Adam Adamant Lives! (TV Series 1966–1967)
|Company||British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)|
Adam Adamant Lives!
Adam Adamant Lives! is a British comedy adventure television series that ran from 1966 to 1967 on BBC 1, starring Gerald Harper in the title role. The series was created and produced by several alumni from Doctor Who. Proposing that an adventurer born in 1867 had been revived from hibernation in 1966, Adam Adamant Lives! was a satirical look at life in the 1960s through the eyes of an Edwardian (Adamant vanished in 1902, when Edward VII had been on the throne just one year).
In 2020, Big Finish Productions reimagined the series as an audio drama.
The main character originally went through a number of possible names: "Cornelius Chance", "Rupert De'Ath", "Dick Daring", "Dexter Noble", "Aurelian Winton", "Magnus Hawke" and even "Darius Crud" before Sydney Newman settled on Adam Adamant, named after the generic mineral term adamantine, which, since medieval times, has commonly referred to diamond. In the opening episode, "A Vintage Year for Scoundrels", Adam Llewellyn De Vere Adamant—to give him his full name—is a swashbuckling Victorian gentleman adventurer who, in 1902, goes to rescue his kidnapped girlfriend Louise, but is lured into a trap whereupon he is captured and condemned to be frozen forever in a block of ice by his nemesis, the Face, whose identity is concealed behind a leather mask and who speaks in a sinister whispering voice. The Face grants his helpless prisoner one last request, and Adam asks to see Louise; but in his last moments of life before being frozen, Adam learns to his horror that Louise had faked her kidnapping and had been working for the Face all along.
Adam is found in 1966, when a building is being knocked down, and he is revived. On emerging from a hospital and collapsing on the London streets, Adam is rescued by Georgina Jones and taken to her flat. Though in many ways a typical swinging sixties woman, Georgina had grown up idolising Adam through tales of his turn-of-the-century exploits. She tries to get in on all his cases, despite his efforts to stop her, and often manages to get a job at the scene in question at a moment's notice so she can interfere in the case. The part originally went to Ann Holloway in the untransmitted pilot episode, but was recast with Juliet Harmer as it was felt that Holloway's performance did not fit the series.
Adam is an expert swordsman; he carries a swordstick and will cold-bloodedly kill any enemy who deserves it. He is not the only British hero with such a weapon; John Steed of The Avengers had a sword umbrella, and Lord Peter Wimsey had a specially-made sword cane with a compass, which was also marked in inches so it could serve as a measuring tool. He was a Colonel and has been on the volunteer strength of the 51st Yeomanry since 1895 – though he is naturally listed on their official records as being "missing, presumed killed" since 1902. He is also a good boxer and occasionally demonstrates proficiency in jujitsu, which had been introduced to England several years before he was frozen. Adam immediately became embroiled in the criminal world of the 1960s when Georgina was threatened after almost being witness to the murder of her grandfather by protection racketeers at a disco.
Though there is no indication of where his money comes from or how he supports himself, Adam rebuilt his old home, the long demolished 26A Albany Street, on the top of a multi-storey car park, which he had bought, at 17 Upper Thames Street in central London. It is accessed by a lift hidden on the other side of a sliding wall, activated from the outside by pressing a cleverly hidden call button. He also purchased a Mini Cooper S with the personalised numberplate AA 1000. The car is dark green and tan (or perhaps dark brown and gold), it has a sun-roof, electric windows, and a very posh interior. It was a special conversion: a "Mini de Ville" by Harold Radford Coach Builder LTD. He occasionally does a job for the British Government, as in "More Deadly Than the Sword". When he is knocked unconscious, Adam usually dreams of how he was caught by the Face and of Louise telling him: "So clever, but oh so vulnerable." This is apt, as many women take advantage of his Victorian naïveté.
