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SEASON 2 EPISODE 10 THE HUMAN TIME BOMB by Louis Marks


By the year 2000 there'll be over eighty million people living in this country. They'll want cars and places to park them. They'll want clothing and feeding and educating and work to do...to say nothing of housing...

Mr Hetherington lives with his wife and three children at No. 207, Block D, on the 20th floor of a block of flats referred to as the Langly Estate. 

He leaves in the morning for work. He is fearful of the residents and the tower block feels crammed with people. The lift especially so. As he leaves the building in a hurry feeling oppressed by the neighbours who taunted him, he is accidentally run over and killed. Doctor Fay Chantry happens to be in her car at the scene.

At Doomwatch Quist talks to Cavendish about Bill Langly and tells him he is in charge of the Amblethorpe project (how we ought to live for the next 100 years.) and explains there is negligible research and asks Doomwatch to look into it…


JEAN TREND plays Dr. Fay Chantry in tonight's episode of "Doomwatch" (BBC-1 9.20)


Doctor Fay Chantry (who is temporarily living in the same block of flats) helps another woman take Mrs Hetherington back to her own flat and attempts to console her. In the flat the other woman tells her that Mrs Hetherington has an older son and she leaves to attempt to find him. After a short while the Police arrive.

The children are crying constantly. Inspector Drew has the situation under control. He telephones for a Doctor to see Mrs Hetherington while Doctor Chantry makes tea. She is not impressed by Inspector Drew’s manners. After the telephone conversation the door rings and the woman who helped Doctor Chantry with Mrs Hetherington back to her flat returns with Mrs Hetherington’s older son and immediately tells the Inspector the boy knows what has happened as she has told him. The boy wants to console his mother, climbing onto her bed but the Inspector wants to talk with her and pulls him off. The boy tells him to ‘Go away, leave us alone’ and starts punching the inspector…

At Doomwatch Quist is annoyed there is no contact from Doctor Chantry. He calls for John Ridge to come into his office using the intercom. Quist asks him if he has spoken to Doctor Chantry in the last couple of days. Ridge thinks about it for a moment and then tells Quist that he has but only briefly. She asked him to go and see how her child was as she had been worried about her explaining that she has had a bad attack of heyfever. Quist is surprised. Ridge tells him it might be Asthma and then explains that her seven year old has been left with her Gran for six weeks. Quist thinks that she should be back by now and he has tried telephoning her several times with no reply. He is concerned for her despite Ridge trying to be light-hearted and telling Quist she might be out on the job, knocking on doors asking rude questions! Quist thinks the job should be finished as she has been at it six weeks. Ridge reminds him that this is the length of time he gave her. Quist relents but thinks that with no reply and no word it is not like her to act like this. He asks Ridge if she mentioned having any problems she might be having. Ridge says ‘Nothing’ and Quist is satisfied. Ridge leaves Quist’s office. Quist mulls it over…

It’s day time and on Floor 15 Doctor Chantry is wolf whistled by a neighbour as she is on her way to her front door. She ignores it and takes her keys out to her door. She lives at No.150. She enters her studio flat, takes off her scarf, puts her handbag down and places her keys inside it. A metallic sounding noise is heard behind her. Startled, she turns around to see a man crouching down on her kitchen floor. In relief, she recognises him and she exclaims “ Oh, it’s you, Mr Donovan”. The man is dressed in overalls and is clearly the maintenance man who services the flats. He is attempting to fix the lights and thinks he has found the cause, while Doctor Chantry complains that she was in the dark the previous night and she has a lot of work to get through. Donovan tells her that he is annoyed and tells her he is doing his best and then exclaims ‘Oh, blast the bloody thing’ as the lights go out again while he fiddles with them. He thinks it is a bad connection. Doctor Chantry takes off her coat and asks him how he got in. He tells her he has a master key, the same type of key he has for all of the flats. Fay asks him how long he is going to be and he says it depends and asks her not to bother about him as he won’t get in her way. Fay resigns herself to the situation. The door bell then rings. A Mr Grant is at the door enquiring if he is late. She lets him in and tells him that he isn’t and she has only just got in herself. She explains that she had got up early to check some points about commuter traffic and on her way back there was an accident involving a man from her block. Mr Grant tells her he knows. Fay offers him a small drink (alcoholic), but he declines at it is too soon in the day for him. Fay asks him to sit down while she goes into the kitchen area and while Mr Grant sits down she complains that the flats aren’t exactly spacious. He tells her that it is a Family B 2 unit and that he doesn’t get many complaints. Doctor Fay says that it was a special concession to her to let her have it. Mr Grant tells her that naturally they wanted to make her as comfortable as possible. She reminds him that normally a person on their own would qualify for a B1 and she complains how pokey they are. Mr Grant is defensive and reminds her that she wanted to stay right in the middle of the complex so that she could get a feel of it. At this point Mr Donovan drops one of his tools (a hammer) on the floor in the kitchen.

