Yes, the BBC have been making sci-fi series for 50 years!
They started in 1951 in the childrens slot called 'Whirligig'. The show was called 'Strangers From Space' and this fortnightly show encouraged viewers to write in with their own ideas.
The story was about Ian Spencer and his Martian friend
Bilaphodorus who had crashed his space boat on earth.
It was quite popular and gained a second series. In total 17 episodes were made and it stands out as the first ever TV sci-fi series.
The cast included Valentine Dyall, radio's 'Man in Black, and later 'The Black Guardian' in 'Doctor Who'.
But it was in the summer of 1953 that television's first adult series was shown, the now legendary 'Quatermass', in the first of the three stories about Professor Bernard Quatermass of the British Space Institute.
When a British experimental rocket designed by 'The Professor' returns to earth only one member of the 3-man crew is on board. Tests prove that the survivor Victor Carroon has taken on the identities of the other two when his hand is shown to be mutating. He begins to change into a giant 100-foot vegetable before a final show down at Westminster Abbey.
This live sci-fi show had a budget of just £3,500 with all f/x done at the time of broadcast. Quartermas was played by Reginald Tate.
This was just the begining, as the sequel, Quatermass 2, was
screened in 1955. This time the story was about an invasion from space with strange goings-on at a chemical plant and humans being taken over by a strange gas.
John Robinson took over the role of Quatermass after the sad death of Reginald Tate and also featured in a small role was Roger Delgado, later to play the first 'Master' in Doctor Who.
The last BBC story was 'Quatermass and the Pit' broadcast in
1958. On a building site workmen dig up a strange object that could be 5 million years old.They then find out that the 'Hobbs Lane Site' was named after the old name 'hob' meaning devil and the site has a long history of supernatural events. This time the BBC added sound effects with the newly-formed 'Radiophonic Workshop' and the role of Quatermass was taken by Andre Morell.
In between the Quatermass stories, the BBC were now starting to produce
other sci-fi features such as 'The Lost Planet' and '1984', both in 1954.
'The Lost Planet' was an adaptation of the 1952 radio show of the
same name. It was about group of travellers searching for the planet
'Hesikos'. Again made for children, it ran for 6 shows and was
followed in 1955 by 'Return to the Lost Planet'. The first version of '1984' was made for adults, however, based on
the novel by George Orwell about the totalitarian government where 'Big Brother' is always watching you. Winston Smith works for the 'Ministry of Truth' but, when he falls in love with a co- worker, he becomes a 'Thought Criminal'. The cast included Peter Cushing, Yvonne Mitchell, Andre Morell and
Shown on the 12th of December it was broadcast live, with a repeat
performance scheduled for the 16th. This was almost banned after a lot of controversy and questions were even asked in the House of Commons. In defence of the production, Rudolph Carter (producer) said. 'Our job was to shake and if we have succeeded in shaking half of the
nation then we have done the job that we set out to do'. In 1954 the BBC still had a spine and stood firm and the repeat was
broadcast on the 16th December to the biggest audience since the Queen's
After his portrayal of Winston Smith in '1984', Peter Cushing went on to
do a play called 'The Creature'. Writer Nigel Kneale and
producer Rudolph Carter (also writer and producer of 'Quatermass') now went in search of the 'yeti' in this one-off play5. Also in 1955 came 'The Voices' based on the novel 'Hero's Walk' by Robert Crane.
In 1956 ITV was now starting to do what they do best; import shows from
the USA. They started with 'The Adventures of Superman'. But the BBC was still making their own sci-fi productions. 'Space School' was a four-part show which was made for children and set on Earth Satellite One.
1957 saw a murder/sci-fi play, 'The Critical Point', where a human guinea pig undergoes an experiment in hibernation anaesthesia.
In 1958 only the last BBC 'Quatermass' story was made.
1959 produced the play 'The Offshore Island' which was set after
the Third World War. Britain had been 'nuked' and only a few survivors
remained. An American patrol informs them that the war is not over and that they themselves are to be 'nuked'.