During the second episode, "Death Has a Thousand Faces", the events of which are set in Blackpool, he acquires a manservant in the form of former music hall artiste and present Punch and Judy man William E. Simms. The character was originally to have been played by John Dawson, who hurt his back lifting an actress during rehearsals for "The Sweet Smell of Disaster" and was unable to continue; the part was recast, going instead to Jack May. In terms of fashion, the series captured well the gradual shift in 1966/67 from the "mod" styles of "Swinging London" to the more Bohemian (eventually hippie) styles that characterised the late sixties. Adam has his 100th birthday in the final episode, "A Sinister Sort of Service", and gets a telegram from the Queen (a UK custom for people who have reached that age), as well as a birthday cake bearing one hundred candles.
The opening episode of Series 2, "A Slight Case of Reincarnation", apparently set in 1902, reminded viewers of the Face, who had not been seen since "A Vintage Year for Scoundrels"; his reappearance in the present day being explained in the next episode "Black Echo" by his having frozen himself back in 1902, with Louise (who, of course, aged naturally) watching over him during the years in between until the time came for him to be revived. The Face appeared in four more episodes during Series 2—namely "Face in a Mirror", "Tunnel of Death", "The Resurrectionists" and "A Sinister Sort of Service"—in which he would urge on the main villain(s) of each story, but while Adam would defeat the villain(s) on each occasion, the Face himself would never be captured or vanquished, always escaping to fight another day and vowing vengeance on Adam when they met next time.
Though he didn't really need them, Gerald Harper wore false eyebrows based on the make-up lady's own eyebrows. He also wore a wig. Harper was a bit shortsighted and wore glasses, which he removed as soon as filming was ready to start. His shortsightedness did cause opponents to keep their distance in sword-fights since, as one actor put it, he could have inadvertently knocked their eye out. When the series ended, the make-up lady sewed the eyebrows onto a sampler, with "Here lie the Eyebrows of Adam Adamant, 1966–1967" underneath, which was framed and given to Harper as a memento. Harper also kept Adam's swordstick, and both remain on his wall at home to this day.
Adam Adamant Lives! has been called by modern observers "what Doctor Who did next", because at least three Doctor Who alumni had key positions on the pilot. Most obviously, it reunited producer Verity Lambert with Head of Television Drama Sydney Newman. Together they had been at the core of decision-makers who launched Doctor Who. But the series also brought Donald Cotton, who had the same year written two serials for Doctor Who, back into Newman's orbit. Cotton and partner Richard Harris would write the first script, "A Vintage Year for Scoundrels", and would thus come to be credited as co-creators. Over the years, Newman has been cited as creator of the show. Even the BBC has at times propagated this idea, calling him the creator on some of their own pages devoted to the programme, but not on others. In truth, he is probably more correctly seen as the executive producer or as having "developed the series for television". Adam Adamant Lives! was a quick replacement for the show he had actually intended, an adaptation of the adventures of literary detective Sexton Blake. When the rights to the character suddenly became unavailable, it fell to writers Donald Cotton and Richard Harris, along with script editor Tony Williamson, to come up with a replacement idea. Newman indicated near the end of his life that he had, indeed, been significantly involved in the rewrites, suggesting that his critic Mary Whitehouse had been partial inspiration for the character. Like Doctor Who which had preceded it, Adam Adamant Lives! was thus a show created somewhat by committee and circumstance. Many of the indoor scenes were filmed at Studios 3 and 5 at the BBC Television Centre in London.
Reasons for the cancellation of Adam Adamant Lives! vary according to the source. Television critic Paul Stump opines in "The Cult of ... Adam Adamant!" that the programme ended because The Avengers was a "sexier, slicker, better-funded" version of the same concept. The programme's largest fan website counters by saying that Sydney Newman, as the BBC's Head of Television Drama, cancelled the show "due to a difference of opinion between himself and his star". An Avengers fansite agrees with both assessments. It says that the production values didn't match The Avengers and that despite good ratings "Newman wasn't happy with the show overall, and the star in particular." Adam Adamant was one of several shows disowned by the BBC despite their popularity: other examples include the highly popular Paul Temple with Francis Matthews and Ros Drinkwater, and Verity Lambert's later series Virtual Murder with Nicholas Clay and Kim Thomson.
Gerald Harper went on to appear in Yorkshire Television's Gazette and its sequel Hadleigh.
The untransmitted pilot episode, "Adam Adamant Lives", now no longer exists in the BBC Archives, and is believed to be lost.
