Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World is a thirteen part British television series looking at unexplained phenomena from around the world. It was produced by Yorkshire Television for the ITV network and first broadcast in September 1980.
Each program is introduced and book-ended by science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke in short sequences filmed in Sri Lanka. The bulk of the episodes are narrated by Gordon Honeycombe. The series was produced by John Fanshawe, John Fairley and directed by Peter Jones, Michael Weigall and Charles Flynn. It also featured a unique soundtrack composed by British artist Alan Hawkshaw.
In 1981, Book Club Associates published a hardcover book with the same name, authored by Fairley and Welfare, where the contents of the show were further explored. It featured an introduction written by Clarke as well as his remarks at the end of each chapter or topic. In 1985, a paperback of this book was released by HarperCollins Publishers.
In January 2008 the original series was released on DVD in the UK by Network and Granada. It features all of the 13 original episodes unedited and remastered in Digital Quality.
The Journey Begins - 2 September 1980 Edit
This episode introduces the themes that are explored in the remainder of the series. Clarke expounds on his categorisation of mysteries, self-consciously aping the famous 'close encounters' categorisation used by some ufologists:
- Mysteries of the First Kind - phenomena which were a mystery to our ancestors but that are now well understood. Clarke illustrates this mystery by attending a total eclipse of the sun in rural India, highlighting the fact that this is still treated with reverence and suspicion in some cultures.
- Mysteries of the Second Kind - phenomena which are as yet unexplained, but where we have several clues that hint at an answer. Examples given in the program include ball lightning and the vitrified forts of Scotland.
- Mysteries of the Third Kind - phenomena to which we have "no rational explanation". Clarke lists psychic phenomena as something that would be classed in this category.
Monsters of the Deep - 9 September 1980Edit
Ancient Wisdom - 16 September 1980Edit
This show is concerned with technology from history that was either ahead of its time and subsequently forgotten, or artefacts which are mysteries in themselves. This includes the Baghdad Battery, where German scientist Arne Eggebrecht is shown electroplating a small silver statue with a gold cyanide solution and a replica of the battery using grape juice. There are also segments on the Antikythera Mechanism (including an interview with Derek J. de Solla Price), the Stone Balls of Costa Rica and the so-called 'Skull of Doom' which famously dominates the opening credits of the series. Also included are the vitrified stone forts of Scotland including Tap o' Noth near Aberdeen.
Clarke opines at the end that had some of these forgotten technologies been developed and not lost that we would have 'colonised the stars' by now.
The Missing Apeman - 23 September 1980Edit
This episode is divided equally between considering evidence for the Bigfoot and Yeti. Interviewees for the segment on the Yeti include Don Whillans, Lord Hunt and Eric Shipton. Lengthy consideration is given to the Patterson-Gimlin film, and interviewees include Grover Krantz - who demonstrates several casts of alleged Bigfoot tracks that he feels bolsters his belief that the creature represents a relative of Gigantopithecus.
Clarke concludes that, although Russian scientists who studied the Patterson-Gimlin film declared the stride to be 'quite inhuman', special effects used in 2001 showed that it is possible to create very convincing ape-men. He also notes that it would be very difficult for a creature such as Bigfoot to remain undetected in North America.
Giants for the Gods - 30 September 1980Edit
Monsters of the Lakes - 7 October 1980Edit
The Great Siberian Explosion - 14 October 1980Edit
This episode investigated the cause of the Tunguska event. The programme concluded that the explosion was caused by the impact of a comet fragment, or other ice-rich body, that exploded above the ground. The reasons given for this were the fact that there was no crater as might be expected had a stony or iron object been involved and the heightened levels of rare earth elements discovered in the devastated environment afterwards.
The Riddle of the Stones - 21 October 1980Edit
Out of the Blue - 28 October 1980Edit
Discussing ice falls, frog falls etc
U.F.O.s - 4 November 1980Edit
Dragons, Dinosaurs and Giant Snakes - 11 November 1980Edit
Also interviews with Roy Mackal and James Powell.
Strange Skies - 18 November 1980Edit
Clarke's Cabinet of Curiosities – 25 November 1980Edit
- Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World
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- Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World, An Homage