Out of the Unknown – Time in Advance


Story By William Tenn, Adapted by Paul Erickson
Directed by Peter Sasdy

Nick Crandall (Edward Judd) and Otto Henck (Mike Pratt) are pre-criminals, who have returned to Earth after serving seven years hard labour on a variety of dangerous, frontier worlds.  Pre-criminals are people who have confessed to criminal intent – and once they’ve served their sentence they’re allowed to murder one man or one woman.

Crandall wishes to kill Frederick Stephenson, the man who stole his invention and cheated him out of a fortune, whilst Henck has been waiting seven years to murder his two-timing wife.  But things don’t turn out quite the way they planned  ….

Time In Advance was a short story, originally published in 1956, by the British-born author Philip Klass (writing under the pseudonym of William Tenn).  The concept of state-legislated murder is a dramatically interesting one, so it was just the sort of story that producer and story editor Irene Shubik was looking for.

Edward Judd, who had a long acting career, is very solid as Crandall.  It’s very much his story and he’s able to give his character a little depth and motivation so that by the end you do actually care about his fate.  Pratt (best known for his role as Jeff Randall in Randall and Hopkirk) plays second fiddle throughout most of the episode, although he does have a key scene at the end.  Henck’s constant wittering about how he wants to kill his wife can get a little tiresome, so it’s harder to emphasise with him.

This is a story that goes all out to depict the far future and it’s either a noble effort or somewhat embarrassing (depending on how forgiving you are of mid 1960’s low-budget sci-fi).  Although OOTU was a prestige series, it’s easy to imagine that most of the money went on locating and paying the copyrights for the stories as the production values are, at times, a little threadbare.

The squeezy-bottle spaceship has to be seen to be believed (in fact, I’ve seen it – but I still don’t believe it) and other things (such as the visu-phone) do look incredibly clunky to modern eyes.  And this production is similar to The Counterfeit Man in that everybody is sporting the same haircut – a prediction of the future that it’s difficult to imagine ever coming true.  It also seems that some of the actors were browned up, which is also a little strange.

But whilst the production may be overstretching at times, the story is very interesting and Judd’s performance is quite compelling – so I think that most people will be able to look past the sometimes dodgy visuals and enjoy another strong OOTU episode.

Next Up – Come Buttercup, Come Daisy, Come …?

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