UFO watch (Episode 18 – The Sound of Silence)


Written by David Lane and Bob Bell
Directed by David Lane

The Sound of Silence has some good moments, but it’s never been a favourite of mine. The main problem is that since Russell Stone (Michael Jayston) is such an unlikable character, when he’s captured by the alien it’s difficult to be particularly bothered about whether he’s going to be returned safely to his family or taken away to be sliced and diced.

His sister (Susan Jameson) and father (Richard Vernon) are more personable though, so it is possible to feel a little empathy for them as they search for answers but Russell Stone is presented, right from his opening scene, as a cold, officious character. He chases Culley (Nigel Gregory) off their land at the start of the episode (and poor Culley seemed to be doing nothing worse than living rough in the woods).

The unfortunate Culley and his dog are later found dead, murdered by the alien. It seems that both were mutilated, but whatever the alien was looking for he didn’t seem to find it in them. However, Russell Stone is captured intact and placed inside a cylinder, presumably to be flown back to the alien’s planet.

After the UFO is destroyed (another fabulous example of the series’ model-work) the cylinder is recovered and the question faced by SHADO is whether they will be able extract Stone from the cylinder alive and well.

The Sound of Silence is notable since it’s the first episode from the second production block.  The first seventeen episodes were recorded at MGM Borehamwood between April – November 1969.  After the studio was closed, production was put on hiatus until the middle of the next year when a further nine episodes were recorded at Pinewood between May – September 1970.

These nine episodes do feel somewhat different for a number of reasons.  New writers, such as Dennis Spooner and David Tomblin, were brought in and a number of regulars are conspicuous by their absence.  George Sewell (Alec Freeman), Gabrielle Drake (Gay Ellis), Keith Alexander (Keith Ford), Gary Myers (Lew Waterman) and Antonia Ellis (Joan Harrington) are all absent from the second production block due to work commitments elsewhere.

But although some familiar faces are gone, overall the second production block is of a very high standard and sees the programme take some risks as it ventures into previously uncharted territories.  There’s certainly some interesting episodes ahead.