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Quatermass Experiment, The (1953)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Episode One: "Contact Has Been Established", originally transmitted on BBC, 18/7/1953

Professor Bernard Quatermass and his team of scientists from the British Experimental Rocket Group have launched a rocket into outer space with three astronauts on board. Launched from Australia and controlled by remote control from Britain, the rocket loses contact when it reaches 1400 miles from Earth.

In the control room, Judith Caroon, wife of astronaut Victor Caroon, believes the crew may still be alive. Quatermass receives a signal that indicates the rocket is heading back towards Earth. In a meeting with Blaker from the ministry Quatermass explains that the rocket is heading straight for Britain. The only way to save the astronauts is by separating their cockpit from the dangerous radioactive body of the rocket, otherwise the rocket may miss the earth altogether.

Quatermass successfully manages to separate the rocket by remote control but it crash lands into a house on Wimbledon Common, South West London. The owners of the house, Mr and Mrs Matthews, are unhurt. A policeman helps Miss Wilde, the old woman who lives upstairs, to safety.

News reaches the BBC news desk and a reporter is put on the case of the 'flying saucer'. A crowd of police, firemen, press and onlookers have gathered at the scene of the crash. Quatermass's team attempts to make contact with the astronauts trapped inside the rocket. Judith silences the crowd, which makes audible a tapping from within.

BBC radio transmits the story to the nation. As a result, an even larger crowd assembles at the scene, including a man with a sandwich board predicting the end of the world. The BBC reporter interviews Quatermass and Judith, who reveals that her farewell message to her husband was "Take care and don't forget to bring something back."

The team make contact with the rocket and the door slides open. An astronaut in a space suit stumbles out. The removal of his helmet reveals it to be Victor Caroon, Judith's husband. Quatermass inspects the inside of the ship but finds no trace of the other two astronauts. He is positive that the rocket door has not been opened since lift off. Quatermass asks Victor what happened to the other men, but before the astronaut can answer, he collapses.