Out of the Unknown – Time in Advance Review (or ‘An Interesting Idea, But Poorly Explained’)

Next up in my run-through of Out of the Unknown – even though it’s not in the correct order – is another episode set in the far future.

Considering the last one I watched, I’m not holding out that much hope.

But maybe Time in Advance will prove to be better.

Out of the Unknown – Time In Advance Review: What’s This One About?

In a topsy-turvy world where prisoners serve their sentences before they commit their crimes, two men return from their spell in the clink with a free pass to commit one murder each.

But who will they kill?

Thoughts – An Interesting, If Poorly Explained Idea

I love an episode of a science fiction show that comes up with an interesting and different idea. Like I said in my last OOTU review, science fiction is such an open-ended genre that it gives a massive scope for

Peter Stephens appears to be dressed as Santa's evil capitalist brother

Peter Stephens appears to be dressed as Santa’s evil capitalist brother

people to be creative.

Time in Advance is built around an interesting and creative idea.

In this civilisation, people are able to find out in advance what crimes they commit and then serve time by helping establish settlements on new colony worlds. Then, they can come back and freely commit the crime that they served the sentence for, without further repercussion.

Within the context of how this episode is built, this works quite nicely as it’s all based around the two prisoners – Crandall and Henck – deciding on who to kill whilst under an intense media spotlight. The people they know and used to love are concerned that it might be them, while the one that Henck wants to kill turns out to have already died in his absence.

This all builds up to a satisfying – if a little predictable – conclusion.

But my problem is that the script just assumes an acceptance on the part of the viewer of how this justice system operates.

There are questions that I don’t think are answered either well enough or at all.

For example…

  • Beyond ‘time travel’ how do people find out what crime they have committed?
  • If they know they commit a crime in the future, why don’t they know who they commit a crime against? Considering Henck’s wife – the only person he wants to kill – dies in the interim years, surely he’s wasted his life by blindly accepting a punishment like that?
  • And what if they die whilst serving their sentence? Or before they can at least carry out the crime?
  • Why do they make these reformed ‘criminals’ – who aren’t really criminals yet – into figures of public scrutiny? Won’t that just mean people are on edge?
  • If the situation they find themselves in is one of personal choice, why not simply choose not to commit the crime in the future?
  • How is this deemed a better justice system?

So on that score, it’s not all that well thought out, and so the episode suffers for it.

The Look

There’s something wonderfully quaint about how Time in Advance looks.

Much like Doctor Who from the same era, this is clearly a show made on a shoe-string budget, with sets cobbled together from cheap materials available at short notice.

This visual effect of a world with futuristic architecture looks good for the time

This visual effect of a world with futuristic architecture looks good for the time

And just like Doctor Who, you’ve got to say that they do a good job making the best of the situation, with some areas looking pretty good for the time.

Where the show falls down though is in the costume design, which is lousy. Almost every character seems to be wearing baggy, ill-fitting jumpers and dodgy blonde wigs.

All that serves to do is make the actors – no doubt classically trained actors who have spent many a moonlit night treading the boards – look daft in fancy dress. The worst example is the character of Stephenson, who looks like he’s dressed in a leftover Santa Claus coat.

It’s of the era, of course it is, but Doctor Who at least shows that it can be done better.

The Old British Actors Checklist

The two main stars of Time in Advance are Mike Pratt (Randall of Randall & Hopkirk fame) and Edward Judd (star of one of the most underrated Sci Fi movies I’ve seen, The Day the Earth Caught Fire).

Fans of Doctor Who will be familiar with Jerome Willis (The Green Death), Peter Stephens (The Celestial Toymaker & The Underwater Menace), Philip Voss (Marco Polo & The Dominators) and Wendy Gifford (The Ice Warriors)

Random Observations

  • A common complaint I think I’m going to have about Out of the Unknown is that episodes can take a while to get to the point of what they are about. This one takes around 8 minutes before you’d have even the slightest clue of what’s going on.
  • I read a comment that Out of the Unknown is perhaps where the cliché that science fiction is ‘Shakespearean actors proclaiming in bacofoil’. I liked that. They could be on to something…
  • Another complaint I read – and this is a common theme in people’s reviews of Out of the Unknown – is that there are long scenes based around dialogue rather than action. That’s just what this show is like. In
    But this is just pitiful. It's a man standing on the other side of the wall for Christ's sake!!

    But this is just pitiful. It’s a man standing on the other side of the wall for Christ’s sake!!

    many ways it’s like a play based around a handful of sets.

  • To be fair though, there’s a scene in this with quite an impressive visual effect of the outside architecture. For the time, that looks great.
  • On the flipside, it also has perhaps the worst visual effect I’ve ever seen to go along with it. The scene where Crandall is speaking to a journalist on his video phone is so, so bad. It’s basically a man talking to him through a hole in the wall.
  • The ‘Swirling TV’ effect in Crandall’s room is about as 1960s ‘Space Age’ as it gets.
  • The writer of this episode appears to predict the future, with ‘crazy’ ideas like debit cards, online booking and sushi bars being proclaimed as something new and exciting.
  • The sound of the gun used in the attempted assassination of Crandall is a Dalek gun noise from around the same time. That was cool.
  • But my god, that scene is probably the slowest, most stutteringly directed one I’ve ever seen.

Out of the Unknown – Time In Advance Review: Final Thoughts

With hit and miss visuals and based around an idea that is great in theory, but perhaps isn’t thought through fully, Time in Advance blows hot and cold.

Overall though, I think it’s enjoyable enough to give the thumbs up to.

Certainly the best ‘Space Age’ episode I’ve seen so far.

 

Remember to buy my books, focusing on my reviews of Doctor Who from the 1960s through to present day. You can read more about them here

Also, on a completely different note, if you’ve got any friends who post the crappest Facebook status updates in the world every day, you might get a kick out of my piss-take Facebook blog, ‘Stuart’s Exciting Anecdote of the Day’ 

 

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