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SEASON 3 EPISODE 3 SAY KNIFE, FAT MAN by Martin Worth


‘A kid held a knife to my throat when I was 6 years old. Even at that age I knew he wasn’t going I to kill me; but I knew he could. That’s enough. A state of war exists.’

At one in the morning, on a main road in the Pennines, a car passes a grey van coming over a hill. In the van, two men, Cliff Lawson, who is driving, and his friend Eddie in the passenger seat, are startled by the sight of a motorcycle by the side of the road and the driver lying still nearby. Cliff quickly stops the van and Eddie gets out of the passenger side to see if the rider is OK. As he reaches the seemingly unconscious and possible injured motorcyclist, Carlos, the young man on the floor suddenly grabs Eddie's legs and pulls him down to the ground. Back in the van Lawson sees what has happened and dives out of the van to help his friend. As soon as he leaves, unseen by Cliff, the van is hijacked by a young girl called Sarah. Cliff is startled as the van speeds past him. While Cliff is still struggling with Eddie, Lawson is also attacked from behind by another man called Ian.
Carlos, who has now got the better of Eddie, gets to his feet and points a gun directly at Lawson. Ian injects the unconscious Eddie. Carlos explains to Lawson that his friend will be asleep for at least another ten hours. Eddie is then dragged to the side of the road.

In the meantime, a young boy called David waits impatiently next to an estate car with a torch and the boot of the car open as the van approaches. Sarah grabs some keys from the van, gets out and gives him them. Both the locked doors in the back of the van are opened, while Sarah looks around nervously. In the van are various crates and packages and among them are four large steel and wood containers clearly marked radioactive. Sarah reverses the car up to the back of the van and the heavy containers are transferred to the estate car haphazardly by David, who struggles with the last one trying to get the boot to the estate shut. David then locks the vans doors again and returns the keys to the cab. Sarah and David then drive away.

Ian returns from a field and tells Carlos he has put Eddie near a haystack. He than picks the motorbike up. Satisfied, Carlos prepares to leave. Lawson wants to know what is going to happen to him. Carlos tells him they need him to drive the van. Lawson incredulously reminds him that the van has been taken. Carlos tells him that it was just to distract him from helping his friend and that the van is just parked around the corner. Carlos motions him forward with the gun and the group start walking while Ian follows on the motorbike. As they approach the van Carlos makes Lawson get in through the passenger side so he doesn't just drive off. Carlos keeps the gun on him at all times and tells Lawson he has a long drive ahead of him.

In the meantime Sarah and David are relieved to be driving quickly away.

The next day at Doomwatch Barbara is engaging in small talk with Bradley. She is unhappy with the quality of the new office curtains. She tells Bradley that Commander Stafford is having a private line to The Minister installed into his office.

Technicians are tinkering with Bradley's computer and Bradley is reluctant to go into the lab. He asks Barbara where Stafford's office actually is. Jealous, Barbara tells him it is downstairs and that he even has a balcony. He decides to go in the lab, but is put off by the expectant faces on the technicians he can see inside. he isn't comfortable with the new staff and feels surplus to requirements.

Barbara opens a parcel on her desk containing files delivered straight from civil servants. She thinks it is full of every pseudo scientific problem that no-one knows how to deal with and it all gets lumbered on Doomwatch.

A teenager enters at the main door and apologizes for being late. Barbara correctly guesses that she is Susan Proud. She apologizes for being late and explains quite annoyed, that she was given directions to Doomwatch's former headquarters. Barbara introduces Susan to Bradley and explains that she will be taking over reception duties. Quist enters the office complaining about its new location. He is introduced to Susan and he reassures her that she will fit in. Quist asks Bradley to show him his new lab. The telephone rings. It is Commander Stafford looking for Quist. Barabara asks him to come up stairs.

Meanwhile Lawson is still driving the van and wants to know where they are going. But Carlos ignores him. Lawson threatens to take the gun that resting on the lap of Carlos. Carlos convinces him to do otherwise. They head towards Brecon and towards the black mountains.

