Friends, I have mentioned this before but one of the absolute greatest things is that even in this day and age, where so much knowledge is at our fingertips – we can still be surprised and delighted by something once thought ‘lost’. Which in this case would be the 1964 Australian television series entitled The Stranger which was produced by the A.B.C. (Australian Broadcasting Commission) with the first episode airing on April 26th of 1964. A mere five months after Doctor Who appeared on BBC television with the four part An Unearthly Child storyline – in fact I have seen a few news articles about The Stranger being an Australian version of that long running science fiction series.
Now I will admit that I have only watched the first episode of The Stranger so perhaps in future episodes there might be more similarities to the BBC series. With only the premiere episode under my belt I can only add that I do not think the two series share that much in common – in fact The Stranger feels downright ominous. I can however say this though after only watching the first episode of the series – I am already hooked and looking forward to checking out the remaining 11 episodes that make up the two seasons of The Stranger. At the time of this writing five episodes have been released by ABC TV & iview, with a comment that a new episode will be uploaded every single day. In fact for being able to enjoy The Stranger we have to give thanks to a team of archivists headed up by Helen Meany and Jon Steiner who are co-founders of RetroFocus (LOVE that name!). Reading an article about the series which was shared by Rick Powell on Anthony Rotolo’s TV Terror podcast page – it was both Steiner and Meany who felt the show was too good not to preserve and make available to the public.
The show itself was written by G.K. Saunders, a successful New Zealand writer who after immigrating to Australia in ’39 began working on children’s radio programs for the ABC – until World War II when he joined the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Upon his return he continued to work on radio in the area of children’s programming – before moving to England in ’57 to get a grip on writing for television. That article that I linked to up top – has a comment from Saunders’ Son that reveals the writer wasn’t so keen on the more fantastic elements of Doctor Who – feeling it should be more in line with matters of science.
The Stranger focuses on the arrival of such a character (Adam Suisse) during a rain storm – who makes his way to the home of Mr. Walsh (John Faasen), the headmaster for St. Michael’s School for Boys. This stranger lies supine in front of the Walsh residence, knocking on the front door before… appearing to pass out. Inside the home, Mr. Walsh and his Wife (Jessica Noad) are having a conversation with their two children, Jean (Jannice Dinnen) and Bernard (Bill Levis), along with their best friend Peter Cannon (Michael Thomas). It is Bernard who happens to hear the Stranger knocking weakly at their front door and as can be expected the Family is quick to attempt to get medical attention for this unexpected arrival. How odd is it that he aggressively begs them to not seek a Doctor… and that he has no memory of anything before arriving at their door. And isn’t it a most curious thing that he can speak both French and German fluently…
With that little mystery presented to you, why not enjoy the premiere episode of The Stranger – Australia’s first science fiction TV series!