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A swimmer, just off shore from the jagged Scottish coastline, swims, unaware, into a mustard coloured substance floating on the sea... It's effect upon him is swift. His skin feels like it is on fire, and he gasps for air as he lungs seize up.


And then he is quite dead, floating in the sea.

Ridge brings in the report on the man's death to Quist. The boy died from contact with mustard gas. All that is known about the dumping of mustard gas was it was dumped seventy to a hundred miles out to sea after the war. The only exception was a boat that sank in the St George's channel in 1946 but a long way off. Quist doesn't seem to think there is much of a mystery here. Ridge tells him that the boat's commander was an old friend of Quist's.

Ridge doesn't seem to have much luck in talking to Mr Lionel McArthur. The receptionist doesn't even look up as Ridge explains that he has been trying to get a appointment for three days. 'I can't even get an appointment to speak to his secretary.' Very patiently, he explains that he can't seem to get an appointment on the 'phone so he has come in person to the offices where his company is based. She suggests he write a letter...

Quist does just that, dictating to Barbara.

The letter is read by McArthur's daughter, Flora Seton and her husband, Andrew. She is very keen for her father to see his old friend again but Andrew is not. 'Do you want to turn your father into a nine days wonder?' They would be besieged by journalists. It is essential that they control any information that he receives. 'Do you think they would just talk about the Woodstock?' Andrew is worried his father-in-law would try to find about every scientific advance made in the past five years. This isn't a matter of keeping her father alive, it is a scientific experiment that has to be controlled. Andrew is directing it and it is up to him to control it. She wonders if he really is keeping her father alive...?

Andrew Seton's polite refusal to Quist is read out to Ridge. Seton suggests trying the Admiralty . McArthur was someone Quist knew at Oxford and they used to visit each other from time to time. 'Sorry, John. your problem.' Quist remembers that McArthur used to broadcast on what used to be called The Third Programme (Radio 3) and that Ridge should lean on someone there, since one out of three girls in London seem to work for the BBC. 'Great idea!' says Ridge. 'I've already done it.'

Bradley asks Ridge if he is still looking for McArthur, Fay, who is reading the newspaper pipes up that the reason he can't find him is because he is rumoured to be dead! Ridge says this is impossible, you just can't hide a death! But he hasn't been seen for years. Geoff suggests visiting the Scottish island where McArthur lives. Couldn't he just send a telegram? 'How do you phrase the telegram?' asks Ridge. '”Are you dead? One knock for yes, two knocks for no.”' Geoff heard McArthur on the radio the other night; a recording according to Ridge. He sends them down from Scotland in batches of six twice a year. That explains why his talk about plastics didn't refer to what his own research people were doing. Quist stops any trip to Scotland. He has had a call from McArthur's office. He is calling a press conference tomorrow in London.

McArthur's press conference is to address the rumours that he was dead! He explains that he has been ill for the past two years and besides the Trust can look after itself. His son in law, seated next to him, is the executive director of the trust. Ridge asks his question about the escort vessel Woodstock which was employed in dumping munitions in the Atlantic. Both Seton and McArthur are a little taken aback at the question but Ridge won't be put off. However, McArthur suggests that after the press conference, Ridge can stay behind and receive any help he can give. With maps of the area McArthur struggles to remember the events of twenty five years ago. He also seems to remember an official enquiry. Which is news to Ridge. Seton steps in and says the recent illness has affected his memory.

Ridge dives off the area McArthur identified but cannot find it. Ridge asks the naval officer with him in the boat if it is very likely that a commanding officer could forget where a boat he was in charge off sank beneath his feet?

The voice on the BBC tape is not McArthur. Or at least the man at the press conference. Fay suggests going up to Scotland tonight and get some sense out of somebody.

Andrew Seton does not take this news well as he and his wife tell McArthur's cousin, who was impersonating McArthur that it wasn't his fault. Seton is more concerned about protecting his experiment than a leak from an old ship. But Flora reminds him that throughout his whole career, her father was concerned about saving the lives of people.. She tells him that she has sent a telegram to Doctor Quist, inviting him up in person. She had discussed it father when Seton was in London. Andrew is appalled! 'It's my responsibility to keep your father alive.' 'But you're no longer just keeping him alive. You're preventing him from dying.'

