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DOOMWATCH MEMORIES

Always loved the series, never understood why the BBC didn't release what survives on DVD. Really sad at the death of Simon Oates, Ridge was a great character - saw him once up in the Dales at Grassington where they were filming Invasion for the second series. I was only 9 when I met Simon, couldn't believe how tall he was! He ruffled my hair as I remember...

I thought it was the army at first up in Grassington, because of all the armoured vehicles. Then someone told me they were filming doomwatch and it was very exciting, saw the rat story when I was small, and remember the one about the pop star swimming in the sea, and the lighthouse one because I like lighthouses!
David Tulley

I can clearly remember watching Friday's Child and Survival Code at the time (along with Tomorrow The Rat); two of the strongest episodes, in my opinion, and the ones i'd most like to see recovered. Friday's Child, in particular, is an episode that is almost completely overlooked today but it's theme of test tube babies / genetic engineering is still controversial. I remember the scene where a shocked Mary Holland walks into a room where human foetuses are being grown in large glass containers. It packed quite a punch.

Survival Code (which is the one most people talk about due to Wren's death) was a very tense episode and you weren't sure what the outcome was going to be until the final minutes. I thought he was going to escape in the nick of time!

The first series was by far the best and by the time we reached series three and SIMON OATES was only making odd appearances, the only two regulars from series one who were left were JOHN PAUL and JOBY BLANSHARD, they alone could not sustain the DOOMWATCH team. All the same, it was a great show and I was disappointed when it came to an end.
I was a big fan of DOOMWATCH, I met Simon Oates who played Dr John Ridge years ago, he was very kind and invited me to see NO ROOM FOR ERROR being filmed, nice man and it was a truly great series, especially Series One. During that days filming i also met JOHN PAUL, JEAN TREND, JOBY BLANSHARD VIVIENNE SHERRARD, ALSO ANTHONY AINLEY AND ANTHONY SHARPE who were in the cast for that episode. I met Simon on several other occasions after that, when he was appearing in plays, notably when he played STEED in stage version of THE AVENGERS, a lovely man, so sad he is no longer with us.
Nigel Jon Anderson

Pity so many episodes of the series have been lost, like so many shows from that era.
Paul Gutteridge

My favourite was the one where they had a bacterium that ate plastic and it got aboard an aeroplane. I saw the one with the big rats again recently. There was a James Herbert novel that was hugely popular amongst my school-friends around that time, about giant, clever rats. I've wondered since which came first..........

I remember we all like the curly-haired young scientist who sold his soul to be Jesus later on. But the head Doomwatch bloke was pretty good in a reassuring daddy kind of way, although I've no idea who he was. He was a bit of a reborn Quatermass I think........ (Doctor Quist played by John Paul)

Was a great show indeed, and has inspired my thoughts ever since.
Mark Wilkins from the Doomwatch Facebook Group

Here are some of my memories of Doomwatch. Doctor Who was the programme which I most enjoyed as a youngster although I liked other SF programmes as well such as - Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants. I was a keen viewer of Counterstrike which was shown on Mondays at 9 o'clock. When I was growing up I was not allowed to watch all that much television but for some reason I was allowed to see Counterstrike. I was disappointed when it was cancelled but I was interested when I learnt about a new Monday at 9 SF series called Doomwatch. I knew that the creators of Doomwatch had been behind the Cybermen. Terence Dudley - the producer - had also been the writer of another of my all time favourite programmes - The River Flows East - and so I was eager to see this new series.
I remember watching it on Monday nights after I had done my homework and I found it a very thought provoking series. I remember being shocked by the ending of Tomorrow the Rat and I am rather irritated when a clip of it is sometimes shown on certain comedy programmes out of context so that the audience can laugh at it. Of the Doomwatch characters Dr. John Ridge was my favourite. How I would have liked to have been him. He had an interesting job. He was someone who was always prepared to say that he thought. He was a great success with the ladies. And he had a wardrobe which us fashion conscious males in the 70’s would like to have had . Like Simon Templar, Danger Man, and other heroes of these days he was the sort of person a lot of young men would like to have been like.
I remember watching Survival Code and being rather shocked at its ending too with the death of Toby Wren. He was very far from being a favourite character of mine but the ending was shocking and interesting. I wondered what would happen next. I remember being rather pleased with the You Killed Toby Wren episode as it continued the story. Ridge was being as difficult as ever - blaming Quist. I liked Quist too - he looked a lot like the third Doctor - but I could see where Ridge was coming from. I was sorry that Pat (Wendy Hall) had left for no reason that I can remember. I thought that she was a very attractive lady and while Barbara Mason was all right I preferred Pat! I wonder what happened to Wendy Hall? John Nolan - the Toby Wren replacement - was already known to me as I had seen him in Daniel Deronda. I continued to watch through season two and I was particularly pleased to see Patrick Troughton in an episode.

