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SEASON 2 EPISODE 11 THE INQUEST by Robert Holmes


Geoff Hardcastle is visiting a laboratory talking to Doctor Henry Fane, who is surprised Doomwatch are taking the allegations seriously. There is an organised vendetta against his work, and him personally. There is a woman in the village called Miss Lincoln, a crank, thinks Fane. He blames her for the slashed tyres, broken windows, and water being put into the fuel for the boilers. She has turned everybody against them, it drives away his assistants. The problem is she is a dog lover. She found out that they had a license to experiment with animals and that was it. 'God knows what she is going to do next.' The shot that rings out, smashing a window seems to be his answer. Furious, Fane goes to phone the police– but then sees Geoff Hardcastle lying on the floor, clutching his arm, very still...

TITLES

The titles roll over a shot of Geoff in a hospital bed, covered in a blanket; he could be dead for all we know.

Bradley is shocked to learn that Geoff has been shot. He is more upset by Quist's seemingly callous behaviour as he tells him. Brad is told to get the train down to Ipswich and attend the inquest on Friday. Bradley is confused: Geoff's inquest? Quist pauses and says Geoff's all right. He is in a cottage hospital and will probably have all the information needed. 'Great. Doomwatch hasn't lost 'owt,' snaps Bradley. Quist realises how he sounded and apologises. 'The hospital tells me he is wearing a small bandage and a large halo.' But Bradley still doesn't know about this inquest until Quist reminds him of the girl who died from rabies in Suffolk. Quist seems to get his own back on Bradley who remarks 'Oh that.' 'Oh that? How long is it since someone died of rabies in this country? A ten year old child and they don't even know how she got it.' Bradley reminds Quist that he does have his own job to do, even though Fay is on leave and Ridge is still in Mauritius. Bradley remembered reading about the rabies case. 'There's a story going round that it's a result of a bite from a fly...' 'Incredibly yes, and that is what Geoff has been looking into. There's a laboratory there that breeds tsetse flies.'

A cheerful Geoff tells Bradley that it was a ricochet from the point two two bullet that got him. Another inch to the right... Bradley thinks another inch to the right and it would have missed him altogether! 'You ought to put some weight on, lad.' The only gift Geoff gets from Bradley is a packet of peanuts and raisins. Not much to choose from this time of night at the station. Bradley takes a file to read up on. They have been called in by the Ministry of Agriculture. Geoff has done all the donkey work, as he puts it, and all the experts he has consulted said that tsetse flies cannot carry rabies. The next job is to check Fane's laboratory – and his tsetse flies...

Fane explains to Bradley that if they get rid of the flies which are in a sealed glass box and you get rid of Africa's protein problem. They feed on blood. It is impossible, says Fane for them to escape. It is said to have happened, notes Brad but Fane puts that down to lies spread about by Miss Lincoln. Even if they did escape, they would not survive in our climate, and rabies can only be transmitted by carnivores. 'And vampire bats. Blood-suckers, Doctor Fane.' Fane thought that Doomwatch had been called in to disprove this woman's allegations. Bradley says that they were called into investigate, not quite the same thing. 'What you should be investigating is that woman's mentality. No really, I mean that, She's dangerous.'

