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The Machine Stops: review

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Nov. 24th, 2014 | 12:01 am

"The Machine Stops" appeared on a BFI DVD release featuring all extant episodes of "Out of the Unknown."

This was reviewed by Gary Couzens on "The Digital Fix."

"The season began with what is possibly the most celebrated of all Out of the Unknown episodes, and the one from the most prestigious – and oldest - source. Uniquely (among the surviving episodes at least) its lead actor, Yvonne Mitchell, gets a "starring" credit at the start. Edward Morgan Forster (1879-1970) was a distinguished writer of the first quarter of the twentieth century … best known as a novelist … However, he also wrote short fiction, some of them verging on fantasy, and the novella "The Machine Stops" (first published in 1909) being definitely science fiction. It was written as a reaction to what Forster saw as H.G. Wells's undue optimism about technological progress. We're in a world where humanity lives underground, the Earth's surface being apparently no longer habitable. The Machine, what would now be called a supercomputer, rules everyone's lives. However, rebellion is afoot … Forster thought the production "magnificent" and wrote to the writers to tell them so. Philip Saville's direction and Norman James's design are also excellent."

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