Thursday, November 02, 2006

Nigel Kneale 1922-2006

Nigel Kneale, one of the great pioneering TV drama writers, has died at the age of 84. Although he disliked being known as a science fiction writer, Kneale's Quatermass Experiment in 1953 was the UK's first sci-fi serial. Other work included The Year Of he Sex Olympics (1968, The Stone Tape (1972) and, more recently, episodes of Sharpe and Kavanagh QC.

BBC News has a summary of his career, and tributes from readers.

There are obituaries in The Guardian, The Times, and The Independent.

The Guardian also has an appreciation of Kneale by writer and actor Mark Gatiss.
Born in Lancashire but raised on the Isle of Man, he brought a strange, outsider's perspective to his work. Originally an actor, Kneale began writing short stories, including Jeremy in the Wind and The Photograph.

The acclaim Kneale received brought him to the attention of pioneering BBC producer Rudolph Cartier, and Kneale became a staff writer. The two men struck up an immediate rapport and collaborated on The Quatermass Experiment in 1953. Kneale wrote that it was "an over-confident year" and he piloted his hugely influential tale like a rocket into the drab schedules of Austerity Britain.

Over the decade, Kneale and Cartier produced two more Quatermass serials that emptied pubs, were spoofed by the Goons and Hancock, and cemented themselves in the psyche of a generation. What sci-fi piece of the past 50 years doesn't owe Kneale a huge debt? The "man into monster" theme of Experiment and the paranoid conspiracy of Quatermass II and, particularly, the "ancient invasion" of Quatermass and the Pit cast a huge shadow. The latter - with its brilliant blending of superstition, witchcraft and ghosts into the story of a five-million-year-old Martian invasion - is copper-bottomed genius.

A true pioneer has passed - and the light of Mars will shine a little brighter tonight.

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