THE QUATERMASS EXPERIMENT (2005) Reviews and overview

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The Quatermass Experiment is a 2005 live BBC TV remake of the 1953 science-fiction TV series of the same name by Nigel Kneale.

Adapted from the original scripts by executive producer Richard Fell, the broadcast was directed by Sam Miller. Kneale acted as a consultant, and Fell and producer Alison Willett had several meetings with the writer at his London home to discuss the script. Science writer and filmmaker Christopher Riley also acted as an advisor on the project, helping to bring the science references in the script up to date.

Although Miller controlled the production’s artistic direction, experienced outside broadcast director Trevor Hampton assisted him in controlling the technical aspects of the live production, which was broadcast from the QinetiQ (ex-Ministry of Defence) Longcross Test Track site in Surrey.

The story is structurally very close to the original, although set in a slightly distorted version of the present day. The climax was moved from Westminster Abbey to the Tate Modern, as the latter was easier to replicate in studio, and there was no visible monster.


Actor Jason Flemyng was cast as Quatermass, with long-time Kneale admirer Mark Gatiss as Paterson, Andrew Tiernan as Carroon, Indira Varma as his wife Judith, David Tennant as Briscoe, Adrian Bower as Fullalove and Adrian Dunbar as Lomax—now a Ministry of Defence official rather than a policeman. Isla Blair was cast as Home Secretary Margaret Blaker, a combination of parts of Lomax’s character and two officials from the original serial.

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The production was the BBC’s first live made-for-television drama broadcast in over twenty years.The broadcast suffered only a few errors, with some fluffed lines, several on- and off-camera stumbles, background sounds occasionally obscuring the dialogue, and, at the programme’s end, a cameraman and sound man appearing in the shot. As the end credits rolled, the cameras showed actors celebrating and congratulating each other; they did not know that they were still on air.


Critic Nancy Banks-Smith in The Guardian complimented the production, and noted that “there were minor bumps in this production. One actor dried … Another made a crashing exit through piles of broken glass left by the monster … The last scene is still gripping … I always said Nigel Kneale was a prophet.” She also commented that, for Tennant, “This was a useful dummy run for … Doctor Who, playing a doctor confronted with a man-eating vegetable.”

In The Times, Sarah Vine wrote that The Quatermass Experiment, “despite not always succeeding dramatically, did, however, serve as a reminder of how a clever story, a good script and some decent acting can be just as effective as millions of pounds worth of special effects”.

The production was released on DVD in October 2005 by DD Home Entertainment, with an audio commentary and other extra features.


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