Way back when I started this blog, one of the things I promised to do was review the DVD of The Omega Factor, a 1970s show of extreme weirdness. I never did review it (well, not properly), but this is a good second best, I reckon.
Made by BBC Scotland and starring James Hazeldine and Louise Jameson (Leela off Doctor Who), The Omega Factor was The X-Files of its day. Hazeldine plays Tom Crane, a journalist who comes up to Edinburgh to investigate the paranormal for an article he’s writing. While there, he comes into contact with a genuine psychic, Drexel, who is reputed to be one of the two surviving ‘men of power’. Tom accuses him of fraud, so Drexel gives him a minor demonstration of power. But it’s not enough to put Tom off his investigations, so Drexel causes Tom to crash his car, killing his wife in the process.
Tom eventually returns to Edinburgh to continue his investigations, where he’s recruited by Department 7, a top-secret government unit conducting experiments into the paranormal. They theorise – correctly – that Tom himself has psychic powers, which is why Drexel was worried about him. Indeed, Tom is soon able to solve a murder using ‘psychic visions’, visions that mysteriously incorporate the Greek letter Omega.
Subsequent episodes see Tom helping Department 7 with their experiments into his own powers as well as investigations into haunted houses, telekinesis and more. Department 7 soon reveals itself to use suspect methods, even covertly experimenting on Tom’s brother. But over time, it becomes apparent that a secret group called Omega has infiltrated Department 7, has been working with Drexel and has a plan to take over governments using mind-control. I won’t spoil it for you by revealing any more of the plot though.
The show was very popular at the time, popular enough that it was left with a cliffhanger ending, but thanks to Mary Whitehouse declaring it ‘thoroughly evil’, it never got that second series.
I didn’t watch it at the time – way too young – but caught up with it in the early 90s through VHS copies. These weren’t very good and I never saw the final three episodes. But through the murky haze, I perceived this to be possibly the scariest TV programme ever made.
Unfortunately, once I had a crystal clear DVD version and the final three episodes, I discovered it wasn’t – I’d been filling in the gaps with my own imagination – which was a shame, but it’s definitely in the top ten. There are some incredibly interesting pieces of direction and scripting: in particular there’s one scene where someone is ‘possessed’ and the mental struggle between Tom and the possessor is done entirely theatrically, rather than using effects.
Anyway, here are the dead spooky titles and a few dead spooky seconds of the first episode to give you an idea of just how weird and spooky it was. I heartily recommend you get it on DVD, if you can, but someone nice has uploaded the whole series to YouTube and even set up a playlist if you don’t want to go that far.