Monday, October 06, 2008


Secret Services: Department 7

Roughly a decade after The Guardians, audiences in the UK were treated to a surprisingly intelligent tv series about another group of paranormal investigators. The series was Jack Gerson's The Omega Factor, and the group was "Department 7."

I came to The Omega Factor late, only discovering it in December of 2006. The series ran an all-too-brief 10 episodes between 1978 and 1979, but thankfully the whole run is now available on DVD. The cast includes Louise Jameson, "Leela" from Doctor Who, and really, what else do you need to know?

The back cover of the show's 1979 novelization describes Department 7 thus:
There is a highly-secret government organisation called Department 7. Its existence is known only to the Prime Minister and some members of the Cabinet. Its brief is to investigate the Supernatural: to discover the Omega Factor. Journalist Tom Crane has been given the same brief by a Sunday newspaper and suddenly finds himself confronting inexplicable and even terrifying situations.

A confirmed sceptic, he insists on finding out why. The enigmatic members of Department 7 are equally interested. For Tom Crane the search for psychic phenomena leads first to a discovery about himself which he is unwilling to face.

The Omega Factor is a stunning new thriller based on a BBC 1 TV series, which explores the eerie world of the occult and the paranormal.

The Omega Factor is about the mysteries behind the seeming normality of everyday modern life; the night and darkness of human experience.

The Omega Factor will appeal to the nervous child in all of us, determined to conquer fear, and find out what is hidden inside a darkened room.

The summary from the show's entry on Wikipedia offers a bit more detail:
The series concerns journalist Tom Crane (James Hazeldine), who finds that he possesses psychic powers which in turn bring him to the attention of the team of scientists who comprise Department 7, a secret "need to know only" government off-shoot investigating paranormal phenomena and the potential of the human mind. The phenomena explored include hypnosis, brainwashing, extra-sensory perception, telekinesis, poltergeist phenomena, out-of-body experiences and spiritual possession.

Crane joins Department 7 as a means of finding and revenging himself on Edward Drexel (Cyril Luckham), a powerful rogue psychic who is in part responsible for the death of Crane's wife in an automobile accident. His work with the department, and his own psychic gift, lead Crane to suspect a deadly conspiracy by a mysterious organisation called Omega to take over the world using mind control. The members of Department 7 include physicist Dr. Anne Reynolds (Louise Jameson), an old friend of Crane's wife; and the shady head of the department, psychiatrist Dr Roy Martindale (John Carlisle). Most episodes see the driven and impetuous Crane in impatient conflict with the cautious and secretive Martindale, with Anne (who falls in love with Crane, though she also has a brief relationship with Martindale) caught in the middle. Various subplots develop over the course of the series - notably Crane's hunt for Drexel, his growing suspicions about the Omega conspiracy and his developing relationship with Anne.
The Omega Factor marks the first time I can think of that a team of occult investigators was explicitly linked with a clandestine government agency. There may have been some influence by the earlier Doomwatch, about a government agency tasked with monitoring various (ostensibly real world) scientific threats, or by Doctor Who's UNIT, for that matter, who mostly shot at aliens--and missed.

The show was years ahead of its time, which is probably best evidenced by the fact that it lasted only a single season. Of course, it's early demise can also be blamed on a public outcry about the show's supposed indecency--moralist Mary Whitehouse reportedly called the show "thoroughly evil," which is a ringing endorsement in my book.

I've only watched the first third of the series, and keep meaning to find time and go back and finish off the series, but the episodes that I watched were well worth it.


This is a new one on me, don't remember this being on. Maybe we never got it.

You ever watch Poltergeist:the Legacy?
I'd never really heard of it, either, until it came out on DVD. I'm not sure if it ever appeared outside of the UK.

I don't think I've seen Poltergeist: The Legacy, though. Worth checking out?
Yep, it is. It is from about 10 years ago. From what I remember likely partly Canadian.
I'll check it out!
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