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"Out of the Unknown" Some Lapse of Time (1965)

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Watchable if dated sci-fi drama.

Author: Paul Andrews ( from UK
16 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Out of the Unknown: Some Lapse of Time is set in 60's Britain where a doctor named Max Harrow (Ronald Lewis) has been suffering from extreme nightmares for the past few months, one night his door bell goes & answering it he finds a copper who says he has found a collapsed tramp (John Gabriel) outside his house who needs medical help, Harrow agrees & the copper carries the tramp inside Harrow's house. Harrow is shocked to see that the tramp looks exactly like the man haunting him in his nightmares, Harrow admits the ramp to his hospital where it is confirmed he is suffering from intense radiation poisoning. The tramp speaks in a strange language but identifies himself as Smiffershon & was clutching a fragment of finger bone, then shortly after Harrow loses the tip of his finger when he gets it caught in a car door. Harrow starts to believe that Smiffershon is from a post nuclear apocalyptic future but has a hard time convincing anyone else...

Episode ten from season one of the British produced television series Out of the Unknown this was directed by Ray Jenkins & is one of the few first season episodes to be set on contemporary Earth rather than in the future or in space, adapted by Leon Griffiths from a story by sci-fi author John Brunner this is an odd little sci-fi drama. The script has a strong anti nuclear feel to it, we are told the sorts of terrible diseases radiation poising can give us & the post nuclear apocalyptic world Smiffershon comes from is a stark warning about the potential devastation an all out nuclear war could bring. Not that anyone who controls a stockpile of nuclear weapons will be bothered by an old black and white 60's sci-fi television show. Most of the sixty minute running time is devoted the Harrow trying to discover the mysteries behind Smiffershon, his radiation poisoning, the fragment of bone & his strange language with the final revelation coming across as a little silly, it's a big coincidence that Smiffershon found a radiation experts bone fragment hundreds of years in the future isn't it? Like most Out of the Unknown episodes the story is strong & does draw you in, like most Out of the Unknown episodes it does drag a little in the middle & like most Out of the Unknown episodes it does feel like a stage play at times.

Originally broadcast during December 1965 there's no need for futuristic costumes, alien planets or spaceships so Some Lapse of Time hasn't dated as badly as some episodes of this series. The main area of interest in Some Lapse of Time is that a certain Ridley Scott is credited as the 'Designer' at the end, yes that's triple Oscar winning director Ridley Scott who went on to make such films as Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Thelma & Louise (1992), Gladiator (2000), Hannibal (2001) & more recently Robin Hood (2010). Certain aspects of Some Lapse of Time feel similar to The Terminator (1984), the post apocalyptic future awaiting mankind & the time travel angle in which people from the future travel back although this has a much more sedate approach to things! The acting is solid enough, Ronald Lewis is quite good as a man losing his mind & having a breakdown.

Some Lapse of Time is watchable enough, it does drag a bit & the conclusion is a little unsatisfactory & it looks a bit dull compared to other Out of the Unknown episodes but the basic story is still strong enough to carry it through.

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