All of series one, with the exception of "Ticket to Terror", is held by the BBC. Series two has not fared so well, with only "Black Echo" and "A Sinister Sort of Service" remaining in existence.
- "Adam Adamant Lives" (Nnt transmitted): 1902 sequence reused in "A Vintage Year for Scoundrels"
Series 1 (1966)
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|1||1||"A Vintage Year for Scoundrels"||David Sullivan Proudfoot & William Slater||Tony Williamson|
Additional Material by Donald Cotton & Richard Harris
|23 June 1966|
|Edwardian adventurer and gentleman, Adam Adamant, pursues his opponent known as The Face to an abandoned mansion. Once there he is trapped and frozen into an everlasting death. Awakening in 1966, he is befriended by young Georgina Jones. When Georgina's grandfather is murdered, Adam is plunged into battle with the vicious protection racketeers responsible.|
|2||2||"Death Has a Thousand Faces"||Philip Dudley||Tony Williamson||30 June 1966|
|When a man is stabbed to death for a stick of Blackpool rock Adamant and Jones discover a mysterious piece of paper and they journey to Blackpool. Once there, they make the acquaintance of Simms, a Punch and Judy puppeteer who joins them in their hunt.|
|3||3||"More Deadly Than the Sword"||Leonard Lewis||Terence Frisby||7 July 1966|
|Adam and Georgina (minus Simms) journey to Japan in order to help a British politician when he becomes blackmailed by terrorists.|
|4||4||"The Sweet Smell of Disaster"||Philip Dudley||Robert Banks Stewart||14 July 1966|
|Adam finds himself battling against his own friends when a carnation starts to cause chaos.|
|5||5||"Allah Is Not Always With You"||Paul Ciappessoni||Tony Williamson||21 July 1966|
|Adam is plunged into the world of nightclubs, drugs and murder whilst investigating the death of a young girl who has connection with an Arabic prince...|
|6||6||"The Terribly Happy Embalmers"||Paul Ciappessoni||Brian Clemens||4 August 1966|
|The murder of a financier leads Adam into the world of embalmers but his own fate is catching up with him.|
|7||7||"To Set a Deadly Fashion"||Leonard Lewis||Tony Williamson||11 August 1966|
|Adam gets in the way of a murder plot when he enters the world of fashion.|
|8||8||"The Last Sacrifice"||Philip Dudley||Richard Harris||18 August 1966|
|A weekend in the countryside turns into a race to stop a magician who is holding humanity to ransom.|
|9||9||"Sing a Song of Murder"||Moira Armstrong||John Pennington||25 August 1966|
|Adam's past catches up with him when his friends are accused of murder. Can he prove their innocence before his world crashes around him?|
|10||10||"The Doomsday Plan"||Paul Ciappessoni||Richard Harris||1 September 1966|
|Adam is led to 'Doctor' Mort, a so-called prophet who predicts the world will end.|
|11||11||"Death by Appointment Only"||Moira Armstrong||Tony Williamson||8 September 1966|
|A series of murders could be the end of the world.|
|12||12||"Beauty Is an Ugly Word"||Philip Dudley||Vince Powell & Harry Driver||15 September 1966|
|Adam enters the world of glamour whilst trying to stop another attempt to end the world.|
|13||13||"The League of Uncharitable Ladies"||Ridley Scott||John Pennington||22 September 1966|
|A murder leads Adam to three sinister old ladies. Can he discover their secret before all hell breaks loose?|
|14||14||"Ticket to Terror"||Tina Wakerell||Dick Sharples||29 September 1966|
|Adam investigates when 400 passengers disappear from a Waterloo & City line train.|
|15||15||"The Village of Evil"||Anthea-Browne Wilkinson||Vince Powell & Harry Driver||6 October 1966|
|Adam, Georgina and Simms goes off for a peaceful fishing trip, but a case involving a young boy's missing pet mice and the practice of satanic rites land him in another investigation.|
|16||16||"D for Destruction"||Moira Armstrong||Tony Williamson||13 October 1966|
|A series of 'accidental deaths' lead 'Colonel' Adam Adamant back into his old regiment. Once there, he learns of a plan to hijack Great Britain's nuclear missiles...|
