Posts Tagged ‘robot’

r u r, karel capek, bbc, robot, science fiction

The BBC screened adaptations of the 1920 play R.U.R. by Karel Čapek in 1938 & 1948. The word ‘robot’ was originally coined in this play.

Doctor Who may well be the longest-running science-fiction television series in the UK, having been broadcast for 33 seasons since 1963, but it wasn’t the first science-fiction programme. That distinction belongs to a 35-minute abridged adaptation of a 1920 play by the Czech writer Karel Čapek, called R.U.R. (sub-titled Rossum’s Universal Robots) which presents a world which first exploits its new servile creations, robots, and is then dominated by them. It was produced by the BBC on 11 February 1938, and it is the first known piece of television science fiction anywhere in the world. A full ninety-minute live production of R U R was produced on 4 March 1948.

quatermass experiment, bbc, 1953, science fiction

The Quatermass Experiment was made by the BBC in 1953. It was Britain’s first science fiction TV programme aimed at an adult audience

In the summer of 1953, BBC staff writer Nigel Kneale created, together with director and producer Rudolph Cartier, the six-part serial The Quatermass Experiment, the first of several Quatermass serials. It was Britain’s first science fiction television programme aimed at an adult audience. Only the first two episodes were recorded, and these only as poor-quality tele-recordings. These are the oldest BBC recordings of any fictional series today. Note that as colour television was only introduced in the UK in July 1967, all programmes up to then were in black and white.

On 12 December 1954, a live adaptation of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, produced by the BBC’s Quatermass team, achieved the highest television ratings since the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. It was so controversial that it was debated in Parliament, and campaigners tried unsuccessfully to have the second performance the following Thursday banned.

Britain’s first commercial television network, Independent Television, was launched in September 1955 as a competitor to the BBC. According to most buffs and compilers of TV history, commercial television’s first science-fiction serial was Pathfinders In Space, produced by ABC, a network licensee, in 1960. This was followed by the sequels Pathfinders to Mars (1960) and Pathfinders to Venus (1961). However this was not the first. Several science-fiction serials were in fact produced not long after the launch of commercial television, but if any recordings of them were made, they have been lost.

the strange world of planet x, film, tv serial, science fiction

The title still from the film version of The Strange World of Planet X released in 1958. No recordings of the earlier TV serial made in 1956 are believed to exist

In September 1956, ATV (Associated Television), the licensee for London weekend television, produced The Strange World of Planet X, shown in six 25-minute episodes as part of its Saturday Serial anthology series. Scientists discover a formula giving access to the fourth dimension – the  unification of time and space – and, with others, are transported to the abstractly arid Planet X. It presented the fairly cerebral concept of the fourth dimension and time travel in an engrossing way that held the attention of audiences for nearly two months on the fledgling network, this at a time when there were only a relatively small number of television sets in England. I can remember watching the programme and feeling scared as the scientists stared through a screen into a dark experimental chamber where some frightening transformation was taking place.

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