McArthur is on a hospital bed, virtually covered by life support equipment. Only his head can be seen. An observation window shows another room with white coated scientists and more equipment. One of these people is Dr. Jackson. McArthur is asking about Dr. Quist, whether he has arrived yet by chance. Jackson is puzzled by this.

Ridge and Fay are watching the house from a safe distance. He wants her to knock on the door and see if anyone will let her in! Fay can't quite believe what she is doing.

Quist has received the telegram and leaves Geoff to deal with the Dudley committee. 'Why can't John Ridge do one of his world famous impersonations? 'Allo darlin' I'm the world famous Dr. Quist, what's your problems?' Barbara has arranged the transport.

Watching from the woods with a small spy glass, Ridge sees Fay isn't being let in, and spies the house in general. He builds up a bonfire and suggests Fay lights it to make a diversion whilst he finds a way in.

Dr. Jackson is excitedly explaining to Flora Seton the meaning of a pattern on a read out, sending signals into his brain and for the correct thought pattern to trigger an ecstatic reaction. He has seen this experiment done with rats and monkeys, but this is with an acutely intelligent brain. The rat couldn't stop, starved itself to death. 'What you've done is teach him how to reach oblivion.' Jackson wants to chart the course of the experience.

With a good fire raging, a couple of men run out from the house carrying shot guns. Fay hides in the woods but is soon caught. Meanwhile, Ridge can be seen edging along the roof of the house until he finds a window which is alarmed.

The two of them get to meet Andrew Seton who is told that he and his father are guilty of withholding information from a government department. 'For a scientist you talk a great deal of nonsense.' 'I'm very serious,' says Ridge. 'One young man has already drowned in mustard gas. If it happens again, you and your father-in-law are entirely to blame and that's as close to homicide as you're likely to get.' Seton explains that his wife has invited Quist to visit them. In the circumstances, any disciplinary action will be left down to him.

Quist is driven up to the entrance of the house, and he emerges.

The Doomwatch team are taken into the observation room where they observe McArthur. Seton tells Quist the diagnosis. Chronic ascending myelitis. He should be dead but the machines are keeping him alive. 'That depends on how you define living,' says Ridge. Jackson explains that the bed is angled so he can only see the people beside him rather than a lot of peering at him! McArthur can be heard, asking for Quist and his daughter. He wants to explain to him what is going on. His daughter agrees.

McArthur tells Quist to switch the speaker off – he doesn't want everyone listening to their conversation, and to take off that face mask. 'Machines can't catch diseases.' He points out that he is in charge here regardless of what Andrew says. McArthur remembers Quist's wife who died and how he blames himself As for himself, it began three years ago, Myelitis and Wilson's disease. 'Not nice.' .He did most of the research himself, Jackson did the actual surgery under his guidance. 'He would never have done the lung bypass without me.' .McArthur thinks it is worth it: he is alive in the only way that matters. 'I defeated an incurable disease by not trying to cure it. I ignored it... My body could no longer cope, so I replaced my body with machines that could.'

Jackson tells Ridge and Fay some of the other techniques being used. A heart machine in permanent use, circulating oxygenated blood to the brain. Seton also explains that they are working on an artificial blood which will simplify the whole operation. They could scrap half the machines. 'I'm surprised you need a body at all,' exclaims Fay. 'Eventually we won't.'

McArthur sees himself as brain, pure, uncluttered brain. Quist asks him if he can feel pain, and also pleasure. Physical body pleasures that make us human. McArthur thinks that is an animal characteristic. Quist thinks McArthur wants to remove instincts that keep mankind alive. 'I want to get rid of emotion altogether. Emotion and instinct are the same thing surely...' They get in the way of thought. What's the purpose then? 'To become pure. Total mind. 'I may not look it to you, Quist. But I am perfect. No, no, I'm not mad. I mean it literally.' It is the brain that distinguishes man from the animal. 'I am perfect man because I am only brain.'

Flora and Quist discuss her father a little later. For her father to die, someone has to turn off all those switches. And no one is going to do that.

