by Colin Cutler © 1999-2007
New York City in the far future: 14 million people crowded beneath an all encompassing protective dome, within which the inhabitants have developed a morbid fear and anxiety of "outside." On the perimeter of the city lies "Spacetown" - the enclave of Outer World scientists. Commonly referred to as "Spacers," these people are the descendants of humans who had colonised other planets many centuries previously. Now a group of Outer World scientists have returned to Earth, and are are viewed with distrust and hostility by the people of the cities, who nevertheless fear their great technological superiority. The most indigenous object of this fear is the Outer Worlders development of the Positronic Robot - seen by some as the figure of humanity’s salvation, and by others as the means of its ultimate downfall.
This was the setting for Isaac Asimov’s The Caves of Steel, memorably brought to the small screen by the BBC way back in 1964....
In the early hours of dawn, an unseen caller arrives at the residence of Dr Sarton, one of the most eminent of the Outer world scientists. Sarton admits the caller, only to be suddenly and brutally shot down. Sarton is killed immediately, whilst his mysterious assailant hurriedly flees.
The murder quickly comes to the attention of the New York Police Department, where Commissioner Julius Enderby assigns the case to Detective Elijah Baley, a trusted and experienced colleague. Enderby is wracked with anxiety over the murder of Dr Sarton, for he had been closely involved in a series of negotiations with the Spacers regarding their project here on Earth. Since he had been due to meet with Sarton that very morning, he had the misfortune to be there when the "case broke." He tells Baley that he had broken his glasses during this time, a fact which Enderby admits has added to his general confusion and consternation. He goes on to reveal that the Spacers have issued a terrible ultimatum: unless the Earth authorities capture the killer within 48 hours, Outer World forces will either occupy the city or obliterate it.
Before Baley leaves to begin his investigation, Enderby informs him that he will have a partner on the case. The Spacers have made it a special condition that one of their agents is also assigned, to ensure that the Earth authorities do not arbitrarily "frame" someone for the murder. To Baley’s consternation he discovers that his partner is to be a robot - R. Daneel Olivaw - and that furthermore Daneel will be required to live with Baley and his family throughout the course of the investigation.
Baley travels to Spacetown to meet his new colleague. When he arrives, his anxiety becomes offset by his sheer bewilderment at Daneel physical appearance, since to all extents and purposes the robot could easily pass as human, even under the closest scrutiny. Daneel tells Baley that the near perfect approximation to humanity is quite deliberate, particularly given the widespread anti-robot sentiment prevalent amongst humans. This subterfuge is put to the test when the two detectives return to the city, where they come across a violent disturbance at a shoe store. It appears that one of the customers has refused to be served by the robots currently in operation there, and her angry demands to be served by a human had drawn a sympathetic yet hostile crowd to the scene. At the point at which the crowd is about to ransack the store and attack the robots, Daneel abruptly stands in their way and draws a blaster on them. To Baley’s astonishment, Daneel threatens to shoot unless the crowd withdraws from the area. Unwilling to call Daneel bluff, the angry mob disperses, although Baley is furious with Daneel for what he considers to be a spurious and irresponsible course of action.
With the immediate situation now under control, Baley takes Daneel back to his family apartment, where his new partner is introduced to his wife Jessie and their ten year old son. Given the widespread fear of robots, Baley remains anxious lest Daneel's true nature becomes apparent, but neither Jessie nor their son suspect anything at this first meeting. Some time later, when the two detectives are left alone to discuss the case, Daneel shows Baley a series of slides taken at the murder scene. One of these is an image of Dr Sarton, whose features match those of Daneel down to the last detail. Daneel reveals that Sarton was himself a roboticist, and that he had made Daneel in his own image. Daneel was meant to be the first in a new line of robots, able to move without detection within the city, and so gather the information about city dwellers that was so crucial to the Spacers' project.