Fay is startled and stands up. After a moment she sits back down. Mr Grant asks her why she wanted to see him. Fay tells him that she gets the impression that there are certain aspects of the planning operations that he would rather she didn’t look into. He wants to know what she means. She explains that the costings on building materials and some of the economies made on living conditions. She is interrupted as Mr Grant reminds her that he isn’t from the Amblethorpe Development Corporation and he is from the planning department at the council. She knows this. Mr Grant doesn’t feel she should be complaining to him over the short cuts made in construction. Fay explains that she is there to file a report and she wants it to be as full as possible. Mr Grant wants to know exactly what she is accusing him of. She thinks the windows are too small and if she was to spend a long amount of her time here, it would drive her mad. Mr Grant says that they are the same size all over. Doctor Fay says they make her feel oppressed and claustrophobic. Mr Grant is defensive and assures her that a thorough series of tests were carried out before the flats were designed. She agrees, but not in the way Mr Grant wants to hear. She thinks that the tests were used to discover the limit that people could tolerate. She goes on to speculate that the tests were conducted to measure how large before people feel exposed and how small before they feel suffocated and feels that the best answer lies somewhere in the middle. Find the answer to that and the development corporation can pair the costs to the bare bone and still get the blessing from his council planning department. Mr Grant sits listening to this horrified. He retorts by suggesting that this sort of thing isn’t came within the scope of her work. She follows this up by saying she didn’t know that suppressing vital material came within his. He resents this. Fay says she has been told five times it would be inconvenient for her to see the original plans of Langly’s new scheme. Aware that Mr Donovan is listening in, Mr Grant says that he is very short staffed and a while looking over at Mr Donovan he explains that a lot of material is of a highly confidential nature. Mr Donovan appears to have repaired the lights and leaves the kitchen area towards the flat door and back to the kitchen. Mr Grant offers to get permission for Doctor Fay to access the information. She tells him she believes Mr Scobie is in charge of the records department and asks to have a word with him. Mr Grant approves. At that moment Mr Donovan has accidentally breaks a photograph of Doctor Fay’s daughter by knocking it off the side with his elbow. She is mortified as this is the only photo she has and Mr Donovan is apologetic.

Mr Grant sees an opportune moment to leave and tells her that if Mr Scobie has the time to spare Mr Grant will phone her, but Doctor Fay doesn’t appear to be listening as she is really upset over the photograph. She can’t believe how careless Mr Donovan has been.

The next morning Doctor Fay brings the milk in to her flat, shakes it ready to open and the phone rings. She picks it up. It’s Mr Grant. He has considered what she said yesterday and wants her to come to the planning office and see Mr Scobie at 5.20pm. She agrees.

At the planning office Mr Grant introduces Doctor Fay to Mr Scobie (a Scotsman) telling him she is from the department of observation and measurement and tells him she is carrying out an environmental study into the Amblethorpe project. Mr Grant reminds him about an earlier conversation they had about her. He assures Fay that he will have some satisfactory answers for her, but Mr Scobie is already being difficult in his attitude. Mr Scobie is acting like her visit and report will be a waste of time. Mr Scobie is acting oddly aggressive but he thinks he is being amusing by assuring Mr Grant he isn’t going to give any of their secrets away. Mr Scobie tells Fay she is looking in the wrong place for answers and in his office this is where all the dirty work gets done like filing and programming. Mr Scobie is very aggressive towards Mr Grant telling him that Mr Langly’s development company doesn’t give a damn for him and all they want to do is get hold of that building and rake in the profits. Mr Scobie takes out a file and shows it to Doctor Fay. He tells her it has the requirements for passenger lift development. He reckons they need ten to cope with peak traffic through his calculations. He says the company says that six is sufficient. He is unhappy that his report is ignored and he is told to get on with it. Mr Grant tries to argue but Mr Scobie accuses him of being in Langly’s pocket.

Mr Scobie is very angry and thinks the department is nothing more than a bunch of puppet’s dancing for its masters and demands that this information is put into Doctor Fay’s report. Mr Grant tells Mr Scobie he thinks he has a little bit too much to drink during his lunch. Mr Scobie demands he takes the accusation back.