Ridge sees McArthur as immortal. Fay thinks a lot of people would choose death, being tied to a machine. Seton doesn't see why McArthur cannot go on forever. A brain, a living computer, with an imagination. He reminds them that McArthur is his father-in-law (he says 'it' as Ridge points out), that as well as the general benefit to mankind, they are saving a life.

Flora remembers when Jackson and Seton worked on saving her father's life she was indescribably grateful. He was her family; her mother died very young. But now he'll go on living until someone turns off that switch. She looks at Quist. 'But the trouble is, I don't think he is truly human any more.' Quist knows that ascending myelitis will eventually reach his jaw, his lips, his eyes. Andrew has worked a way where he will carry on communicating based on yes/no thought patterns. Quist asks if he is here to be asked to switch off the machine. Flora wishes it was so. Her father wants to be live brain in a dead skull. 'Make him change his mind.'

Quist returns to McArthur, who confesses to be a little bored at times. Andrew is a dull fellow and he thought Quist would make a pleasant change. Quist points out he has a heavy workload in London as he wanders around, much to McArthur's annoyance. 'You sound as tetchy as ever to me!' says Quist to the man who has conquered emotion. 'If I have visitors I may as well see them, while I can' he says to Quist who is behind the bed. 'How long will you last in the dark, Lion?'

A little later, Ridge is finally having his discussion wih McArthur about the Woodstock as Seton tells Quist about the communication experiment. Fay is bothered. 'How will you know when he is screaming?' What is there to fear? Death – or perpetual life.

McArthur gets a little foretaste of not being heard. He tries to be get someone to answer him but forgets that the microphone has been switched off. 'Oh damn and blast in hell.'

Ridge meanwhile is trying to get Quist to return to London. They can't leave the Dudley committee to Geoff. Quist thinks he can spend three days here. 'What are we staying for?' asks Ridge. 'We found out what we need to find out and that's it. Any moral or emotional problems that this lot have landed themselves in with is entirely their business. It's not ours.' He doesn't think that husk of a man will ever produce one single elegant and original scientific thought ever again. 'We are civil servants. We are not in private practise and you are not a doctor, doctor.' Quist irritably points out that McArthur is an old friend and being a civil servant does entitle you to a private life. 'Not that your private life isn't conducted in public any way.' 'And yours isn't? You absorb all life into you, did you know that? Everything that ever happens becomes a part of you. When you're pre-occupied sometimes, I watch you walking. you don't walk down ordinary mundane streets jostled by ordinary mundane people. You pace the empty streets of a deserted village, you tread the shattered planks of a seaside pier.' Fay doesn't know what he is getting so worked up about, they're old friends but Ridge says Quist hasn't got any old friends except nuclear scientists... It is not his responsibility. 'For once in your life, you don't have to send anyone to their death, you don't have to put anyone at risk. You don't even have to turn off a switch.' Quist agrees. He doesn't have to do anything. He is a man, he choose. He tells Ridge to go and find that sunken ship.

Quist and McArthur debate the power of choice and the need of the body to shape the brain in relating to things. 'In my mind I can be what I want.' 'What do you do when you want to die?' asks Quist. 'How do you manage that?' Why should he? All McArthur wants to be is mind, to think all thoughts. Quist points out that humans know about death, animals only have an instinct for it. McArthur doesn't think there is no reason why he can't go on forever. 'What, totally alone, in the dark? You may hear voices, you may send your signals, you may even get replies. Every now and then someone will open your eyes and stare in as if looking to see inside. You will be. totally divorced from any real world. You'll live in there in such isolation that any question they ask you will cease to have any meaning.' Quist's words get through to McArthur.

Seton is depressed by Quist's visit. Flora says that before he visited, he only had a few people to see him and no one would talk to him about dying. She wants Andrew to let go, he has kept him alive longer than anyone else thought possible. He has done the impossible. Seton asks does she want him to kill him? 'His brain's working better now than it ever did.' But he is in a vacuum. He isn't really alive. 'All I want to do is finish it.' Seton blames Quist for this but she says she has been thinking of this for some time now. But she couldn't let him go without warning him. someone had to tell him. Seton is shocked. 'Quist's in there telling your father we're going to kill him?' 'He's reminding him of the existence of death.'

