June 20, 1977 on UK TV: Alternative 3

TV-UK-06-20-1977Alternative 3 is a television programme, broadcast once only in the United Kingdom in 1977, and later broadcast in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, as a fictional hoax, an heir to Orson Welles‘ radio production of The War of the Worlds. Purporting to be an investigation into the UK’s contemporary “brain drain”, Alternative 3 uncovered a plan to make the Moon and Mars habitable in the event of climate change and a terminal environmental catastrophe on Earth.

The programme was presented as an edition of an Anglia TV series called Science Report. The intended transmission date was April 1, but it seems that Anglia was unable to obtain an ITV network slot for the programme on that date due to strike action/labour disputes. While its broadcast was delayed until June 20, the credits explicitly date the film to April 1. The script was written by Chris Miles and David Ambrose. Music was supplied by Brian Eno, a portion of his score being released on the album Music for Films (1978). Apart from the presenter Tim Brinton, all the characters in the programme were played by actors who were explicitly credited at the end.

Within minutes of the programme ending, Anglia Television was flooded with telephone calls demanding more information. Callers were told the programme was a hoax. The Times on 21 June reported that “Independent television companies last night received hundreds of protest calls after an Anglia programme, Alternative 3, gave alarming facts about changes in the Earth’s atmosphere. It was a hoax, originally intended for April 1st.” It also pointed out that several of the characters in the programme were played by well known actors. [Wikipedia]

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