4 September 1984 (1984-09-04) – 9 October 1984 (1984-10-09)
The Invisible Man is a six-part television serial based on the science fiction/fantasy novella by H. G. Wells, screened by the BBC in the UK throughout September and October 1984. It was produced as part of the BBC 1 Classic Serial strand, which incorporated numerous television adaptations of classic novels screened in serial form on Sunday afternoons. Starring Pip Donaghy in the title role, the series follows the same plot as the original book, of a deranged scientist who discovers a formula by which to make himself invisible, but is driven to insanity by his inability to reverse the formula and is evoked to use his invisibility to terrorize those around him. Out of all the numerous film and TV versions of H. G. Wells' book, this remains to date the most faithful to the original text. The series was adapted by James Andrew Hall and directed by Brian Lighthill.
A sinister stranger arrives in the small, quiet village of Iping, where he hires a room at the local inn. The innkeepers, Mr. and Mrs. Hall, are immediately unnerved by their guest's bizarre appearance, for his head is completely wrapped up in bandages, his eyes concealed by large dark goggles, and his body wrapped in a thick black coat despite the intense summer heat. As the locals become suspicious of the strange man, who seems to be conducting some kind of scientific experiment in the inn's parlour, Mr. and Mrs. Hall begin to wonder if they have made a dreadful mistake by allowing the stranger to stay...
"The Unveiling of the Stranger"
11 September 1984 (1984-09-11)
As the stranger's conduct becomes more and more suspicious and he falls behind with his rent, Mr. and Mrs. Hall begin to fear that his wrappings conceal a terrible secret.
"Mr. Marvel's Visit to Iping"
18 September 1984 (1984-09-18)
When Mr. and Mrs. Hall decide to finally confront the stranger, they receive a dreadful shock when he peels back his bandages and reveals he is completely invisible. Escaping from the inn, The Invisible Man enlists the services of a reluctant tramp named Thomas Marvel to help him steal his research books from the inn.
"Dr. Kemp's Visitor"
25 September 1984 (1984-09-25)
After Thomas Marvel betrays the Invisible Man, the Invisible Man attempts to kill him but winds up being wounded by a gunshot. He flees to take refuge in the house of a young doctor named Samuel Kemp (played by David Gwillim).
"Certain First Principles"
2 October 1984 (1984-10-02)
The Invisible Man reveals his true identity to Kemp – Griffin, Kemp's old university colleague. Recovering from the gunshot wound, he tells Kemp the story of how after leaving university, he discovered the formula for making himself invisible, but wound up alone and stray on the streets of London, struggling to survive in the open while unseen by those around him. He has been trying ever since to reverse the experiment, but he has other plans which involve Kemp himself...
"The Hunting of The Invisible Man"
9 October 1984 (1984-10-09)
When Griffin reveals that he intends to begin a Reign of Terror and terrorize the vicinity with his invisibility, Kemp realizes that Griffin has been driven insane and summons the police. Feeling betrayed, Griffin announces that Kemp will be the first man killed in the Reign of Terror. The police, together with Kemp, concoct a plan to stop Griffin before it is too late.
Although originally intended to be screened on Sunday afternoons like the BBC's other classic serials, it was instead shown in a Tuesday evening slot after the BBC's Head of Drama declared the serial was "too frightening for a Sunday afternoon... far too horrific". The public reception to the serial was less than enthusiastic, with viewing figures averaging 7.4 million with an overall Appreciation Index of only 49. Viewing figures declined steadily as the series progressed, with many complaining that the storyline's pacing was too slow, the episodes were too short, and that the novel was not well-suited to this form of serialization, many arguing that its faithfulness was its main weakness. A Television Audience Broadcasting Report from BARB data stated that "The series was often considered slow and boring... and unredeemed by the quality of the acting or the production". Pip Donaghy's performance, nevertheless, was described as "well-received". Despite not being particularly successful at home, the serial achieved surprising success abroad, particularly in the Soviet Union where it was reported to have attracted over 64 million viewers. The serial was never repeated by the BBC, and remained almost forgotten until a DVD release in 2005.
Although the plotline of the serial is extremely close to that of Wells' original text, there are several key differences:
The novel's storyline takes place over a period of several months, beginning in mid-winter and ending in early spring. The serial reduces the timespan to only one month, and the whole story takes place in mid-summer. According to the scriptwriter James Andrew Hall this was done to emphasize the unusual nature of the Invisible Man's initial appearance, appearing completely wrapped up in spite of the summer heat.
The village of Iping is actually situated on the border between Sussex and Kent, which was also the case in Wells' novel, but in the serial the village is relocated to the border between Somerset and Devon.
An extra character is inserted into the flashback sequence in the form of Griffin's college professor, Professor Hobbema, whom the writer created for a scene in which Griffin expounds his notions of invisibility.
Although the character of Dr. Kemp first appears at the halfway point, as in the book, the serial introduces the character at a much earlier point in a scene at the inn in which Griffin reads a paper on optical density written by Kemp and realizes he is the same man he once worked with. This was done to reduce the level of coincidence at the point in which Griffin takes refuge in Kemp's house- in the novel he is unaware that the house belongs to Kemp and stumbles into the house purely by chance.
The epilogue sequence at the narrative's end is slightly different from the book. In the book, Thomas Marvel is revealed to have been allowed to keep the money stolen by the Invisible Man and used it to set up his own pub- itself named The Invisible Man- in which he tells customers the story of his encounter with Griffin by day, then ponders over the Invisible Man's hidden journals by night. Yet in the final scene of the serial, Marvel is still a vagrant and is shown reading Griffin's journals out in the country, conducting an imaginary conversation with a scarecrow that resembles the bandaged Invisible Man.