He doesn’t and is about to suggest that he and Doctor Fay leave when Scobie aggressive manhandles him down to a graphical drawing workbench twisting his left arm behind his back while Fay looks on in horror.

Aggressively Scobie threatens to blow the projects sky high with the truth. He shouts ‘Understand!’ as he suddenly lets him go and recomposes himself. Doctor Fay and Mr Grant quickly leave. Mr Scobie starts to trash his office, screwing up drawing plans and throwing them on the floor. He then takes a large ruler and smashes items of his desk and throws files everywhere.

Doctor Faye leaves the building and is shortly followed by Mr Grant. Fay goes to get in her car, but is startled and has to move out of the way of youths on motorbikes. As she is about to get in her car she discovers her front tyre has been slashed. While she examines it, she has to move out of the way quickly again as the youths come past again on their motorbikes from the opposite direction.

At Fay’s flat Ridge must have been pressing her doorbell for sometime as he is leaning against her door making a tune with the bell looking bored just as Fay approaches behind him. He spots her and exclaims ‘Well, Hooray!’ sarcastically. Fay is delighted to see him. She asks him what he is doing at the flat and he likewise wants to know. She tells him she has been spending the last four hours waiting for a garage to repair the tyres on her car. She tells him three of them had been vandalised. As they enter the flat she offers him a drink. Cheekily he says ‘I thought you’d never ask’. He asks her what she has been up to and suggests she has been waging a solo war against the hooligans of Amblethorpe. She agrees with him and tells him it’s been a losing war. In all seriousness he tells her he has been worried about her and the government were pushing for an answer by the end of the week and the office had been sweating for her report. She turns away from him and tells him the bad news that ‘There isn’t going to be a report’. Ridge can’t believe it. Fay says she has had enough and can’t take anymore of it and starts to breakdown tearfully in front of Ridge. Ridge comforts her and offers her his drink.

Quist is an evening meeting with Langly for an informal chat about Amblethorpe. Quist is having a drink. Quist is expressing his doubts and he has a lot of unanswered questions. Langly tells Quist by the year 2000, there will be 80 million living in the UK and that is a hard brutal fact. They will want cars, places to park the, feeding, clothing and educating and work to do, to say nothing of housing. He says that he wants to plan everything down to the last detail without a penny being wasted. Quist chimes in suggesting Amblethorpe as an example. Langly says the project doesn’t have all the answers but is a step in the right direction. While Smoking a big cigar and drinking, he asks in an over the top manner if Quist  wants the whole thing (society) to collapse into anarchy, with the countryside being wrecked by unchecked development and towns to get bigger. Of course, Quist doesn’t but does wonder if life in one of Langly’s so called “Urban Units” would be worth living. Quist understands the problem and wonders if Langly has the right solution.

Ridge and Fay are finishing off a bottle while Fay complains she can’t carry on working in the way she has as there are too many frustrating obstacles to completing her report including slow lifts (because the kids on the estate are playing in them) and even obscene phone calls. Ridge isn’t convinced and thinks Quist won’t be either, whilst waiving the report at Fay obviously slightly tipsy. Fay continues to tell him more of what Langly has been up to.

Quist and Langly are now having dinner. Langly explains that he wants everybody to be happy. Quist agrees and cites chickens as an example saying that unhappy ones, go off their feed. Langly wants to know what Quist thinks makes people happy as his computer doesn’t come up with the answers. Quist thinks freedom of choice is a good start. Langly thinks the economy would collapse if everyone had their own little dream house. Langly thinks happiness and economics go together. Langly is goading Quist by saying that high standards of living means mass production no-one is complaining except Quist and a few sentimentalists. After careful thought Quist thinks that anyone who wants anything differing from Langly’s ideals must be an eccentric.

Langly uses the original Ford motor car colouring scheme (anything as long as it is Black) as a further example of people being happy to accept what is given to them without question. Quist argues manufacturers are doing their best to give everybody what they need as it is in their own interest to do so but Langly sights the car industry as conditioning the public to want what they get and the people don’t mind. Langly thinks people make their family fit the car and not the car fitting the family. He explains this to Quist by saying that there is no room extended relatives and this is one of the reasons they get packed off to an old people’s home! Langly says all he is doing is carrying this style of thinking through to its logical conclusion. Quist thinks that plans like Amblethorpe could leave the country full of apathetic, totally conditioned, dehumanized zombies!