In a meeting with Quist, Stafford explains that a van carrying four cases of Plutonium under special delivery from Windscale has gone missing. Stafforf explains that the driver and his friend were supposed to arrive at Harwell at 8.30 and checkin if they were running late, which hasn't happend. Quist is horrified.

The estate has pulled up next to a building and David tells Sarah to get him a trolley and an overall while he conceals the 'radioactive' labels with pieces of cardboard. Sarah wonders if their theft has been discovered yet. David assures her that Carlos is taking care of the situation.

Lawson stops the van near a stone wall surrounded by the mountains. Lawson is nervous. He still thinks the van contains the four cases of Plutonium and warns Carlos not to touch them. Carlos tells him to get out and run at gunpoint after explaining in one direction lies a village and the other a phonebox, both of which are at least a couple of miles away. As Lawson is about to leave, Carlos wraps the gun up in material and hits Lawson on the back of the head with it. Lawson is knocked unconscious and Carlos gets out and hides him in a nearby ditch, gets in the van and drives off. Lawson is already starting to recover.

In a meeting with the Minister's in his office, Quist is cannot believe the large amount of Plutonium that appears to have gone missing. The Minister reassures him that in case of accident, the containers that they were in are in fact indestructible. Quist reminds him the regulations have been broken. The Minister admits that in fact it was he was responsible for the authorisation to move such a large quantity under cover to Harwell as quickly as possible. Quist's wryly notes his plan has failed.The Minister is still unconcerned and predictably Stafford backs him up. However, the Minister is aware of the implications should the Plutonium been hijacked under his authority. H tells Quist that in his job he has to take risks, even if sometimes they blow up in your face. Quist can't help to point out that The Minister has cjosen an unfortunate metaphore. The Minister is furious at this retort. he tells Quist that he doesn't need reminding that sixteen kilo's of plutonium is enough to make an atom bomb.

David is moving the trolley containing all of the plutonium into a small workshop whilst Sarah locks the door. David asks her how much time he has. Sarah tells him at least an hour. David rips off the cardboard concealing the crates.

The Minister receives a phone call. It's bad news. They have found the driver's friend drugged in a field whilst the driver drove at gunpoint to South Wales. The Minister tells Quist that a Chief Inspector Marriott is now in charge of the investigation and wants to meet with Quist. Quist tells the Minister the containers will not be easy to open, but Stafford assumes that the perpetrators will have the necessary equipment to open them. Quist warns that if they are successful, the plutonium that is exposed to the air will ignite, let alone the damage a single particle of alpha radiation can do to any person that inhales it. The Minister assumes that they know how dangerous it is. Quist isn't satisfied.

David has used a acetylene torch to cut open one of the containers revealing a cyclinder container inside with a lock on it. Sarah gives David a hacksaw to cut it open.

In the Minsters office, Quist hangs up on the telephone and tells The Minister and Stafford he is going to meet the Inspector at the Yard before he travels to Wales. The Minister warns Quist to reassure the press and the Police there is nothing to worry about. Quist tells them he isn't convinced he can and then leaves.

Stafford asks the Minister why they took the van to South Wales. The Minister thinks the market for it is abroad where it will be sold to make a bomb. The Minister explains that Plutonium is hard to come by as it isn't just a material you can dig up out of the ground and is made by a Nuclear reactor. This is regulated to ensure that countries that might misuse it to make a bomb cannot as a non proliferation treaty prevents this. The Minister asks Stafford to try to narrow the search for the countries or groups that might be responsible.

David has successfully opened the container. Sarah removes the round blocks of plutonium that is still protected by clear plastic. She tells David it is heavy and lays it down. David is in awe of the dangerous metal.

At Doomwatch, Bradley is describing what Plutonium looks like and about explain the dangers to Susan and Barbara but is interrupted when Susan spot's someone outside in the reception area. It is Ian. He has placed something on Susan's desk without a word and left. Susan's goes after him, but is too late. On the desk is an envelope addressed to Stafford. Susan takes it to his office. Bradley then tells Barbara that the plutonium was packed separately to prevent the dangerous circumstances of two blocks coming together. He demonstrates this with a couple of items off her desk. He explains that there would be no explosion but the radiation created would create a nasty mess. Quist enters and comments that it only takes 8kg and they have 16. he then tells them that only 5kg was enough to create the Fat Man bomb, before walking into his office. Quist explains what Fat Man is to Barbara while hanging around the door to his office. Stafford enters demanding to know who delivered the envelope. Susan tells him that it was a boy, but she didn't see his face. Stafford takes out a photograph showing two men in a posh restaurant and the cryptic caption "What's the connection?" written on the other side. Stafford knows who they are and goes out.

