A basic Out of the Unknown episode guide, in Microsoft Word format, is available here.

An earlier Out of the Unknown clips guide can be found here.



by Colin Cutler


The following is a guide to all known extant clips (video, film and audio recordings) from otherwise missing episodes of the BBC series Out of the Unknown (1965-71). In each case, a detailed summary is given of the content of these clips, alongside an indication of their context within specific episodes. Relevant updates have also been provided in light of the 2014 BFI DVD release of the series, which has enabled the majority of this material to be appreciated by a wider audience.

Although the list aims to be comprehensive, it does not claim to be entirely exhaustive. There is no attempt for example, to catalogue the extent of the surviving Radiophonic Workshop holdings. In some instances however, details of surviving sound effects and music tracks have been included where specific information has been available. Some of this material resides in private collections, such as the surviving recordings from Immortality Inc. (see separate entry for full details).

The guide deals with these clips on a chronological episode-by-episode basis, beginning with the extant material from the two missing productions from the 1965 debut season. Approximate durations are also given for each individual item.

Naturally, the circumstances surrounding the survival of the video and film material differs markedly from that of the various audio clips, which in each case are off-air recordings made by fans of the series at the time the episodes were first broadcast. In view of this, a short introductory overview of the origins of the various clips is given below.

Extant video and film material: A brief overview

Extant video/film material is currently known to exist from the following missing productions: The Fox and the Forest, Andover and the Android, Satisfaction Guaranteed, Immortality Inc., Liar!, Random Quest, The Little Black Bag and The Last Witness.

This material falls into three main categories. The first involves a number of clips utilised within two editions of the BBC documentary series Towards Tomorrow in the 1960’s, both of which showcased the work and ideas of SF writer Isaac Asimov. For several years, these clips had only occasionally re-surfaced (usually in a highly edited form) in a number of other documentary features. These included appearances in programmes as diverse as The Late Show, Future Fantastic, Inventions that Changed the World and Sunday Past Times.

The second category comprises material fortuitously discovered within the BBC’s own archives, the most prominent example being a number of consecutive fragments from the third season play The Little Black Bag (see separate entry), recovered in the late nineties during the BBC’s systematic conversion of its archived videotape holdings to D3 digital video format.

The third category concerns material excised in the early seventies by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (who had regularly bought and screened the series between 1967 and 1974), who deemed that cuts were necessary to two b/w 16mm telerecordings. Following a longstanding policy, this material was then retained within the Censorship Board Repository in the Sydney based Australian Archives. It was subsequently located by researcher Damian Shanahan, further to his pursuit of similar censored material from Doctor Who in the mid-nineties.

With the exception of the Australian Archive clips (which to date have not been transferred and returned to the BBC’s archives), this material was carefully restored for inclusion in Return to the Unknown (Wr./Dir. John Kelly), a 42-minute documentary included as part of the 2014 BFI DVD release.

This restoration work included the use of Richard Russell’s colour recovery process, which uses colour signal information (commonly referred to as chroma dots) embedded in the 16mm black and white film recordings, to recreate the colour part  of the original signal. The surviving black and white film sequences from Liar! and Random Quest, were both restored to colour using this process.

Audio recordings: A brief overview

Off-air audio material is currently known to exist from the following missing productions: Second Childhood, The Fastest Draw, Satisfaction Guaranteed, The Prophet, Immortality Inc., Liar!, Beach Head, Something in the Cellar, Random Quest, The Naked Sun, The Little Black Bag, 1 + 1 = 1.5, The Fosters, Target Generation, The Yellow Pill, Get Off My Cloud and The Uninvited.

For several years the existence of off-air audio recordings from Out of the Unknown was rarely the subject of any discussion or speculation. By the late nineties however, a number of fragments identified as hailing from the missing second season play The Prophet, alongside some brief clips from the third season finale Get Off My Cloud had begun trickling into circulation on collector’s circuits (mainly as a result of both plays having production-design connections with Doctor Who). Both sets of clips originated from the fairly extensive reel-to-reel tape collection of Trevor Wells, which also thankfully contained a whole host of representative clips from other missing second and third season stories.

