Search this site

DOOMWATCH REVIEWS by Matthew See

THE PLASTIC EATERS
Reviewed by Matthew See Added 8th September 2009

Written by Doomwatch creators Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler, The Plastic Eaters.
The usual task of a first episode is to show us how things got together, establishing the basis of the series. This is not the case for Doomwatch as its existence has already been well-established.
So therefore it was the task for The Plastic Eaters to make an introduction to the viewers to Doomwatch without it being an origins story.
It is interesting that Davis and Pedler chose to make this introduction by telling a story of a virus known as Variant 14 that melts plastic which causes the plane at the beginning to crash and causing jeopardy to another plane later on. Although the method was quite different it does feel somewhat prophetic to real-life events such as Lockerbie and 9/11.
In the course of this episode it is quite clear that Doomwatch is not a respected department among government circles with Quist taking a lot of time to convince the Minister the presence of Variant 14 on the plane. When it is proved the presence of Variant 14 on the plane the Minister looked quite miffed about Quist being correct about it. Overall The Plastic Eaters has been very good in telling us the dangers of science in the real world which is emphasised at one point with Ridge telling Quist how much of Quist's maths helped to developed the atomic bomb.


The background to this episode is about a new dangerous pesticide which leads to Toby Wren reacquainting himself with an old tutor Wilfred Ellis whose employment at a company is slowly being phased out by his superior John Mitchell.
The "train" in the title refers to the implementation of new employees and "de-train" refers to employees being shown the way out which unfortunately is the category that Ellis belongs to.
David Markham provides a sincere performance as Ellis to the extent that we feel for the character for the ultimate tragedy that eventually befalls on him.
Robert Powell provides a very strong performance as Wren as he defends his old tutor against Mitchell.
Mitchell is played by George Baker. Baker provides the same kind of ruthlessness to Mitchell that he later displayed when he played Arthur Wormley in the other Terence Dudley produced series Survivors.
The plot impact of a dangerous pesticide felt very minimal as this episode is more about the value of employment as it shows how heartless a manager can be when terminating a person's employment.

Reviewed by Matthew See Added 14th November 2009


SURVIVAL CODE

It is quite a shame that Survival Code which ended the first season in quite a dramatic way is among episodes that are missing. If the script is anything to go by, then the episode must have looked brilliant on-screen as Toby Wren meets his demise whilst trying to defuse a bomb. On paper, the bomb scenes were gripping. I can only imagine that Robert Powell excelled in his performance as Toby for the character’s exit from Doomwatch.
Matthew See (6th December 2009)




YOU KILLED TOBY WREN
Reviewed by Matthew See Added 7th December 2009

The second season begins with the immediate aftermath of Toby Wren's death as Quist appears before a Tribunal recounting events leading to it.

The grief over the Toby's death is certainly felt around here. Toby's death is contrasted well with the subplot of an abomination of an experiment. Toby's death shows the value of human life while the experiment represents the complete opposite.

You Killed Toby Wren introduces Vivien Sherrard as Barbara Mason who replaces Pat as the secretary and I have to pity her on the circumstances she found herself in, in taking the job.

The casting of two members of the Tribunal is interesting with that of Edward Underdown (Chairman of Tribunal) and Robert Gillespie (Dr Warren) as they both later had significant roles in Survivors also produced by Terence Dudley. 


THE DEVIL'S SWEETS
The Devil's Sweets refers to a promotional chocolate that Pat got on her way to work on Doomwatch. Chocolate is a delicacy but this chocolate in particular may prove deadly as they maybe a link with the Checker Board cigarettes.

It would seem that writer Don Shaw was making an allegory to the dangers of smoking and that unlike chocolate, smoking is not a harmless pleasure.

Don Shaw certainly delivered well the message that cigarette smoking is a killer a message we should never forget.

Reviewed by Matthew See



INVASION
Reviewed by Matthew See Added 15th December 2009

When two cavers disappeared, Doomwatch finds out that a nearby chemical weapons plant at an area of a village has begun leaking into the water supply.

This eventually leads to the evacuation of the villagers.

The use of the word 'invasion' for a story title is usually about the arrival of aliens on the our planet Earth. In contrast, the invasion here in Doomwatch of a chemical leak is something that can happen in the real world and it is an invasion that we should be wary of ever happening.

It is quite chilling Invasion ends with a sign from the Ministry of Defence telling people to keep out of a village now occupied by soldiers. 



THE ISLANDERS
Reviewed by Matthew See Added 1st January 2010

Inhabitants of an island had to be evacuated to London as a result of earth tremors.
However once in London they are treated as a joke especially since they have lived in a different culture to the London populace.
The Islanders is essentially about isolation from the wider community which has been emphasised early on in the episode with the islanders thinking they are being treated as prisoners.
The islanders are being treated as alien to the wider community and it is made all the more tragic when they are told that there is no immune system to their health in the new environment that they have found themselves in. The islanders had to make a choice whether to stay in London or go back to their island but the already tragic situation has been made worse by the disturbing newspaper headline at the end of the episode.


NO ROOM FOR ERROR
Reviewed by Matthew See Added 10th January 2010

A new wonder drug known as Stellamycin is suspected by Doctor Fay Chantry, a scientist from the company that has made the drug, of killing childen and Doomwatch investigates whether Stellamycin is indeed the cause of the children’s deaths.

It is a terrifying thought that a wonder drug can have the prospect of killing en masse when it was meant to do the complete opposite. The episode title states very clearly that in order not to jeopardise lives an error cannot be made. To allow even a tiny room of error is irresponsibility to human lives.

