Science Fiction Radio Plays

If you want to know about science fiction on the radio, you really need Penny Fabb's book. This page just lists a few of my favourites. For the record, I don't like stories about bug-eyed monsters, human characters with wings, horses with wings, inaccurate science, and ill-informed criticism of nuclear power. Stuff like this isn't science fiction - it's drivel.

Science fiction is all about imagination....

Here are some excellent sci-fi stories and serials:

1956 X Minus One - A gun for Dinosaur
1960 John Wyndham - Day of the Triffids 6 x 30min
1962 John Wyndham - Trouble with Lichen
1966 Victor Pemberton - The Slide
1969 Maurice Travers: The Scent Of New-Mown Hay
1974 James Follett - The light of a thousand suns
1975 Bruce Stewart - Omega Point
1979 Gerry Jones - Time after Time
1980 James Follett - Earthsearch 12 and Earthsearch 2 (serial)
1980 Tanith Lee - The Silver Sky
1982 Alan Melville - Blithe thou never wert
1983 Jill Hyem - Origami
1984 Charles Chilton - Journey into Space - The Return from Mars
1988 Michael Robson - The Spirit of the House
1989 Isaac Asimov - Caves of Steel
1991 Daniel Keyes - Flowers for Algernon
1991 Alfred Bester - Tiger, Tiger
1993 Steve Walker - Holus Bolus
1994 John Fletcher - The Lyme Regis Food and Fertility Festival
1996 Andrew Dallmeyer - Potted History
1997 Nick Fisher - Finding Fellows
1998 Dirk Maggs - The Gemini Apes
2000 Eric Pringle - The last piano player
2002 Isaac Asimov, dram. D. Griffiths: Satisfaction Guaranteed
2001 Rossum's Cyber Cafe
2003 John Wyndham - The Midwich Cuckoos (dram. D.Rebellato)
2005 Matt Bloom - Find Me
2009 Anita Sullivan - Homesick
2009 Kurt Vonnegut / Dave Sheasby: Slaughterhouse Five
2009 Nick Perry - The Loop
2010 Martin Jameson - Can you tell me the name of the Prime Minister?
2013 Melissa Murray - Tom Thumb Redux

dates not known
Robert Serling - 100 Yards Over The Rim


A little gem - 25min - some rich tourists pay to go back in time and hunt some dinosaurs. The best story in the famous "X Minus One" series from America.

BBC 26/11/62 90min From the novel by John Wyndham, adapted by Archie Campbell. The effects on society of a researcher's discovery of a drug which slows down the ageing process.

THE SLIDE....1966
BBC 1966 7eps X 30min
By Victor Pemberton
A mud-like life form threatens a town.
1/7: Moment of Silence (13/2/66)
2/7: Down Came a Blackbird (20/2/66)
3/7: Analysis (27/2/66)
4/7: Heart-Beat (6/3/66)
5/7: Danger-Point (13/3/66)
6/7: Time-Limits (20/3/66)
7/7: Out of the Darkness (27/3/66)

By Maurice Travers, dram. John Blackburn. A science-fiction thriller in six parts 6.5.1969 R2. From a vast cordoned-off area in Russia a frightful, horrific catastrophe threatens civilisation. A specimen has arrived in Britain. RT Notes for ep. 3: The wind from the East. Tony Heath: Alan Browning, Marcia: Isobel Black, General Kirk: Norman Claridge, Dr Hearn: Garard Green, Trubenoff: Donald Pickering, Mrs Baker: Pauline Letts, Produced by John Browell. (thanks AW)

What might happen if a completely secure defence system goes wrong....

OMEGA POINT....... 1975
Superb science fiction story beginning with the decoding of an electronic message from a remote transmitter. Stars Dinsdale Landen. 90m.

An extraordinary play which starts with a guy at the side of the road ... he's picked up by a car which takes him back to his hotel... the car radio is playing "Time after Time".

BBC R4, August 1980, 75min .
based on a Tanith Lee story.
A scientist )Paul Darrow) travelling back through time collides with an alien time traveller (Elizabeth Bell) and they find themselves stranded in a strange world.

BBCR4 21/4/82 45min
By Alan Melville - a dotty investor creates a substitute for petrol.

ORIGAMI 1983 45m
A Japanese businessman lodges with a woman and her son. But after he arrives, the child has disturbing dreams, and a figure from the past turns the Origami lessons into something more menacing. With Seam Barratt as Mr. Shimoja, Carole Boyd as Helen Bestall, with Christopher Scoular, Helen Worth, Kate Lee. Directed by Kay Patrick.

A very fine ghost story.

14 Sep 91, rpt. 1993. Outstanding science fiction thriller.

A guy discovers that when a glaze is put on a pot using a sharp tool, it sometimes picks up noises from nearby; the sounds find their way into the glaze; rather like the process of making an old gramophone record. To hear sounds from ancient times, therefore, you need a museum with an accessible collection of old pots, and a device capable of decoding the glaze...