1960 Saw a remake of 'The Critical Point' and the first BBC import 'Men into Space'.
1961: It is with some regret that I confess to never having never seen
'A for Andromeda' as it sounds like a great show. Written by the
professor Fred Hoyle, it deals with a message from space giving
details of how to build a super computer. The computer then makes a new life form named 'Andromeda' that takes on the form of a dead woman. The show ran for six 45 minute episodes and is now hailed as a classic piece of sci-fi.
1962:'The Andromeda Breakthough' was a well thought out sequel
that dealt with a global disaster which was the direct result of the events in the first series and also covered the fate of Andromeda. The series comprised of six 45 minute episodes.
'Monsters' was about the search for the 'Loch Ness Monster' but was there something else there which could explain the strange sightings? This series was said to have be inspired by news reports of the Loch Ness Monster and featured four 50 minute episodes.
1963: A play called 'The Road' by Nigel Kneale was set in
the 1770's and started as a ghost hunt. When strange things are seen in the woods the local squire Sir Timothy Hassall investigates. But it turns out that this is not some-long dead ghost but a warning from the future.
Also in November came a new show described by one BBC insider as: 'This pathetic show about an old man and his granddaughter travelling
around the universe can not last more than 12 episodes'. Some 695 episodes and 26 years later the show was temporarily cancelled. The show was, of course,'Doctor Who', the longest running sci-fi show in the history of the world. The strong point of this show was the fact that it could go anywhere, anytime in the universe: from 100000BC on Earth to 3000AD in Deep Space, from the past to the present in the blink of an eye6. William Hartnell was that first doctor, a grumpy old man of mystery. Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy all took over the role of the doctor in his various reincarnations as the series continued. Hammer made two movies: 'Doctor Who and the Daleks' and The Dalek
Invasion of Earth 2150AD' A tv movie was made in the USA with McCoy returning just for the first few minutes and Paul McGann taking over.
1964: Isaac Asimov provided the first sci-fi story for the new
channel BBC2. 'The Caves of Steel' was set 200 years in the future with Peter Cushing again taking a starring role. The play was set in New York with Earth now subjugated by aliens that were studying the human race in the hope that they could stop self extinction. When one of the aliens was found dead, an ultimatum was issued: find the killer in 48 hours or New York will be destroyed.
'R3' was set in 'Research Center 3' headed by Michael
Gerrard. This show was about the scientists each week dealing with a new problem. The cast list included John Robinson and, in series two, Oliver Reed.
1965: A British Astronaut has been in space for ten days when a
malfunction forces him to turn off the auto-pilot and land the ship himself, but he is near to breaking point and is not sure if he wants to return. Barry Foster starred as squadron leader Osborne in the play 'Campaign for One'.
But the best was yet to come! The BBC's anthology series 'Out of the
Unknown' had a list of writers and directors that could start their own 'Who's Who': Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, John Wyndham and Terry Nation were just a few of the writers, with even Ridley Scott featuring on the show's cast list as a designer.
A remake of the play '1984' was made updating the 1954 script. This time the show was not as shocking.
1966: Saw an edwardian gentleman in Adam Adament lives frozen in 1902 by is arch enemy The Face he is revived 64 years latter the perfect gentleman fighting against evil for king(or Queen)and country. The show was a tongue in cheek swash-buckler with Adam and is two friends Georgina Jones and William e.Simms helping the helpless.Staring Gerald Harper It ran for two years with a total of 29 episodes.
1967:there were know new shows this year.
1968:The year of the sex olpmpicswas Nigel Kneale's provocative view of the future were the population is divided into the people who make television programes and the masses that only watch. A new show called the live life show will show a family live 24 hours a day. Now were have we seen something like that lately? Stared by Leonard Ossiter.
1969: Saw the last black and white sci-fi show made by the BBC counterstrike was about a alien race called the centaurans who have been on earth for about 15 years trying to kill off the human race to make way of there own race.Are only hope is in the form of an agent of the inter galactic council called Simon King the show only lasted 10 episodes.