Langly asks him if this will be the final word from Quist when he reports back to the minister. ‘Of course not’ Quist jokes. Langly turns on him, saying that it wouldn’t surprise him if it was what he really thought as this was the sort of emotionally loaded language he’d expect from the research being done at Amblethorpe. Quist guesses he means something to do with Doctor Chantry. Langly wants Fay replaced as he feels a scientific basis on the report won’t be done as Fay is prejudiced. Quist is stunned by this news. Langly says she is causing a lot of trouble in areas that she wasn’t asked to look at. He warns Quist that Doomwatch will look like a laughing stock in the eyes of the Minister if she puts any of her findings in the report. Quist is visibly unhappy.

Back at the flat Mrs Scobie is in tears. The doorbell rings. She wipes her nose and answers the door. It’s Dr. Chantry. She introduces herself, explaining that she knows her husband. She is invited inside. Dr. Chantry explains that she met him that afternoon. Mrs Scobie wants to know what happened. Dr Chantry explains that he was very upset and said a few things that she wants to ask her about. She explains she was going to telephone but as she discovered that they live in the same tower block she decided to visit. Mrs Scobie is upset. She says that her husband was shouting and he attacked someone and it took six men to control him. Mrs Scobie is very upset and explains a doctor visited and took her husband away. Dr. Chantry asks her if she has seen him, but she hasn’t. She was told that he is sedated and must not see anyone. Dr. Chantry wants to know where her husband is but Mrs Scobie is too upset to tell her.

At Doomwatch Ridge and Quist are discussing Dr. Chantry. They think she is exaggerating things. Ridge thinks she wants to spend more time at home because of her child’s asthma, causing her anxiety and guilt. Quist explains he needs that report or Langly gets everything he wants. Ridge suggests Quist visits himself to salvage the report. Ridge feels her report could be valueless. Quist has heard this before. Langly said the same thing. Quist decides to arrange a visit.

Dr Chantry is drying her hands in her flat when the telephone rings. She is shocked by what is obviously another crank phone call she must have been receiving and replaces the handset. The doorbell then rings. A lady is outside. Dr. Chantry invites her in as she recognises her from the scene of the accident. She excitedly looks out of the window and explains that her flat is on the other side of the estate. She thinks her view from the window is better. Dr Chantry asks her if she would like a cup of tea, she accepts and tells Dr Chantry that she is Mrs Frank. Mrs Frank spots a photo of Dr Chantry daughter and tells her that she is a lovely child and explains that she has three daughters, all of which are now married and living apart from her. One in London working as a secretary and one in Canada. She is interrupted by Dr Chantry asking if she likes living on the estate. She thinks they are convenient and efficient and she is quite happy apart from one thing. Thunder and Lightening. She explains that the last storm was deafening and the building shook like it was going to come crashing down.

The doorbell rings. It’s Quist. Dr Chantry invites him in. She can’t believe how quickly he has come over. She introduces Mrs Frank to him who is seated at the table. Dr Chantry apologises, but asks her to leave. She is a bit annoyed, but understands and leaves.

Quist remarks, that she seems like a strange woman. Dr Chantry tells him that she isn’t strange, just lonely. Quist wants to know what is going on. Dr Chantry wants to know if Dr. Ridge told him. Quist explains that Dr Chantry has put him in a difficult position. Dr Chantry is obviously quite taken aback by this and feels she is the one who has been out in a difficult position. Quist explains that John told him that she was finding things difficult. Quist reminds her that he wanted an absolutely objective environmental study. Dr Chantry says that was what she was doing but she has uncovered something else. Quist is angry that she hasn’t done what he asked and in so doing has labelled his department with prejudice. He thinks she has played right into their hands. She feels that maybe this was in fact their plans. She is interrupted by the telephone ringing. Quist takes the phone from Dr Chantry as she explains it is another one…

Quist is appalled by the obscene phone call and slams it down. He wants to know how many calls like that a day she is getting. She tells him that she has had three a day since she moved in. He tries to reassure her, asking if she has contacted the Police. She has, but Dr Chantry can’t take anymore and tells Quist that she doesn’t want to end up in a mental hospital like Mr. Scobie. Quist wants to know who Mr Scoby is but Dr Chantry doesn’t want to explain, she just wants to have a few days away. She shuffles some paperwork with her back to Quist, quite visibly upset. Quist is agrees she should have some time off but Dr Chantry is no longer listening as she suddenly finds a file in the paperwork.

She picks up a file labelled Hetherington. She remembers that when she first came to Amblethorpe she took some material from him about the original planning specifications. Hetherington worked for the development corporation in the assessor’s office. She explains he was killed and she witnessed him being run over as he ran from the flats and under it for no reason. Dr Chantry suddenly remembers something and asks Quist to come with her to convince him something is wrong. They leave her flat on floor 15 and make their way up to floor 20.

