Weird old title sequences: Out of the Unknown (1965-1971)

Out of the Unknown

I’m in a bit of a rush today, so I’m just mostly going to copy and paste WikiPedia to deal with the very weird old title sequence of Out of the Unknown, which truly is a Lost Gem.

Out of the Unknown was a British television science fiction anthology drama series, produced by the BBC and broadcast on BBC2 in four series between 1965 and 1971. Each episode was an independent dramatisation of a separate science fiction short story. Some were written directly for the series, but most were adaptations of already published stories. The first three years were exclusively science-fiction based, but that genre was abandoned in the final year in favour of horror/fantasy stories.

Irene Shubik began her career working on educational films for Encyclopædia Britannica in Chicago before returning home to London where she joined ABC Television as a story editor on the anthology series Armchair Theatre under producer Sydney Newman in 1960. Shubik had been a science fiction fan since college and in 1961 approached Newman with a proposal to create a science fiction version of Armchair Theatre. This became Out of this World, a 60 minute anthology series hosted by Boris Karloff that ran for 13 episodes between June and September 1962. Many of the episodes were adaptations of stories by science fiction writers, including John Wyndham, Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick.

After he was poached by the BBC to head their drama department in late 1962, Sydney Newman invited Shubik to join him at the BBC and, on the condition that she be promoted to producer within nine months, she made the move in November 1963. At this time the BBC was preparing to launch BBC2 and Shubik was assigned as story editor to Story Parade, another anthology series that was to be a major part of the new channel’s drama output. One of the productions she worked on for Story Parade was an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s novel The Caves of Steel, starring Peter Cushing, broadcast in 1964. The success of The Caves of Steel led Shubik to approach Newman to develop a science fiction anthology series. Newman agreed and Shubik was appointed story editor for what would become Out of the Unknown.

Of the 49 episodes of Out of the Unknown that were made, only 20 survive in their entirety, mainly from season one, because they were junked during the early 1970s, as was standard procedure for the BBC. Well done, Beeb, as always.

Here, though, is a complete episode of Out of the Unknown, complete with extraordinarily weird title sequence. It’s The Machine Stops, written by EM Forster (yes, of Howard’s End fame), in which a future civilisation, which lives underground supported entirely by the Machine, forgets that it created the Machine and begins to worship it.

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