1970: With colour came the "green" and ecological awareness of doomwatch Called by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis sci-fact the plots were about the department for observation and measurement of scince headed by Dr Spencer Quist the team would tackle anything from river pollution to atomic bombs there were 3 series made but the final seris was made without Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis as they Left Pedler saying that the show was to horrifing when we started we wanted to look into the serious dangers of science they have made a total travesty of the programme.
The show ended after the 3 season just 37 episodes were made. Hammer did make a film of Doomwatch and a tv movie was made for channel 5.
1972 Saw a play called the incredible Robert Baldwick never come night. A supernatural tale about a victorian adventurer.It was a pilot for a series that never got made. Robert Hardy took on the the lead role. The stone tapes was a ghost story set in a victorian mansion. When a research team try to find a new recording medium one of the team hears a load screem then a ghostly figure is seen on the stone staircase. They then hear stories about the house's history that included mysterious deaths and an exorcism. Instead they try to use modern technology to get rid of the ghost. Reportedly one of Nigel Kneals best plays with a fine performance by Jane Asher.
1973 Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts were co creators of moonbase 3 this 6 part series was set in 2003 the moon is now colonised the people are living in small groups from diffrent world powers but with a small budget and mental and technical problems live is not easy. This show tried to provide realistic drama with a sci-fi element.
1974 No new shows but Tom Baker became the fourth Doctor and the BBC showed the Star Trek cartoon for the first time.
1975 Two new shows came around with a similar plot the first was the childrens series the changes base on the books by Peter Dickingson It tells of a creature called the Necromancer. A kind of living stone that causes people to destroy modern technology and go back to a less civilised way of life. But not all the people are affected a young girl Nicky is one of them she is accused of being a witch but escapes and finds the necromancer in a cave were she persades it to go back to sleep leaving things to return to normal. Just four month later came one of the best shows, Terry Nation will be remembered as the man who brought the Daleks to Doctor Who but his first attempt at creating his own show was survivors. In the first few episodes the world was almost wiped out by a virus. As the show progrest though its first year a small group forms Abby, who is looking for her son Greg, an engineer and pilot and Jenny, a secretary they stay together searching the country for Abbys son. The show takes a new format in the second season when they settle down and try to grow there own food farming the land and make replacements for anything that will wearout. Season 3 takes them back on the road searching for greg as he tries to unite the groups of survivors from around Britain.
1976 A rare visit to the BBC for Gerry Anderson with a pilot for a new series that never got made.Into infinity was set on board the space ship altares a faster than light ship that would travel to a remote corner of the universe but ends up getting pulled into a black hole.Brian Blessed and Nick Tate stared(If the series had been made it would have been called The day after tomorrow)
1977 Edward Woodward stared in 1990 A kind of 1984 were the state bureaucracy is out of hand.Jurnalist Jim Kyle is helping the resistance by writing an underground newspaper and helping to smuggle people out of the country.This show lasted 16 episodes 8 in each season.
The play stronger than the sun is set around a nuclear reprocessing plant one of the workers thinks there as been a covered up leak so to show just how dangerous it would be she steals some plutonium but when no one will take any notice she starts to be come obsessed.A strong performance by Francesca Annis earned this play for today wide spread praise.
1978 The year that saw star wars come to britain and Roj Blake try to libarate the human race and that was in just the first two days of the year Blake's 7 started with just Blake a convicted resistance leader who has had is brain wiped contacted again by the resistance he sees them wiped out by the fedaration he is put on trial and sent to cygnus alpha a prison planet but on root he meets Avon,Ville,Jenner and Gan they later escape and are joined by Cally. The show became my all time number one show With Terry Nation writing the first 14 episodes it ran for 4 years And 52 episodes but Blake only stayed for two years returning for the lasted episode7
1978 also saw a radio series by someone called Adams But i can't remember what it was!!!!(it was a good year for sci-fi)
1979 Again no news shows this year on BBC but Quatermass,Sapphire and Steel and Mork and Mindy were on ITV.
1980 The flip side of Dominick Hide was a simple tale of a strange young man from the future Dominick was sent back to watch the 20th century buses and report back but decided to make a stop and see what it was like.A great little play that won two awards.