Around the end of the second season I took an O grade University Prelims Examination in Biology. Unlike the main SCE exams at the time the UPE Biology paper involved answering essay questions. Much to my surprise I passed it - and I would later claim that it was largely due to me watching Doomwatch. I had not done science at school for ages despite my interest in SF. Watching TV had come in useful and it got me another certificate which at at time was important because you needed to have Maths or a science to get into University. I had also sat a Maths UPE exam and failed it - although I later passed Higher Maths.
When the third season of Doomwatch came along I had done a year at University. I don't know why I missed Fire and Brimstone but I did. I was sad from reading the letters page in the Radio TImes to see that they had turned Ridge into a baddie. However I was delighted when Simon Oates returned to the show later on. I could never understand how Robert Powell had made his name from Doomwatch while Simon did not get another TV series after it.

The 'Cause of Death' episode of season 3 written by Louis Marks was an episode which had a profound effect on me. It made me totally against euthanasia. I think that I was particularly influenced by John RIdge's attitude to the subject. I probably was rather surprised that this trendy person was so against it. I would very much like to see this episode again - because of course I only saw it the once - and I think that it would be helpful in the current debate on the subject.

One of the disappointing aspects of Doomwatch as far as I was concerned was the ever changing cast. I liked Jean Trend - she was very glamorous- but once again she just disappeared at the end of series two. It was interesting to have John Barron back - this time in a fulltime capacity for season three - but I couldn't see the point of Stafford. And where did Geoff go? Again like Toby Wren I did not think him a particularly interesting character - certainly not compared to Ridge, Quist, Pat, Fay and Brad.
It was much later that I realised that they had made a Doomwatch film. I was sorry that it did not have John Paul, Simon Oates, Joby Blanchard and Jean Trend in more prominent roles.
I once wrote to Simon Oates and I got a nice reply from him which I still have. Watching the Cult of Doomwatch and seeing him looking so ill, I meant to write to him to say how much I had enjoyed his role of Ridge - sadly I never did. I wish I had.

I watched the surviving Doomwatch episodes when they were repeated on UK Gold - during the time when that channel had some interesting programmes to watch. I was disappointed that so many episodes were missing. I bought the two videos of the series and the one DVD.
Sadly I did not see the remake with Trevor Eve. Something went wrong with my TV reception when it was shown. I hope that one day it appears on DVD.
Doomwatch would appear in my top ten of all television shows. I do hope that this website helps to get 2 entertain interested in releasing what survives on DVD. And also perhaps some more missing episodes will turn up. Through the medium of DVD I have discovered TV shows that I never got to see the first time - i.e. The Sandbaggers and other shows that I only saw some episodes of when they were first shown i.e. Department S.
I would like to see a new version of Doomwatch - I think it is as relevant today as it was back then.
Ian K Mclachlan

In those days it was just another job you were paid to do, like Dr Who or Survivors - apart from Robert Powell, very few significant participants are still alive! People don't understand the system at the BBC of random selection of staff to projects that existed then - I once got allocated, as a penance, to do Dixon of Dock Green because I arrived 2 days late from my Holiday! I could tell you of very risque happenings on location with the Doomwatch gang but I won't. But it was all good fun!
Ian Watson. Lead Designer on the 1st Series of Doomwatch

I did not like the episode with the hen running around with a human face. There were other animals of the same ilk. But I enjoyed the other episodes if you did not take it too seriously.

