Television and film scriptwriter Nigel Kneale was best known for the creation of the cult science fiction character Professor Bernard Quatermass. Quatermass appeared in three serials for BBC television, one for Thames television and three Hammer films.
He also wrote many screenplays including The Year of the Sex Olympics, The Stone Tape and Wine of India. He adapted other writers’ work, including the films of John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger and The Entertainer.
Born on April 18, 1922, in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, Kneale’s family originally came from the Isle of Man. Kneale was brought up in the capital, Douglas.
He began his career as an actor playing small parts in Stratford-upon-Avon but decided to switch to writing. In 1950 he won the Somerset Maugham Award for a collection of short stories, Tomato Cain.
He began writing plays for BBC Radio in 1948 and later became a staff writer with BBC television. His first television play, Arrow of the Heart, was broadcast in 1952. He quickly became one of the country’s leading scriptwriters and in 1953 teamed up with TV director Rudolph Cartier to create the sci-fi serial The Quatermass Experiment. The original serial, starring Reginald Tate as Quatermass, was broadcast over six weeks and topped the ratings.
A year later, Kneale was responsible for the graphic adaptation of Orwell’s 1984, which caused an outcry in parliament. His next major work was Quatermass 11 in 1955, joined by Quatermass and the Pit.
He wrote several other screenplays for the BBC, including a literary adaptation of Wuthering Heights but left the corporation in 1975 to work for ITV. Beasts, an anthology of horror tales, was broadcast in 1976, and Quatermass was revived for Euston Films in 1979. He was asked to write for Doctor Who (which was heavily influenced by Quatermass) but declined. His disapproval of the programme became well known, as he considered it too frightening for a children’s serial.
Among Kneale’s most recent TV work was The Woman in Black, Stanley and the Women and an episode of Sharpe. He also wrote the comedy series Kinvig.
Kneale had suffered a series of strokes in recent years and died on October 29, aged 84. He is survived by his wife, the children’s writer Judith Kerr and their son and daughter.
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