A research team for British company Ryan Electronics move into a renovated castle where they intend to develop new technologies that can compete with Japan. When computer analyst Jill Greeley sees the ghost of Louisa Hanks, an undermaid killed falling from a staircase in 1890, team leader Peter Brock decides to concentrate their efforts on researching the phenomenon, convinced that it's the key to a revolutionary form of memory storage — the "stone tape"
.The Stone Tape
was broadcast on Christmas 1972, and is regarded as one of Nigel Kneale
's best and most frightening television plays, listed on The 100 Greatest Scary Moments
. Both Stephen King
and John Carpenter
have cited it as an influence. It was released on DVD (itself a revolutionary form of memory storage...) in 2001.
This telefilm provides examples of:
- Bizarrchitecture: The haunted room has a staircase leading up the wall to nowhere, apparently built as a folly. Louisa Hanks was killed falling off the stairs and Jill notes it doesn't seem high enough to kill someone that way. Jill herself is pursued up the staircase by the Others to an Eldritch Location from which she falls an infinite distance, being found in the room later dead of shock.
- Brief Accent Imitation: Whenever Brock quotes his boss, he does so in an Irish accent.
- Brown Note: The noises Brock is generating to trigger the stone tape drive even his colleagues to the point of madness. Also the voices of the Eldritch Abomination as heard by Jill.
- Campbell Country: The castle only dates to the 19th century, but the foundations turn out to be a lot older. It even has "rats in the walls".
- Computer Equals Tape Drive: Averted
- Destroy the Evidence: After Jill's death, Brock has the computer printout shredded, derides Jill as a lunatic and orders his team not to discuss the matter.
- Dies Wide Open
- Due to the Dead: Averted. Jill argues that the spirit should be treated with respect, but is overruled by Brock. Later Brock's colleagues are furious over how he emphasized Jill's mental instability at the coroner's hearing.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Others
- Eldritch Location: Jill flees up the short flight of stairs to nowhere, and somehow ends up on a high precipice surrounded by stars.
- Electromagnetic Ghosts: Averted — the ghost scream won't record on audio or video. Eventually, the scientists realise what they hear and feel is the brain's reaction to whatever is imprinted into the walls; this is why some people are more sensitive to paranormal phenomena than others.
- The Ghost: No, not an actual ghost — the unseen boss of Ryan Electronics.
- Ghostly Chill: The scientists speculate that the chill is caused by heat being drawn out of the air and converted to other forms of energy, to create the physical manifestation of the ghost.
- Go Mad from the Revelation / Laughing Mad: Alan's friend Jackie was trapped in the haunted room during a childhood game of dare.
Jill: Can I meet him?
Alan: What for? He don't remember. They took him up the County, you know. They put him right. They can do that. He don't care a button he just la-a-a-ughs all the time!
- Haunted Castle: Taskerlands
- Haunted Technology: Inverted
- Hysterical Woman: Jill's warnings that 'erasing' the stone tape has only uncovered something else are dismissed by all concerned, even Roy.
- May be at least partly justified - at the beginning of the play she's convinced a lorry is about to run her down, even though it's not moving very fast and doesn't look close.
- I Meant to Do That: Brock says this after he erases the stone tape. Everyone scoffs at him.
- Impending Doom P.O.V.: The final shot is a zoom-in on Brock's screaming face as he sees...
- I See Dead People: The team vary in their sensitivity to paranormal phenomena — Jill can see the ghost, others like Stewart Jessop can barely hear it. Brock can hear but not see the ghost though after Jill dies while screaming his name, it's implied he can see her just fine.
- It's All About Me: Brock never accepts responsibility for anything that goes wrong, and constantly dismisses Jill's fears as an attempt to manipulate him.
- Japan Takes Over the World: In a pep talk to his team, Brock predicts that that in ten years the only electronic industries will be Japanese unless Ryan Electronics develops radical new technologies.
- Jerk Ass: Peter Brock, which he openly admits to Crawshaw.
- Just Think of the Potential: All the scientists (even Jill) become quite excited at the commercial possibilities of the stone tape — such as long term memory storage and television programs that can be beamed directly into your head.
- Labcoat of Science and Medicine: Crawshaw wears a labcoat all the time, and Brock accuses him of doing it as a deliberate ploy (along with having hands permanently dyed with laundry powder) to emphasize that he's a hands-on researcher like their boss used to be. Sure enough when Crawshaw is put in charge of Taskerlands, he changes to a suit.
- Living Memory: The stone tape is a residual memory of a past traumatic event imprinted into the stonework.
- Man in a Rubber Suit: Stewart Jessop arrives in the back of a station wagon dressed as a Martian.
- The Mistress: Jill to Brock, who has his own family and callously dumps her for his Sexy Secretary when she becomes a liability.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Under pressure from his boss to come up with results, Brock accidentally erases the stone tape with his experiments, and then dismisses Jill's warnings in his eagerness to cover up his mistake.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Given the limited special effects budget of a BBC television play of The Seventies, the Others are only seen as glowing lights or an Impending Doom P.O.V.
- Not Using the Z Word: Brock tells the others not to use words like "ghost" or "spook" because the impulse is not to take them seriously.
- Our Ghosts Are Different
- Perpetual-Motion Monster: Lampshaded — Jill notes that the 'tape' should have decayed after thousands of years. The fact that it hasn't shows that the Others still exist.
- Phone Call From The Dead: Some of the last words spoken by Louisa turn up in the computer printout.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning / Ghost Lights / The Darkness Gazes Back
- Really 7,000 Years Old: According to Jill's computer analysis, the Others are very old.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Wiping the stone tape releases whatever it was recorded on top of.
- Secret Keeper: Implied with the Department of Conservation.
Security guard: Before I forget, sir. Them conservation inspectors was here again. Been in there a long time, they was. They said there would be a summons. And before they went one of them said, "Did you know about the room?"
Brock: What did they mean?
Guard: Just that, sir. "Did you know about the room?"
- Sexy Secretary: One turns up with Crawford, and Brock doesn’t take long to bed her.
- Science-Related Memetic Disorder: Jill is a genius with computer analysis but is regarded as emotionally fragile by her colleagues.
- Screaming Woman: Played for horror. Jill's dying scream ends up being imprinted on the stone tape.
- Talk to the Fist: Roy punches Brock in fury after he finds him destroying the evidence and deriding Jill as insane.
- Unrequited Love: Roy Collinson is clearly attracted to Jill, but never makes a move on her.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Brock gets called out several times on his jerkass behaviour, but continues to bully and bluster his way through events.
- Woman in White: Louisa Hanks, as she's dressed as an undermaid from the 19th century. This gives Alan a shock when he flees the room, but runs into Jill in her lab coat.