Out of the Unknown – The Yellow Pill


Story by Rog Phillips, Adapted by Leon Griffiths
Directed by Michael Ferguson

Dr John Frame (Francis Matthews) is asked by Detective Inspector Slinn (Glynn Edwards) to examine Wilfred Connor (Stephen Bradley) who is accused of three murders.  Slinn isn’t sure whether the man is mad or simply the world’s best actor.

Initially it seems that Connor is in an advanced state of hallucination – he denies that he’s in Frame’s consulting room, instead he insists that both he and Frame are in a spaceship and that they’re colleagues.  Connor then states that he didn’t murder any people – instead he shot three space creatures.

Connor’s fantasy world should be easily dismissible, but Frame starts to doubt his own sanity as Connor knows things he really shouldn’t.  And when Connor tells him to take one of the yellow anti-hallucination pills (which Frame had never seen before) Frame does, with unexpected consequences.

The Yellow Pill was a short story by Rog Phillips, originally published in 1958.  It’s a fascinating tale, which asks us to consider what is fantasy and what is reality.  Leon Griffiths’ adaptation is more ambiguous than the original short story – as there’s more of a question about whether what we saw at the end was the “true” reality and if everything prior to that had been an illusion.  Phillips’ original story seemed to be clearer on that point.

The Yellow Pill is the third missing story from series three which now exists only as an off-air audio.  The audio has been matched to the available photographs from the production to produce a very decent reconstruction.  Because the majority of the story is set within one location (Dr Frame’s consulting room) and the cast is quite small, this benefits the reconstruction (a story with many locations, actors and effects would be more incomprehensible in this format).  The audio is very clear (although as with the others, there are the occasional off-microphone noises).

Whist Glynn Edwards (Slinn) and Angela Browne (Frame’s secretary and lover, Helen) both have some decent scenes, the bulk of the story is really a two-hander between Francis Matthews and Stephen Bradley.  Matthews was something of a national treasure and had a long and impressive acting career.  Bradley’s television career seems to have been much shorter (his first credit is in 1967 and his last in 1973) but they’re very much equals in this story.

Matthews gives a fine performance as someone who begins to doubt the reality of what he can see, hear and touch whilst Bradley plays his part with absolute conviction – even when handcuffed to a chair, he doesn’t deviate from the notion that he’s a man from the future.

Given the limited sets, small cast and lack of special effects, this might not be a typical OOTU, but it’s a gripping 50 minutes of drama, thanks to Francis Matthews and Stephen Bradley.

Next Up – To Lay A Ghost

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