Jackson believes McArthur has another two weeks of clear speech and a month before he loses control. As for the thought impulse experiment, he won't know at first if he is getting it right. They'll tell him, correct his mistakes. Quist looks in as Flora talks to her father. They found the Woodstock, and Quist is going back today. McArthur says they had some very stimulating discussions. He takes too much upon himself. 'If anyone dies, a part of Quist dies too.' All that emotion must be a bit of a burden in a scientist. They had talked about death. Quist doesn't think he should go on after it gets his speech... 'It has been worth while up to now, hasn't it Flora?' he asks his daughter. 'Oh, yes father! It added two years to your life.' McArthur agrees that Quist is right. And it should be done today, whilst Quist is here. Flora is numb: so soon... She isn't sure... 'All fear is fear of the unknown.' She kisses his forehead...

A little later, Flora is watching the print out of the heart beat with Jackson, Quist and Fay watching. Seton ask her if she is sure what she is doing but she says it is not their decision, it is her father's. 'He is very peaceful,' says Quist. She suddenly turns off all the switches, as the heart monitor flat lines and McArthur dies...

Synopsis by Michael Seely


This was the last episode of the second series to be recorded, and in many ways, would have been a good closing episode for transmission. It has an interesting set of observations on Quist; Ridge trying to free him from a moral dilemma, and another death to close the episode. The subject matter is about death, and the time to die. Always good for a season finale. Instead it is ninth in line and feels a little out of place. The episode begins with a traditional Doomwatch opener of something nasty happening to someone but it is merely the pretext for the Doomwatch team, and in particular Quist, to discover something that it isn't in itself wrong, immoral or dangerous. It is simply one man's struggle to beat the horrific diseases his body has been preyed to. It is always the case in programmes like this that when a friend of one of the regulars features, something awful is going to or is happening to them. Last season it was the conservationist Bernard Colley and now Lionel McArthur. You know the moment you see McArthur's true state, that by the end of the episode he will be dead, with as much certainty as the survival chances of a guest star in Blake's 7.

Simon Oates started to think that some of the stories Doomwatch was now covering would have been better suited for Doctor Who, and this must certainly be one of them. It is well regarded by viewers mainly because a former Doctor Who is the guest star of the episode. For Ridge it is not a bad episode for the character; he gets the first half of the story in which he is amusing, witty, moralising and breaks into a house, whilst the second half allows Quist to have a little taste of how the third series was going to go, with plenty of debate with this week's guest character.

The Doctor Who parallel is not a bad one. The machine in which McArthur is slowly being enveloped by is akin to that of a Cyberman, created by Kit Pedler with a human brain in the middle, rather like today's Cybermen, rather than the surgically altered one the sixties generation had. McArthur wants to become a thinking machine, but divorced from the outside world, which makes his own thoughts quite useless to anyone other than himself. But to be fair to the man, he had little choice. This is what his life was going to be, and he was rationalising it, putting a positive spin on his awful condition.

For the second week in a row, poor Geoff Hardcastle gets a couple of scenes, and won't appear in next weeks but Fay Chantry gets more to do proving she is the number three character in the series now

Reviewed by Michael Seely


The Radio Times used the following quote: 'Have you considered the implications once this gets out? Look what happened when they started heart transplants before they were ready!' It doesn't appear in the finished episode suggesting it had been edited down to fit the running time.

Project Number: 02240/4423

Artists booked for Project Number: 02240/4423 for 29th January 1971 on 9th December 1970

Telerecorded: 29th January VTC/6HT/64522


Dr. Spencer Quist

Dr. John Ridge

Geoff Hardcastle

Dr. Fay Chantry

Colin Bradley

Barbara Mason

Dr. Jackson


Naval Officer


and guest stars


Flora Seton

Andrew Seton

Series devised by

Theme Music by

Film Cameraman

Film Editor

Studio Lighting

Studio Sound

Assistant to Producer



Directed by

9.20PM - 10.10PM

Working title:

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