Quatermass and The Pit part 3

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    Craig @craig

    Episode 3. Things get much spookier…

    Following the fright at the end of Episode 2, Quatermass wants to know more about the figure that was seen, earlier reported sightings of The Hobbs (or Hob’s) Lane Ghost and other occult references. In addition, he thinks it may be possible to open the sealed compartment within the object using a borazon drill and an attempt is made.

    Part 1: http://www.thedoctorwhoforum.com/forums/topic/quatermass-and-the-pit-part-1/

    Part 2: http://www.thedoctorwhoforum.com/forums/topic/quatermass-and-the-pit-part-2/

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    Things are indeed getting much spookier. We start with Private West, shaken and horrified. Claustrophobia? Overheard the ‘boffins’ talking about black magic?

    It doesn’t seem so. Again, I’m admiring the adventurous direction on this episode; the cameras are set up so that one camera is at the (unseen) end of the ‘UXB’, shooting straight into the interior, facing the front. The others are all on the outside. It allows the action to move quickly between outside and the inside.

    Ah, those days when they thought brandy was good for shock… 🙂

    A neat bit of undercutting of the sceptical attitude in the script. No one believes Private West – until Barbara Judd starts reading out the 1927 description. West, of course, is too young to know about the 1927 outbreak.

    Another way of telling the difference between the filmed inserts and ‘live’ – when the actors are enthusiastically digging up piles of mud, it’s filmed. When they’re trying not to pick-axe the studio floor – it’s studio. 🙂 But the deeply unconvincing digging does its job; Corporal Gibson is able to give the hidden hatch a good whack. But if it unscrewed from the inside – who or what came out?

    Ghost stories. Hob’s Lane has a reputation for ghost stories that keep getting earlier and earlier and the ‘UXB’ keeps getting stranger and stranger. The material it’s made of can resist concentrated heat.

    And both Quatermass and Breen are getting increasingly worried. Ghost stories. They don’t want these stories going wild; even Captain Potter doesn’t want West talking to the other men. Ghost stories have a habit of spreading. Ghost stories also have a tradition that it’s cold where ghosts appear; “it’s getting perishing cold down here.” Even the birds are freezing to death. Captain Potter and the Sergeant are getting what looks very like frostbite.

    I always like Sladden, the drill operator. Richard Shaw was in Doctor Who as well; Underworld, Frontier in Space and an early Hartnell. Equally, by this point, I’m starting to want to smack Colonel Breem.

    They’re both lovely performances; Anthony Bushell did generally prefer to be called Major Bushell rather than Mr Bushell, but reports from his extensive work with Lawrence Olivier and as a BBC producer suggest that his talent for playing military martinets was observation-from-experience rather than his real personality. He was invariably described as ‘affable’, ‘fun’ and ‘a great joy to have around’.

    Whee! It’s the BBC Radiophonic Workshop! Providing the spooky sound effects for the mysterious ‘echo’. The one that flies all around the Pit. Incidentally, you may notice that the Pit appears to be dug deeper and deeper. It’s not – the floor always has to be the studio floor. What they did instead was raise the walls higher and higher and move the builders hut ever upwards. In episode one it was on the floor of the studio; then it was at the top of a ramp, now it’s up a ramp and a ladder.

    One of the very few faults in Nigel Kneale’s script is that he appears to have confused ‘paleontologist’ with ‘anthropologist’ – or maybe it was just that he needed Roney to be expert in both fields. Anyway, the point is that the ghost stories about Hob’s Lane go back centuries. And always end by saying that the place was ‘long notorious’ for weird happenings.

    In case you’d forgotten that this is a science-fiction serial and not a horror story, Quatermass posits that ‘ghost stories’ might simply be a description of genuine but badly understood/observed phenomena.

    Nice to see that, even in the 1950’s, you couldn’t escape from journalists. 😉

    The drill bit didn’t work, but a hole is slowly appearing in the bulkhead. And breaks through by itself – with an inrush of air. Quatermass has worked out, meanwhile, that it’s all about disturbances of the ground. Every time the ground around Hob’s Lane is disturbed, these events occur. And they’re always described as frightening, as evil.

    The demons.

    That’s the last shot of the episode; a monster that could grace any episode of Doctor Who with pride. I can’t imagine what impact it must have made on a TV audience in 1959. Horned, three legged, vaguely like a giant insect – and dead.

    They’ve been dead for a long time.

    ScaryB @scaryb


    Thanks as ever for the background info. Not a lot to add but it’s nipping along nicely.

    That journalist isn’t half persistent! Love how he basically just walks into high security area and then doesn’t leave. You can see why he’s the hot-shot newshound!  Also liked the pre-google research, with the seriously creepy and creaky librarian.

    But I agree, some lovely direction and dialogue; and the models at the end are pretty good, especially since they would be designed for lo res TV sets.  One thing I didn’t get was the hole in the door – was that a perception filter sort of thing that they didn’t realise initially that the drilling had been effective?

    And next week’s is creepier you say? <brrr :mrgreen: >


    Whisht @whisht

    ye-gods – I loved this episode!

