robot”.

Claire is incredulous at this, and refuses to believe that the ‘person’ sat opposite her, apparently listening politely, is anything less than human. On Larry suggestion, Claire then gingerly feels for Tony’s (non-existent) pulse. Dr Jensen then suggests that if Claire is still not convinced, she can demonstrate how Tony’s eyes are removable. Her demonstration of this is cut short by Claire’s frightened protests.

At this point in the clip, a short piece of narration (by John Stocksbridge) is overlaid on the play’s soundtrack as follows: ‘In his recently dramatised novel Satisfaction Guaranteed, Isaac Asimov reveals the standard of engineering he expects to see’. This obscures Jensen’s dialogue as she talks about the perfect proportions of the robot’s body, the unblemished skin and the miracle of detail that has gone into it’s construction.

After the brief piece of narration, the original soundtrack returns with Jensen going on to explain how the “real miracle” exists inside Tony’s skull – an artificial brain, nearly as complicated as a human’s, which works like an “immense telephone switchboard” receiving and acting on billions of possible connections.

Claire is completely dumbfounded by all this, saying weakly that “it’s very interesting”. Larry asks her whether she’s now agreeable to the proposition, to which she can only respond with: “I don’t know – couldn’t we talk about it in another room?"  The others laugh at her naiveté.

Duration: 2'26"

NB. The above clip was later re-used in the early nineties for a feature on robotics in the BBC2 arts programme The Late Show. On this occasion however, the clip was both heavily edited and finished at the point where Clare begins to feel Tony’s non-existent ‘pulse’ (running in at approximately 1'00").

Surviving audio extract

The existing audio material consists of a section (lasting just over two minutes) from scenes 12 and 13.

This begins at the point where Claire walks into her kitchen at night, and discovers Tony ‘reading’ in the dark (courtesy of its ‘ultra-violet’ vision). Claire is confused at the manner in which Tony seems to be hurriedly flicking over the pages of the magazine it is reading, and accuses it of not being able to read. Tony politely corrects her by saying that it is scanning the pages and that it’s memory is photographic. When Claire queries why the robot is looking at “women’s magazines”, Tony states that one of it’s duties is to assimilate all available information, of whatever nature, and that this helps to increase it’s usefulness to Claire.

Changing the subject, Claire mentions that she thought she had heard a kettle boiling. Tony offers her tea, and when Claire refuses, Tony automatically begins suggesting a range of alternatives despite Claire’s insistence that she does not want anything. She accuses the robot of “impertinence” and storms out of the kitchen.

There is a short break in the clip at this point, within which Claire notices that Tony has followed her into the living-room. This loses two pieces of dialogue, comprising Claire’s request that Tony returns to the kitchen and the robot’s monotone refusal: “No, Mrs Belmont”.

The extract then picks the action up at Claire’s startled reaction to the robot’s refusal to obey a human order. She demands that the robot keeps it’s distance from her, and runs around the living-room table in order to put something between herself and the robot. Tony calmly tries to assuage her fears by saying it is true that it is obliged to obey. However, the robot continues, there is also the question of priority. It reasons that if it were to return to the kitchen, then Mrs Belmont would continue to remain frightened of its presence in the house.

When Claire blusters: “Frightened? Who says I’m frightened?”, Tony replies that her voice and manner betray her anxiety.

A second break in the clip at this point, losing Tony’s response to Claire’s nervousness. Here he states that her fear is based on the fact that it so closely resembles a human being, and that a part of her mind cannot completely accept Tony as a machine. Instead, she looks on the robot as a stranger in her house.

The extract resumes again with Claire’s nervous reply: “So you are!”. Tony states that it is a mere appliance like her vacuum cleaner and washing machine, and that until she realises this, the experiment is a failure. It insists that Claire must believe that what it says and does is only for her own good.

A third short break here, losing Claire’s nervous statement that she has noticed how the quality of Tony’s voice has changed, and yet the robot’s facial expression has remained unaltered.

The extract resumes as Tony explains how it’s voice alters in accordance with what it is saying., Facial expression, however, is dictated mood and instinct and Tony is capable of neither. Having said this, Tony offers to ‘smile’ if it makes Claire feel more relaxed. The ensuing ‘smile’ is unnerving however, since only the curvature of the mouth is altered. Claire shudders and says: “Never mind..”

Duration: 2'04"

QT-1 leads the brethren.

QT-1 watches the humans assembling a robot.