The Outer World authorities are further convinced that the killing was the work of a organised terrorist group, who are opposed to the Spacers interference with Earth's culture. To Baley this sounds unfeasible, although he recognises the prominence within the city of a strong anti robot sentiment, as well as the existence of several covert "Medievalist" groups, dedicated to the proposition that city dwellers return to a non-technological way of living,
They go on to discuss the mystery of how someone could enter Spacetown undetected to commit an act of murder, although Daneel remains convinced that a human must have crossed open country to gain access to Sarton’s residence. To Baley this seems impossible, since the culture of city living has bred a deep seated fear of open spaces amongst its inhabitants, and it seems inconceivable that any human could even think about leaving the enclosure of the city dome. As Daneel projects a further image - depicting some unidentified slivers of broken glass found at the murder scene - they are interrupted by the reappearance of Jessie, who had been apparently spending the evening with some friends. Without warning, she confronts R. Daneel and demands to know whether or not "he" is a robot. When Daneel acknowledges this, Jessie becomes angry and distraught, screaming at Daneel to leave their house. Baley demands to know how Jessie found out about Daneel, although she only says that she heard a "rumour" amongst her friends that a "Spacer robot" was roaming loose in the city.
This news at first confuses Baley, but then he begins to feel that everything points towards a very simple although disturbing conclusion. With some elation he begins to feel that he has the case already solved....
With this sense of complete conviction, Baley arranges that he and Daneel make a further trip to Spacetown the following morning. The appointment is with Dr Hans Fastolfe - the head of Spacetown security. When they arrive, Baley pronounces his theory that no murder has taken place at all, and that the whole situation is part of an elaborate Spacer plot to create fear and anxiety through the cities. He claims that Daneel is not a robot made in Sarton’s image, but Sarton himself masquerading as a robot. To counter his claims, Fastolfe simply instructs Daneel to expose the wiring within his right arm.
Rather than being antagonised by Baley’s accusations, Fastolfe admits to admiring his honesty and integrity. He goes on to reveal that the Outer Worlders were indeed intent on creating a disturbance in the fabric of city life, but only in the interests of preventing what they saw as the inexorable decline of humanity. They had intended to upset the balance of the city economy by the gradual introduction of robots, in the hope that humans would once more become frustrated with being entombed within "caves of steel," and again seek to colonise other planets. Unfortunately, Dr Sarton had been integral to the success of this far reaching project.
Leaving Spacetown, Baley and Daneel stop to eat at a section restaurant within the city. Daneel informs Baley that they are being observed by a group of several men, all of whom he had registered as being present at the earlier shoe store disturbance. Fearing an imminent riot, Baley and Daneel make a quick exit and flee down the city corridors, with a group of men - led by a ringleader called Clousarr - in hot pursuit. The two detectives take refuge in one of the city's power plants, and the pursuing crowd is eventually dispersed by riot police.
The following morning, Baley arranges a further meeting at Police Headquarters with an earth roboticist named Dr Gerrigel ; when he introduces Daneel to Gerrigel, he notes with some satisfaction that she does not immediately recognise his partner as a robot. The fact that a top roboticist cannot make the distinction confirms his feeling that someone must have had some inside knowledge to divine Daneel true identity. Pursuing another line of enquiry, Baley also utilises Gerrigel's expertise to find out whether a robot can be capable of committing murder, since Daneel was clearly present at Sarton’s house the morning he was murdered. In order to reassure Baley on this point, Gerrigel puts Daneel through a series of standard tests, and the results definitively remove Daneel from any further suspicion: clearly the First Law of Robotics - which holds that a robot may not harm a human being - holds as true for Daneel as it would for any other positronic robot.
With only four hours left to complete the investigation, Daneel assists Baley is locating the identity of the man seen leading the mob at the section restaurant. He is identified as Francis Clousarr, a known Medievalist. Before they leave to question him, Baley receives a visit from a distraught Jessie, who abruptly confesses to having attended a number of Medievalist meetings herself within the city. She admits that it was at these meetings that she had first heard of Daneel's presence in the city, and she is now terrified at the thought that her own family might be in imminent danger. She also gives a positive identification of Clousarr, who had been present at the last meeting she had gone too, where there had been a great deal of talk about rioting and the destruction of robots.