In a University lab, a physicist, Michael is inspecting the stolen Plutonium in a depressurised container in which he can handle the Plutonium. Sarah and David are present and they are all wearing protective clothing. Michael returns the Plutonium to the container. He suggest they store it in their lockers. Sarah is worried the Professor is getting suspicious with the all the activity at night. Michael dumps his clothes into the prepared Dirty bin for clothes. Carlos arrives and Micahel congratulates him for the smoothness of the operation. The containers are put in Sarah's locker and David confirms that all Carlos's instructions have been followed and Carlos is satisfied they have left enough false trails to keep the authorities busy for weeks.

Rafael Domingues, a latin american, works as the first secretary at the South American embassy in London. He is obviously one of the men in the photograph sent to Stafford. He greets Commander Stafford. On Rafael's desk is an Evening Standard newspaper, with the headline "Plutonium Hijacked" and a photo fit of Carlos on it. Stafford notices the newspaper and remarks that the photo fit's always look like friends he knows which provides some amusement between the men. Rafael is aware of the news and wants to know if Stafford thinks their country is a suspect. Rafael lists a number of countries he can think of that would be responsible. Rafael suggests that if indeed his country did have a bomb his country would be one of "the big boys" and not be patronised by the U.S. Stafford warns Rafael is this is exactly the reason behind his visit. He tells him about the photograph delivered to him. Rafael points out the photo is a fake, noticing that the shadows in the photo point in two different directions.Stafford knows. The photo has been doctored to remove the Ambassador that he was actually dining with on that day with a man called George Talbot. Rafael doesn't know him. Stafford tells him that the man was wanted for criminal activity. Stafford wants to know why someone would want to try and implicate Rafael with him. Stafford suggests that he might have moved from drugs to something more lucrative and is looking to sell to the highest bidder. Rafael suggest the Plutonium.

At night, Quist and The Minister watch a newsreader reporting that the police have moved in on suspects in the plutonium hijacking on the Minister's TV and suggesting a connection with a Ginger Keyes, who is a member of an international crime syndicate. Quist is shocked. The Minister is irritated and switches off the TV. He tells Quist the Americans have called him with a "holier than thou" attitude. Quist suggests that the news report may not be accurate. The Minister thinks that criminals wouldn't sell it for money, instead use it to achieve power and protection. He calls Miss Wills, his secretary and asks for a full police report on the matter. The Minister also wants to know why Stafford hasn't reported back.

Meanwhile in Quist's office Chief Superintendent Marriot is furious that co-operation between the police and the security service is always one sided. Holding the fake photo Marriot wants to know why he wasn't informed. Stafford uses his elevated position to inform him that he is not accountable to a Superintendent. Members of the police with Marriott are trying to find the envelope the photo came in by emptying the bins. Barabara tells Marriott she hasn't found the envelope and she is told to find Susan. Susan is brought to Marriott. She describes the man as young with long hair, wearing jeans and a tight fitting jacket. Barbara appears with the rediscovered envelope. Marriott asks his Sergeant to take statement's from them both and asks them to leave the office while he has a word with Stafford. They discuss George Talbot and Rafael. Marriott tells him that the van driver said his gunmen had confessed to the killing of Ginger Keyes in detail. Marriott knows he is following false leads. Quist enters the office demanding to know why Barbara, Susan and the police are doing in the office so late. He tells Stafford the Minister wants here from him and he is less than happy. Marriott wants to know how much Plutonium is commonly moved around. Quist explains it is an ever increasing amount. Marriott muses that it will lead to more opportunities for it to be stolen by someone like George Talbot. Marriott surprises Quist and Stafford by revealing that he doesn't think George was involved as they found the stolen van in an abandoned mine and because the driver was purposely knocked out, dumped and told where the nearest telephone was so that he would call the police to the area in effect creating a diversion. Marriott thinks that the Plutonium was actually transferred to another vehicle 300 miles away in Yorkshire giving the perpetrators at least 24 hours without anyone looking in the right direction. Quist guesses they might have taken it to Liverpool, but Marriott thinks it hasn't actually left the country. Quist is concerned that a bomb might be made in the UK.

