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File:Quatermass 1906.jpg

Professor Bernard Quatermass is a heroic scientist character featured in four television serials -- The Quatermass Experiment (BBC, 1953), Quatermass II (BBC, 1955), Quatermass and the Pit (BBC, 1958), and Quatermass (ITV, 1979) -- and a radio serial -- The Quatermass Memoirs (BBC, 1996) -- all written by Nigel Kneale.

  • The Quatermass Experiment: The British Rocket Group, led by Professor Bernard Quatermass (Reginald Tate), successfully launches the first manned mission into space. When it returns, it's carrying an alien lifeform with the potential to bring about the end of life on Earth.
  • Quatermass II: Professor Quatermass (John Robinson) is asked to investigate a series of strange meteor showers, and discovers that they're part of a subtle alien invasion.
  • Quatermass and the Pit: Professor Quatermass (André Morell) is called in when building excavations uncover a mysterious object that turns out to be an alien spacecraft that has lain undisturbed for five million years.
  • Quatermass: Professor Quatermass (John Mills) comes out of secluded retirement when his granddaughter disappears. He finds that she has joined a New Age group called the Planet People, who believe that benevolent aliens will come and take them to a better life on another planet. This being science fiction, there really are aliens, and they really are taking Planet People, but Quatermass has grave doubts about their benevolence.
  • The Quatermass Memoirs: Really a retrospective documentary about the series, but includes a fictional strand, set before Quatermass, in which the retired Professor (Andrew Keir) is interviewed about his career.

The Quatermass serials were very successful, and broke the ground for original science fiction on television (previous TV SF had either been children's telefantasy or adapted from literature). As one instance of the series' influence, 1970s Doctor Who owes a huge debt to Kneale and Quatermass, both in the types of stories being told and in the willingness of BBC executives to let the series tell them.

The first three serials were successfully remade as films by Hammer, two of which were scripted by Kneale himself. The fourth was re-edited directly into a film-length version, titled The Quatermass Conclusion, and given a limited theatrical release.

The Quatermass Experiment was remade for television by the BBC in 2005 as a single feature-length drama, with the spy subplot and some comic material edited out to save time. For added conformity to the original, this version was broadcast live (the first live drama broadcast on the BBC for many years, with the exception of filmed stage plays) with no special effects that would have been unavailable for TV in 1953.


The serials provide examples of:

 Huffity, puffity, Ringstone Round,

If you lose your hat it will never be found...

  • Body Horror: The Quatermass Experiment, and to a lesser extent the second two serials.
  • Broadcast Live: The three 1950s serials, as was usual in those days because the video recorder hadn't been invented yet. The 2005 remake of The Quatermass Experiment was also done live, as a gimmick, although it backfired slightly because the live footage was treated to look like film.
    • Not entirely in the case of the second two serials: both were a mixture of live material broadcast from the studio and pre-filmed location scenes.
  • Compilation Movie: Quatermass was edited down into a feature film called The Quatermass Conclusion for release in other countries, like the US.
  • Creepy Children Singing:

 Huffety puffety Ringstone Round.

If you lose your hat it will never be found,

So pull up 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!