The buzzing local hostelry, and a man is fussing over his muzzled dog and the journalist Phillips notices that the dog doesn't like it very much. Miss Lincoln enters and orders two bottles of Malvern water from the bar man, Pritchard. Whilst she waits, she refuses to give any comment on the shooting. But her accusation – not speculation – about the girl's death she will demonstrate with evidence at the inquest. The journalist tells her that the ministry people think it is a dog. 'Then they are blind, stubborn and appallingly stupid. Unless, of course, they have some vested interest in concealing the truth.' She leaves with her two bottles in brown paper bags. Marge, Pritchard's wife, makes a fuss over the dog whose owner says has been having a drink with him for two years now! 'I reckon it's cruelty to dumb animals myself.' Philips points out the Ministry man who made the order, McAllister who makes himself known to Bradley. He points out the reporter behind them and they sit down whilst Bradley waits for his sandwiches. Whilst McAllister asks over Geoff, Pritchard asks his wife where the beef has gone. Their son, Harry goes to make a fuss of the dog. McAllister says that Bradley hasn't met 'their tame anti-vivisectionist' yet. She is an inestimable woman but he has no time for people who go to extremes about dogs. She is a trained virologist and that's why her claims are getting so much publicity. The Ministry have done thorough checks but the culprit for the death has not yet been found. And with the incubation period of the illness anything up to a year, other people around here could be victims and they could be too late for vaccines. 'Rabies is 100% fatal.' Someone's dog could have died without displaying the usual symptoms, McAllister supposes. He goes off to do some work, getting some abuse from the dog owner who spent four years on the mine sweepers during the war and thinks that gives him the right to what he wants in a free country! Philips goes over to try his luck with Bradley but the scientist refuses to talk to the press, not even the Western Echo. Philip eventually gives up but not before saying that fly killer sprays have sold out in the local area!

The next day, the dining room of the inn is being prepared for the inquest. Philips jokes with the landlord that he must be laughing with the amount of people coming in. Talking with a fellow reporter, he notices Miss Lincoln going in, followed by Doctor Fane. 'That's the one they want to lynch.' Harry brings over to Miss Lincoln a glass of water. Bradley and McAllister have a brief chat before the policeman acting as usher to this temporary court, asks everyone to please rise for Her Majesty's Coroner. He bids everyone good morning and opens with a long speech setting the parameters for the inquest. This is a resumed inquest on Marion Jean Duffy of Silby who died on the fifteenth of this month from rabies. There was nothing to indicate how the disease was contracted. He deferred the inquest in order to give the local authorities a chance to find out how the girl contracted the disease. He is not unaware of various explanations put forward in certain quarters. Miss Lincoln sits up at this. 'This enquiry is only concerned with facts.' 'That was right between the eye-balls,' remarks Philips. The Coroner also warns the assembled crowd that although feelings may run very high, he expects them to behave themselves otherwise he will clear the room. McAllister is called and sworn in by the policeman. He is from the Royal Veterinary College working for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. He explains that no cause of animal rabies has been found and their search has been in a five mile radius and they have seventeen suspect dogs in quarantine. It is difficult to see what more can be done. All they can do is continue the investigation or wait until they think there is no longer any danger. But as the questions come to an end, Miss Lincoln of Silby Hall asks to speak a question, representing her 'dumb friends' as a member of the RSPCA, a member of the community, and as a victim of 'Mr McAllister's pogrom of our pets.' She asks why he believes the carrier to be a dog. McAllister agrees theoretically that other creatures can transmit rabies but in practise never do. Foxes, badgers, cats and the vampire bat, but only the biters – carnivores can transmit it hence why dogs are immunised in Europe. Miss Lincoln is not put off. The Coroner understands all it needs is an abrasion of the skin and to be licked by an infected animal. 'And it is also possible to get VD off a lavatory seat. But it doesn't always happen that way.' She wants to know why nothing has been done to investigate what she believes to be the real cause of Marion's death. McAllister says quite a lot has been done. Her allegations have been found to be scientifically invalidated. The Coroner wants these allegations placed on record. McAllister refers to Lincoln's allegations that the girl died from an insect bite from the Tyrrell Clark laboratories. Fane reacts and tries to speak but the Coroner stops him until McAllister has finished. There is a government scientist here to provide evidence. The Coroner repeats he does not to be drawn down fruitless side tracks but will hear the evidence. Lincoln walks over to his desk and puts down a sample dish containing a tsetse fly! Doctor Fane is invited to inspect the insect, glaring at Miss Lincoln. He takes the oath. It is a fly but where she got it from... 'They were all over the village the other week,' she says. She says it is possible for flies to carry rabies in circumstances that exist at the Tyrrell Clark laboratories. Fane reacts angrily, but when he is calmed down says he thinks she has used this tragic case to arouse public opinion against the laboratory. Miss Lincoln wants to put questions to him but the Coroner instead calls Mr Bradley, BSC.

