The first half of Lovely Lightning is something of an exercise in mood and atmosphere – it”s certainly far removed from the dialogue-driven Quatermass serials of the 1950’s. In the aftermath of the tragedy at Ringstone Round, Quatermass, Kapp and Clare find a survivor – Isabel (Annabelle Lanyon).
The three of them try to take her to safety, but the Planet People, headed by Kickalong (Ralph Arliss), are keen to prevent them. It’s fair to say that a little of the Planet People does go a long way – but unfortunately there’s quite of a lot of them in this episode. Arliss isn’t presented with much of a character, but he does his best with what he’s been given. The problem is that the repetitive dialogue and actions of the Planet People ensure that they’re not the most interesting or engaging of characters.
En-masse though, even though they appear to espouse non-violence, there’s something sinister and threatening about them. This is reinforced later on, when Kickalong leads an attack on a man barricaded in his home. The Planet People initially seem just to want food, but that doesn’t appear to be Kickalong’s motive – he’s happy to fill the unseen man full of bullets and move on.
We get our first indication in this episode that the Planet People aren’t necessarily acting on their own initiative. Alison (Brenda Fricker) leaves to join them – and it’s clear that she had no choice. Later Quatermass muses on what they already know. “Immense power, approaching through decades. Decades to us, a few seconds in some inconceivable timescale. The most vulnerable of human organisms, always the most recently formed – the youngest.”
So has some alien entity been able to manipulate a whole generation of people for their own ends? This would partly explain why society has fractured – although if the problem is as widespread as it appears to be it’s difficult to believe that the connection hasn’t been made before.
It’s not just the young who are affected though, as Clare also starts to act oddly – after nursing the stricken Isabel. Barbara Kellerman has some tricky moments in this episode (as Clare begins to fall to pieces). Another actress with some challenging scenes is Margaret Tyzack as the District Commissioner Annie Morgan. She’s initially presented as a cheery figure, who then collapses once she sees Isabel, and then recovers again. The reason for these wild mood swings isn’t clear – logically it would be because she knew Isabel, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.
The Americans have got back in touch with Quatermass and they now need his help. The massacre at Ringstone Round wasn’t an isolated incident (something similar happened in Brazil with thousands of young people). Quatermass and Annie head for London, taking Isabel with them. The Professor argues that as she’s the only survivor, she’s an invaluable witness. The sort of tests he’ll run on her aren’t made clear, but there’s a strong inference that it won’t be pleasant. Quatermass is firm though – in order to save more lives it’s possible that sacrifices will have to be made. This is a key scene – as we see an assured, confident Quatermass. As he leaves, one of Kapp’s daughters states that the old man doesn’t seem so old any more.
Kapp leaves Clare and the children behind as he visits Ringstone Round again. When he returns, the house is deserted and it shows signs of an alien attack. And with Quatermass and Annie facing danger on the streets on London, this gives us two strong hooks to lead into the third episode, What Lies Beneath.