The Big Pull
BBC 1962
Episode 1
TX : 9th June 1962

Publicity : The Big Pull - Robert Gould, the author, introduces the six-part science-fiction serial beginning tonight: Before man can reach the moon he will have to find a safe way of penetrating the Van Allen belts - two belts of radio-active particles five-hundred and nine-thousand miles up, and one-thousand and three-thousand miles deep respectively. This scientific fact, though not generally known, is at present keeping American space experts busy trying to find a solution to the problem. What lies beyond? Other galaxies, other planets, other civilisations - millions of light years away? Perhaps even other beings in space, only too ready to attempt an attack on this world? These are the thoughts behind the science-fiction serial which begins tonight. The first man has orbited the earth above the Van Allen radiation belts. Soon after his capsule is retrieved from space the astronaut dies. Twenty-eight days later space-research head Sir Robert Nailer (played by William Dexter) is confronted with evidence which indicates a weird and terrifying possibility: that the dead man returned "contaminated" and that this "contamination" has begun to spread. He died from no known cause - after making only one orbit of the earth a mere fourteen-thousand-five-hundred miles up. Could some force, some influence, have been waiting just above the radiation belts to gain entry to the earth? The implications of what has happened begin to be understood, and what lies ahead begins to reveal itself in all its horror … There are no monsters in The Big Pull. It is our own inability to see beyond our noses that carries the story through to its horrifying end. If in fact an attack from outer space did take place - particularly if we were faced with having to try and accept what is to our way of thinking impossible - human nature could well be the weakest point in our defence. I believe we are very vulnerable indeed, as you will see during the next six weeks if you watch the serial. (Radio Times, June 7, 1962 - Article by Robert Gould).

Episode 2
TX : 16th June 1962

Publicity : The Big Pull: When American astronaut Mike Sklorski travelled in a specially protected rocket through the deadly belt of radio-active particles encircling the earth and returned safely after a single orbit fourteen-thousand-five-hundred miles up, it seemed as though the way was clear for the space-race to the moon, for both Sklorski and his capsule landed completely free from any trace of cosmic radiation. And yet soon after the capsule was opened, Sklorski died from causes unknown. The first man to enter the capsule after the flight is Doctor Weatherfield, the scientist who designed the rocket. Visiting England for the opening of a powerful new radio-telescope, Weatherfield disappears from his hotel following nightmares in which he has "absorbed" Sklorski's memory. Could something have happened to the astronaut during the nineteen unexplained seconds out in space when the capsule's cameras and tape-recorders went blank? Could whatever it was have come back with him through the radiation belts? And could Doctor Weatherfield have been contaminated by some form of cosmic infection? In this evening's second episode of the exciting new BBC Television science-fiction serial, the search for Doctor Weatherfield becomes a matter of top-secret priority. For the giant new radio-telescope is receiving an unintelligible signal from an unknown source, and things have been seen in the streets of London which lead the Head of Scientific Research to the conclusion: "The decisions the Home Secretary is going to have to make may well mean the difference between life and death for us all…". (Radio Times, June 14, 1962).

Episode 3
TX : 23rd June 1962

Synopsis : The dead astronaut, Major Sklorski, is seen alive, and Doctor Weatherfield has disappeared. Sir Robert Nailer believes that Sklorski and Doctor Weatherfield have become one body, one personality.

Episode 4
TX : 30th June 1962

Synopsis : The result of Sklorski's successful orbital flight is an attack on earth by an intelligence from space. Men are attacked in pairs - one killed, one missing. The only chance of preventing the next attack is to find a missing man - and there are twenty-one hours to go.

Episode 5
TX : 7th July 1962

Synopsis : The last attack from space claimed thirty-two victims. The next attack will claim double that number. Bruton-Anderson (the "fusion" of two men that looks like Anderson) is captured by Sir Robert, who is forced to attempt a desperate experiment.

Episode 6
TX : 14th July 1962

Synopsis : The missing men now number thirty-one, and the attacks from space have stopped - but for how long? Nailer knows the missing men must now reduce their number to sixteen. How will they do it and when? Their success means the end of the world.

