Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Just heard the sad news that Nigel Kneale, the creator of Quatermass, has died at the ripe old age of 84. It was my privilege to meet Mr Kneale a few years ago, at a weekend held to honour his work in Cardiff.

He was the possessor of a truly astonishing and prophetic imagination, as well as the ability to craft a nail-biting story. I remember him talking about the last Quatermass films made in 1979 (known as the Quatermass Conclusion). The story revolved around young people becoming violent and obsessed with ancient sites like Stonehenge. These sites it turned out were in fact transporters for and alient civilisation to harvest people as food (!) Mr Kneale was telling me that he was always disappointed by the way Euston films had chosen to represent this group as hippies. He saw them as much more aggressive, like hells angels with certain hippie elements. It struck me then is what he was describing was 'crusties,' the traveler movement who stages bloody battles with the police around Stonehenge and other sites in the mid 1980s.

The other thing he envisaged in the 1960s was the rise of reality television. His play, Year of the Sex Olympics, made I think in 1967, described a reality TV programme where the protagonists were stranded on an isolated Scottish island and stalked by a murderer. This was broadcast to a Huxlean society of drugged up masses, fed a television diet of pornography to passify them. Lurid perhaps, but certain parts of the play were uncannily accurate. I asked Mr Kneale how he managed to be so prophetic, and he replied, self-depreciatingly, that the signs were already in the culture if you looked for them.

A sad fact is that some of his work was wiped by the BBC in the 1970s in a tape saving economy dive. The most famous example was his play, The Road, an extraordinary tale of a 17th century community that are haunted by visions from the future, of people fleeing a nuclear war. I really hope that some recording of that turns up one day, in the meantime, maybe the BBC will repeat The Stone Tape, which is the most fantastic television ghost story ever committed to videotape.

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