Mrs Hetherington is ironing whilst listening to the radio and her two boys are playing. The doorbell rings, she puts the iron down and switches off the radio. She invites Quist and Dr Chantry inside. Lawrence is bashing away at a wooden toy with a hammer. Mrs Hetherington asks Lawrence to take the younger Stephen who is in a high chair and play in the bedroom. Mrs Hetherington lifts Stephen out of the high chair and sends them off. Stephen grabs a toy before leaving. Dr Chantry assures Mrs Hetherington that the children wouldn’t bother them but she has already sent them to their room. She complains that they don’t go down to the play area despite her asking several times. She offers them some tea and Dr Chantry wants to speak to her about what happened to her husband. Quist moves the high chair away and brings a chair to the table with some difficult with all the clutter in the flat. Dr Chantry explains that she feels her husband’s death wasn’t entirely accidental. Mrs Hetherington says that the Police seem to thinks so. Dr Chantry wants to know why there isn’t going to be an inquest. Dr Chantry confirms her husband’s position in the planning office. Dr Chantry wants to know if at anytime he mentioned that he was frightened of anyone. Mrs Hetherington is upset by this but tells Dr Chantry she is right. She tells them that he was always nervous but got worse after taking on that job and moving into the flat. He kept talking about “they’d get him” but she just put it down to his nerves, but it was getting progressively worse. The morning of his death he hadn’t slept all night and didn’t finish his breakfast. Quist asks if she has told any of this to the Police. She hasn’t. He asks her if she would mind if they did, but Mrs Hetherington is quite upset and says she doesn’t know and bursts into tears. Quist and Dr Chantry take this as a que to leave. Before they do Dr Chantry thanks her. Lawrence comes running from the bedroom and tries to comfort his mum but she is inconsolable. Lawrence goes to the front door and looks out unsure what to do.

Quist explains he is a scientist to Inspector Drew, he explains that Dr Chantry a member of his team has been conducting a survey when witnessing the accident. Inspector Drew remembers her and her reports about obscene phone calls also. Inspector Drew thinks she is a nervous woman but Quist doesn’t agree. He wants to know what ideas Quist has about Mr Hetherington’s death. Quist is about to explain that he agrees it was an extraordinary accident, but is interrupted by a female police officer giving a message to Drew. He tells her he will see the gentleman in a few minutes. Quist continues explaining that Mr Hetherington told his wife that he had been threatened. Drew wants to know what Quist is Quist is implying an unlikely sounding murder. He changes tack and offers suicide as another unlikely death to Quist hoping that not knowing where he is going and running out in front of a car is not the best way of going about it. Drew wants evidence but Quist has none. Quist is obviously clutching at straws now and Drew is now treating the situation as a general police failure complaint. Quist is angry that he is not being taken seriously and sees himself out. Outside Dr Chantry is waiting in her car for Quist. He gets in and tells her the Inspector thinks the whole thing is utterly absurd. Quist wants her to pack up her things and return to London by tomorrow morning. Both visibly uncomfortable they drive off in silence.

On the estate a group of children are playing with a football. Lawrence is also there as the other children run past him and down the drive towards the oncoming car driven by Dr Chantry. She beeps her horn for them to move, but they don’t, instead creating a fuss. Quist gets out of the car and tries to get them to move but is shoved to the ground. Lawrence watches this happen. Dr Chantry again presses her car horn.

Lawrence has his hammer resting to his chin. Dr Chantry continues to press her car horn. The children run away and Dr Chantry is horrified to see Lawrence behind Quist, who is getting up, about to strike him from behind with the hammer. Dr Chantry drives the car towards them both and Quist dives out of the way. Quist is livid and asks her “What the hell do you think you’re doing? You could have killed us all!” She explains that a boy was about to hit him. Quist asks her to pull herself together and she is imagining the whole thing. Dr Chantry is really upset and goes to park up.

Later, Quist telephones Dr Ridge and asks him to contact Cavendish before he leaves and to arrange a meeting. John explains that he has been asking for the report all morning. Quist tells him that that there isn’t a report and he will have to dictate one in the car on the way back home. He explains that he has asked Dr Chantry to leave tomorrow and that he himself is driving straight back after dinner and he can’t wait to have a drink when he gets back. He puts on his Dictaphone in preparation.