The next morning Stafford is with the Minister in his office informing him of the situation. Meanwhile Marriott is with Quist in his office concerned they have been victims of a student prank. At the same time Stafford is explaining to the furious Minister that students are responsible for a nationwide emergency. Still angry, he tell Stafford to leave him alone.

In the student locker room Michael tells Carlos that each block of Plutonium is in a different locker. Carlos wants to know if all of it is going to be used. Michael says that some of it won't be used at all. Carlos suggests selling it. Michael thinks Carlos has a feeble imagination, despite Carlos pointing out that it has ten times the value of gold. Michael goes into the lab to continue his work as Carlos calls after him, asking if he knows a George Talbot but Michael doesn't. Carlos decides not to explain further and wishes Michael good luck for the night's operation and tells him that he will be keeping well clear.

At Doomwatch, Barbara is in Quist's office. She tells Quist that she can't believe that student's would steal Plutonium. Quist points out that the boy who delivered the photograph was also involved in the robbery. Quist tells her that Susan's description of him matched the same one given by the van driver. His motorcycle had an emblem on it for the Stainfield University Football Club. Barbara want's to know how this ties in with news reports of the murder of Ginger Keyes and George Talbot's involvement. Quist tells her that this story was faked but Marriott can't investigate the University as he was alled in just three month's previously to end a sit-in. He is still looking for definite evidence and he has asked Doomwatch to investigate as Quist was once a colleague of the Professor of Nuclear Physics, a Frank Holman who tutors there. Quist is convinced Marriott is right about the student hijacking and Quist wants to help the Police discreetly. Quist asks Barbara to come with him as his P.A.

Barbara, Quist and Stafford arrive at the university and make their way to the Enquiries desk. Stafford has spotted a white Mercedes and thinks they are not alone in their investigations. He tells him it belongs to George Talbot. Quist is shocked. Stafford thinks his informers have kept him one step ahead of the Police and he has come to get the Plutonium first. Barbara tells Quist where to find the Professor. Quist tells her he is going alone to see him. Barbara is a bit put out by this. Stafford thinks that Barbara could pass herself off as a student after reading a notice board message that an "Action for Peace" meeting is being held at 8 p.m. in Union Hall.

Quist waits in Professor Holman's secretaries office. Frank enters and is obviously pleased to see him and is about to invie him for dinner with his wife but Quist interupts him by telling him he is there on official business for Doomwatch. At first Frank doesn't know what Doomwatch is, then remembers. Quist gets straight to the point and asks Frank if he is aware of the Plutonium robbery. He is, and still thinks all the fuss is still happening down south. Quist tells him that they are no longer looking down south...

Meanwhile Ian comes into the Crush Hall and stops abruptly as he spots Barbara, recognising her, studying the notice board. He then sees Stafford with her, but he has his back to him. He's still wearing the same clothes from the day he delivered the photograph, he quickly makes his way back where he came from.

Frank realises what Quist is implying and tries to assure him that the previous troubles were only the actions of a few wannabe revolutionary arts students. Quist tells him he is only looking for five or six students and suggests that they might be in his department. Once again he tries to assure Quist his students are conscientious responsible scientists and don't behave like idiots. Quist reminds him that is exactly what they were when they were working on the Manhattan project. Frank tells him that they both knew what they were doing but Quist doesn't think that was justification. Frank is interupted by Sarah entering the room, who eyes Quist carefully. Frank tells her to return in ten minutes. Sarah apologises and leaves. Frank asks Quist to return at 7 p.m. and discuss things later as he is busy. Quist agrees. Frank assures him that his concerns are unfounded, suggesting it is impossible. Quist tells him that although it is unlikely, it is possible.

