Out of the Unknown – Tunnel Under The World


Story by Frederik Pohl, Adapted by David Campton
Directed by Alan Cooke

When Guy Birkett (Ronald Hines) and his wife Mary (Petra Davies) wake up they are perturbed to find that they’ve had the same nightmare about being caught up in a huge explosion.  They dismiss it as a strange coincidence and attempt to enjoy their breakfast.  But it’s difficult for them to find any peace and quiet since they’re constantly interrupted by annoying advertising jingles from a variety of sources (on the radio, via the post and from loudspeakers attached to cars).

The odd thing is that whilst today is June the 15th, the next day is June the 15th again. So we see the Birketts repeat everything they did the previous day (although they’re unaware of this).  And the next day is June the 15th once more.  Eventually, thanks to the intervention of Swanson (Timothy Bateson), Guy learns the horrifying truth.

The Tunnel under the World was a short story by Frederik Pohl which was originally published in 1954. Like many of the story themes adapted for OOTU, the concept of this story (annoying advertising) is just as valid today as it was in 1954 or back in 1966, when this episode was transmitted.

The various products – Chocobites, Marlin cigarettes, Frosty Flip, Feckle Freezers, Crunchipops – all have catchy slogans, catchy jingles or unique selling points (for example, Marlin cigarettes contain a special anti-cough ingredient!).

Ronald Hines (a familiar television face from the sixties) is perfect casting as the cog in the wheel who rebels. And Timothy Bateson (always such a dependable performer during numerous decades of television and film appearances) gives another good turn here, as the man who helps Birkett to understand exactly what’s happening to all of them.

The twist ending (indeed the double twist ending) is one which I doubt many would have predicted on their first viewing. There’s also a robot which pops up at the end and is, interesting, shall we say – but it doesn’t really derail the story (by this point the viewer might expect almost anything to happen).

A biting satire about advertising and big-business, Tunnel Under The World is a more outlandish and fantastic story than the hard-SF stories which make up most of the extant episodes from the first two series.  Given the depleted nature of series two, it’s a story that I’m happy escaped the archive purges.

Next Up – The Last Lonely Man

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