The Catacombs These Episodes
The Troubled Spirit

From the These Episodes documentary originally on the 2005 Network DVD boxset.

The Troubled Spirit

Gerry Anderson

There is a school of thought which says if you're going to make a television series, put it on the rails and keep it on the rails, and don't veer that way or that way. I, having said I'm not a lemming... I don't observe that rule. I just listen to an idea from a writer. And if it's good, I do it. And I think it results in a variation from episode to episode which in my opinion, and I am always prepared to be wrong by the way, in my opinion I feel that makes the show more real. But... there were a number of episodes which were fairly deep in terms of story.

Johnny Byrne

Troubled Spirit was very, very close to my heart. It presented a number of challenges, one was to do an authentic ghost story set in the context of science fiction, even more so, set in the context of the partly metaphysical science fiction series Space: 1999. Its origins are really rooted in my background. Growing up in Dublin, there was this very spooky little church. We believed if we walked three times anticlockwise around that church at a certain witching hour, you would meet yourself coming out. And that always stayed with me. I wanted to do a story that would, for me as a writer, have the most beautiful symmetry. So these are the thoughts that I sat down with. And what I came up with, because food is an abiding concern, and the reproduction of food; therefore it seemed to me reasonable that they would be experimenting with plants in various ways to enhance and increase their growth and all of that. That there would be an experiment of some kind going. And so I had discovered a way in which they could amplify that part of the brain, and to do it in a way that amplifies also all of those elements of the brain of those taking part, so that you have a communal thrust, in what is in effect a seance.

So what happens is this extraordinary event, it conjures up a being who has a striking similarity to the leader of this experimental group of scientists. And he's horribly wounded and disfigured on one side of his face.

This being that they've manifested from that uncharted area of the brain is coming back to avenge a death which has not yet happened.

You have Bergman trying to read the runes as usual. But he says, well it's possession. Let's go back to the very ancient form or way of dealing with this, which is exorcism. So they devise a means of exorcising this presence from Moonbase Alpha. I thought Ray Austin did a marvellous job with it. I don't know how long that opening sequence of raga music is, but it goes on for an awfully long time and this is a challenge to do something that requires no dialogue that could set up and make totally explicable the events that you wanted to happen.

David Lane

Ray Austin was a really zappy director. From all the directors you're always expecting surprises. The biggest thing you can have on a picture is surprises. If you go to rushes and its all normal and there's no surprise, it's pretty dull. When you go to rushes and you're all sitting there at eight thirty waiting for the .. to run, and you see something that's different, you think yes. Now we're gonna get somewhere with the show.

Johnny Byrne

There's a sense of unease, a sense of foreboding, the way Ray had set it up. That winds sort of shifting through airless Moonbase alpha. You knew something terribly uneasy was happening. And there were moments like that all the way through. The psychological unease that it created was, I think, very effective.

Contents copyright Martin Willey