Series 2: 1966–67
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|17||1||"A Slight Case of Reincarnation"||Roger Jenkins||Tony Williamson and Brian Clemens (Story)||31 December 1966|
|Adam is determined to free an African leader from the spell of the Face. *|
|18||2||"Black Echo"||Moira Armstrong||Derek Ford & Donald Ford||7 January 1967|
|Adam visits an exiled Russian Grand Duchess, who is requesting him because he is familiar with a pearl necklace that she once owned, and is now trying to reclaim it. However, upon arrival at the Duchess's home, Adam finds two horrifying secrets from his past are about to return...|
|19||3||"Conspiracy of Death"||Roger Jenkins||Vince Powell & Harry Driver||14 January 1967|
|Adam investigates the murder of an old wartime friend.|
|20||4||"The Basardi Affair"||Henri Safran||Ian Stuart Black||21 January 1967|
|Adam gets on the wrong side of the ruler of an oil-rich country.|
|21||5||"The Survivors"||Moira Armstrong||Vince Powell & Harry Driver||28 January 1967|
|Adam investigates a strange spate of murders.|
|22||6||"Face in a Mirror"||Henri Safran||John Pennington||4 February 1967|
|The Face returns, determined to rid the world of Adam Adamant once and for all.|
|23||7||"Another Little Drink"||Laurence Bourne||Ian Stuart Black||11 February 1967|
|Adam has to work fast to stop the spreading of a deadly poison.|
|24||8||"Death Begins at Seventy"||Ridley Scott||Dick Sharples||18 February 1967|
|Adam investigates strange happenings at an old people's home.|
|25||9||"Tunnel of Death"||Moira Armstrong||Richard Waring||25 February 1967|
|The Face's new plans threaten to tear the world to pieces.|
|26||10||"The Deadly Bullet"||Henri Safran||Vince Powell & Harry Driver||4 March 1967|
|Adam investigates when a magician is murdered.|
|27||11||"The Resurrectionists"||Ridley Scott||Derek Ford & Donald Ford||11 March 1967|
|Adam is left powerless when the Face's agents start their invasion.|
|28||12||"Wish You Were Here"||Moira Armstrong||James MacTaggart||18 March 1967|
|Could the death of Simms's mother mean a deadly trap for Adam?|
|29||13||"A Sinister Sort of Service"||Laurence Bourne||Tony Williamson||25 March 1967|
|A series of nation-wide robberies plunge Adam, Georgina and Simms into the hands of a deadly group of security guards...|
* Approximately four minutes from this episode exist on audio tape in a private collection, and is included as part of the Special Features on the DVD release.
There were originally 29 black and white episodes composing two series, plus one unbroadcast pilot titled Adam Adamant Lives (without exclamation mark). The 1902 sequence is now all that is known to survive of this unseen debut episode of the series, and only exists because it was later reused in "A Vintage Year for Scoundrels". No script of Adam Adamant Lives is known to exist, and the only documentation that remains is the description given in the Drama Early Warning Synopsis issued on Thursday 10 March 1966; this is included in the booklet Adam Adamant Lives!: Viewing Notes accompanying the DVD boxed set Adam Adamant Lives!: The Complete Collection released by 2entertain Ltd. in July 2006.
The first series, with the exception of "Ticket to Terror", was made as a mixture of single camera 16mm film for the location sequences, and multi-camera studio recording using 625-line electronic cameras. However, instead of being edited on video tape, as was the usual BBC procedure, the series was edited entirely on film, with the output of the studio cameras being telerecorded, for ease of editing (at that time, videotape editing was technologically difficult).
"Ticket to Terror" from the first series, and all of the second series, were made with the usual BBC mix of tape and film, but were edited on tape. Wiping by the BBC in the 1970s has resulted in no master videotapes having survived. Film recordings haven't all survived either as, in one case, one episode on 35mm film is known to have been destroyed.
