Out of This World (UK TV series)

Out of This World (UK TV series)
Out of This World
OOTW Karloff.jpg
Boris Karloff hosting Out of this World
Format Anthology
Science fiction
Created by Irene Shubik
Presented by Boris Karloff
Country of origin  United Kingdom
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 13
Producer(s) Leonard White
Running time c. 60 min. per episode
Original channel ABC Television (UK)
Original run 30 June 1962 – 22 September 1962
Related shows Armchair Theatre

Out of This World is a British science fiction anthology television series made by ABC Television and broadcast in 1962. A spin-off from the popular anthology series Armchair Theatre, each episode was introduced by the actor Boris Karloff. Many of the episodes were adaptations of stories by science fiction writers including Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick and Clifford D. Simak. The series is generally seen as a precursor to the BBC science fiction anthology series Out of the Unknown.



Series creator 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. A science fiction fan since college, Shubik approached Newman during the summer of 1961 with the notion of making a science fiction version of Armchair Theatre, similar to the Armchair Mystery Theatre spin-off that specialised in crime and mystery stories. Shubik had already commissioned several science fiction tinged scripts for Armchair Theatre such as “The Omega Mystery” and “The Ship That Couldn't Stop”. However, the production that acted as a template for what would become Out of This World was “Murder Club”, an adaptation of Robert Sheckley’s short story The Seventh Victim, starring Richard Briers, that aired under the Armchair Theatre banner on 3 December 1961. Also around this time the BBC had scored a notable hit with the science fiction thriller A for Andromeda.


Shubik was appointed story editor and Leonard White, who had produced the first two seasons of The Avengers, was assigned to produce. Leonard found Out of This World a welcome antidote to The Avengers, which had proved a difficult production; he recalled, “It was a great pleasure to make, getting away from today and exploring the unrealities (or so we thought) of tomorrow. An opportunity for the suspension of disbelief even in the here and now ambiance of television”.[1] The budget for each episode averaged £5,000.

Shubik soon ran into difficulties finding material suitable for adaptation, a problem that had plagued earlier aborted attempts to get a similar series off the ground. A useful contact Shubik made was with John Carnell, a key figure in British science fiction, founder of the magazine New Worlds and agent for many British science fiction writers. Carnell assisted Shubik in selecting material and put her in contact with writers and publishers. Carnell also promoted the series heavily in New Worlds, giving it the cover of the July 1962 edition. When a strike by actor's union Equity hit production of Armchair Theatre, it bought Shubik the extra time she needed to find sufficient scripts. All but two episodes were adaptations of short stories and novels. Shubik took the name Out of This World from a series of anthology collections edited by Amabel Williams-Ellis.

The actor Boris Karloff, well known for his association with the horror film genre, was chosen as host for the new series. This was an idea taken from such U.S. anthology series as The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Thriller (which Karloff himself had hosted) and was in line with what had been done for Armchair Mystery Theatre, which was introduced by Donald Pleasence.

Three scripts for Out of This World, adaptations of Philip K. Dick's "Impostor" and Clifford D. Simak's "Immigrant" as well as an original story called "Botany Bay", were supplied by Terry Nation. These scripts were Nation's first professional foray into the genre for which he would become best known; he would later go on to create the popular Dalek monsters for the science fiction series Doctor Who as well as his own science fiction television series Survivors and Blake's 7.

Broadcast and critical reception

An adaptation of John Wyndham’s short story Dumb Martian was originally intended to launch the series. However, Sydney Newman elected to broadcast the story as part of Armchair Theatre the week before Out of This World made its debut. The play ended with an epilogue by Boris Karloff introducing and previewing the new spin-off series.