    Although probably a ‘between’ episode in terms of storyline (I haven’t seen this before but guess there’s a discover-reveal-denouement to it all with this being a protracted ‘reveal’) I really liked almost everything about this one.

    Bluesqueakpip – I could have sworn I saw a trick shot where they threw the photos at the newshound. Surely the camera couldn’t swing that fast and true?!?

    Also Blue – I’ll have to sneak ahead as I’m away from next week for about 3 weeks (holiday finally!) so will watch and make notes and then post when I’m back. I’ll be “off the grid” so can’t post in-time. Makes me remember what it was like before video recorders!

    and ok, I’ve now stopped feeling smug about the “Hob’s” spot, but I recognised the word (hobgoblin and other weird places) and it was so obvious at the start with the camera lingering on the double street name (which for those outside of UK is quite common still in old parts of London).

    btw – Roney says “pentacles” but what I could see weren’t pentacles at all.
    They’re instead circles and 8 sided (not 5).

    Funnily enough they look… Gallifreyan!


    Whisht @whisht

    oh, and I feel that Breen is softening slightly. He’s a career soldier, he cannot allow himself (or others) to seem ‘weak’ and cannot allow for scientists to be right (if that means military is ‘wrong’). So although what could be a pretty obvious cardboard character ‘opposite’ of Quatermass, I feel that he’s mellowing toward the scientists week by week. Still, not someone I’d have got on with(!) but just saying on first viewing I feel he’s developing as a character (and a character that’s meant to be opposite to the ‘hero’).

    now, on to episode 4 (luckily no storm outside!)

    [doh! I think I was wrong – there are five circles methinks – I was looking at the intersection ‘points’ as I’m used to star pentacles made from triangles]

    [when i say “used o seeing” I mean that in a “iwatchtvandfilms” way not “iusuallysummondemonsthatway way]


    Thujone @thujone


    I stumbled upon this site a couple of days ago and saw you were watching the greatest science fiction serial ever made for television (IMHO), so I’ve brought myself up to date by watching episodes 1-3 today with a view to joining in.

    Whisht is right that the markings that we see inside the projectile (or whatever it is) don’t constitute a pentacle (nor, come to that, are they “cabalistic”).  It’s something that’s always annoyed me.  Roney is evidently a palaeontologist who likes to dabble in other subjects (cf his duff mind-reading equipment):  apparently he recognises the markings from somewhere, but isn’t sufficiently up in the subject to name them properly.  [In real life, I think the designer let Kneale down here.]

    Andre Morell is superb as Quatermass:  the moment in episode 1 when he resignedly identifies the content of the sandwiches as “cheese” completely sells the character to me, though I would be hard put to it to say exactly why.  But then all the cast are excellent (I love Anthony Bushell’s delivery of the “Then I’m glad you don’t talk about it” line in this episode, and I’d single out Christine Finn’s portrayal of the intelligent, rather mousey, Miss Judd for special praise).

    Can’t wait till next week…


    ScaryB @scaryb


    I agree – strangest looking pentacle I’ve ever seen! Would never pass muster in a Denis Wheatley book/film 😉

    And yes, you’re right, it does look more Gallifreyan than anything.  With that, and the dual timestream hint of the Hobs v Hobbs Lane, I think you could be on to something!

    @thujone Welcome. I agree with you re Andre Morell – it’s not a showy characterisation, but it’s quietly quirky. Quite third Doctorish in some ways. Miss Judd reminds me quite a lot of Susan at times.

    his duff mind-reading equipment

    That seems such a random invention, I’m guessing it will have some significance later!

    Anonymous @

    @whisht  yes indeed the pentangles?? Were they?  Holidays whist….No!  purely selfish, I’ll miss your real-time posts and music ‘threading’ – or for correct terminology, we should say ‘braiding’, when thinking of Trenzalore. Loved the beautiful vocal articulation in Part 3 above : no mumblings and endless: “what they say? I have to rewind it …again.” I also loved the pace and ‘calm’ acting: nothing unnecessarily hysterical. Kindest, puro.

    Whisht @whisht

    Welcome @thujone – so much to agree with you about!

    The pentacles…. well, I did a bit of googling (as you do) and couldn’t find anything cabbalistic (as you rightly say), so I wonder if the designer was more influenced by the design of the craft itself, with its circles, circular doors etc.

    The 5 overlapping circles create a 5-pointed design (‘star’) of ovals.
    Which looks more like a Flower of Life, or indeed a Seed of Life? (won’t risk embedding that as it looks like a svg file and the interwebs might explode).

    Completely agree as to Andre Morrel – I too thought the cheese sandwich look was perfect. For me he hits the right notes of frustration and anger with Breen – I think he’s brilliant quite frankly.

    chickenelly @chickenelly

    Hurrah, now that The Bridge is finished on the telly, now to turn my mind to all things sci-fi.

    I watched the three episodes in a row and really got into it, and was all for jumping ahead.  But, I’ll stick to the spirit of this blog and save myself for next week.  Thoughts, in my favourite form, a list:

    1) Pentangle.  It did look like the patterns we used to do in primary school with a pair of compasses.