Meanwhile, Ian and Sarah have met up. The both go back to Crush Hall where Stafford and Barbara are. Sarah approaches Barabara and fakes interest in the notice for "Action for Peace. She suggests that no one will come and asks Barbara if she will be attending. Barbara wants to know what the meeting will be about. Stafford listens intrigued. Sarah asks her to have a coffee with her and she will explain. She looks to Stafford, who approves with a slight nod, then she leaves with Sarah. Stafford returns to watching over the forecourt again and suddenly spots a student quickly moving to the Mercedes. The student is actually Carlos. Carlos speaks to Williams, the driver. Carlos was actually expecting to see Talbot. Williams asks him to get in as Talbot is waiting in a hotel in the town for him. Carlos is suspicious but gets in the car anyway beside Williams and they drive off while Stafford watches. Quist returns and asks him where Barbara is. Stafford tells him that she is doing some of her own investigation work. Quist tells Stafford he is meeting up with Frank later. Stafford then calls Chief Superintendent Marriott on a phone in the lobby.

In the university lab, Michael is working on the Plutonium while Ian tells him that Doomwatch and it's head of department, Quist is here. Sarah enters and tells them both that Barbara is here snooping, pretending to be a student. Ian is worried and thinks the Police won't be far behind their investigations. Michael is keen to get the work done before they are caught. Sarah tells them that she doesn't trust Carlos and never has because he is not a scientist and is in it for himself. Micahel reminds her that they needed his skills to pull off the hijack. David appears at the door, preparing himself with the overshoes to enter. David and Michael discover that he had asked them both what was going to be done with the rest of the Plutonium. Sarah suspects that he wants to sell it.

The Mercedes arrives at the hotel. Carlos and Williams get out, but Carlos is confused when he discovers they are not going in, but along the pavement to another car with a driver at the wheel called Harry. Williams opens the rear door for Carlos to get in. Carlos is worried and protests but does as he is told and gets in. Carlos wants to know where they are all going, but Williams asks him to tell them as it is he that has the Plutonium. Carlos wants to know how much he will be paid, but Williams says that is for Mr Talbot to say, but assures him that he will be well paid. Carlos realises that he is trapped by the men as Williams tells him that he is in no position to argue with the men as he is a wanted man.

In the University lab Michael is machining the Plutonium as Ian and Sarah watch. All three are uneasy. Sarah is concerned that Barbara will be looking for her if she doesn't turn up for the Action for Peace meeting. Michael is unconcerned and asks David to get another block of Plutonium.

In the car Williams explains that they never underrate the police. They have left the Mercedes on the street standing out like a virgin in a brothel so the Police will find it easily as they know Mr Talbot is in the area.

Sure enough a Police car passes the Mercedes and parks up nearby.

Williams and Carlos watch the car as Carlos gets increasingly nervous.

Williams explains that C.I.D. will arrive soon to ensure that Mr Talbot is in the hotel, which he actually is, and then they will wait around all evening until Carlos turns up because he's the one they want. Williams plans to take Carlos back to the college where the stuff can be handed over. Carlos wants fifty grand to which Williams wonders what the time is... Maybe they should ask a policeman. Carlos looks frightened.

Back in the lab, as David is preparing the second block of plutonium, Michael doesn't understand why the others are so worried. They weren't planning to keep their activities secret for much longer. David designed the project, Sarah worked on the electronics and Ian had spent weeks on explosive lenses. As he continues his taunting, Barbara appears at the door way looking for Sarah Collins...

Outside the science buildings, Williams car pulls up and Carlos gets out whilst Williams and Harry watch him go.

Barbara is shown the plutonium containers inside the lockers. Michael explains that they have machined three of the plutonium pieces and are working on the fourth. They cannot let Barbara leave now. But now that she's here, she can see it finished.

Quist is still working on Holman, warning him that Superintendent Marriott is already at the central police station already and will just have to raid the university and question students, find drugs, and in the end he will find what he's convinced is here. Quist suspects that Holman believes him.