The first episode, “The Yellow Pill”, attracted 11 million viewers, placing Out of This World eleventh in the television ratings for that week and beating the popular police drama series Z-Cars.[1]

Critical reaction to Out of This World was, on the whole, positive: Kinematograph Weekly commented that the series was “the most intelligent and best written of its genre since Quatermass[2] while The Times said, “in general the level of writing and direction has been encouragingly high [...] Out of This World may well help to banish forever the view of the summer as a time when just anything will do”.[3] H. F. Hall, writing in the Yorkshire Evening Post, described Out of This World as “the most accomplished thing of its kind that TV has yet produced... well schemed scripting and disciplined production”.[4] One viewer who enjoyed the series was Goon Michael Bentine who sent a telegram to Leonard White conveying “joyous congratulations for wonderful entertainment”.[5]


Although the series was judged a success, the departure of both Sydney Newman and Irene Shubik to the BBC meant that a second season was not made. However, while at the BBC Shubik devised and produced Out of the Unknown, another science fiction anthology series that, like Out of This World, concentrated mainly on adaptations of short stories and novels and ran for four seasons between 1965 and 1971. Two Out of This World scripts — "The Yellow Pill" and "Target Generation" — were remade by Out of the Unknown in its third season. Shubik went on to become a noted television producer of series such as The Wednesday Play, Play for Today, Playhouse: The Mind Beyond and Rumpole of the Bailey and instigated, but did not produce, the acclaimed adaptation of The Jewel in the Crown.

Archive status

As was common practice among British broadcasters at the time, most of the episodes of Out of This World were wiped after broadcast and only one episode, “Little Lost Robot”, survives today.

List of episodes

Thirteen episodes of Out of This World were broadcast on Saturday nights at 10 p.m. from 30 June 1962. The Armchair Theatre presentation of “Dumb Martian” is also included in this list for completeness as it was originally intended to be part of Out of This World, in line with most episode guides published for this series.[6]

Ep. No. Title Story Adapted by Director Airdate
Made for Out of This World but broadcast as part of Armchair Theatre:
0 “Dumb Martian” John Wyndham Clive Exton Charles Jarrot 24 June 1962
Broadcast as part of Out of This World:
1 “The Yellow Pill” Rog Phillips Leon Griffiths Jonathan Alwyn 30 June 1962
2 Little Lost Robot Isaac Asimov Leo Lehman Douglas James 7 July 1962
3 Cold Equations Tom Godwin Clive Exton Paul Bernard 14 July 1962
4 Impostor Philip K. Dick Terry Nation Peter Hammond 21 July 1962
5 “Botany Bay” Terry Nation n/a Guy Verney 28 July 1962
6 “Medicine Show” Robert Moore Williams Julian Bond Richmond Harding 4 August 1962
7 “Pictures Don't Lie” Katherine Maclean Bruce Stewart John Knight 11 August 1962
8 “Vanishing Act” Richard Waring n/a Don Leaver 18 August 1962
9 “Divided We Fall” Raymond F. Jones Leon Griffiths John Knight 25 August 1962
10 “The Dark Star” Frank Crisp (based on his novel Ape of London) Denis Butler Peter Hammond 1 September 1962
11 “Immigrant” Clifford D. Simak Terry Nation Jonathan Alwyn 8 September 1962
12 “Target Generation” Clifford D. Simak Clive Exton Alan Cooke 15 September 1962
13 “The Tycoons” Arthur Sellings Bruce Stewart Charles Jarrot 22 September 1962


  1. ^ a b White, Armchair Theatre: The Lost Years, p. 72.
  2. ^ Ward, Out of the Unknown, p. 18.
  3. ^ Ward, Out of the Unknown, p. 19.
  4. ^ White, Armchair Theatre: The Lost Years, p. 78.
  5. ^ White, Armchair Theatre: The Lost Years, p. 79.
  6. ^ See, for example; Fulton, The Encyclopedia of TV Science Fiction, p. 301-304; Fiddy Missing Believed Wiped, p. 98-106 and Ward, Out of the Unknown p. 479-481.


  • Fiddy, Dick (2001). Missing Believed Wiped: Searching for the lost treasures of British television. London: British Film Institute. pp. 98–106. ISBN 0-85170-866-8. 
  • Fulton, Roger (1997). The Encyclopedia of TV Science Fiction (3rd edition ed.). London: Boxtree. pp. 301–304. ISBN 0-7522-1150-1. 
  • Ward, Mark (2004). "Out of the Armchair...". Out of the Unknown: A Guide to the legendary BBC series. Bristol: Kaleidoscope. pp. 9–20. ISBN 1-900203-10-3. 
  • White, Leonard (2003). "Chapter 6. Out of this World - 1962". Armchair Theatre: The Lost Years. London: Kelly Publications. pp. 72–80. ISBN 1903053188. 

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