Jean Trend makes a very good debut as Doctor Fay Chantry as Fay becomes a new member of Doomwatch at the end of the episode. A most interesting curio with this episode is the presence of Anthony Ainley (Senior House Officer). Ainley would eventually achieved immortal status playing the Master in Doctor Who in the 1980s. 



THE IRON DOCTOR
Reviewed by Matthew See Added 24th January 2010

The title refers to a computer who performs the function of a physician at a hospital but kills some patients.

While The Iron Doctor's excitement level is low it does however illustrates how much attention human doctors are needed to oversee the operations of machines doctors. Machine doctors should be considered as a complement not a replacement to their human counterparts.

Human doctors have compassion in wanting to heal their patients, the Iron Doctor devoid of any compassion makes its decision based on logical reasoning which has been shown here is in itself not enough to prolong patients' lives.

It is because of its logical reasoning is why the Iron Doctor attacked Dr Carson. Dr Carson' thinking that are flaws with the Iron Doctor makes Carson himself are threat to it. It therefore attacked Carson as its form of self-defence.

As Dr Maxwell says at the end of the episode it is man who has to take responsibilities for the machines.


BY THE PRICKING OF MY THUMBS
Reviewed by Matthew See Added 17th January 2010

After a practical joke made by some schoolboys goes horribly wrong only one of them gets the severest of punishments by being tossed out of the school by the headmaster. The reason why the headmaster removed the boy Stephen Franklin from the school is because he is tall for his age as a result having the extra Y chromosome rather than the practical joke that brought the headmaster’s attention to him. Stephen Franklin was expelled because of discrimination with his genetics.
The headmaster’s attitude towards Stephen is deplorable and as headmaster it was his responsibility to prevent discrimination not to promote one.
Scientist Ensor was extremely callous with his tests on the students just to see who had the extra Y chromosome giving negative perception of those who have it.
It is extremely harrowing that one’s self-confidence is badly affected by what one is made of rather than what one  has done that it almost led to a tragedy with Stephen.
By The Pricking of My Thumbs presents a good message that any form of discrimination cannot be tolerated.

PUBLIC ENEMY

Public Enemy ended season 2 but whilst it is nowhere near the tension that Survival Code ended the previous season it is however still thought-provoking.

Public Enemy begins when both a boy and a man died as a result of having their lungs burnt out. The ultimate cause of this is that of pollution coming from the factory in the town and for the town's residents to survive they have to move somewhere else.

The problem with the move is that it costs jobs and the inhabitants are extremely reluctant to make the move. It ultimately becomes a choice of whether the residents should stay where they are and risk their lives or move somewhere else where they face an uncertain future.

The answer to this dilemma is left ambiguous at the end therefore showing the complexities of the situation.


Reviewed by Matthew See Added 12th March 2010



HAIR TRIGGER
Reviewed by Matthew See Added 3rd May 2010

A facility has claimed success with a machine that can change the personality of hardened criminals which would allow them to get back into society. Anne looks at one subject Michael Beavis. At first the treatment on Beavis would seem to have worked only while in a conversation with Anne that things went awry when he all of a sudden physically attack her, ran away and held a family hostage.

Doctor Who had tried out a similar premise in the serial The Mind of Evil shown almost a year and a half before Hair Trigger. However whereas the Doctor Who serial had the machine featured there controlled by an alien being, Hair Trigger tries to present a realistic scenario of such a machine existing and as shown with Beavis such a treatment is not 100% effective for the long term.

If it had not been banned for broadcast Sex and Violence was said to have been intended to be shown as the fifth episode of the final season. If it had not been banned for broadcast Sex and Violence would have been shown before Hair Trigger. Having seen Hair Trigger after Sex and Violence, Hair Trigger complements well Anne’s involvement of the plot in Sex and Violence. Sex and Violence has Anne coming to the latest understanding of human behaviour when it comes to violence and Hair Trigger has Anne trying to understand Beavis given his very violent past.
As with Sex and Violence, Elizabeth Weaver does very well with the material in Hair Trigger that she has been given to do as Anne. 


SEX AND VIOLENCE
Reviewed by Matthew See Added 20th April 2010

Last year BBC Radio 4 broadcast the documentary Shelved which looked at why certain episodes of Doctor Who, The Professionals & Secret Army was never broadcast. Curiously enough one unbroadcast programme that was not a focus for this documentary was Doomwatch’s Sex and Violence.

Sex and Violence  is about a committee which includes Quist’s wife Dr Anne Tarrant which looks at whether there should be a change in the censorship laws.
One possible factor in Sex and Violence being banned for broadcast is that it incorporated footage of real life executions. It is certainly extremely disturbing to include a terrible real life image into the fictional context of Sex and Violence.
Another possible factor in the broadcast ban is on whom the committee was meant to have depicted with one of them obvious meant to be based on Mary Whitehouse (although the Goodies did get away in making a parody of Mary Whitehouse in one of their episodes in the same decade as Doomwatch, the 1970s).

Prior to Sex and Violence and with most of season 3 wiped out I have only seen Anne Tarrant only once before in Waiting For A Knighthood. In Sex and Violence, Anne really shines especially when she spoke with the woman who physically attacked her. Elizabeth Weaver brings out the sincerity in Anne as she tries to understand human behaviour towards the title subject.

Sex and Violence is hardly Doomwatch fare. As Quist says what people see in any form of media have to do with Doomwatch. Colin and Barbara are on the sidelines here but Quist does have his own moment in this episode when confronting the attention seeking man.
The last scene has Quist tell Colin that 17 million people in 1933 in Germany had elected Adolf Hitler to power, all of these people electing themselves to subjugation under Hitler’s rule*. This very fact served as an analogy to censorship laws being put in place by the democratically elected government.
*Incidentally I am writing this on April 20 2010, Hitler’s birthday but this was not intentional.

No comments:

Post a Comment