Dr Chantry is back in her flat and the lights suddenly go out. She makes it clear this isn’t the first time it has happened. She opens the door to her flat to see the electricity is still on in the hallway and there is a sound of music. She spots a neighbour and shuts her flat door and rushes down the hallway to talk to him, but by the time she arrives at his door he has gone inside. She presses the doorbell to the flat numbered 156. The man comes to the door eating. She apologises and asks for help as her lights aren’t working. The man tells her that it is the Porters job, not his. Dr Chantry explains that the Porter is off duty. He tells her again it his not his problem and shuts the door on her rudely. Dr Chantry is exasperated. Three drunken men approach singing the Beatles “Yellow Submarine” as she makes her way back to her flat. Foolishly she asks for them to move as she is trying to get back to her flat. They jeer and one of them smashes a milk bottle at her doorstep before laughing and moving on. Dr Chantry is horrified to find that she has locked herself out. Another man, who had obviously fallen behind the group of the others, shocks her by running past and shouting “Sexy!”

In Quist’s car he is formulating the report on the Dictaphone whilst driving. In it he says...

“Memo to Minister of Town and country planning. Subject Amblethorpe project. In view of the urgency that now exists regarding a decision on the next stage of this important development, I feel it may help if I set down my main conclusions in the light of the research conducted to date… Which brings us to our main human problem, how to reconcile the needs of individual freedom with the requirements of the planning process. I’ve always felt that this is one of the biggest difficulties thrown up by a large scale development of this sort. Too little is known of the true nature of human personality to be able to come to a firm conclusion. It’s been thought that a certain conditioning process must inevitably lead to a certain result. But was has happened is the human personality has asserted itself when least expected and surprised all the experts. If we take an example from the animal world, it might be thought that chickens living in batteries would become totally docile and devoid of any aggressive urges. On the contrary, we find that even after considerable periods of conditioning, when they are allowed contact with other birds they immediately start attacking them. For this reason their beaks have to be cut off to prevent them tearing each other to pieces”

Quist suddenly realises the implications of what he has just said. Especially the “Tearing each other to pieces” part. He turns the car around.

Dr Chantry rings Mr Donovan, the caretaker’s doorbell at flat number 22. When he answers she explains she is having trouble with her lights again. He tells her he if off duty and he got off at six. She knows this but asks him anyway as she thinks it is just a fuse. He asks her if she is up there on her own and she offers to pay him for his help. He asks her to wait at the door while he gets his things. Dr Chantry shouts through the door asking him to get his master key as well as she has left her keys inside. He tells her that is a silly thing to do. They both make their way to her flat. In the lift Mr Donovan asks Dr Chantry if she is lonely. When the lift reaches her floor two men waiting for the lift eye up Dr Chantry.

They both enter the darkened flat and Mr Donovan shuts the door. Dr Chantry is suddenly afraid and backs herself up near the window. Mr Donovan makes a show or looking for the problem.

Quist has now arrived back at the flats and enters the lift.

The lights in the flat come back on. Relieved Dr Chantry thanks Mr Donovan. He asks her if she is going away. Still nervous she tells him she is leaving the next day. He wants to know where she is going and moves closer to her. She is now quite visibly afraid and Mr Donovan asks her if she is alright. Mr Donovan isn’t convinced she is alright, despite her assurances and he asks her if she wants him to call a Doctor. She simply tells him to “Go away”. Mr Donovan is upset as he feels he is only trying to help her. Dr Chantry pleads to be left alone and is acting very afraid. Mr Donovan reminds her that she asked him to come up and sort the problem and it was his evening off and he doesn’t like people messing him about. He reminds her that she’d make it worth his while…

Dr Chantry pleads for him to leave. He says he will go when he is ready. Panic stricken, Dr Chantry grabs a hammer from his tool bag and demands that she now do what she says. The doorbell rings and briefly distracted by it, Mr Donovan grabs the hammer back from her and answers the door leaving Dr Chantry in tears. Quist enters and asks what has happened. Mr Donovan tells him that Dr Chantry asked her to fix the lights then suddenly turned on him with the hammer he holds. He thinks she has gone mad. Quist tells him that he will deal with things now. He comforts her and tells her that the sooner he gets her away the better.

Later, Quist is in a meeting with Cavendish again. Cavendish is sorry to hear about what happened to Dr Chantry. Quist chastises himself for not spotting the early warning signs of her condition straight away. Cavendish wants to know what the cause of her breakdown was and suggests that it might be the height of the building. Quist thinks that putting people in numbered boxes robs them of their identity, creating insecurity and the onset of fear. He thinks that Mr Hetherington was suffering a similar condition and running from an imaginary enemy in panic. John Ridge enters and Quist asks him how Dr Chantry is. Relieved he tells him that she is much better. Quist thinks that and her own personal stress made her more vulnerable giving her a feeling of total isolation.

