Nigel Kneale, creator of cult TV figure Quatermass, dies aged 84

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The Independent Online

Nigel Kneale, the screenwriter who is best known for the creation of the cult science fiction character Professor Bernard Quatermass, has died. He was 84.

Although nothing brought him more fame than the television and film versions of Quatermass, in which the eponymous rocket scientist battled with aliens from other planets, Kneale had a long and varied career as a TV and movie scriptwriter.

He wrote stand-alone plays including The Year of the Sex Olympics, The Stone Tape and Wine of India although turned down an offer to write for Doctor Who, which was heavily influenced by Quatermass.

In addition to his own screenplays, he also forged a successful career adapting other writers' work including the movie versions of Look Back in Anger and The Entertainer.

He worked until he was 75, including an adaptation of Susan Hill's novel The Woman in Black and episodes of Kavanagh QC and Sharpe. He also acted as a consultant on a live recreation of The Quatermass Experiment on BBC4 last year as part of a debate about classic television, although was said to have turned down a chance to write for The X-Files.

He met his future wife, Judith Kerr, in a BBC canteen more than half a century ago and subsequently encouraged her own career as a children's writer and illustrator, famed for the Mog books. They had two children, Matthew, author of English Passengers, and Tacy, whose work includes special effects for the Harry Potter films.

The family were with him when he died in hospital in London on Sunday. He had not been well for some time and had suffered a series of small strokes which had made speech difficult.

His wife said: "He was a total original. He was immensely surprising and entertaining. We'd been together for 54 years and even with his difficulties with talking, and after all this time, he still surprised me and made me laugh."

They had spent most of their lives working in adjoining rooms where they would compare notes on what they were doing.

"He taught me all I know about writing and he encouraged me to do the things I've done. I would never have done them without him," she said.

Nigel Kneale, who was known to his family and friends by his first name, Tom, grew up in the Isle of Man where his father edited the local newspaper. He left the island when he was in his twenties and initially worked as an actor but grew quickly convinced it was not his métier and began writing.

He wrote his first plays for BBC radio in 1948 and became one of the first permanent staff drama writers for BBC television.

But he was also writing prose and in 1950 he won the Somerset Maugham Award for a collection of short stories.

It was in 1953 that he created the science fiction serial, The Quatermass Experiment, which told the story of a manned mission into space which goes horribly wrong.

It was an enormous popular and critical success and was followed by further TV serials and films.