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Your Wednesday Night In...

Your Wednesday Night In… November 1979

Wednesday, 14th November 1979


It’s near sacrilege to say so, but those black and white Quatermass stories can be quite difficult to get into.  Not so, the paradoxically zippy AND stately ITVised version that came to our screens complete with a wonderfully sympathetic titular performance from John (Johnny) Mills and sterling support from the inestimable Simon (More Tommy) Macmanimalcorkindale. “It was originally for the BBC,” remembered writer Nigel (fairies and bogeys) Kneale back in 2003. “But they lost heart in it.  They said it was too gloomy.” In this final episode, “An Endangered Species”, Quatermass kills himself.


There was something hypnotic about this Filmation cartoon series, perhaps thanks to its cyclical backgrounds and repeated sequences and, of course, the stock pterodactyl shriek audio effect that was the sound for a generation of TV watchers (up there with the “double” “double” FX on Name that Tune). Still, this animated version did attempt to stick close to the original source text and for that it should be commended.  Oh, except for the episode with the robot Tarzan.  Tonight’s double-bill gave us Tarzan And The Haunted Forest and Tarzan And The Island Of Dr Morphos.

You know the drill.  Children’s telly is coming to end on BBC1 (it’s only some grotty old E Nesbit adaptation), while on ITV its News at 5.45.  The net result? A nation’s juveniles actively seek out some black and white telly in the shape of this Universal Pictures 1938 serial.  Of course, irrespective of who made them, the given name for programmes of this ilk was “republic serials”.  Pulpy and avowedly schlocky, this episode (“13 – Miracle of Magic”) first rocked up on the BBC some two years previously and featured Flash getting into some kind of scrape that was effortlessly reframed in the next episode, in order to ensure the adventure’s continuance.



  1. THX 1139

    November 14, 2018 at 11:03 am

    Ah, Wembley Stadium daubed in graffiti reading “KILL” – a sure sign of dystopia. Kneale always was a grump, and he still had the fun of writing Halloween III to come, where his big idea was killing off America’s innocently celebrating children.

    I loved the Filmation Tarzan, but now all I can remember about it was that instead of saying “Ungawa” like Johnny Weissmuller did, he would opt for the briefer “Unk”. He did do that, didn’t he?

    Buster Crabbe was a Tarzan too, of course.

  2. richardpd

    November 17, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    Over 10 years later the BBC were still occasionally digging out serials like Undersea Kingdom to fill out the Xmas children’s schedules.

  3. Glenn Aylett

    November 18, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    BBC Two often had the best alternatives to the news on the two main channels in the late seventies and early eighties. You had Laurel and Hardy, Will Hay films, Doctor Who and Grange Hill repeats, and cult series like Monkey. Nowadays it’s just game shows.

  4. richardpd

    November 18, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    I remember shows like The Adventure Game, MASH & Mission: Impossible in the 1980s, then in the 1990s, The Man From UNCLE & ITC back catalogue picked up by the BBC.

  5. Glenn Aylett

    November 18, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    BBC Two always seemed to have this knack of giving viewers a decent alternative to the news and seemed to cater quite well to cult fans. Obviously the massive success of Neighbours in the late eighties and early nineties meant they stopped trying in the 5.30 slot, but well into the nineties at 6.00, you had re runs of great shows like The New Avengers and The Man From Uncle.
    On a different note and shown on Saturdays just after the ITV strike, anyone recall The Racing Game, a Dick Francis series about a retired jockey who exposed scams and frauds in horse racing? Border used to re run it in afternoon slots in the early eighties, but the show seems to have fallen off the radar.

  6. Droogie

    November 22, 2018 at 12:41 am

    Loved the 6pm BBC2 schedules as a kid in the early 80’s. I had my first black and white TV in my room, so would happily watch anything other than the news or soap operas that were on the other channels instead. Harold Lloyd, old serials like King Of The Rocket Men, Will hay and George Formby movies, Monkey Magic… I also recall them screening old horror movies that weren’t too scary in that slot too, like the original Mighty Joe Young or The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. (But they also showed the terrifying Legend Of Boggy Creek, which traumatised most kids who saw it. )

    • THX 1139

      November 22, 2018 at 12:08 pm

      The Legend of Boggy Creek! You thought, well this will be alright, I watched Invaders from Mars last week and was OK, but you’re right, it was bloody scary. I watched it again years later and it is quite atmospheric, but no longer frightening, not on the Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World level of unnerving it had been back in the 80s.

  7. Droogie

    November 22, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    I’m sure it does indeed look dated now, but I remember it’s handheld documentary style being vey effective in scaring the shizz out of a sensitive kid. It sounds funny now, but they showed a close-up of someone’s dead pet cat who was discovered dead supposedly from terror after seeing the Monster. The look on that poor kitty’s face haunted me for weeks.

  8. Glenn Aylett

    September 14, 2022 at 7:30 pm

    I was introduced to Will Hay at the end of the seventies thanks to BBC Two re running all his films every Thursday. Perhaps dated even then, but Hay playing an incompetent buffoon was always worth a laugh and also a young Charles Hawtrey played his best role as a too clever by half schoolboy in Where’s That Fire.

  9. Richardpd

    September 14, 2022 at 10:11 pm

    Oh! Mr Porter is a very funny film with Will Hay.

  10. Glenn Aylett

    September 15, 2022 at 10:08 pm

    @ Richardpd, they were good to watch even 40 years later and Ask A Policeman was later remade as the infamous Boys In Blue.

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