Although anxious and confused about the implications of Jessie's connection with such groups, Baley takes Daneel to Clousarr's workplace, where they question him on his alleged role with such an organisation. Clousarr denies any such involvement, but it becomes clear that for some unknown reason he is already aware of Daneel non-human status. Baley arrests Clousarr, although any impression that the case is progressing receives a further blow when they arrive at Police Headquarters. There they discover that one of the resident office robots - R.Sammy - has been attacked and completely immobilised by the use of an Alpha Sprayer, a device that emits hard radiation. Commissioner Enderby states that the sabotage must have been the work of someone within the department, and immediately confronts Baley about his own possible motive for destroying R.Sammy. As evidence of Baley’s guilt, Enderby states that the Alpha Sprayer was easily located - it originated from the same power plant that he and Daneel had entered the previous day.
Baley realises that he is being framed for the attack, and that someone feels he is getting too close to the solution of Sarton’s murder. If charges are brought against him, he will be unable to continue the investigation. At this point, Daneel informs Baley that the Outer World authorities have decided to close the investigation anyway - they no longer wish to invade the city by force, nor to use Sarton’s death to justify doing so. It is clear to their scientists that the city dwellers are already sufficiently restless and frustrated with their underground environment, and that it is only a matter of time before humans will once again look towards populating other worlds. As of midnight, the case is closed.
Although the threat of annihilation or subjugation is lifted, Baley’s own position remains untenable. He has literally twenty five minutes left to both prove his innocence and reveal Sarton’s murderer. He has no option but to play his last remaining card and act on an intuitive line of reasoning, one that had been set in motion earlier when he saw Enderby fingering his new glasses. Baley begins to question the Commissioner about his own sympathies with "subversive" principles, and accuses him of holding a high ranking position with the Medievalists. He states that at the beginning of the investigation, only one other person besides Dr Fastolfe knew that Daneel was a robot - the Commissioner himself. When Jessie had returned that evening from her covert meeting, it was clear that the news had been leaked through Clousarr - and it follows that only Enderby would have been in a position to do this. He goes on to suggest that when Enderby had gone to meet Sarton that morning, he had actually killed by accident: he had not gone to murder the scientist, but to destroy Daneel.
Baley theorises that Enderby had been disturbed by the way in which the Spacers project was progressing, and that he thought he might be able to deal a mortal blow to this project if he were able to put the first of their "new breed" of robots out of action. To give weight to his theory, Baley requests Daneel to project the series of images that they had earlier discussed at the beginning of the investigation. He tells the robot to stop at the one that depicts the shards of broken glass found at the doorway of Sarton’s residence. Baley puts it to the Commissioner that the shards are the remains of his old glasses which, in his anxiety before calling at Sarton’s door, he had accidentally broken. Unfortunately, Sarton had risen early that morning, and when he had answered the door personally Enderby’s blurred vision would not have been able to distinguish him from his near identical creation.
Baley draws the remaining threads of the case together. The commissioner had instructed R.Sammy to take a blaster and cross the open unmonitored countryside at dawn to meet him at Spacetown - a scheme which bypassed the standard security checks at Spacetown entrance, where any weapons carried by visitors were always formally confiscated. Being non-human, R.Sammy would have experienced no difficulty in traversing the open environment outside the city, although his compliance with Enderby’s orders essentially meant that the robot "knew too much." The closer Baley got to the solution of the murder, the greater the pressure on Enderby to destroy R. Sammy.
Enderby confesses his guilt, stating his belief that city life is "evil." Before any further action can be taken however, Enderby draws his own blaster and turns it on himself. Baley and Daneel look on helplessly as the Commissioner is killed instantly. Baley is shocked by this unexpected and disturbing resolution of the investigation, but as the clock on the wall approaches midnight, he reflects on the idea that robots and humanity may have a future together after all.
The Caves of Steel had been specially commissioned for the BBC 2 anthology series Story Parade, the first drama programme designed for the new channel when transmissions started in April 1964. Script edited by Irene Shubik, the series had originally been set up to dramatise various examples of "modern fictional writing," rather than showcase original works, with The Caves of Steel going out as the fifth story on 5th June. Shubik had of course earlier script edited the ABC science fiction anthology show Out of this World, and in many ways her decision to adapt Asimov’s novel pre-empts her later work for the BBC 2 series Out of the Unknown, in which she acted as both producer and script editor for two seminal seasons in 1965 and 1966. It was in fact during Story Parade's short tenure that Shubik was first approached by both Sydney Newman (then the newly-appointed Head of Drama at the BBC) and Michael Bakewell (head of Plays) to begin gathering thirteen suitable short stories for the latter show.