Michael starts to work on the plutonium in the glove box and explains to Barbara what their motives are. The students want the right to play on centre court. The establishment of police, magistrates, the ministers, university professors like Holman, all sit safely giving their orders because behind them is an armoury of weapons - 'from the copper's cosh all the way back to the Bomb.' And now, they have the bomb. Barbara calls them crazy.

As he works on the plutonium, and is watched intently, Carlos is next door in the locker room. He opens the lid of a container and puts it down. He freezes when the sound of the lathe stops. This is because Michael is in full flight, warming to his theme to Barbara. As a kid, he once had a knife held to his throat. He knew he wasn't going to die but he could have done. That was enough. 'A state of war exists.' A policeman does the same when he frisks you in the street looking for drugs that may not be there. The same for a judge trying you for possession or causing a breach of the peace.... 'All they're doing it for is to show you they have the knife.' They may well indeed be sent to jail for what they are doing, 'But with fear in their hearts, not complacency.'

Holding two plastic wrapped plutonium blocks, Carlos tells Williams that he will only hand it over when he is paid or is taken to someone who will pay him. Williams concedes despite Harry's protests about orders. They are going to have to return to London. During the journey, Carlos keeps the two plutonium blocks squarely on top of each other and thus in a highly dangerous position.

Holman is starting to admit that some of his students may be acting secretive, remembering his suspicions earlier in the day when he visited the lab but refuses to believe that could be building an atomic bomb! Michael Pratt, after all, is going to win a Nobel Prize one day, he's that outstanding.

The theft of the plutonium from the lockers has now been discovered and Carlos is immediately suspected. Barbara tells the students to phone for the police. What else?

Williams becomes suspicious of the plutonium, thinking it's really lead.

Barbara convinces them to phone for the police. Ian sees it as just giving themselves up. It is Michael who calls for them.

Williams is convinced they have been had. He pulls out a knife and holds it against Carlos's cheek. As the car pulls up besides a reservoir, Williams warns him what they will do to him if they find they have been conned. They are going to go back for the real plutonium. 'Fifty grand for this!' He sticks the knife into the plastic seal around the plutonium and rips it open - on Carlos's lap! Carlos tries to escape from the car but is caught outside and the thugs begin to beat him up. But to Harry's horror, the plutonium in the back seat starts to smoulder beside the second one.

At the University Lab, Quist, Stafford, and Marriott have joined Barbara and Michael. According to Marriott, Talbot is still in his hotel so if Carlos has taken the plutonium he must be somewhere else. Quist asks if Carlos knows what NOT to do if the plutonium begins to smoulder. Michael reckoned he'd probably run.

Williams and Harry throw out of the car the smouldering block and the second lump of plutonium, landing besides a terrified Carlos. Using his jacket to wrap up both blocks, Carlos tells the startled gangsters that he's going to put it out by throwing it into the reservoir...

Quist explains that throwing it into water is the worst thing any one can do with smouldering plutonium...

...which is what Carlos does. The small, brilliant blue explosion is seen by Harry and Williams as they're about to drive off, and Carlos falls down the bank of the reservoir. .

The next day Quist, Stafford and Barbara discuss the aftermath. Carlos has died from exposure to radiation whilst the two criminals have very little chance of survival. The outlet from the reservoir had been shut off in time - otherwise contaminated water would have affected Yorkshire. It will cost thousands to decontaminate the place. All this just confirms Stafford's prejudice towards students but as Barbara points out, it got into the hands of morons as well as students wanting to make an atomic bomb. For Barbara there was one thing more terrifying than both... 'That some students - if only feel the need to...' She walks out of the office leaving Quist and Stafford looking at each other.

Synopsis by Scott Burditt and Michael Seely

FACT FILE

Writer Martin Worth got advice on how a nuclear device could be constructed by the student activists in his well researched story who only end up in finally contaminating a river at the tale's conclusion when their unsealed device falls in.

He began work on the script after The High Mountain in August 1971. It was apparently delivered in October under the title Sound and Fury.
Martin Worth writes to Terence Dudley on the 14th of November, explaining that he had to perform a 'very hefty' rewrite on the plutonium script due to what Anna Kaliski and himself learned at the Imperial College. This lead to a big rethink of the script and what he has sent is virtually a new first draft. The experience has put worth off from writing a third script about D.D.T.

