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Director returns to relive TV hoax that shocked the world

Tim Brinton by the moon landings

On its 40th anniversary, the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the East Anglian Film Archive (EAFA) are showing the controversial Anglia Television science fiction drama/documentary “Alternative Three” – a production that caused worldwide headlines when it was first broadcast in 1977.

The free screening is on Tuesday 20 June from 7-9pm at the Auditorium in The Forum, Norwich, and afterwards the audience can discuss the film’s international impact with director and co-writer Christopher Miles.

This faux documentary, broadcast as part of Anglia TV’s factual “Science Report” series, apparently showed a link between Britain's “brain-drain”, climate change and a human colony on Mars. The intended transmission date was 1 April but, because Anglia was unable to obtain network slot that day, it was broadcast on 20 June. In a similar situation to the 1930s ”War of the Worlds” radio broadcast, calls immediately flooded in from terrified viewers convinced they’d seen a genuine documentary, making the hoax national news.

‘Unlike today, climate change did not dominate the headlines in 1977, but now it seems reality has caught up with us, as often satire can become prescient as the creators had a hunch,” said Christopher Miles.

Dr Tim Snelson, director of the East Anglian Film Archive, said: “We would like local people who worked on the programme, which was filmed at the Anglia studios and on location in Norfolk, or local audience members who remember seeing it 40 years ago to come along and discuss their memories with the director. Were you taken in by Anglia's elaborate and creative hoax? We’ll also discuss the film’s relevance to contemporary debates about ‘post-truth’, fake news, trust in experts and climate science, and ask if the hoax reveals a truth about the world culture some 40 years on.

“Christopher and his collaborators at Anglia really pushed the boundaries with ‘Alternative Three’, provoking debates about the role and power of the media that are even more relevant today. We are delighted that he has agreed to come to Norwich to screen and discuss this fascinating piece of regional television history that shocked the world.”

Everyone is welcome to the event but tickets will be given on a first come, first served based so early arrival is advised.

Pictured above: Tim Brinton by the moon landings (East Anglian Film Archive/Christopher Miles).