    2) I like the creepy backstory about the sightings, it did remind me of Kneale’s Stone Tape though.

    3) Spotting actors who later turn up in something else.  @ScaryB mentioned Mark Eden who was in the first episode later appeared as Marco Polo.  I’m afraid when I spotted him, I immediately thought of him getting run over by a Blackpool tram after trying to bump off Rita Fairclough in Corrie.

    Thujone @thujone

    Speaking of actors who later turn up in something else, Michael Ripper (Sergeant) and Richard Shaw (Sladden) reappear together in Series 6 of Freewheelers (1971) as a pair of comic villains in a cast that also includes Ronald Leigh-Hunt, Wendy Padbury, Kevin Stoney, and Jerome Willis.  The series is available on DVD, but I wouldn’t recommend watching it until after Quatermass has finished.

    Arbutus @arbutus

    @bluesqueakpip   I also loved the drill operator’s remark about insurance! Good point about the paleontology / anthropology confusion. We could assume that the anthropologic knowledge was a hobby or a sideline. Lots of scientists have a certain amount of knowledge of other disciplines. The final view of the aliens, brilliant!

    @whisht   Yes, we’re obviously not meant to find Breen sympathetic, and yet he’s clearly far from stupid. He comes up with a plan to carry on drilling in a way that he believes will be safe, rather than just let’s get in there and try again. He’s just pretty blinkered and single-minded. (And I won’t judge how you have summoned demons in the past, but in my coven, we use circular pentacles all the time!  😈 )

    @thujone   Nice inclusion of both in-story and real-world explanations for the circular “pentacles”. And of course, I haven’t seen the rest of the episodes yet, but I’m assuming that as they are in fact alien markings, this could explain their difference from actual cabbalistic signs.

    Final thought: I like that Miss Judd, she pays attention!

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip


    One thing I didn’t get was the hole in the door

    It appears all by itself. Sladden states quite firmly that it was nowhere near the place he’d been drilling.


    I could have sworn I saw a trick shot where they threw the photos at the newshound. Surely the camera couldn’t swing that fast and true?!?

    It was a really good intercut between the two cameras being used. The first camera (focussed on the editor and reporters) swings round as the editor throws the clipboard, and then the director cut to the second camera – which was already focussed on Fullerlove – as the first camera begins to lose the shot.

    I agree that this is the episode where we see Breem at his best. He’s just as focussed on solving the problem as Quatermass; we can see the two of them beginning to develop a working relationship.

    ScaryB – yes, I paid for being a bad Bluesqueakpip and running ahead. Next week’s episode gets a BSP rating of ‘behind the sofa AND clutching teddy bear’. 😀

    The Krynoid Man @thekrynoidman

    Might I suggest watching the 1981 BBC adaptation of Day of the Triffids after we’ve finished Quatermass.

    Whisht @whisht

    @thekrynoidman – John* Duttine??!!? I remember that!

    I should head over to the TV Shows thread to post something about To Serve Them All My Days but all I can remember is a complete feeling of crushing sorrow/ yearning/ ache/ regret that that programme gave me.

    It was brilliant, but all I remember is the feeling, like a musty ‘back-of-an-old-wardrobe-full-of-a-elderly-person’s-clothes’ smell or a sodden enveloping weight.

    I wish I had clearer memories (I think that about a lot of my life, but at least I can blame the later lack on alcohol).

    (* I misremembered as “Paul” so thanks Google for saving my blushes. oops)

    Monochrome Dimension @monochromedimension

    Radiophonic Workshop!

    Anyhow… this is getting creepy, and possibly alien? But its very interesting that the strange happenings in that area have been going on for years. That ending scene of this episode was freaky… they do look more like aliens to me though.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip


    Yes, the Radiophonic Workshop!

    Quatermass is an SF/horror series, not straight horror, so they are more likely to be aliens.

    I’ve heard that the bit with one of the creatures suddenly dropping down was originally an accident. It happened during rehearsal, and everyone jumped out of their skins. So they kept it in. 😉

    PhaseShift @phaseshift
    Time Lord

    These are really comments on Episodes 2 and 3, because I’m catching up and others including @bluesqueakpip are covering other points so well. I’d wholeheartedly agree with the comment on Episodes 2 blog about this being very effective horror. Stephen King, also agreed, co-opting elements in his novel The Tommyknockers. Eps 2 and 3 really do a lot to advance a sense of creeping unease about the object and the area they are working in as @whisht observes.

    Particularly effective at the time I would think is the exchange with the Policeman in Episode 2. A (presumably) level headed man-of-the-law who is really not comfortable talking or being in the house that terrified him as a child. It’s Dixon of Dock Green getting the heeby-jeebies!

    I think this is why I prefer the serial to the film. Each serve their own purposes but the serial is far superior at cranking up the tension as we come to understand that this object has had a long term impact.

    The end reveals another key plus for me – the creature design. I absolutely love it compared to the film version, which disappointed me by being a bit..well, bland. Differences below (to be honest, the colour palette of the film did nothing for the design.)

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