More than fifty years after it was first broadcast A Question of Priorities remains a popular and definitive episode of UFO – and one of the reasons for this is its exceptionally downbeat ending. However, the shot of Straker standing alone in the hospital watching his ex-wife Mary walking out of his life forever following the death of their son Johnny was not how the episode was originally planned to end. As scripted and filmed, the original three-scene ending involved Straker then paying a visit to Mrs. O’Connor, the blind woman whose home had been occupied by an alien defector for much of the episode. As with many lost or deleted scenes the footage and soundtrack for this original ending to A Question of Priorities are believed to no longer exist, leaving us only this extract from Tony Barwick’s script and a photograph of Straker and Mrs. O’Connor taking tea together as evidence that it was ever filmed.
150. EXT. COTTAGE. DAY. (VISUAL EFFECTS)
A summer’s day. Birds sing.
151. INT. COTTAGE. DAY. (STUDIO)
STRAKER and MRS. O’CONNOR have finished a country tea.
STRAKER: Well, Mrs. O’Connor. I’ll be leaving.
MRS. O’CONNOR nods.
MRS. O’CONNOR: Thank you for calling, Mr. Straker. All the way from London to see me.
STRAKER: I wanted to come. You’re a brave lady.
On MRS. O’CONNOR.
MRS. O’CONNOR: Oh no. I don’t understand what it was all about. But when you’re blind, somehow nature compensates…you develop other senses.
MRS. O’CONNOR: My visitor was a strange man…but I knew…I knew he meant no harm…he was a good man.
STRAKER: Yes, I think he was.
MRS. O’CONNOR gets up.
MRS. O’CONNOR: I’ll see you to the door.
STRAKER takes her arm in his, pats her hand as they walk to the door, seeing the inner strength in the blind old lady.
152. EXT. DOOR. DAY. (STUDIO)
STRAKER and MRS. O’CONNOR come out.
MRS. O’CONNOR: Smell the honeysuckle.
On STRAKER smiling at her.
On MRS. O’CONNOR.
MRS. O’CONNOR: You’re a good man, too, Mr. Straker…a good man.
Two shot. A pause; STRAKER leans in and kisses her cheek.
STRAKER: Thank you…
He walks away. On MRS. O’CONNOR hearing him go. She gives a little vague wave.
On STRAKER looking back. He waves back, knowing she will not see. Life has kicked him in the teeth – but life goes on. Somehow the old lady has helped. He turns and walks away.
This original ending would certainly have provided Straker with some much needed solace after the events of the episode, and provided the audience with a somewhat less depressing ending than that seen on television. However, despite reading as a rather touching exchange between the two characters that was no doubt beautifully acted, this scene would likely have reduced the shock impact of Johnny’s death. To be fair it was probably intended to serve just that purpose, but without it A Question of Priorities packs far more of a punch and feels like a much braver production as a result – although we’d still love to be able to see this long-lost original ending!