Peter Firth,Caroline Langrishe,Pippa Guard and Patrick Magee all give great performances.
1981 Were to start the year that the hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy came to the small screen.
Also saw the John Wyndhams classic day of the triffids.After a cosmic light show in the night sky blinds most of the population man eating plants escape from the triffid farms(they were farmed as an oil substitute)the few that can see try to help the rest but unlike the film there is no happy ending with the survivors traped on an island free of triffids but still having to hunt the triffids as the seeds blow accross each year.
This 6 part series was one of the great BBC adaptations.
John Duttine Maurice Colbourne and Emma Relph headed the strong cast.
A four part series called the nightmare man adapted from David Wiltshires novel child of vidyanoi.More like a horror story set on the scottish island of inverdee.After two brutal murders a film camera captures a shadowy creature then a capsule is found on the beach could it be alien or is this something else?
1982 Play for tomorrow was 6 plays with a common theme the near future.
The first was crimes about how we might deal with criminals in the year 2002.
Bright eyes is set on new years eve 1999 a woman on death row for her part in a political assassination.
Cricket were a computer picks the cricket teams sets the strategy and even predicts the results.
The nuclear family was about an out of work father who takes his family on a working holiday at a nuclear base
Shades when unemployment gets out of hand the goverment send the teenagers to youth units were they were shades a kind of vertual reality sun glasses
Easter2016set in northern irelandsonly teacher training collage as the anniversary of the easter uprising gets near struggles to commemorate it cause trouble.
The sequel Another flip for Dominick when an other time traveler goes missing Dominick Hide is asked to try and find him So he looks up is old friends and is 2 year old son.
K9 and company(a girls best friend)The doctor sends a crate to his old companion sarah jane when she opens it out pops K9 mark 3 (the first two stayed on galifrey with lela and in e-space with romana)the plot rerolves around a coven of witches in the cotswolds.
This was a pilot of a series but was never given a chance.
1984 Z for Zachariah was set in a welsh village after a nuclear war has destroyed the rest of britain the sole survivor is a young woman called Ann who as learned how to cope by herself when scientist John Loomis turns up in radiation capsule.
Ann burden and Anthoney Andrews were the only cast.
The invisible man was not the first show of that name or the last but it was the first adaptation of the novel by H.G.Welles.
Dr Griffin tells his friend Dr Kemp how he invented the drug that turns him invisible.
This 6 part story was one of the best invisible man storys made much better than most of the big screen films of the same name.
Tripods was two thirds of a trilogy set in the 21st century were aliens have enslaved the human race only children are free to think for themselfs but only untill they reach the age of 16 when they are caped With a mind controling device of the tripods.
Two boys Will and Henry decide to run away and try to reach the white mountains of switizerland were they beleave they will find free men.
They make it to france were they are joined by jean-paul A.K.A.beanpole but how the story ends we will never know as michael grade canceled it.
1985 Edge of darkness started as a murder case with detective Ronald Craven searching for the person who killed his daughter but turned into a nuclear thriller.
six 55 minute episodes
The cast did a good job led by Bob Peck,.
1986 Again no new shows
1987 Star cops set in the near future(2027) with a base on both the moon and mars crime in space needs someone to keep the law so the space police or star cops are formed but this low budget show got of to a bad start with wires showing when in zero gravity the fans were few and far between it only lasted 9 episodes but one or two stand out as good sci-fi I quite liked conversations with the dead in which a ship goes of course the crew are to far out to mount a rescue so with no hope they have to help find out what went wrong.
devised by Chris Boutcher it stared David Calder Ray Evans and Linda Newton.