Regular Characters
Portrayed By
Sir Robert Nailer
William Dexter
Lady Nailer
June Tobin
Janet Nailer
Susan Purdie
Mrs Weatherfield
Helen Horton
Doctor Weatherfield
Feelix Deebank
Professor Kraan
Rex Rashley
The Steward
Lawrence James
The Stewardess
Julie Webb
Peter Haigh
Peter Haigh
Laura Graham
Doctor Alan Tullis / Bruton-Anderson
Ray Roberts
Donald Hoath
Inspector Maxwell
John Martin
Russian PRO
Gertan Klauber
The Nurse
Carole Ward
Ronnie Raymond
Detective Chief Superintendent Stroud
George Street
Anderson / Bruton-Anderson
Frederick Treves
Michael Browning
Jean Dallas
Charles Simon, John Barrett, Reginald Green, John Robinson, Lawrence James
John Moore
Major Sklorski
Frank Fenter
Mrs Stone
Joan Frank
Robert Fyfe
Ian Hughes
The Doctors
Philip Stone, George Waring
The Sister
Julie Paul
Frank Shelley
Alex MacIntosh
John Collins
Lewis Teesdale
Sergeant O'Keefe
Edwin Brown
Geoffrey Hibbert, Tex Fuller, Monty Warren, Eric Hagan, Stephen Mann, Jeffery Segal, Frank Singuineau, Talfryn Thomas, Desmond Jordan, Robert Fyfe, Desmond Cullum-Jones
Superintendent Teale
Frank Forsythe
Duty Officer Wells
Philip Anthony
Jeff Murray
Raymond Mason
Martin Gordon
Van Heusen
Keith Anderson
Chief Superintendent Allison
Fred Ferris
Graham Suter
Norman Pitt
Doctor Rendini
Mellan Mitchell
Computer Technician
Arthur White
Radio Announcer
John Graham
Garage Attendant
Geoffrey Lea
Rowena Torrance
Pauline Petrie
Doctor Harding
David MacMillan
Police Sergeant
Kenneth Dighy
Ian Clarke
Mrs Bruton
Anna Wing
Air Vice-Marshal Collins
Keith Pyott
General Nant
Paul Bacon
Mrs Anderson
Iris Baker
Mr Anderson
Wilfrid Grantham
Mr Bruton
Geoffrey Tyrrell
Charles Rea
George Little
Harry Littlewood
Private Wood
Tom Sheridan
Private Cooke
Christopher Coll
Lieutenant Mackie
David Brierly
Major Harford
Lewis Wilson
Harford's Sergeant
Rex Robinson
Pub Customers
Edward Kelsey, Michael Segal
Jean Leo
Michael Bird, Allan Jeaves
Colonel Law
Noel Coleman
Nailer's Jeep Driver
David Brewster
Landrover Driver
Ryan Jeles

The series was produced and directed by Terence Dudley. The series was written by Robert Gould.

A superb example of the limitless bounds of imagination and creativity prior to man landing on the moon, The Big Pull explored the fears of those on Earth as space exploration became more of a reality than science-fiction television had ever before conceived. The series, which took as its central premise British space scientists experimenting with astronauts breaking through the highly radioactive Van Allen belts in the planet's atmosphere, appeared, for the most part, to hint at a possible alien invasion of the Earth.

Scriptwriter Robert Gould opened the story with Head of Space Research, Sir Robert Nailer (William Dexter), assisting with shuttle manoeuvres as a space station endeavoures to assist astronaut Mike Sklorski (Frank Fenter) in returning to Earth, having traversed the Van Allen belts. The mission appears to be successful, with the shuttle returning safely and the astronaut in fine health. However, further investigation finds that the recording equipment inside the vessel had stopped for nineteen seconds prior to re-entry, and Nailer is keen to ascertain the cause and any side-effects Sklorski may be experiencing. However, less than an hour after the capsule is opened, the astronaut dies - and there appears to be no precise medical reason for his death. Nailer becomes even more concerned when Doctor Weatherfield (Felix Deebank), in England for the opening a powerful new radio-telescope and the first man to enter the space capsule after its opening, disappears from his hotel after a terrible nightmare in which he had "absorbed" the mind of the dead astronaut.

This six-part serial, produced and directed by Terence Dudley, was both potent and compellingly addictive as the layers of revelations were steadily stripped away as the series surged towards its climax. The ability to keep the viewer guessing as to whether or not it was a radiation plague or an alien invasion heightened the suspense and dramatic potential, and a served as a timely warning of the dangers of reckless experimentation in space.

The programme boasted notable performances from Frederick Treves, June Tobin, Gertan Klauber and Keith Pyott, and is one of the more high-calibre science-fiction drama productions BBC Television developed throughout the 1960s. The programme was never commercially exported or released.

Text © Matthew Lee 2004.

The series was created and written by Lester Powell and produced and directed by Alan Bromly.