The original novel was first published ten years previously, in 1954, and its amalgamation of the SF and detective genres proved immensely popular. By this point Asimov’s reputation as one of the worlds leading SF writers had been well consolidated, with story collections such as I, Robot (1950) already having a profound impact on how the field of robotics was represented within the genre. In this respect, The Caves of Steel was the first full length novel by Asimov to explore this territory, itself spawning a sequence of further novels featuring the Baley/R.Daneel characters. Shubik had long typified Asimov as, "one of the most interesting and amusing men I have ever met," and her predilection for his work was well represented not only by the Story Parade adaptation, but also her earlier selection of Asimov’s story Little Lost Robot for Out of this World, and a further six stories for the first three seasons of Out of the Unknown (although Shubik only produced the first two seasons, all bar one of the episodes in Season 3 were selected by her during her tenure). It seemed inevitable that one of these proved to be an ambitious adaptation of The Naked Sun, Asimov’s 1956 sequel to The Caves of Steel, adapted by Robert Muller and directed by Rudolph Cartier.
The script for The Caves of Steel was handled by Terry Nation, who at the time was riding high on the recent success of the Dr Who serial The Daleks, although Shubik had already been familiar with Nations work from his involvement with Out of this World. For the earlier show, Nation had adapted Philip K. Dicks’ Imposter and Clifford Simak’s The Immigrant, as well as contributing the original teleplay Botany Bay (Shubik had in fact later recommended Nation to Verity Lambert, the then-producer of Doctor Who). With a running time of 75 minutes, Nations adaptation remains remarkably faithful to the structure of Asimov’s original story, although there are some notable alterations for dramatic effect. The most striking of these is the denouement of the play, in which Commissioner Enderby commits suicide when his subversive actions are eventually revealed. In the original story, however, he receives some reprieve from the Outer World authorities, who request that he uses his influence with the Medievalist organisations to bring their principles more in line with the Outer Worlders project. Generally the characterisation of the play remains in line with the novel, the most notable change being the figure of the roboticist Dr Gerrigel, who in the play is represented as a female character. A more thematic alteration concerns the character of Baley’s wife Jessie, whose "subversive" motivations in the original story were prompted by her identification with her rebellious Biblical "namesake," Jezebel.
Although it seems that Paul Bernard was originally earmarked to direct the play, the project eventually ended up in the very capable hands of Peter Sasdy, a director who was later to have many notable telefantasy credits to his name (including work on Out of the Unknown, the Doomwatch film and Nigel Kneale's The Stone Tape in 1972 and Robert Muller's 1977 anthology series Supernatural). Notably, Sasdy later redeployed the "blaster" prop and its destructive effects from The Caves of Steel in the Out of the Unknown play Time in Advance (broadcast the following year in November 1965). This was a particularly graphic treatment courtesy of pioneer special effects team Jack Kine and Bernard Wilkie, shot on film and edited into the recorded studio action.
Kine and Wilkie were also responsible for the required filmed model work, principally the early sequence depicting a "Travel Machine" (which takes Baley to his initial rendezvous with R. Daneel), and also the shot of the City Dome seen at the very beginning of the play, which accompanied a voice-over by Baley describing the retreat of the Earths population into underground cities. This latter sequence acted as a "teaser," with the model shot fading into the standard Story Parade titles, and then the specially shot title sequence for the play itself (comprised of the title credits framed by an eyecatching swirling effect). The end titles again prefigured Bernard Lodges memorable closing graphics for Out of the Unknown, with the artist credits superimposed against close-up profiles of the lead characters.
The role of Elijah Baley was given to the well known film and television character actor Peter Cushing, the doyen of a score of successful Hammer features, as well as several notable television productions, including Rudolph Cartier's infamous 1954 version of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. The other principal player was John Carson as R. Daneel, another familiar face from the era who went on to make appearances in several other memorable telefantasy productions, including The Avengers (Dial a Deadly Number), Adam Adamant Lives! (The League of Uncharitable Ladies), and Out of the Unknown (This Body is Mine). Carson also had an uncredited role as the doomed figure of Dr Sarton, the scientist murdered at the beginning of the story, and in whose image R. Daneel was made.