Cavendish asks him if he is putting all of this in his report. Quist reluctantly says he will, but the matter needs more than just one report and suggests a Royal commission on the roots of violence in modern society.

Synopsis by Scott Burditt


What a depressing episode. There is no other way to describe it. From the traumatic opening of Talfryn Thomas's sympathetic character being knocked down and watched by a detached, emotionless crowd and then for the distraught widow spending the next couple of screen time in hysterics, you do soon begin to lose the will to live. Louis Marks knows how to tug the heart strings as he pours out the agony upon the viewer. Fay's deterioration and alienation throughout the episode is also particularly harrowing. The episode was commissioned by new script editor Martin Worth. It is the only episode to credit him in the job. It deals with a social condition rather than a scientific one. And as it was the third episode to be recorded in the series, shows how Terence Dudley was determined to wrest control of the series from its estranged creators and broaden the subject matter out.

The subject matter is high rise buildings, and its dehumanising effect by crowding families in like battery farmed chickens. Kit Pedler would have approved of the episode. He often used to say that London is ground. Not land or fields, but ground.

High rise flats were seen as the solution to the slums left over from the nineteenth century. Slum clearances were first achieved by the various bombing sprees of the 1940s. Architects in the 1930s, experimenting in concrete and such had visions of modernistic architecture replacing the ramshackle and mishmash of decaying, surviving buildings that cluttered our cities! Some even welcomed the prospect of aerial bombings flattening our cities allowing them to rebuild in the new style. It should be noted that they didn't actually want people to die in order for them to achieve their vision. It might be strange for people to want to bulldoze quaint timber framed cottages, medieval churches and such but once these sort of buildings were emblems of a diseased, poverty stricken past. The future was cleaner, brighter, shinier and mainly sculpted from concrete.

With an increasing population, to protect the middle classes idyllic green belt, building up seemed to be the answer. A quick fix solution to replace the bombed out housing stock and cheaper to build if standardised. Futuristic and aspirational. It wasn't. Architects did their best to make the living experience pleasant, and had visions of life being lived amongst the clouds but these 1950s blocks of flats are now seen to be nightmarish symbols of where it all went wrong. An urban experiment that failed. Broken down lifts, gangs of bored youths roaming the corridors and stairwells, isolated and forgotten people, a new symbol of poverty, as bad as the slums ever were (except for better hygiene, running clean water and sanitation, electric and gas)...

The Ambleforth complex Fay is living in is dehumanised, and hostile. No individualistic touches, all moulded from the same pattern. Units are numbered, not named. Belligerent and defensive bureaucrats on the point of nervous breakdowns, a lack of privacy (the over-worked electrician can just let himself in with a master key). Little community spirit – you can't just force start a community. They have to evolve. Fay points out that the design of the building was tested to see the limits of what a human being can tolerate. Everything is standardised. Mr Hetherington is a complete mess of a man, nervous and scared. His claustrophobia causes him to panic and run out of the complex and straight into the path of a car. Scobie, the one man who can see the misery of the project becomes paranoid and aggressive because no one listens to him. The police, sardonic and unhelpful.

Fay misses her daughter, and the smashing of her picture helps to alienate Fay even further. and makes a symbolic point. Added to that the pressures she faces from the stone walling from the council and anyone connected to the project. Jean Trend gives a blindingly good performance in this episode where she takes the central role and shines in it. It is quite shocking the lack of sympathy shown to Fay by Quist and Ridge. Quist thinks Fay is getting prejudiced and that she is playing into the hands of Langley who will have this report laughed out of court. But she does get sucked into the urban neurosis, seeing plots everywhere, rather than the disintegration of the human condition. She saves Quist from being attacked by a small child with a hammer at one point – by nearly running him over, although he doesn't see it as that!

Langley represents the type of millionaire who thinks he has the answers to everyone else's problems. It is astonishing how the wealthy seem to know just what the middle and working classes need and it always, by sheer chance, coincide with their business interests. Langley says that by the year 2000, there will be eighty million people living in the UK. A hard brutal fact. Well, it was under sixty million in 2001. In 1971 it was around the 55 million mark. The 80 million figure was based on the population rise from 1951 and if it continued the same. Actually, the population growth levelled out in the 1970s before rising at a lesser rate in the 1980s. .
Langley's solution is putting people in compact urban units to neatly tidy them away. His alternative vision is of a nightmare and chaos. Quist is quite right when he thinks Langley sees those people who want something different as eccentrics.
Langley developments have thankfully not housed the extra. Flats, as we in the UK know, have sprung up in converted warehouses, factories, churches, and anything larger than a two up two down! The decline of industry and manufacturing left a vacuum which development took over. The former Anglia TV studios in Norwich are flats. But like Langley feared, or rather pretended to care about, the green belt and the brown belt has been encroached upon, new towns have been planned, suburbs expand further and further out into the countryside, the rich man's playground. 