The result of all this is that only 16 episodes remained in the archives when the BBC realised the value of such material, including the first and last episodes in broadcast order. These were mainly in the form of 35mm film telerecordings, with a handful of episodes as 16mm film recordings or reduction prints. In the case of some episodes, the 35mm location footage also exists, and has been used to remaster those surviving episodes. The last episode of Series One, "D For Destruction", thought to be among those lost forever, was recovered in 2003, from a mislabelled film can in the BBC Archives. It has been shown in public at the Missing Believed Wiped event, and is included in the Complete Collection DVD set.
Another lost episode, "The Basardi Affair", was recovered as a complete audio recording in 2017.
A public appeal campaign, the BBC Archive Treasure Hunt, continues to search for missing episodes.
List of lost episodes
|Series||Episode No.||Lost Episodes||Original Broadcast Date|
|0||Pilot||Adam Adamant Lives||Not broadcast|
|1||14||Ticket To Terror||29 September 1966|
|2||1||A Slight Case of Reincarnation||31 December 1966|
|3||Conspiracy of Death||14 January 1967|
|4||The Basardi Affair*||21 January 1967|
|5||The Survivors||28 January 1967|
|6||Face in a Mirror||4 February 1967|
|7||Another Little Drink||11 February 1967|
|8||Death Begins at Seventy||18 February 1967|
|9||Tunnel of Death||25 February 1967|
|10||The Deadly Bullet||4 March 1967|
|11||The Resurrectionists||11 March 1967|
|12||Wish You Were Here||18 March 1967|
*Exists in audio form
Adam Adamant Lives!
- Label: BBC Video
- Release Date: June 1991
- Catalogue Nº: BBCV 4613
- Availability: Deleted
Contains the first two episodes of Series One, "A Vintage Year for Scoundrels" and "Death Has a Thousand Faces", the latter replacing the previously considered "The Village of Evil". Although there were rumours of two further releases towards the end of 1991, these did not appear, owing to poor sales.
Adam Adamant Lives!: The Complete Collection
- Label: 2entertain Ltd.
- Release Date: 26 July 2006
- Catalogue Nº: BBCDVD 1479
- Availability: Deleted (unconfirmed)
Five-disc Region 2 DVD box set containing all 17 surviving episodes in digitally re-mastered form. Includes 64-page collector's booklet Adam Adamant Lives!: Viewing Notes, written by Andrew Pixley.
- This Man is the One: 52-minute documentary featuring Gerald Harper, Juliet Harmer, Verity Lambert and Brian Clemens. Presented by Mark Gatiss.
- Commentary Tracks: Available on "A Vintage Year for Scoundrels" and "A Sinister Sort of Service". Featuring Gerald Harper, Juliet Harmer and Verity Lambert.
- Adam Adamant's Wheels: 7-minute mini-documentary on Adam Adamant's faithful Mini Cooper S.
- Missing Sounds: Audio extract from missing Series Two episode "A Slight Case of Reincarnation".
- Outtakes: Filming and studio outtakes from "A Vintage Year for Scoundrels" and "Sing a Song of Murder".
- Photo Gallery: 13-minute photo gallery featuring colour and black and white pictures from the series, plus stills from the unbroadcast pilot episode, accompanied by music from the series – including the full version of "The Adam Adamant Theme" performed by Kathy Kirby.
- PDFs: (DVD-Rom only. PC/Mac)
Note: On both the VHS and DVD releases, "A Vintage Year for Scoundrels" and "Death Has a Thousand Faces" have had music edits made due to the originally featured tracks by the Rolling Stones not being able to be cleared for commercial release. For the former, "Route 66" was replaced by "Piano Rocket" from the Parry Music Library CD Time Periods 1, while the latter featured "Bye Bye Blues" from the KOK Library CD Pop Era in place of "Now I've Got a Witness" .
