Fred Hoyle An observer of the world and a ponderer on its problems ...
While stationed at Nutbourne during the war, his colleague Cyril Domb recollected that Hoyle would relax by reading science fiction. When chided for wasting his time on such literature, Hoyle replied:
"I have a purpose in mind. These people don't know any real science and they make money by writing this stuff. I, who know some science, should be able to do much better".
With his down to earth approach and strong Northern accent, he first popularised science in the series of broadcasts for the BBC’s Third Programme in 1950, entitled ‘The Nature of the Universe’, and voted most popular broadcaster for that year.
At home, he supported his wife, Barbara’s, love of drama, appearing as Bottom in her local village production of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream.
Among their close friends were Bernard and Josephine Miles of the Mermaid Theatre, where in 1962 the play “Rockets in Ursa Major’ was staged.
Hoyle supported the Miles in their venture “The Molecule Club’, where productions on topics such as Electricity, educated children about science.
Collaborating with John Elliot of the BBC, they wrote the popular 1960s television science fiction series ‘A for Andromeda’ and its sequel ‘Andromeda Breakthrough’.
Hoyle’s output, not only of technical works, but also of popular non fiction and science fiction was prolific.
Extract from the "Rockets in Ursa Major" programme.
Brinkmanship - a word to the very young by Fred Hoyle
From the centre of their known world the young men of Greece sailed on voyages of adventure and discovery. No news reached their homeland until - often years later - they returned full of fascinating tales of the strange lands and wonderful sights they had seen. The mystery and magic of this newly penetrated world clung to their wind-scoured sunburnt faces challenging the wandering minstrels to sing well of their courage and daring and awakening the imagination of the poets to write great stories. Time blended memory and myth into romantic history.
New worlds were discovered when Elizabeth the First was queen and the poets sang again.
Then came progress! The machine age with its worship of speed. No sooner the motor car with its alarming (for those days) speed, than man took to the air and Jules Verne winged away in his thoughts on a journey to the moon. The biplane gave way to the jet; sound radio and television brought news instantly into our homes; recently came a first count down; and we were on the threshold of new adventures.
And if we go beyond the 'wine-dark' seas of the Greek islands, beyond the New World of the Elizabethans, beyond our neighbourly moon - out from our familiar secure planet Earth into space, what will we see?
Surely we'll cast one backward glance at the beautiful Earth with its shining white clouds partly concealing the dark seas and red deserts, green land and flashing icefields, before we go on to new worlds.
Would there be living creatures anywhere? Certainly; for why should our planet be unique? The right conditions may arise only rarely but they will arise often enough for many many planets to support some form of life.
Is it best to go looking for them in Space? Well, maybe not actually in ships. Perhaps we should start with radio waves transmitting our own powerful signals and keeping big electrical ears open for signals from outside.
So much has yet to be done on this brink of new discoveries. Which of you will be sailors, I wonder, and who will write the songs and stories?
A for Andromeda was one of the BBC's first major sci-fi TV productions of the 1960s, and was devised by prominent astronomer Fred Hoyle, who contributed the outline for the story, with the final scripts being written by BBC producer John Elliot.
The seven-part serial involved the reception of radio signals from the constellation of Andromeda which, when decoded, prove to be the instructions for a highly advanced computer. After following the instructions, further signals are received which, when programmed into the computer, result in the creation of a new lifeform, Andromeda, who takes on the appearance of lab assistant Christine who had earlier been killed in an accident with the alien-designed equipment.
The role of Andromeda was played by a young Julie Christie, while other major characters include computer scientist Dr John Fleming (Peter Halliday), biologist Professor Madeleine Dawnay (Mary Morris), and Intel agent Kaufmann (John Hollis). The series transformed Julie Christie from an unknown drama student into a star.
The Italian television network RAI subsequently produced their own adaptation of A for Andromeda in 1972, with the five-part serial being produced in black and white and on videotape just like the UK original. To this day it remains one of the few original UK sci-fi TV productions to be re-made in this manner. The Italian production has been released in its country of origin on both DVD and video, but sadly without English subtitles.
A further production of A for Andromeda occurred in 2006 when BBC Four commissioned a ninety-minute re-make as a follow-up to their 2005 update of The Quatermass Experiment. By a bizarre coincidence, a 16mm print of the sixth episode from the 1961 original was returned to the BBC archives just a few days after the new version was announced.
The majority of A for Andromeda remains missing from the BBC archives but, despite this, 2 Entertain still managed to assemble The Andromeda Anthology in 2006, which collected together all of the existing footage from A for Andromeda and the complete Andromeda Breakthrough. A complete off-air audio recording of The Last Mystery was subsequently returned to the BBC late in 2006.
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