In the 1960s or possibly 1970s I saw a British tv programme in which a man gets transferred into an alternate world. I only remember a few snatches. He gets a coin in change with Edward VIII's head on it, and a woman tells him that Hitler was assassinated in 1938. There has been no WW2 and I think (sorry, it's been a long time) that India was still a British possession and Nehru was under arrest.

I'm not sure if it was a stand-alone or part of some sf series like Twilight Zone. I had a feeling it was based on a John Wyndham story, but haven't found one to match. Can anyone help?

  • Any possibility this was the very end of a time travel story? Someone went back in time, killed Hitler, and then on returning home found these changes?
    – Zeiss Ikon
    May 17 '21 at 18:00

This sounds a lot like "Random Quest", a short story that was indeed by John Wyndham. It has been dramatised several times, in particular in 1969 in season 3 of the BBC TV series "Out of the Unknown".

Set in the 1950s, it deals with a physicist named Colin Trafford, who was involved in a laboratory experiment that went wrong. He was flung into an alternate universe in which Hitler never came to power, WW2 did not occur, and India was still part of the British Empire - with mass demonstrations calling for Nehru to be released from prison. He finds that in this universe he is married to an Ottilie Harshom, with whom he falls deeply in love. When he is suddenly transported back to his own (i.e. our) world, he spends his time trying to track down her counterpart, assisted by her unusual name.

The short story is available online at the Internet Library, in Wyndham's collection of short stories "Consider her ways". Unfortunately the BBC episode from 1969 was wiped* so it is not viewable, although other screen versions (including another BBC version from 2006) are available.

*In fact some scraps of this episode do still survive (some clips shown on "Nationwide" in 1970 for example), and were included in a 2014 DVD-set released by the BFI. The contents are briefly summarized here.

  • 2
    From a (soon to be) deleted answer by Ed HP: "Did Colin ever find Ottilie?"
    – TheLethalCarrot
    May 18 '21 at 8:20
  • 1
    Wyndham's short story is clear: yes he did (although for various reasons she wasn't named Ottilie Harshom in our universe). I don't know how faithful the TV episode was to the book, and as it has been wiped there's no way of checking :( May 18 '21 at 8:41
  • Unless someon can find a script in the BBC archives or somewhere. May 18 '21 at 16:47
  • @M.A.Golding The Wayback Machine let me find the text of some BBC Enterprises sales documentation, which confirms "when Colin finally traces the girl, it is to find her the real Ottilie" May 18 '21 at 18:16
  • 1
    I remembered seeing a movie version on TV; I'd forgotten the title, but I remembered that Ottilie was played by Joan Collins. Searching brought me to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quest_for_Love_(1971_film) May 18 '21 at 19:42

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