Influences and legacy
With its pairing of an upper-class adventurer with a "trendy" woman of the 1960s, parallels have been drawn with competitor ITV's The Avengers. There was also a similarity with Granada's Mr. Rose (1967) in which William Mervyn as a retired police inspector was assisted by a youngish confidential secretary (Gillian Lewis) and a manservant (Donald Webster). However, because Adam Adamant was a last-minute replacement for another concept, the degree to which the BBC intended such similarities with The Avengers is unclear. One recent statement has directly addressed the issue:
In Adam Adamant Lives, we were trying to create something original. Even though it may have been aimed at a similar audience to The Avengers – any production decisions we made were not influenced by trying to imitate. — Verity Lambert, 2004, programme producer
However, a reviewer of the 2006 BBC Four retrospective The Cult of ... Adam Adamant Lives! detected something more to the issue when Lambert and other principals were interviewed on camera:
The genial and personable Harmer, Clemens, Harper and producer Verity Lambert all owned up to the clunking obviousness of the series' hamfisted and, in retrospect, laughable attempt to trump ABC's masterpiece. Even an otherwise impartial and unironic script compared the two shows thus: "Edwardian gent teamed with beautiful girl ... and Edwardian gent teamed with beautiful girl". The unspoken tag, of course, was that The Avengers had queered this pitch three years previously.— Paul Stump, Off the Telly review of The Cult of ... Adam Adamant Lives!, 2006
This latter view has been echoed by fans of The Avengers. Indeed, an Avengers-biased biography of Adamant star Gerald Harper, who also frequently guest-starred on the ITV show, flatly calls Adamant "unashamedly modelled on The Avengers". It backs up this claim by demonstrating how individual episodes of Adamant parallel those of The Avengers. Finally, it points out that in the programme's second series Adamant was scheduled in direct competition for Avengers in some parts of Britain, making contemporary comparison between the shows impossible for viewers.
More neutral observers have generally reflected this dichotomy of perspective. Anthony Clark at the BFI notes that while the show "owes a stylistic debt to The Avengers", it was "the BBC's reply to the success of ITV's spy and action series like The Saint (1962–69) and Danger Man (1960–69)". He goes on to call the character of Adamant "more age-of-empire adventurer than spoof spy". A Television Haven review admits that while the programme has been "long cited as the BBC's answer to The Avengers", it in fact "owes more to the slick style, tone and format of Lew Grade's phenomenally successful ITC stable of action series rather than the sleek and sophisticated antics of Steed and Mrs Peel".
The show's premise also bears more than a passing resemblance to the 1964 return of Captain America in Marvel Comics' (completely unrelated) The Avengers. Both characters are adventurers from an earlier era who are thawed out of blocks of ice in the present day.
Harper's portrayal of Adamant has been cited as formative to Jon Pertwee's interpretation of the Doctor. One writer opines that Pertwee's "suave, dashing portrayal was very much surfing the zeitgeist of the time, borrowing from contemporaries such as Adam Adamant Lives!, Doomwatch, Quatermass, and James Bond in the cinema." The BBC's episode guide to Doctor Who is more specific, claiming parallels between the Third Doctor's inaugural scenes in a hospital with those of Adamant in his pilot, "A Vintage Year for Scoundrels".
"Adamant" is frequently viewed as partial inspiration for Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. In particular, allusions are seen between the way in which Austin Powers, like Adamant, is revived from cryogenic sleep and befriended by an attractive woman who had known of his exploits before being frozen. The formula is exactly reversed in Powers, however, in that his partner, Vanessa Kensington, is not impressed with his previous record of service, whereas Georgina Jones is a positive fan of Adamant.
Big Finish audio series
Audio drama production company Big Finish Productions announced that they would be producing a new series of audio plays, written by and co-starring actor-novelist Guy Adams. Nicholas Briggs is the director. Blake Ritson took over the title role. The first volume, "A Vintage Year for Scoundrels", was released in January 2020. A second volume, "Face Off" was released in August 2020.
Volume 1: A Vintage Year for Scoundrels
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Released|
|1||"What Is This Place?"||Nicholas Briggs||Guy Adams||January 2020|
|2||"Death Has A Thousand Faces"||Nicholas Briggs||Guy Adams||January 2020|
|3||"Georgina Jones Dies!"||Nicholas Briggs||Guy Adams||January 2020|
Volume 2: Face Off
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Released|
|1||"A Slight Case Of Reincarnation"||Nicholas Briggs||Guy Adams||August 2020|
|2||"Face It!"||Nicholas Briggs||Guy Adams||August 2020|
|3||"The Important Questions"||Nicholas Briggs||Guy Adams||August 2020|