It is 2020; in an empty Norfolk resort, a lone piano player continues his playing, uninterested in the technological world around him. A tatty quiz extravaganza, the "Simon Swain Show", finds out about his playing and features him on the show. It's easy to humiliate him, but the show organisers get more than they bargained for. With Bernard Cribbins as the piano player, and Philip Jackson; dir. Cherry Cookson: an outstanding play.

Satisfaction Guaranteed (R4, 1415, 8 Feb 02) , dramatised by Diana Griffiths, was a tale by Isaac Asimov. US Robots employee Larry Belmont agrees to let his rather dowdy and submissive wife field-test a new house robot, a handsome humanoid called Tony. He is unprepared for the transformation which takes place in his wife, and so are the neighbours. An entertaining story; well-told. Nicholas Blane was Tony, and the director Pauline Harris.
ND, VRPCC newsletter, Apr 2002

The Midwich Cuckoos....2003
John Wyndham's creepy novel about an alien generation born into a cosy British village. Adapted in two 60 min parts as the Classic Serial, beginning R4 30 Nov 03. Original music by Christopher Madin. Stars Bill Nighy, Sarah Parrish, Clive Merrison, Nicholas Bailey, Katherine Tozer, Mark Chatterton, Barbara Marten, Malcolm Raeburn, Christine Brennan, Rebecca Bridle. Directed by Polly Thomas.

Find Me....2005
A matter transporter goes wrong - with disastrous consequences for one man.

11 Mar 09. Outstanding sci-fi play about a stranded alien. Stars Mark Heap, Paul Ritter, Maxine Peake, Susam Jameson, Ewan Bailey, Mia Soteriou. Producer Karen Rose; director Anita Sullivan. Reminded me a little of the famous short story 'Meteor' by John Wyndham.

Superb dramatisation by Dave Sheasby of Kurt Vonnegut's science fiction novel,the book rooted in his witnessing of the bombing of Dresden during World War II. The main character in this 90-minute parable has a disability; he drifts unpredictably through time, viewing different parts of his life, not able to control where he goes. That's the point of the play; it's not really a science fiction story; it's about the helplessness felt by an individual when the world around him descends into chaos. The cast: John Guerassio as the narrator, Andrew Scott as Billy Pilgrim. Lots of other well-known actors further down the cast list. Produced by David Hunter.

THE LOOP (R4, 1415, 18 Nov 09), by Nick Perry, was a little gem of a play, possibly the best of the year, described on the BBC messageboard as 'faultless'. A man finds himself talking on the telephone to someone in America but ... it gradually transpires that over there, it's fifty years earlier. This bizarre beginning sets in motion a whole train of events which goes around in an enormous circle. Directed by Toby Swift, it starred Ivan Kaye, Edward Hogg, Peter Marinker, Emerald O'Hanrahan, Rhys Jennings, and Melissa Advani. I hope this item is entered for the Imison Award - it would qualify, because it's Nick Perry's first radio play. ND, VRPCC review, Dec 2009

By Martin Jameson. Afternoon Play, Fri 14 May 2010. A week after the General Election a psychistrist is called to a top secret government research facility to make an assessment of two individuals who look absolutely identical. They both possess disturbing abilities, but one of them is placid and rational; the other is perpetually angry and seems crazy. Amita Dhiri, Jude Akuwudike, Tony Bell, David Seddon, Christine Kavanagh. Producer - Jeremy Mortimer.

11 Jan 13; by Melissa Murray. A fascinating bit of science fiction, where a research biologist triggers a weird process which makes him start to shrink. As a scientist I have sometimes wondered what it would be like to get smaller and smaller ... what would happen to the senses, especially sight and hearing? Isaac Asimov pointed out in 'The Incredible Voyage' that muscular strength would increase enormously since weight decreases as the cube of the linear dimension, but muscles would only decrease as the square. So if you shrank to half the height, your weight would decrease 8 times but your muscular strength would only shrink by a factor of 4. You would be able to lift twice as much, relative to your body weight. If you shrank to one-hundredth the size, you would be probably be able to lift fifty to a hundred times your body weight...... Cast: Ron Cook as the shrinking man, with Helen Longworth, Jonathan Forbes, Patrick Brennan and Sarah Thorn; producer Marc Beeby.


100 YARDS OVER THE RIM....date nk
By Robert Serling. A very effective play set on the American Frontier in about 1850. A group of pioneers are driving their wagons into new territory, northwards, across deserts and badlands, and they've gone 2,000 miles. Their party is a fraction of the size it was at the beginning. A baby is dying of pneumonia; it is blisteringly hot. The baby's father goes on ahead to look for water, and suddenly ... it's not 1850 any more. Can't seem to trace the play on BBC listings; perhaps it's American. There is a reference to 'The Twilight Zone' at the end. 35m; no credits on recording.

Andrew Jupp from R4 Extra adds: The play formed part of our radio Twilight Zone series in 2004. Tx details are: BBC Radio 7 at 6pm on 24/1/1004 with a repeat on 8/1/2008 at the same time..... (- thanks AJ.)

Nigel Deacon / Diversity website

Above plays known to exist in VRPCC collections

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