Random Quest (1961) was one of John Wyndhams last short stories. It had previously been filmed as a now lost episode of the British science-fiction anthology tv series Out of the Unknown (1965-71) and then as the cinematically released Quest for Love (1971) starring Tom Bell as Trafford and Joan Collins as Ottilie and set in an early 70s world where World War II hadnt happened and JFK was still alive. This version never had a very high profile at the time it was made.
This is a new adaptation of the story that was made by the BBC as a one-hour tv play. It essentially tells exactly the same story as Quest for Love but for one or two minor differences here Ottilie doesnt tragically die and Trafford simply returns to this world and sets out in search of her counterpart (which is the way it happens in the original story). Of course, this is also a version of Random Quest that has been updated to the 2000s with namedrops of Stephen Hawking and reference to the many worlds quantum theory. The alternate timeline has been brought far more into accord with the modern era one where Condoleezza Rice is US President, Tony Blair is the little known Drought Secretary and the space program has advanced to the point of a Jupiter Landing.
Random Quest tells essentially the same story as Quest for Love that is to say, both adhere quite closely to the John Wyndham short story. This however seems the lesser of the two. The BBC have a long history of conducting superbly faithful adaptations of classic literary works and have conducted a number of fine original science-fiction works for tv; this is not one of them. It is not poor by any means, it just never seems to enliven the material. Samuel West, an actor who seems perpetually cast as a dry Oxbridge boy everywhere else, has an undeniable likeableness and even romantic dashingness as the central character far more than Tom Bell did in Quest for Love. It is just that the other film did a far better job of making the romance work. This spends all the requisite time between West and Kate Ashfield but you never get the sense of a romantic longing that fires the film up or of her rediscovering him as a changed man.
Despite the one-hour running time, this also seems padded beyond its natural length. We get numerous scenes of Samuel West swimming in his pool, the two of them undressing for sleep and tossing and turning in bed. Surprisingly, the film seems to spend most of its running time inside the house, which certainly comes with a coolly lit abstraction that suggests a futurism, but equally also gives the film the sense of being constricted and needing to open out.
Other screen adaptations of John Wyndhams works include:- Village of the Damned (1960), from Wyndhams The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) about alien children; The Day of the Triffids (1962); the BBC tv mini-series The Day of the Triffids (1981); the childrens tv series Chocky (1984) about an alien visitor; the remake of Village of the Damned (1995); and the BBC tv mini-series The Day of the Triffids (2009).
Film online in several parts beginning here:-