Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Quatermass Conclusion

In 1979 TV (in the guise of original Doctor Who producer Verity Lambert) finally got around to letting Nigel Kneale loose on another Quatermass TV series.

It's set many years on from the three classic serials / movies and finds a retired Quatermass (John Mills) forced to return from his solitude in Scotland to search for his missing granddaughter.  He finds himself in a Britain he no longer recognises. One of anarchy, mob rule, violence, poverty and devastation.  The elderly are forced to hide and fend for themselves, rival gangs wage war in the streets and groups of young people - Planet People (sort of violent, punky, hippies) - roam the countryside driven to search for the sacred sites that will allow them to be transported to a better life on another planet.

Quatermass is a witness to one of these 'transportations' and redoubles his efforts to find his granddaughter, helped by astronomer Joe Kapp (a pre-Manimal Simon MacCorkindale) who, along his family and colleagues, operate a radio telescope in the country.  From there he finds himself drawn further and further into the fantastic events that are impacting on, not just the UK but, the whole planet.

At it's release the series was generally regarded as a bit of a flop but for me it has always been a most glorious addition to the good Professor's life.  John Mills portrayal is perhaps lacking in the gruff, professorial gravitas of his predecessors but his Quatermass is a broken man forced to confront a world he has little interest in or knowledge of having finally turned his back on the trials and travails of his previous existence.  Over the course of the series we see him somewhat regain his previous stature and his place as the pre-eminent scientist of the age.

Kneale is at his most bitter here.  It is savage in it's portrayal of a society in terminal decline; written at a time of huge social upheaval and political unrest in the UK and screened mere months after the UK election victory of the extremely right wing Conservative Party under Margaret Thatcher.  It is equally savage regarding the blind obedience of the Planet People to a violent and domineering leader, Kickalong (Ralph Arliss), and their willingness to march headlong and unheeding in his wake.  It is a lot more sympathetic to the plight of the older residents of this world whose 'Blitz Spirit' maintains them against the uncaring selfishness of the rest of society and eventually allows them to reclaim and redefine the world.

With it's melding of science fiction, folk horror and it's unerring belief in the power of science it touches on many familiar tropes of Kneale's work and is perhaps a little heavy handed in how it presents itself but for me it is the ending that the Quatermass story needed in order to bring his tale to a satisfying close and one I find myself returning to as often as I do any of the others.

So...

Huffity, puffity, Ringstone Round,
If you lose your hat it will never be found,
So pull your britches right up to your chin,
And fasten your cloak with a bright new pin,
And when you are ready, then we can begin,
Huffity, puffity, puff!



Buy it here - Quatermass [DVD] [1979]

2 comments:

  1. any idea where i can get a down├▒load of the Soundtrack ?
    Thanks.

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    Replies
    1. hello.
      sorry, i don't know of anywhere.
      I know there are some music tracks on the Network DVD / bluray release but i've not heard them so i can't really comment on them.

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