Apart from the model work, several other sequences in The Caves of Steel were also shot on film. These included the rather gruesome "blasting" of Dr Sarton at the beginning of the play, and parts of Baley’s initial journey to and from Spacetown. The most extensive filmed insert was the lengthy "chase" sequence, in which Baley and Daneel are pursued - and then confronted by - Clousarr and his compatriots, which presumably would have been difficult to adequately realise in the confines of the studio. After the pre-filming and model work for the play was completed, the production entered the studio in May 1964, with camera rehearsals taking place between 5th - 7th May. The recording took place on the evening of the 7th, just under a month before transmission. Remarkably, given the scope and complexity of the production, the play was taped with only a minimum of recording breaks (three in total).
After the initial broadcast, the play gathered very appreciative reviews. The Daily Telegraph, for instance, stated: "The Caves of Steel proved again that science fiction can be exciting, carry a message and be intellectually stimulating." The television critic of The Listener was equally impressed, citing the play as being the best of the Story Parade series: "a fascinating mixture of science fiction and whodunnit which worked remarkably well. One would guess, judging from the sets, costumes and miscellaneous gadgetry, that this was one of the series most expensive productions, but if so it was worth every penny." After this positive reception, the play went on to warrant a repeat transmission on August 28th. Eric Taylor, the producer of Story Parade, had felt that since the BBC 2 audience had grown since the inception of the new channel, the "five best and most representative dramatisations" deserved to be seen by a much larger viewing audience.
Unfortunately the film prints of The Caves of Steel have long since been junked during the infamous television archive "purge" of the 1970's, and no copy of the whole play exists in the BBC's Film and Videotape Library. At least four extracts have fortunately survived however, having been utilised in later editions of Horizon, Tomorrows World and a BBC Visual Effects Department promotional showreel from the early seventies. A detailed listing of these clips, alongside some indication of their original documentary sources and subsequent re-uses, is given below.
The opening pre-credits "teaser" sequence, comprising a panning shot of the domed city of New York and the clustered domes of "Spacetown" outside the city's perimeter. Originally, Cushing supplied a taped voiceover to accompany this shot:
"New York City. The culmination of man's mastery over environment. 14 million people crowd beneath its protective dome. And out there in the open country Spacetown. Unwelcome and unwanted. With its handful of outer world scientists seeking to change us, interfering, trying to impose new cultures."
As broadcast, this 35mm film sequence would have then faded out and the stock Story Parade titles (20 secs) would then have been faded in. Duration: 17 secs
The clip survives on the BBC promotional showreel Visual Effects in Television - An Introduction to the Devices, Techniques and Operational Methods of the Visual Effects Department of BBCTV (circa 1970). The clip is presented minus Cushing's voiceover (replaced by the showreel's narrator and unrelated stock music).
The second surviving fragment comprises part of the specially shot title sequence for the play (including author and dramatist credits), which originally would have followed the generic Story Parade titles. The clip then continues into the opening scene of the play, in which an unseen Enderby enters the apartment of Dr Sarton and kills him.
This scene opens with a shot of Enderby's gloved hand passing across the "eye" of Sarton's door to activate the mellow ringing of a doorbell. This is followed by a shot of Sarton rising from his desk and walking across his apartment to meet his unknown visitor, whilst Enderby (here seen only from the waist down) enters the revolving door cubicle that opens into Sarton's apartment. We then see Sarton greet his visitor (Enderby just out of frame), with his smile of recognition turning to panic as Enderby pulls out his blaster. In extreme close up, Sarton screams "No, no, no!…" This cuts to a shot of the blaster being fired and Sarton's midriff bursting into flame. The final shots show Enderby's hand hurriedly seeking the door mechanism and Sarton's corpse on the ground. Duration: 1.20 ( NB. This is the duration of a "cutting copy" of this sequence - see below)
This clip was originally utilised as part of a feature on the BBC Radiophonic Workshop within an edition of Tomorrow's World broadcast on 9.12.65. Because of this, the Caves of Steel title sequence is intercut with two shots of composer John Baker at work. This particular edition of Tomorrow's World exists in full as a film recording, although a "cutting copy" of the programme also survives. It is this that contains the longer version of the clip documented above, although the soundtrack to this is mute from the point at which Enderby enters the door cubicle.