As soon as Bradley says it is not a feasible hypothesis, Miss Lincoln is allowed to question him, first by questioning his credentials as a computer scientist, and then what is the object of Fane's experiments – producing a tsetse fly sterilant. Dr. Fane, explains Lincoln, is trying to alter the hormonal balance of the fly. His initial experiments were with the fruit fly and he published the results in a journal which she shows the coroner. Bradley thinks he can explain where Miss Lincoln is coming from. There is a genetic process called passarge (?) whereby you inject genetic material into the species you are working on. The idea is to introduce a genetic mutant strain and it takes several generations for these to become established. You crush up the first generation and introduce it to the next, repeat nine or ten times. Fane has succeeded in producing fruit flies with a low fertility pattern. He is working on tsetse fly with material taken from the fruit fly which is often the host of a virus from the same family as rabies. The implication is that the passarge process has altered the virus so it adapted to the new host. Miss Lincoln agrees with Bradley's explanation. And it was one of these flies that escaped and bit Marion. Bradley says it is a remote possibility but unlikely. 'Only by postulating a combination of the most freakish circumstances.' 'I don't agree,' responds Miss Lincoln. 'The woman's mad,' Fane mutters to a colleague. Bradley goes on to explain that the sigma virus found in the fruit fly is not the same as rabies although it does belong to the same family group. Lincoln is suggesting the virus entered the first batch of tsetse fly and than randomly evolved into the rabies like virus. He would need his computer to calculate the odds. Miss Lincoln still does not give up, but the Coroner has had enough. As far as he is concerned, Mr Bradley has efficiently dismissed her theory. 'This is unfair!' Bradley is asked what in his opinion is the likely cause of the rabies? 'A dog, and most likely one that has been smuggled into this country.' Pritchard sits up at this. Bradley comments on McAllister's actions so far. He says that since no chain of contact has been established. 'The only answer is to eliminate the danger. Every dog within a radius of five miles is a hazard and should be destroyed.' The people in the dining room erupt in anger at the suggestion. Bradley looks a little nonplussed. Young Harry edges out of the room...

Quist is helping Geoff pack and gets him to discharge himself. 'Don't quibble lad. you shouldn't get in the way of stray bullets when we are short of staff.' Geoff regrets not saying goodbye to that nice night nurse. Quist reluctantly carries Geoff's luggage!

McAllister tells Bradley in the bar that the people have no idea of what would happen if rabies got a hold in this country. Geoff comes over and says hello, much to his delight, and Quist enters and asks if the inquest is over. No, it's been adjourned giving people time to cool off. Bradley tells them why... Quist winces. 'Tact.' Geoff is amused. Bradley has put his size twelve Yorkshire foot in it! Drinks all round. Quist decides to wait for the inquest to finish and they can all travel back together. Fane comes over to see how Geoff is and has a glass of his usual. It comes from a bottle hidden under the bar. 'I didn't know they imported that stuff,' says Geoff. 'They don't.' Bradley and Quist exchange a glance. The policeman calls the others back into the dining room.

After the Coroner is seated, the policeman whispers in his ear. McAllister has had some new information which he received during the adjournment. One of the dogs, a boxer, they had removed has indeed turned rabid. The Coroner is pleased that they are on the right track at last. The dog came from Silby Hall – Miss Lincoln. The crowd are shocked.

Geoff catches Harry stealing some food from a display case, and offers to buy it for him. He then notices marks on his hands. It's a dog bite.