1988 The end was the first episode of one of the best british sci-fi comedys ever made red Dwarf.
When Dav lister smuggles a cat on board without quarantine he is put in stasis for the rest of the 18 month trip 3,000,000 years latter he awakes to find the crew all died in a radiation leak but is cat and her litter survived and have now become humanoid with his new cat the ships computer(Holly)and a hologram of his dead room mate Rimmer hey turn the ship around and start back to earth.
latter they rescue Kryton a android who fusses over them.
In one show Lister says"I have lived over 3 million years given birth to twin sons seen time go backwards but never in my wildest dreams did i think i would find an edible pot noodle".
The show is still running over here but a us pilot failed to get a series started state side.
Writen by Grant-Naylor(Rob and doug)the main cast were Craig Charles Danny John-jules Chris Barry and Norman Lovett with Robert Llewellyn joining in season 3
First born was the story of a hybrid?
When genetic scientist Edward Forester succeeds in making a human gorilla hybrid he finds that funding is cut expecting the baby to die anyway he refuses to kill it instead he takes the baby to a friend who fosters it has a human baby When he and his wife die in a car crash Forester adopts the boy who looks and acts human with one diffrence he can't talk the only sound he can make is "gor" As he grows up with the Forester He will not eat meat.When a doctor finds a cure for his speech problems He seem total human.
Charls Dance headed the cast as Edward Foster with Jamie Foster playing Gord
1989 Not only saw no new shows but saw the end of doctor who after 26 years and 6 changes of leading man.
1990 Kryton joins the crew of red dwarf but again no new shows
1991 The 3rd year in a row without any new shows
1992 Torch was a family show in more ways that one it stared Judy Dench along side her husband Michael Williams and there daughter Finty Williams Set in the future after the collapse of society 5 teenagers find an old man dying He tells them that he is the guardian of a treasure and asks them to take over He begs them to take it and find the games so with the torch they seach around europe were much of the filming was done with locations in Croatia Czechoslovakia Greece and Spain.
6 30 minute episodes were made
1993 A co production with the Austrlian broadcasting corporation saw Ben Eltons Book Stark made into a 3 part drama.
Set in australia were Colin Dobson is looking for a muse to inspire is writing he meets Rachel and falls instantly in lust only to find rejection.
However in trying to get close to her he finds himself caught up in a conspiracy some of the worlds leading business men have decided that the world is doomed and the only thing to do is finish it off for years they have been building a gaint space station to live on until the world is once more fit to live on but first they most destroy whats left.
Ben Elton wrote the book and adapted it for tv he also stared as Colin.
1994-5 No new shows
1996 It was the last request of writer Dennis Potter that the BBC and channel 4 should both show is last two plays cold Lazarus was shown first on the BBC and then repeated the next day on channel 4But the story started in karaoke were a dying writer belives that the characters he created are coming alive.
1997 Crime Traveler it lasted just 8 x 50 minute episodes more a twist on a cop show than sci-fi the show revoled around the idea that a time machine could send you back in time but not far back a few hours a few days they could never tell the show limited itself and as such could not grow.
1998 The sci-fi channel and BBC made invasion earth a six part sci-fi show that would be for adults"This ist't Blake's 7 we're aiming for the scope and style of the Terminator and Alien movies" they missed big time what we got was confused.
the show ended on a cliffhanger but not many people wanted to work out the end.
1999 I can find know new shows this year
2000 when i heard about the return of Randall and Hopkirk (deceased) i had high hopes i loved the old show with Mike Pratt and Kenneth Cope.
However Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer were so bad that not even Tom Baker could help yet this series is still running???
2001+looking back at what the BBC has done over the last 50 years the future of british sci-fi could be very good but i think the BBC need to be more positive.
2005 Doctor Who !
Anderson black and white movie made in 1956.5Hammer Films later filmed it as 'The Abominable Snowman' in 1957.6Ok, sometimes it would take a week.7The last TV episode a radio show was made in the 1990's.