‘Undermind’ was a Science Fiction series made by ABC television in the UK in 1965, in black and white of course, with 11 episodes each lasting 60 min. ABC made very good television back in the 60s, some of it like this which was very good indeed so we should be thankful that Network DVD has rescued the series and put it on for sale, otherwise it’s very unlikely that it would ever be shown on TV again. In fact, Network has done a good job in packaging the episodes into a presentable format which we can watch today.
Don’t look for anything flashy with ‘Undermind’. You won’t find music, special effects or even deadly weapons. You’ll just get old-fashioned drama which surprisingly turns out to be very effective. Having seen ‘Undermind’ on TV when it originally appeared all these years ago, my memories were rekindled and it was quite easy to familiarise myself with the story but for those of you out there who haven’t, it’s still worth watching. You are dipping back into history, almost fifty years ago, and be prepared to see different people and mannerisms, different culture and urban landscape. However, in other respects, it’s not that much different from today.
It starts in an innocuous manner when a policeman, Frank (played by Jeremy Kemp), provokes an argument with a senior politician in a pub. The scandal eventually makes the politician commit suicide but when Frank’s brother, Andrew Herriot (Jeremy Wilkins), arrives from Australia, he discovers that his brother is not the same person he knew before. Along with his sister-in-law, Anne (Rosemary Nichols), he investigates the situation and finds, to his horror, that Frank is very strange indeed. With no morals, Frank kills a psychiatrist and even attempts to kill Andrew himself. It’s discovered that his brainwaves do not show any activity except for the susceptibility to ultrasonic signals which seem to be controlling him. Frank is eventually killed but, on his death, he indicates that there are many more like himself.
The series was created by Robert Banks-Stewart, who also wrote some of the episodes. He was also responsible for several ‘Doctor Who’ episodes. As the series progresses, matters become more and more sinister with Andrew and Anne coming up against the controlled people. The question was, who was responsible for controlling the mind of many citizens, formerly honest and upright characters, making them do evil deeds to destabilise society? It transpires that it was a signal coming from space. Seemingly aliens were trying to stop society from functioning, at which point they would probably invade. We never see the aliens but the effects are very apparent.
Many famous actors of the day make appearances, including Derek Nimmo and John Barron. This isn’t Americanised TV with flashing lights and dramatic music, rather it is quiet, sometimes slow, but eerily menacing. Were it to be made today, it would be totally different in character so here you have got something quite unique which will never be repeated. In many respects, it has the same sort of atmosphere prevalent in the spy drama ‘Callan’, which was made some years later.
At the end of the 11 episodes, we actually come to a distinct ending. Of course, this can’t be revealed but I can say that the tension increases all the way through until the end. I don’t think anybody will be disappointed. In conclusion, if you are of a mind to enjoy this particular type of drama, purchasing ‘Undermind’ will be rewarding. It’s probably not for some of the younger generation today who would probably find it boring but for those with a bit more patience, this is the stuff for you.
(region 2 DVD: pub: Network DVD B0074M7LKY. 3 DVDs 11 * 60 minute black and white episodes. Price: £22.00 (UK))
cast: Jeremy Wilkins and Rosemary Nicholls
check out website: www.networkdvd.co.uk