Miss Lincoln agrees to take to the stand and gives evidence, unnerved by this change of circumstance. She explains that she keeps kennels for stray dogs and has a number of her own. Presumably Marion got licked by this particular dog. Mr Duffy thinks he knows when this happened. It was three or four days before their little girl fell ill, she said she was going with Harry to feed the dogs some bones. Miss Lincoln does not remember this, but Harry does visit the house to bring bones. She doesn't remember him bringing Marion. If Lincoln is not there, the gates are locked and she has never walked the dog outside of their grounds. McAllister has photographs of the infected dog and it is clear from her face it is the dog from her kennels. Harry is sent for. Miss Lincoln explains that the dog was a stray in the area which she had heard about and went out and caught it. She has no idea where it came from. 'Unless, of course, it was one of those that escaped from Doctor Fane's laboratory.' Exasperated, Fane accuses her of trying to put the blame back onto him now that her tsetse fly theory has been rejected. 'She now thinks I keep a stock of rabid dogs!' But she counters that a week before the dog was found, Dr. Fane had phoned her to ask if she had any of the dogs they were to be returned immediately. Fane admits this did happen: but the dogs were deliberately released by intruders. He reported it to the police. Dr. Fane does not recognise the dog in his picture. ' I don't pay much attention to the animals that I use.' Quist has a look at the photo as Geoff tells Quist about Harry, who is now being interviewed by the Coroner. He never took Marion to Miss Lincoln's house. He likes dogs, and he is shown the picture but does not recognise it. Disappointed, the Coroner lets him go. Quist and Geoff follow Harry and the boy reluctantly shows him the bite and refuses to co-operate. All the dogs are muzzled and there is clearly one who isn't. 'There's more than one dog. They're from the laboratories, aren't they?' says Quist gently. Harry is upset, he doesn't want them killed, they're not sick. Harry hits Geoff's sore arm and makes a run for it. He is too quick and nimble for Quist. They have to find him and those dogs. They must be somewhere near. Geoff remembers there are some old ruins on the other side of the orchard. They've got to get the boy to hospital.

The Coroner has some more data – the date of the reported release of the dogs, a week before Lincoln found the dog. The girl was admitted to hospital a week later.

Quist and Geoff enter the ruined barn and explore. They hear the muffled sound of distressed dogs from a cellar. And waiting for them is Harry, with a rifle. One of the dogs is clearly rabid and dying. Harry won't let Doctor Fane kill them. Quist realises that Harry brought Marion to see the dogs, and one of them bit her. 'Do you want to die too?' Harry threatens them again. Miss Lincoln told him that Fane kills dogs. 'Is that why you shot me?' asks Geoff. Harry lowers the gun. 'I didn't know you were there, honest.' 'You can't go around shooting people, Harry. You're not going to shoot us, are you?' Harry gives up the rifle, asking if he is going to end up in prison? Quist gently takes him to the hospital whilst Geoff disables the rifle, breathing in relief.

As the Coroner asks McAllister to establish the ownership of the dog, Quist enters and says he can tell him. He is from the Ministry of National Security. The dogs are from the laboratory and the other three have been found in a disused barn and the boy Harry's involvement. Dr. Fane declines to reveal the source for the dogs... He bought these privately... The Coroner reminds him he is under oath. After some more prevaricating, it is from Mr. Pritchard. He walks to the stand and gives an oath. 'He asked me if I could get some. He made it seem quite important. An important experiment. I didn't like to do it.' The Corner agrees: 'No, but you forced yourself. As it was a matter of such importance it no doubt reflected itself in the price.' Ten pounds a dog. A friend of his supplied it. 'The same friend who gets you your Schnapps?' asks Quist. The ear of the dog has cropped ears, a practise not banned in the continent. 'You can't prove I got those dogs from abroad,' sneers Pritchard but the Coroner says it is not for him to try but he is satisfied this is what happened.
'The death of this little girl is a direct consequence of your greed for money and your criminal disregard for the laws of this country. I have no doubt you will suffer other consequences.' As he stands down, the villagers are clearly not happy with the man, and he stops to look at the Duffys...
The verdict is death by misadventure.

