Star Archive

Nigel Kneale (1922 - 2006)

There are few writers more revered in television history than Nigel Kneale. His Quatermass Experiment serial redefined what television could do, emptied the streets on broadcasts and made Kneale the first writer to be a television "name". This does rather overshadow his film work which, though lesser, is still significant.

He was born in Barrow in Furness but the family moved to the Isle of Man. He began studying for a career in Manx law, but chucked it in to try his hand at acting and went to RADA. In 1950 he won the prestigious Somerset Maugham Award for a collection of short stories. Even in the 1950s short story writing was not a lucrative business so he joined the BBC as one of their two staff scriptwriters. At first he concentrated on adaptations, but when a gap in the schedule appeared he persuaded producer Rudolph Cartier to mount a sci-fi serial. The six-part Quatermass Experiment, broadcast live, gripped the nation and by the third episode Hammer was already bidding for the film rights. Kneale followed this up with an adaptation of Orwell's 1984 which caused a storm with its horrific Room 101 scene.

The Quatermass Xperiment (the 'X' emphasised for the new adults-only certificate) was enough of a hit to put the struggling Hammer Studios on a sound financial footing and to change its strategy from cheap TV and radio adaptations to all-out horror. Kneale also adapted his sequel Quatermass II and a single play The Creature (as The Abominable Snowman) for Hammer.

As well as his work setting up Hammer's strand of British horror, Kneale also helped kickstart the 60s kitchen-sink cycle with two adaptations for Woodfall: Look Back in Anger and The Entertainer. By the end of the 60s his film work was all but done and he returned to television.

The 70s were productive with The Stone Tape, Beasts and a final Quatermass serial but his work in the 80s was largely unsuccessful. His sci-fi sitcom Kinvig was irredeemably dreadful and he took his name off his attempt to take the Halloween franchise in a different direction when the producers wanted to up the horror. Despite this decline he was a "name" to the generation of sci-fi/horror fans who grew up with his work, and a couple of years before his death the BBC mounted a rare live production of Quatermass.

He was married to The Tiger Who Came to Tea author Judith Kerr for over 60 years.  



1955 The Quatermass Xperiment
1957 Quatermass II
1957 The Abominable Snowman
1959 Look Back in Anger
1960 The Entertainer
1962 HMS Defiant
1964 First Men in the Moon
1966 The Witches
1967 Quatermass and the Pit
1982 Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Nigel Kneale at Amazon UK  

Nigel Kneale at Amazon US