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6 October 1966: Out of the Unknown, season 2, episode 1: The Machine Stops

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Jan. 1st, 1970 | 02:00 pm

“About a year and a half passed between my first important film part in Herostratus and my next big break – Out of the Unknown – a television series.”
(From Petticoat interview 6 October 1973)

Michael Gothard as 'Kuno'

The photo is thought to have been taken in 1966 by John Timbers.

Michael plays a young man, Kuno, who wishes to break out of a restricted and lonely existence in a future dystopia underground; Yvonne Mitchell plays his biological mother, Vashti.

Kuno tries to get permission to father a child, and to visit the earth's surface, but all his requests are blocked. He eventually finds his way out on his own, and sees a girl living there, but the machine kills her.

Everyone in the future civilisation dies at the end, when the machine fails.

Original Air date: 6 Oct. 1966.

From the Radio Times: 29 September 1966

The Machine Stops 2

Yvonne Mitchell in tonight’s play, The Machine Stops

One of last season’s BBC 2 drama successes was the science fiction series Out of the Unknown. Tonight the series returns with a strong opening presentation, The Machine Stops, a dramatisation of an E. M. Forster story by film director Clive Donner and classical scholar Kenneth Cavander.

The production has other claims to distinction as well – the appearance of Yvonne Mitchell in a central role and the fact that Philip Saville (of Exit 19 fame) directs.
The Machine Stops is really an Edwardian view of the future. (The sets and the special effects in this production emphasise this by depicting a very Edwardian concept of a future age.)

Forster saw – sooner than many writers of his time – the long shadow of the machine age beginning to fall on civilisation; typically he was concerned with its threat to personal relationships. In tonight’s play, a mother, played by Yvonne Mitchell, and her son (Michael Gothard) struggle to maintain their natural bond of love in an over-civilised world in which human beings have become tyrannised by machines.

This is just the first of many fascinating and compelling productions you can see in this series.

The Machine Stops 1


The Daily Telegraph described Philip Saville’s production as visually inventive and the dialogue as unusually distinguished.

The Guardian: It might have been written today newly for television.

The Daily Sketch: A stimulating start to a series which deserves your attention as a regular date.


This adaptation of 'The Machine Stops' won the first prize at the Fifth Festival Internazionale del Film di Fantascienza (International Science Fiction Film Festival) in Trieste, on 17 July 1967. This was the first time the BBC had entered for the Festival.

Watch The Machine Stops on Youtube.

IMDB entry

Thanks to Natchris for finding the Radio Times references.

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