As the villagers spill out of the Silby Arms, Quist, Bradley and Geoff are ready to leave right away. 'What's the betting of Pritchard coming out in one piece?' Fane comes over to say something but Quist tells him not to bother. Miss Lincoln walks out, looking at them silently... 'She could have been right for one reason only.' Quist tells Fane. 'You run a sloppy lab. you better get things tightened up.' He looks at Pritchard who is looking very pale. 'You and Pritchard had better pray that we got Harry to the hospital in time.' Harry's mother overhears. 'Harry?' 

Synopsis by Michael Seely
In an unusual twist for Doomwatch, the poor young girl did die from rabies. It was not a new or mutated virus that showed the symptoms of rabies. The question was: how did she get it? Was it the result of the sloppy experiments in a nearby commercial laboratory where a tsetse fly was genetically altered to carry the terrible disease? No, a rabid dog licked her. But it did come from the laboratory, bought secretly and smuggled in from the continent.

Animals may not have been having much luck this series, what with the animals being exterminated in a Yorkshire village, and being experimented upon in Norwich laboratories, but children and teenagers are also having a rough time of it. They're spreading anthrax, rabies, dying from typhoid, threatening people with hammers and blowing up test tubes! Next week, they'll be robbing their fathers! Oh, and there's another young fatality to come at the end of the season.

Rabies is thankfully non-existent in this country due in part to the six month quarantine procedures for animals entering the country, and also because being an island, the sea is a good border! It didn't stop the entrance of the bubonic plague, admittedly, but dogs are harder to smuggle across unnoticed. Recently, the controls have been relaxed with the introduction of pet passports. The opening of the channel tunnel had long caused fears of a sudden influx of animals spreading their diseases from the continent, but that's more symptomatic of the British fear of them overseas, than any genuine concern. But there were and are cases of people trying to smuggle their beloved pet back into the country. The Mad Death was based on this premise. It is not surprising. Leaving your pets in the distressing confines of a cage whilst you are on holiday for a few weeks is bad enough, but for six months, that's appalling if you have a close affinity with your dog.

Although this episode is rather static with some very long and dry speeches, as an unfolding courtroom drama it is simply terrifically plotted with twists and turns as the true nature of the outbreak is revealed. The animal lovers who oppose the laboratories inadvertently brought this on themselves. The laboratories, presumably either to save money or avoid red tape, break the law themselves. It is almost a dry run of 28 Days Later, with rabies, instead of rage, but then again, the two aren't dissimilar. Nearly ten years later, rabies featured in a four part thriller called The Mad Death, which was a little bit more exciting than The Inquest. But perhaps the best rabies scare episode was Survivor's Mad Dog. Here we see the effects of rabies turning a decent philosopher into a savage animal!
Britain is often called a nation of animal lovers. Over the centuries, various cruel animal sports have been outlawed – badger baiting, fox hunting, cock fighting, some have origins in the days of protecting your crops when you did not have imports to prevent starvation. Cats did get periodically slaughtered during outbreaks of plague because they were blamed for spreading the illness, which ironically allowed the rat population to boom. Dogs are seen as man's best friend – or worst enemy if they didn't know you. Animal testing in laboratories; vivisection, testing powerful drugs on creatures for which they weren't designed to be taken, that is the modern day obsession. We've seen the images of dogs and monkeys being forced to smoke, have shampoo squirted in their eyes and so forth. It arouses powerful passions, and the animal rights brigade have their militant wing! Recently, a farm which produced animals for laboratories were persecuted – a body of a relation was exhumed and hidden! What Doctor Fane complained about is mild by comparison. Various laws have been passed to enable these labs to go about their work unmolested – but it doesn't stop the feeling, nor the protests.

Doomwatch is not against animal experimentation, as Train and Detrain demonstrated. But the Doomwatch team seem to be suffering from an imagination short fall this week. The very process Bradley dismisses as impossible – the accidental mutation of a virus injected from fruit fly into a tsetse fly creating a rabies like virus, is similar to the events of The Web of Fear where a virus used to kill off coddling moths becomes mutated in the gut of a spider. That illness looked like yellow fever. 'Only by postulating a combination of the most freakish circumstances,' says Brad dismissing the chances. Well, you could argue they are keeping the episode plausible. Bad practise at the laboratories, blind hatred of their activities, and greed, that''s the causation here, as Fay would say, if she was not on sick leave this week.

