The Stranger – a sci-fi TV show restored after 55 years in the vault

A mysterious man arrives at the front door of a school headmaster’s quarters.  He claims to have no memory, but can speak several languages and is immediately hired as a teacher for the school.  But eventually it is discovered that the mysterious man is not of this world.

And thus begins the two-year, twelve-episode sci-fi drama The Stranger.

The Stranger was originally filmed in 1964 by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and it ran for two seasons of six episodes.  It was Australia’s first filmed sci-fi television series, and it is definitely a product of its time – the sci-fi tropes of Cold War invasion and mysterious interstellar travel have equal parts of Doctor Who and The Outer Limits in them.  The series was even exported to England, and ran on the BBC for some time.

But here’s the interesting thing.  The show’s twelve episodes have remained on the ABC’s shelves, never syndicated or converted to digital media … until now.

Beginning in January 2020, the ABC, through its iView streaming platform – as well as its YouTube channel – have restored and are re-airing The Stranger to a whole new generation.  Here’s the first episode, which sets up the premise.

Okay, so he’s not traveling in a TARDIS, but there’s something mysterious about this guy.

As I mentioned before, this was the first Australian sci-fi drama, and it was one of seven in a row for the ABC.  The production values are bare-bones when compared to shows like Star Trek or Doctor Who, but the show did get permission to film at various locales – including a satellite transmission dish – and in the office of the Prime Minister of Australia.  That’s some serious pull.

I’m not going to spoil the series for you.  I’ve posted the first two episodes here in this blog, and you can go to the ABC’s website at this link to binge all twelve episodes at your leisure.  If nothing else, you can get a great idea of how sci-fi was treated on foreign small screens, and how the writers and producers worked around microscopic budgets to create a drama series filled with intrigue and danger.

If you have trouble with the link, apparently all the episodes are available on YouTube, so I’ll link them here.

And now for Season 2 …

Episodes 10, 11 and 12 to follow.

And hopefully if response to The Stranger is positive, it could mean that other vintage TV shows – both within the ABC and other networks – could get a new life as streaming vintage entertainment.

I’d be cool with that.