Alien Nation I: The Stone Tape + Introduction from British Film and TV Specialist

Dir. various, English, 1972

Sun 17 July 2011 // 19:30 / Cinema


"Arguably the most creepy drama ever seen on television" - Roger Fulton, writing in The Encyclopedia of TV Science Fiction

"Extraordinary piece of work" - Jeremy Dyson, Writer and member of The League of Gentlemen

The “Alien Nation” season of British telefantasy opens with this startling fusion of science fiction and supernatural horror.


We are very excited to announce that the programme will be introduced by a great specialist of British Film and Television, Dr James Leggott, from Northumbria University. James Leggott also curated the whole Alien Nation season, and will talk about the whole season tonight.



Penned by Nigel Kneale (the Godfather of British telefantasy) and first broadcast as part of the BBC’s tradition of ghost tales for Christmas, this futuristic story concerns a group of scientists who discover that their newfangled recording device is picking up disturbing transmissions from the past.



Combining aspects of science fiction and horror, the story concerns a team of scientists who move into their new research facility, a renovated Victorian mansion that has a reputation for being haunted.

Investigating, they learn that the haunting is a recording of a past event stored by the stone in one of the rooms of the house – the "stone tape" of the play's title. Believing that this may be the key to the development of a new recording medium, they throw all their expertise and high-tech equipment into learning how the stone tape preserves its recording.

However, their investigations serve only to unleash a darker, more malevolent force...



"One of the masterpieces of genre television, an authentic alliance of mind-stretching science fiction concepts with horror and suspense plot mechanics" - The writer and critic Kim Newman

The Stone Tape "strikes a note that it just circumnavigates your intellect and gets you on a much deeper level [...] it just has this impact on you, rather like being in the room itself. Extraordinary piece of work" - Writer and member of The League of Gentlemen, Jeremy Dyson

The Stone Tape Is "really creepy and very memorable. Just brilliant images. That scared the hell out of me!" - Writer Grant Morrison

"The Stone Tape stands as perhaps his finest single work in the genre" - Sergio Angelini, writing for the British Film Institute's Screenonline

"One of the most imaginative and intelligent examples of the horror genre to appear on British television, a single play to rank alongside the best of Play for Today"- Lez Cooke, in his book British Television Drama: A History



- Since the broadcast of the programme, the hypothesis of residual haunting – that ghosts are recordings of past events made by the natural environment – has come to be known as the "Stone Tape Theory".

- The Stone Tape was a significant influence on John Carpenter's 1987 film Prince of Darkness in which a group of scientists investigate a mysterious cylinder discovered in the basement of a church.

-The programme also influenced the 1982 Steven Spielberg and Tobe Hooper film Poltergeist

- The Stone Tape was written by Nigel Kneale, best known as the writer of Quatermass




£4.50 advance ticket

OR £5/£3.50 (conc) on the night



A celebration of the freaky, spooky and obscure side of UK television drama. Programmed by James Leggott (Lecturer in Film and TV, Northumbria University) from the darker corners of the BBC archives, with special guest introductions, this is a rare chance to catch some of the most haunting telefantasy ever transmitted.



Sunday 17 July, 7.30pm: The Stone Tape (1972)

This futuristic story concerns a group of scientists who discover that their newfangled recording device is picking up disturbing transmissions from the past...






Wednesday 20 July, 8pm: Ghostwatch (1992)

This infamous BBC mockumentary about an evil spirit possessing a suburban household was taken by some audiences as a genuine live broadcast upon its first (and only) broadcast on Halloween in 1992.




Thursday 21 July, 7.30pm: Penda's Fen (1974)

A true cult classic about a teenage boy’s fantastical encounters with angels and pagan rulers, Penda’s Fen is an enigmatic meditation on themes of nationality, sexuality, myth, masculinity and religion.





Sunday 24 July, 7.30pm: Shalcken the Painter (1979) + The Exorcism (1972)

The “Alien Nation” season of weird and haunting UK telefantasy concludes with this double-bill of two gems highly rated by connoisseurs of 1970s TV horror.





This event is being programmed with the support of Northumbria University, as part of the International Conference “Alien Nation: A Conference on British Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Television” (20-21 July 2011)