Professor Bernard Quatermass pioneered an ambitious UK rocket development programme and was the creator of the British Experimental Group. The commanding and exacting character was created by Nigel Kneale (1922-2006), who was himself one of the pioneering authors of British television drama. His three challenging and dramatic, six-part Quatermass serials were must-see viewing for BBC TV audiences in the 1950s, before a fourth and final outing was created for ITV in 1979. All four series were adapted into cinema movies, before Quatermass made his final outing on BBC Radio 3 in 1995, reflecting on his life's work.
It is a shame that only the first two episodes of The Quatermass Experiment are preserved. Unusually, it's not that the others were wiped or burned. The method of preserving television programmes on film was still in its infancy in 1953, and based on the quality of episodes one and two, the results were not deemed to be of high enough quality to justify the expense of recording the following four episodes. The shows were performed live, broadcast from the BBC's original TV studios at Alexandra Palace in North London, whence they subsequently vanished into the ether, and into the memories of impressionable viewers...
The third story in the Quatermass canon is my favourite of all; equally I consider its 1967 Hammer adaptation to be the best of the Quatermass films. The upshot is that aliens have been on Earth since prehistory, straightforward enough. Yet the manner in which the narrative threads unfold and their devastating consequences are hugely disconcerting. The Martians indoctrinated prehistoric Man with their higher intelligence and race characteristics: a colonisation by proxy. When a Martian capsule is unearthed on a modern London building site, it is found to contain the remains of three Martians and numerous augmented ape men. The ship releases a wave of paranormal energy that possesses the city, tapping into the dormant Martian mental faculties bred into Mankind and provoking a gigantic race purge in the style of ancient Mars (and curiously reminiscent of the race riots affecting Britain and America at the time - Kneale was an adept social commentator). In effect, WE are now the Martians, and must do all we can to avoid their destructive example.
In 1972 the BBC entered into discussions with Nigel Kneale to produce a new four-part Quatermass drama. The project was abandoned in 1973 due to budget issues, despite the start of model photography and Kneale carrying out script re-writes. The scripts sat on the shelf until 1977 when they were picked up by Euston Films, the subsidiary of Thames Television, for a million-pound ITV production starring John Mills. The 4x50mins episodes were then edited into a theatrical release entitled The Quatermass Conclusion.