Out Of This World: Little Lost Robot (1962) (DVD TV review).

November 23, 2014 | By | Reply More

Before producer Irene Shubik worked for the BBC to make ‘Out Of The Unknown’, she was with the ITV company ABC and was responsible for a Science Fiction series in 1962 called ‘Out Of This World’. This must not be confused with a later American series from the 80s with the same name. It was groundbreaking stuff and, for the first time, the public was presented with serious productions which were unlike anything that had come before. A total of 13 episodes were made, in black and white, lasting about one hour (including commercials). Names like Isaac Asimov, Clifford D. Simak, Philip K. Dick and John Wyndham appeared but, as with many drama series from this era, most have been lost in the ether. It’s a shame, a crying shame, but at least one still survives that being ‘Little Lost Robot’ by Isaac Asimov.

OutOfThisWorldLittleLostRobotDVD

All is not in vain, however, because in the true spirit of Science Fiction, all we need to do is wait until a faster-than-light space propulsion is developed. We will then be able to travel out into the galaxy to intercept the signals which left Earth all these years ago. At the moment, the TV signals from ‘Out Of This World’ will be about 62 light years away and though extremely weak, future technology will undoubtedly capture them again for our benefit. Likewise, all the TV series which have been lost will be recaptured. An interesting idea but probably very unlikely.

Returning to normality, the DVD containing ‘Little Lost Robot’ is released by the BFI as the last offering in their ‘Sci-Fi: Days Of Fear And Wonder’ series. All material pertaining to this can be found on the BFI website. As with all of the episodes of ‘Out Of This World’, there was an introduction and an ending by Boris Karloff who, in a smart evening suit, would in his own inimitable style guide us towards the action. This was an American idea but it seemed to work and who better than Boris Karloff to carry it out!

The story, ‘Little Lost Robot’, involved Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws Of Robotics. Most readers of this magazine will be familiar with them but to reiterate, they are as follows:-

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the first law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first law or the second law.

Asimov was quite clever in making up these laws which govern robotic behaviour and, who knows, they may be adopted in the future. They may become as ubiquitous as Newton’s or Kepler’s laws!

Gerald Flood does an excellent job of playing engineer Black, a bit of a loudmouth self-righteous guy, irritable and eternally indignant. He also doesn’t like robots. One day, trying to complete a job without much success, he blames his misfortune on the robot assistant and eventually tells him to ‘get lost’ which, of course, with the second law being in place, makes him do exactly as ordered. This causes a problem which affects the entire base and the interstellar project taking place on this outpost far out in the solar system.

Major General Kallner (Clifford Evans) and his second-in-command, Peter Bogert (Murray Hayne) then put out the call for none other than Asimov’s famous robotic expert, Dr. Susan Calvin (Maxine Audley). Some people say she doesn’t like humans and prefers the company of robots. This episode will ultimately see where her true feelings reside and it won’t be in favour of old Black, the guy who caused all the trouble in the first place.

The robot is eventually found but it has merged with 20 other robots all identical and similar in nature. The problem to find the errant robot is very difficult because, to Dr Calvin’s horror, it’s discovered that they have tampered with the first law to make the robots more workable on the interstellar program. This very act could cause a robotic rebellion, something which could precipitate a collapse of society. Discovering the rebellious robot was therefore imperative! It was going to be a very difficult task, one which would tax the abilities of Dr Calvin and the rest of the team.

Made over 50 years ago, the standards of production are very good and it is suggested that if the story was made into a drama today, the results would be nowhere as good. There would be too much temptation to put in exaggerated special effects and unnecessary complications to the plot. While the ABC version is not exactly like Asimov’s story, it’s a good enough rendition. It is the only complete drama on the disc and it is about 50 minutes in duration, that’s all, but it’s something not to miss.

‘Out Of This World’ was a tremendous series, as far as memories from that far back can recall, and it’s a great pity that ‘Little Lost Robot’ is the sole survivor. Not to be outdone, the BFI disc comes with plenty of interesting extras which compensate for this loss.

On the disc you will find an audio commentary with the producer Leonard White. However, the really interesting extras are the audio files of the episodes ‘The Cold Equation’ by Tom Godwin and ‘Imposter’ by Philip K. Dick. The latter was made into a movie about 10 years ago but this audio version, while somewhat different, sticks to the original story to a greater extent. There is also a PDF of the script ‘Dumb Martian’ by John Wyndham. To finish off the presentation, you’ll find an informative booklet with full credits and essays.

The BFI ‘Sci-Fi: Days Of Fear And Wonder’ has been a tremendous event which has brought back gems of the genre to public attention. Maybe they would have disappeared forever into the mists but now with the DVD and Blu-ray collections, we can once again experience these excellent media events. Personally, I rather enjoyed watching them all again and, if you are watching them for the first time, I’m sure you will agree they are very worthwhile.

Rod MacDonald

October 2014

(region 2 DVD: pub: BFI. 1 DVD black and white 52 minute film with extras. Cat: BFIV2021. Price: £19.99 (UK))

cast: Gerald Flood, Clifford Evans, Murray Hayne and Maxine Audley

check out website: http://shop.bfi.org.uk/pre-order-out-of-this-world.html#.VGiBvI1yaM8

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Category: Scifi, TV

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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