Reviewed by Michael Seely

Writer Martin worth interviewed in September 1989 remembers...

“The Human Time Bomb”, which I commissioned from Louis Marks was about people living in tower blocks who suffered such stress that they might go mad and end up committing suicide. Although the urban neurosis that living in tower blocks can bring on is recognised now, it wasn’t in those days. Not that I think the dangers were ever anything like as alarming as we made out.”  

FACT FILE

This was commissioned by Martin Worth on the 28th of May 1970 under the title of THE DOVE OF PEACE (2nd Series Ep. 15). It was to be delivered by the 12th of June. Considering The Islanders was commissioned later in the year by Gerry Davis, it seems a state of war existed between who was commissioning the stories for the series. The project number for the commission was 02240/0620. The episode was recorded fourth with just three of the regulars booked Project Number: 02240/4414 f on 13th August 1970 for the recording on September 4th 1970
John Paul filmed his scenes on the 17th and 19th of August.
Because of the use of children, their scenes were recorded as inserts earlier in the day.


Audience Research Report
2nd April 1971

Size of audience (based on results of the Survey of Listening and Viewing).
It is estimated that the audience for this broadcast was 15% of the United Kingdom population. Programmes on BBC2 and ITV at the time were seen by 2.8% and 29.4% (aveage).

Reaction Profile (based on 39 questionnaires completed by members of the general public who saw the programme).

Viewers were asked to rate the broadcast on four dimensions defined by pairs of adjectives or descriptive phrases but because the sample is small, these replies will not be published in details. It would seem, however, that this edition of Doomwatch was generally regarded as gripping and entertaining, scored high on credibility, and moved at a good pace.

As was remarked 'we all know this is fiction but unfortunately yesterday's fiction is often today's fact' and, certainly, this study of the tensions that could develop in those living in towering blocks of flats seemed uncomfortably near reality, in several opinions. It was a programme that highlighted one of today's social problems, and proved both entertaining and thought provoking, it seemed - 'Doomwatch always leaves me with something to think about such as "can that really happen?". In most cases the answer is "yes" so if there isn't a real Doomwatch, there ought to be'.

According to a few, the plot was weak and the treatment of the high-rise neurosis theme unconvincing ('displayed little scientific knowledge. There was not much attempt to explain in detail the cause of the illness'), they could not believe in the characters, others claimed, or this particular programme did not measure up to others in the series.

Usually, however, the small sample audience had enjoyed the episode and, although occasional viewers were unimpressed by the acting, most evidently felt that it had reached a high standard, particularly on the part of the 'regulars'. The production, too, was regarded as entirely satisfactory.

37 of the 39 viewers in the sample saw all the programme - the other two switched off before the end.


Cast

Dr. Spencer Quist
JOHN PAUL

Dr. John Ridge
SIMON OATES

Dr. Fay Chantry
JEAN TREND

Scobie
RODDY McMILLAN

Inspector Drew
PHILIP BOND

Grant
PATRICK GODFREY

Cavendish
JOHN QUAYLE

Sir Billy Langly
KEVIN BRENNAN

Mrs. Hetherington
JOAN PHILLIPS

Mr Hetherington
TALFRYN THOMAS

G Donovan
RAY ARMSTRONG

Mrs. Frank
URSULA HIRST

Mrs. Scobie
DOREEN ANDREW

Laurence
LAURENCE BULAITIS

Man in Flat (says lift in RT listing)
TOM COLLISTER

Police Woman
GLORIA CONNELL

Also
ERIC KENT
TREVOR LAWRENCE
STEVE PATTERSON
DAVID WILDE
 
Crew

Series devised by
KIT PEDLER
and
GERRY DAVIS

Theme Music by
MAX HARRIS

Film Cameraman
EDDIE BEST

Sound Recordist
DEREK MEDUS

Film Editor
CHRIS ROWLANDS

Studio Lighting
JIMMY PURDIE

Studio Sound
JOHN HOLMES

Script Editor
MARTIN WORTH

Assistant to Producer
GLYN EDWARDS

Designer
COLIN SHAW

Producer
TERENCE DUDLEY

Directed by
JOAN KEMP-WELCH 

TX:
22ND FEBRUARY 1971
9.20PM - 10.10PM

Working title:
THE DOVE OF PEACE



With thanks to John Archbold for the Radio Times listing and cover.