The acting honours for this episode must go to Judith Furse, a veteran actress who died only three years after making this episode. Often cast for her size as butch, lesbian or battle-axes, she demonstrates her abilities as a sensitive actress as she thinks at the top of the episode that her theory is a fact, before seeing them dismissed in the coroners' court and finding out she had housed a rabid dog herself. Once again, a village is thrown into turmoil. What did become of the Silby Arms, one wonders? Was Pritchard and his family cold shouldered and had to sell up and move? One imagines he was probably jailed for smuggling in a diseased animal, possibly even tried for manslaughter. Did his son survive? As for Doctor Fane, one can't imagine him remaining at the laboratories for that much longer! Edward Evans also put in an admirable performance as the Coroner, keeping the drama ticking over nicely.

Although Robert Holmes did not write for Doomwatch again, he did write for Terence Dudley on his next project, The Regiment. The only reason he probably wasn't considered for Survivors was because of his three year stint on Doctor Who.

Must have been a difficult episode to direct for Lennie Mayne considering its static nature. As various plot points are raised, Lennie Mayne show people reacting, signalling their involvement in the later unravelling of the plot. There's evidence of a small edit for running time after the brief interlude in the coroner's court when he is trying to establish the dates Miss Lincoln found the dog.

Next week, more blasted kids are at it again! 

Review by Michael Seely

CHOICE CUTS

As noted in the analysis for The Inquest, there is indeed a cut to the end of a scene. Coming just before Quist and Hardcastle investigate some disused farm buildings for the rabid dogs, the Coroner was trying to establish a timeline for the girl's contraction of rabies. He ended with the line 'And that was the date that this little girl entered hospital...' Over a shot of the crowd, he continues, 'What is the minimum incubation period for rabies, Mr. McAllister?' Standing, McAllister says 'I understand it can happen very quickly, sir. It depends where the virus enters the bloodstream. If it enters through the neck or face the onset of symptoms would be much quicker, for instance, than if the bite was on the ankle.' There's a gap here, suggesting something from the rehearsal line has been cut, probably a McAllister reply as you can just see an M where the character name would be.  ' Well, if one sets a minimum period of forty eight hours, that takes us back to the twelfth when the animal was still running wild in the countryside. Marion could have had contact with it then... So it might well have been wandering for some time.' In the studio, a recording break followed allowing for cameras to move over to the ruined set.

FACT FILE

Project Number: 02240/4420

Artists booked for Project Number: 02240/4420 for 17th November 1970 on 23rd October 1970
JOHN PAUL JOBY BLANSHARD JOHN NOLAN

Telerecorded: 17th November. VTC/6HT/63195

Cast

Dr. Spencer Quist
JOHN PAUL

Colin Bradley
JOBY BLANSHARD

Geoff Hardcastle
JOHN NOLAN

Mary Lincoln
JUDITH FURSE

Dr. Fane
FREDERICK TREVES

Coroner
EDWARD EVANS

McAlister
ROBERT CAWDRON

Marge
JEAN MARLOW

Pritchard
FREDERICK HALL

Harry
GARRY SMITH

Philips
DAVID SPURLING

Dog Owner
LAURIE WEBB

Mr. Duffy
BILL HAYDEN

Policeman
GEORGE GILES

Crew

Series devised by
KIT PEDLER
and
GERRY DAVIS

Theme Music by
MAX HARRIS

Studio Lighting
JOHN TREAYS

Studio Sound
JOHN HOLMES

Designer
GRAHAM OAKLEY

Assistant to Producer
GLYN EDWARDS

Producer
TERENCE DUDLEY

Directed by
LENNIE MAYNE
 

TX:
1ST MARCH 1971
9.20PM - 10.10PM

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