Out of the Unknown

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Out of the Unknown is 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. A number of episodes were junked during the early 1970s, as was standard procedure at the time before the video boom. A large number of episodes are still missing but some do turn up from time to time; for instance, Level Seven from series two, originally broadcast on 27 October 1966 was returned to the BBC from the archives of a European broadcaster in January 2006.



Irene Shubik began her career working on educational films for Encyclopædia Britannica Inc 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 sixty minute anthology series hosted by Boris Karloff that ran for thirteen 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.

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