However, Worth is recommended an extra payment for his work 'due to technological developments and new information. Expenditure No. 02241/0477. The Head of copyright, Ben Travers agrees.


Martin Worth interviewed in Time Screen in September 1989

“We got a lot of help from scientists and it always impressed me how eager they were to provide us with the essential research material. I remember spending a whole day at Imperial College with an atomic scientist who took the time to show me how a group of students with limited resources could make a small atom bomb.”

“The script was called “Say Knife, Fat Man”. It reflected dangers that are still with us today such as the fact that radioactive materials, perhaps even plutonium, are sometimes container carried by train or truck and capable of even being hijacked. In the USA at one time these transporters were also carrying Scotch and god knows what else, and the alarming thing was a load like that could be hi-jacked not for the plutonium, but for the cigarettes and drink . The script started with some students who knew some plutonium was being carried by road and managed to steal it. The government then tried to pretend that nothing had been stolen at all — because they couldn’t face the publicity.”

Archive Elisabeth Sladen interview in In Vision Magazine - Issue 17 - Sarah Jane Smith special

'I did one Z Cars and then i did a Doomwatch - it was Anthony Andrews first TV appearance and it was about plutonium. I swear I only got the job because I took The Guardian into the audition under my arm, and the director was reading The Guardian. Can you imagine casting me as a girl terrorist? I was so naff then! And I had to say I could drive. I'd only just passed my test and what they got was this great big van! Driving for television isn't like driving in real life. The sound man is fighting the cameraman for room, he has a sound stick up between your legs, you wonder which one is the gear lever and you hope you're not touching something of his! And they say, 'We want you to drive fast!' They had to do so many takes!'

Thanks to Michael Seely for supplying this archive news item and John Archbold for the Radio Times listing.

Audience Research
18th July 1972

Size of audience
It is estimated that the audience for this broadcast was 12.5% of the United Kingdom population. Programmes on BBC2 and ITV at the same time were seen by 5.6% and 22.4% (average)

Reaction Profile
(based on 172 questionnaires completed by 14% of the Viewing Panel).
Viewers were asked to rate the broadcast on four dimensions defined by pairs of adjectives or descriptive phrases. Their selection of one of five scale positions between each pair resulted in the following profile:

Throughly entertaining 39%
Very easy to understand 51%
Excellent plot 42%
Definitely out-of-the-ordinary 30%

This shows that the episode was well received by the majority and judging by the following comparison of Reaction Profile Indices, it was scored more favourable responses than High Mountain in Week 24.

Week 25
Entertaining/Boring 85:15
Easy to understand/Difficult to understand 89:11
Excellent plot/Poor plot 80:20
Out-of-the-ordinary/Just ordinary 76:24

This episode had a very interesting theme, in fact, quite a 'stinger', as appreciative reporting viewers said, in its slant on the most dreaded of pollution problems (radioactivity from nuclear fission), and also proved 'a valid and sympathetic comment on student unrest and activities'. It was added, many times, that the story-line and characters had been believable, and the situations dramatically telling, especially in the final scenes - 'so realistic as to be horrifying in its possibilities'. The following are other observations from those reporting most favourably:

'As always, this Doomwatch story came close to possibility and was really gripping'

'Quite right what Barbara Mason said - time we should all think why students should feel the need to make an atom bomb'

'An unusual story of rebellious students against authority and law. A reminder of the help and understanding young people today really need'.

However, the behaviour of the characters of Say Knife, Fat Man had seemed less plausible to a minority, apparantly, while the plot was described as moulded too much in the style of 'any everyday thriller' - 'why turn Doomwatch into another whodunit series?' was the chief point of grievance here, various viewers complaining of signs, in this new series, that 'the old type Doomwatch, with much more emphasis on the science aspect and/or dangerous vested interests' was a thing of the past. Despite such criticisms, however, only  a handful supplying evidence found the story downright boring.