A fan of television SF since watching the original broadcast of Quatermass and the Pit, in 1958, Trevor considered Out of the Unknown a “must see” during this era. Having initially used a two-track machine (a BSR Sound Riviera) to make his first recordings, Trevor later replaced this by a four-track recorder (an Elizabethan LZ34) and he was able to reuse many of his old tapes to record new tracks at a slower speed. In each case, Trevor recorded only fragments of the broadcast plays as ‘snapshots’ of the various stories; in any case, he found that the cost of tapes prevented him from recording the plays in their entirety.

Despite the relative quality of several of these recordings having deteriorated over the years, Trevor’s ‘snapshots’ currently remain the only known record of many missing Out of the Unknown episodes. These include several classic moments from the series: the bizarre philosophical sermons articulated by a rogue ‘reasoning’ robot in The Prophet; the time-transplant operation that opened the ambitious third season play Immortality Inc.; and the surreal appearance of the Daleks within a boy’s nightmare in Get Off My Cloud.

In early 2003, a complete audio recording of the third season play The Yellow Pill play was recovered. This was located amongst approximately seventy reels of material owned by Keith Underhill, a SF fan who had also routinely taped various broadcasts using reel-to-reel tapes since 1968.

Some patient detective work on the part of his friend Mark Slater (alongside some deft repairs to an aging reel-to-reel recorder), enabled the recording to be sifted out from the numerous boxes in which the reels had been stored for several years. Keith recalled that The Yellow Pill had probably been retained because he considered it such a strong story. Having regularly taped numerous Gerry Anderson productions as a boy however, he also admits that the appearance of Francis Captain Scarlet Mathews might also have had a direct hand in its survival! Sadly, a few other complete recordings made of the Out of the Unknown series (including Liar!) were unfortunate casualties of the tapes being re-used.

Ironically, it subsequently came to light that off-air recordings of two further third season episodes - Beach Head and The Naked Sun – were already held in the BBC sound archives. Indeed for many years, both items had been easily identified within the online catalogue of the BBC Motion Gallery (the footage licensing division of BBC Worldwide), whose listing clearly identified the recordings as ‘sound only’. To date, there is no information on their origin or how long they had been held in the archive, although it can obviously be inferred that the recording of The Naked Sun stems from its one and only broadcast in the UK during February 1969.

Audio recordings of missing stories from the fourth and final season remain more elusive. The notable exception however, is a good quality off-air recording of Michael J. Bird’s The Uninvited, the first complete audio recording to come to widespread attention back in 2002. The recording was made by fan Martin Townley, and originates from the play’s repeat showing in August 1972.

The soundtracks to Beach Head, The Naked Sun, The Yellow Pill and The Uninvited have now been carefully restored and utilised to create reconstructions of these missing episodes (courtesy of the combined handiwork of Derek Handley, Michael Fillis and Stewart Palmer) and form a welcome addition to the BFI release. Likewise, some brief sections from The Little Black Bag audio material were also cleverly used to augment the closing moments of Jonathan Wood’s reconstruction of this episode (see separate entry for details).


With many thanks to the following people whose generosity and guidance has greatly assisted in the development of this guide:

To Trevor Wells, Keith Underhill, Martin Townley, Mark Slater, Roslyn Connors, Paul Hillam and Anthony Carr for their invaluable help with the surviving off-air audio recordings.

To John Wood, Daniel King, Bernard Newhman and John Gorrie for kindly helping out with numerous photographs from their personal collections. Thanks also to Daniel for his diligent research regarding the surviving material held by the Australian National Archives.

To John Kelly, Vaughan Stanger, Mark Ward, Dave Auger, Steve Roberts, Christopher Barry, Ian Beard, Scott Burditt, Tristram Cary, Nick Cooper, James Cellan Jones, Andrew Martin, Erin O’Neill, Dave Rice, Ian Riley, Steve Rogers, Lee Rose, Damian Shanahan, Neil Somerville, Trevor Ewles, David J. Howe and Malcolm Chapman for their helpful correspondence regarding background information, reference material, sources of clips, durations etc.

And finally, to Julian Knott for continuing to support and host this article!

Colin Cutler

March 2017






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