It often surprises me that Series 3 continues to be much maligned and compared unfavourably with the first series (perhaps due in part to Kit Pedler's (?) oft-quoted phrase that Terence Dudley had "made a complete travesty of the programme".

I've read several of the scripts for missing 3rd season episodes, and with the possible exception of "Without the Bomb" (although that has it's merits too) they are all extremely strong stories. Curteis' script for "Flood" in particular is a standout for me.
colley

Looking back on it I think my personal favourite episode has to be In The Dark starring Patrick Troughton (the second Doctor) as a man trying to cheat death forever using technology. Sadly, though, he gradually loses his humanity piece by piece as he becomes more and more machine, becoming little more than a human head on top of a box of tricks.

I worked on most of the first series as a cameraman. As we did lots of 50' dramas in those days, I don't have many memories of this one. But....

The two main actors were quite tall, and if they needed to be downstage we tended to shoot off the set in the corners. It became a standing joke that overnight between the first and second days of camera rehearsal carpenters would have to put triangular ceiling corners in the backs of the sets. How we laughed.
There was an episode about cockroaches, which weren't allowed in the studios for fear of infestation. So they brought in a big glass fish tank at the end of recording, and put some props (fruit on stands I think) in it. Then a man from Rentokil tipped a jar of live cockroaches over the fruit. We took lots of shots, and then the man produced some kind of spray roach poison. He pressed the button, poison whooshed out, and the cockroaches went everywhere out of the tank. The whole crew then had to go rushing round stamping on cockroaches.

At the time of Doomwatch, I was living in London as an actress, later writer. (60's to 80's) Gracie Luck may or may not be familiar. I played the First Stewardess in Ep. 1 - The Plastic Eaters. I had 3 different agents, can't remember who arranged this job.

Pity about Simon Oates. It's odd - I can remember what I wore in 1956 as a summer stock apprentice in Connecticut, but as the First Stewardess, in Ep. 1, it was such a brief brief moment, I can't remember much. I never had a script. And regrettably, I have no pictures.

I think I was introduced to Powell and Oates at a rehearsal (they were very polite) and then for filming, I was in and out.I don't think I had any lines. I buckled up someone's seat belt on the first flight out. I think it was my first job with the BBC, although I had been living and continuing my acting studies in London since the early 60's and was working my way up to becoming an Equity member. Other work followed Doomwatch. I moved to Sydney in 1981. And in the late 80's, returned to the States and culture shock. My published novels are as Susan Surman. But the name changes are a different story.

The thing is, it was pretty exciting as an ex-patriate, to find I was actually going to be able to work in Britain. I'd been doing one woman shows, trying to meet as many people as possible. I worked for Peter Cotes, the producer/director for awhile, assisting him on two West End productions - Janie Jackson and Staring at the Sun. Then I got work in Hazell, a Thames TV production (Nick Ball); Hefetz in Edinburgh (Simon Callow); Company (Her Majesty's Theatre; some BBC Radio Plays (Ed Bishop).

Crazily and foolishly, Gracie Luck became Susan Kramer, the writer. So many neat things happened at that time. I was invited to write material for Tracy Ullman for her first TV special; "George" was performed at La Bonne Cafe and commissioned by the BBC (never aired) and I was banned from rehearsals. I've learned to keep my mouth shut since then.

Howard Pays and Sonny Zahl were my agents at different times.

Then for some reason, novels took over from plays once back in the States and I decided since a book is around forever, I'm going to drop all pseudonymns and use my birth name of Susan Surman. (Max and Friends; Sacha:The Dog Who Made it to the Palace; The Australian Featherweight (also a play); The Noble Thing; and in progress: Dancing at All The Weddings.

Just recently, I completed work on a little independent pilot for a TV sitcom called Beautifully Departed. The first time in front of the camera in 20 years (Susan Kramer). If it gets picked up, it would be a recurring role - so ya never know!

Susan Surman (Gracie Luck who played the First Stewardess in The Plastic Eaters Season 1, Episode 1) Added 11th January 2010

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