THE PROPHET

TX. January 1st 1967

Six audio extracts currently exist from this production

Story Context: Astronauts Greg Powell (David Healy) and Mike Donovan (Brian Davies) are working as the only human operatives on a remote Space Station, overseeing the tireless working of a large number of robots. One of the station’s newest acquisitions is robot QT-1 (Tenniel Evans), whose logical deductions lead it to the conclusion that humans cannot have constructed either itself or the other robots because of their inferior physical and intellectual prowess. QT-1 reasons that it’s true ‘master’ is the central power source which lies at the heart of their operations - the station’s ‘Energy Converter’ which directs steady beams of solar energy to Earth…

Summary of Audio Extracts

Extract 1: A very short segment from Scene 9, in which Powell and Donovan are checking some calculations. Donovan notes that they can turn off the space station’s scheduled energy beam. Powell nods in abstraction, telling Donovan to ‘flash’ QT-1 who is down in the control room, in order that the robot can take care of this procedure. He then directs Donovan’s attention to his calculations [which notes an imminent solar storm]: “Mike, what do you make of these figures?”

Duration: 10"

Extract 2: From Scene 9a, in which QT-1 is giving the first of several ‘sermons’ to its fellow robots down in the Converter room. QT-1 stands by the Converter mechanism and asks it’s ‘brethren’ whether it is right that they “should obey creatures who live in the darkness of inferior reason?”

The assembled robots chant in unison: “No - no - no”

QT-1 then continues by intoning: “Is it fitting, that we should obey instructions from so called humans, who show no reverence for truth and reason, and who are lost in self-righteous delusion?”

The robots again chant their dissent.

Duration: 32"

Extract 3: A longer section from scene 11, in which Donovan first comes across QT-1 preaching to the assembled robots down in the Converter room. The clip begins just after the point where Donovan has witnessed the robots chanting “There is no Master but the Master, and QT-1 is his Prophet”.

“Oh, we’ll see about that!” Donovan shouts in anger, furious at the robots for ignoring their tasks and kneeling reverently before QT-1. Donovan notices Powell entering the room, and screams out for assistance: “Greg - this is insurrection!”

Powell orders QT-1 to report to his office immediately., saying he will “deal with these animated gadgets in my own fashion”. QT-1 is unperturbed, claiming that the humans clearly do not understand how robots are reasoning beings, and how they recognise the Master now that QT-1 has preached the truth to them. “They call me the Prophet”, it adds, calling on the robots to rise and praise the Master.

The robots rise as a group, and chant in unison: “The-Master-be-prais-ed”. Donovan is furious, and says sarcastically: “well isn’t that nice - isn’t that just fine!”

Duration: 55"

Extract 4: From Scene 13, where QT-1 is holding another ‘religious service’ in the Converter room.

As it speaks to the kneeling robots, it moves among them with an oil can and cup, ‘anointing’ their heads: “We shall trust thee o Master, who made us and ask thee to bring reason and light and the wisdom of light to those lesser beings who no not what they do, because they fail to comprehend your infinite wisdom…help us, O Master”.

This is followed by a piece of Radiophonic music [based on Bach’s Toccata & Fugue]. The robots then begin a rhythmic chant: “O Mas-ter, O Mas-ter…” [NB. This is a completely different piece to the well-known Delia Derbyshire composition for this episode. See note below.]

Duration: 1'28"

Extract 5: From Scene 15, in which QT-1, having barred Powell and Donovan from entering the converter room, consents to see them again. This is in order to inform them that their usefulness to the ‘Master’ is over, and that they are no longer required at the station. With a pontifical gesture, he directs them to leave: “Go to your officer’s room and pack up your personal belongings – especially your revolting food. Then you may join your wives and reflect upon reason.”

Shaking it’s head ‘sadly’, QT-1 turns to two other robots and instructs them to take
Powell and Donovan away. The robots chant “Away”, and lead the bewildered humans out [a reprise here of the Radiophonic music noted above].

Duration: 27"

Extract 6: From Scene 19, set in the assembly room, where the humans are constructing a robot from scratch in order to convince QT-1 that humans are responsible for creating robots (and are therefore the legitimate ‘superior’ beings).

As the newly constructed robot (QT-13) lifts itself from the construction table, it begins haltingly to ask for its first orders: “I….I….”. Powell looks on and says in encouragement: “We hear you QT-13”.

“I-would-like-to-start work”, QT-13 says slowly, “where-must I-go?”

“Down to the control room. The others will tell you what to do”, responds Powell, before turning to QT-11 and asking it to open the door to allow the new robot to exit.

Duration: 35"

Note: A Radiophonic track, specially composed by Delia Derbyshire for this production, entitled Ziw-zih Ziw-zih oo-oo-oo, was released on the 1971 album BBC Radiophonic Music (itself a commercial issue of an earlier internal BBC record). The surviving script indicates that the track was used on at least two occasions in the production.

 

> INTRODUCTION

> CLIPS LISTING - SEASON ONE

> CLIPS LISTING - SEASON THREE

> CLIPS LISTING - SEASON FOUR

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