A sequence exists from Scene 33, in which Baley and Daneel discuss the possibility of the murderer being a robot with Dr Gerrigel (Naomi Chance). This clip was first utilised within an edition of Horizon broadcast on 28th July 1965, which contained a feature on the SF work of Isaac Asimov. Although this particular edition no longer survives as a complete recording, the filmed inserts have been retained and it is these that contain the clips plus a number of interview segments with Asimov describing his "Three Laws of Robotics."
At the time of writing, the full extent of this particular clip on the insert material is not known. The I Robot edition of the 1997 series Future Fantastic series however, contains two fragments from this sequence. The first shows Gerrigel responding to Baley's question about whether a killer robot could actually exist. This is simply a close-up shot (shot 319 in the camera script) of the Doctor as she says: "Well naturally I can't speak from my own knowledge…but if it did, I'm sure we would have heard about it" (although Gillian Anderson's narration obscures Gerrigel's dialogue here). The second fragment of this sequence shows her suddenly realising that Daneel is actually a robot. This includes a shot of Gerrigel turning to face Daneel and saying "Dear me…. you are a robot aren't you?" (shot 324) and then her closer inspection of Daneel's features as she states: "I'd like to make a thorough examination" (shot 327).
A clip from Scene 36, in which Baley and Daneel confront the "Medievalist" ringleader Clousarr (John Boyd-Brent). This also survives on the insert material for the 28.7.65 edition of Horizon. Again the full extent of the clip is not known, but again two fragments have re-surfaced on the Future Fantastic programme noted above and the 2006 BBC4 documentary Machine Men.
In the first of these (shots 378 - 379) Baley is seen querying Clousarr about his anti-robot sentiments, asking: 'That time you tripped a robot…..what made you do that?" A tight-lipped Clousarr obstinately replies: "I don't like them."
The second fragment picks up the action further into this scene (shots 382 - 384) with Baley leaning over to Daneel and saying: "Then why don't you show there are no hard feelings. Be real friendly. Put your arm around his shoulder." As Daneel reaches out, Clousarr instantly recoils and shouts: "Don't touch me you filthy robot."
By TERRY NATION
Based on the novel by ISAAC ASIMOV
Elijah Baley.................PETER CUSHING
R. Daneel Olivaw...............JOHN CARSON
Commissioner Enderby.....KENNETH J. WARREN
Jessie Baley................ELLEN McINTOSH
Francis Clousarr ..........JOHN BOYD-BRENT
Dr Gerrigel...................NAOMI CHANCE
Dr Fastolfe.................JOHN WENTWORTH
Shoe Shop Manager ...........MICHAEL BEINT
Woman in Shoe Shop.............PATSY SMART
Ben Baley.....................HENNIE SCOTT
Uncredited Roles: STANLEY MASON & ALBERT JOHNSON (Robots); LIZ BODY, FAITH HINES & VALERIE MINERVA (Women); ALAN VICARS, JOHN DOYE, MICKIE BAKER & LESLIE CONRAD (Traveller/Policeman); PAT GORMAN (Space Guard/Policeman); DEREK MARTIN, JOSEPH COHEN & ALISTAIR McFARLAND (Policemen); DEREK CHAFER (Space Guard)
Music and Special Sound: BBC RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP
Costumes: DOROTHEA WALLACE
Special Effects: JACK KINE & BERNARD WILKIE
Story Editor: IRENE SHUBIK
Designers: RICHARD HENRY & PETER SEDDON
Produced by ERIC TAYLOR
Directed by PETER SASDY
A BBCtv production © 1964
BBC2 28/08/64 (repeat)
Press coverage for The Caves of Steel
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|25/05/99||First Virgin Net upload|
|21/10/99||Transferred to 625.org.uk|
|19/08/07||Detailed clips guide; minor corrections|