  • Enemy Within: Any human who still has the Martian race memory left intact in Quatermass and the Pit.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: To infiltrate the higher security domes in Winnerden Flats, Quatermass nabs a dead plant worker's uniform in Quatermass II.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Yeah, Quatermass II aliens, it's a great idea to liquidise your rebellious minions' representatives For the Evulz when the minions have rocket-launchers.
  • Dying Race: The alien Ancient Astronauts in Quatermass and the Pit.
  • Gas Mask Mooks: The plant workers in Quatermass II.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Dr. Roney in Quatermass and the Pit. Also, Quatermass and his granddaughter in Quatermass.
  • Human Resources: Quatermass speculates that this is the alien's motivation in Quatermass, although we never find out for sure.
  • Huge Holographic Head: The Martian spectre in Quatermass and the Pit.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Show up at some point in all of the BBC shows: Quatermass with the three astronaut personalities still inside the monster in The Quatermass Experiment, Quatermass and the possessed Dillon in Quatermass II, and reversing the usual roles, Roney talking Quatermass down when he falls under the Martian ship's influence in Quatermass and the Pit.
  • Intrepid Reporter: James Fullalove in The Quatermass Experiment and Quatermass and the Pit, and Hugh Conrad in Quatermass II.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: "Ringstone Round" from Quatermass.
  • Justified Title: Quatermass II features the Professor's experimental rocket, known as the Quatermass II.
    • Kneale later confessed that he only wrote in that connection because he couldn't think of a better title for the second serial than "Quatermass II", and he had to justify it to himself.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Army's plan to kill the creature in Westminster Abbey at the end of The Quatermass Experiment.
  • Made of Indestructium: The craft from Quatermass and the Pit.
  • Mental Picture Projector: Roney's "optic encephalographic" in Quatermass and the Pit.
  • Missing Episode: Most of The Quatermass Experiment is missing, because it was performed live in the days before any reliable method of recording television programs existed; only the first two episodes remain, in dodgy copies made with an experimental technology (the later two serials are preserved in full, though in Quatermass II the quality is still inferior).
  • Nuke'Em: When the chips are down, Quatermass has few qualms about the applied use of nuclear weaponry. Attempts by the superpowers in Quatermass to employ this trope are less successful.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Colonel Breen and the Minister in Quatermass and the Pit.
    • Subverted however in Quatermass II, where's he's hampered by them, but also helped by Fowler, a senior civil servant who is experienced enough in the way the system works to realise there's something distinctly wrong going on.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Professor Quatermass develops into one of these over the course of the three fifties serials, although in the first he pointedly notes that he's "only an engineer" during one scene. Justified, since when you keep running into hostile aliens, you eventually learn to be prepared.
  • The Other Darrin: Each of the five serials features a different actor as Quatermass. The original actor died, and every subsequent actor proved unavailable after completing one installment.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Gustav Holst's "Mars: Bringer of War" from The Planets is the theme for the first two serials and the 2005 remake.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: The alien invaders in Quatermass II.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Lomax in The Quatermass Experiment, Fowler in Quatermass II, and Annie Morgan in Quatermass. Quatermass himself probably counts as well.
  • Starfish Aliens: the aliens in The Quatermass Experiment and Quatermass II are weird to almost Cosmic Horror levels.
    • Put another way, the least bizarre aliens Quatermass encounters are three-legged telepathic insects from Mars.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Happens at the end of The Quatermass Experiment.
  • Television Serial
  • The Wild Hunt: The episode "The Wild Hunt" of Quatermass and the Pit involves the alien race holding a periodic Wild Hunt to weed out the unfit. Quatermass theorises that this urge has been genetically passed down through the human race, leading to wars and racial conflict.

The Hammer films provide examples of:

  • Captain Ersatz: After the success of The Quatermass Xperiment Hammer immediately wanted to make a sequel. They couldn't get the rights however, so they made X the Unknown a movie with an extremely similar plot-structure and atmosphere to the first with a highly Quatermass-like hero named Doctor Adam Royston.
  • Compilation Movie: The Quatermass Conclusion is an odd example, since the original serial was deliberately written and shot so that it could be edited down into a much shorter movie. An interesting idea, and it almost worked.
  • Executive Meddling: American Brian Donlevy was cast as Quatermass in the first two films so they could be sold easier in the American market.
  • Head-in-The-Sand Management: The Minister of Defence in Quatermass and the Pit.
  • Kaiju: The large alien creatures that emerge from the domes and destroy the plant in Quatermass 2.
  • Market-Based Title: The films were retitled The Creeping Unknown, Enemy from Space, and Five Million Years to Earth on US release, since Quatermass wasn't a selling point outside the UK.
  • The Other Darrin: Not quite as bad as the serials, but the length of time between the two fifties films and 1967's Quatermass and the Pit meant Brian Donlevy was replaced by Andrew Keir.
    • In other words, Quatermass changes from a stiff-upper-lip Englishman to a fiery Scot. Astonishingly, it works.
  • Sinister Subway: Quatermass and the Pit.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The climax of The Quatermass Xperiment, replacing the "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight denouement of the original. Kneale was not impressed.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: The first film was actually titled The Quatermass Xperiment, to draw attention to its X rating[1] (for motives as described in Avoid the Dreaded G Rating, except that this film came by its rating honestly).
  • You Look Familiar: Sladden the drill technician in Quatermass and the Pit is played by Duncan Lamont, who played Victor Carroon in the original BBC serial.

Notes

  1. approximately an R rating in modern US terms
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