The performance was nearly always the subject of praise and apart from the 'regulars' of Doomwatch, viewers paid especially favourable attention to the way the parts of the students (Carlos, Michael, Ian and Sarah) were acted (by Anthony Andrews, Paul Seed, Hugh Ross and Elisabeth Sladen respectively), one viewer remarking that, both in the hijacking of the plutonium containers and in later scenes, 'the urgency was there, and the determination of these young people very well portrayed'.

Viewers were specifically asked which, if any, of the regular characters in Doomwatch they found most interesting, and it was clear from their answers that Dr. Spencer Quist is thought of by most as the central figure, and excellently portrayed by John Paul. Colin Bradley, Dr. Quist's new scientific side, is also, it appears, arousing some quite keen interest, and several viewers remarked that they hoped Joby Blanshard (playing the part) would have plenty of opportunities to expand this characterisation. For the rest, it seems that the Minister (played by John Barron) is regarded as another indispensible figure in these stories, and, moreover, the absence (just at the moment) of Simon Oates' Dr. John Ridge was noted, and hopes for his reappearance in the series voiced. Vivien Sherrard made Barbara Mason stand out, it was said, as a decorative, but also intelligent, foil to the men.

90% of the sample saw the whole of the episode; 5 cam in in the middle, 3 switched off before the end, and 2 tried a bit.

Recording

Studio
TC.1

Thursday 9th March 1972
Camera Rehearsal: 2.00pm - 7.00pm (With TK 34 from 4.30pm)
SUPPER: 7.00pm - 8.00pm
Camera Rehearsal: 8.00pm - 10.00pm (With TK 34)

Friday 10th March
Camera Rehearsal:11.00am - 1.00pm (With TK 34)
LUNCH 1.00pm - 2.00pm 
Camera Rehearsal: 2.00pm - 6.00pm (With TK 34)
SUPPER: 6.00pm - 7.00pm 
SOUND & VISION LINE-UP: 7.00pm - 7.30pm
TELERECORD: 7.30pm - 10.00pm VTC/6HT/77543

Editing Elitec, roll-back & mix in studion: 10.30 to 3.30 on TX: 13 March at TV1

SETS:

Doomwatch composite:
Quist's Office
Reception area
Lab

Minister's office
Rafael's office
Prof. Holman's room

University:
Locker Room
Lab

Expenditure Ref: 2240/4583

Cast
 
Dr. Spencer Quist
JOHN PAUL

Commander Neil Stafford
JOHN BOWN

The Minister - Sir George Holroyd
JOHN BARRON

Colin Bradley
JOBY BLANSHARD

Barbara Mason
VIVlEN SHERRARD

Susan Proud
MARIA O’BRIEN

Chief Supt. Mallory
GEOFFREY PALMER

Professor Frank Holman
HUGH CROSS

Rafael Dominguez
PETER HALLIDAY

Carlos
ANTHONY ANDREWS

Michael Pratt
PAUL SEED

Sarah Collins
ELlSABETH SLADEN

David
ADRIAN WRIGHT

Ian
HUGH ROSS

Cliff Lawson*
ALAN HOCKEY

Eddie*
PETER KING

Williams*
SEAN LYNCH

Harry*
LESLIE SCHOFIELD

Newsreader
(Voice only) Unknown actor

*appear on film only

Crew

Assistant
ADELE PAUL

P.A.
SHEILA ATHA

A.F.M
DEREK NELSON

Film Editor
ALISTAIR MACKAY

T.M.1
JOHN DIXON

T.M.2
DICKIE ASHMAN

Script consultant
ANNA KALISKI

Lighting
JOHN DIXON

Sound Supervisor
CHICK ANTHONY

Grams Operator
GORDON PHILLIPSON

Costume Supervisor
SHEILA BEERS

Assistant
KEN TREW

Make-up Supervisor
PENNY NORTON

Prop Buyer
PETER SPORLE

Vision Mixer
RHODA CARRS

Floor Assistant
TIMOTHY WOOD

Special Effects
JIM WARD

CREW
3

Designer
GRAHAM OAKLEY

Assistant to Producer
GLYN EDWARDS

Producer
TERENCE DUDLEY

Director
ERIC HILLS

TX
19th June 1972
9.20pm - 10.10pm

With thanks to John Archbold for the Radio Times cover.

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