A small boy runs across a field into a forest, snapping a stick of a tree as he goes. Stick in hand he pauses by a tree to catch his breath while looking around the forest. He hears a noise from the tree above which scares him and he runs off. He sees a squirrel in the tree and throws the stick at it and hides behind another tree. He makes his way up the tree trying to reach the squirrel he threw the stick at. As he gets close the animal falls stiffly from the tree. The squirrel lies dead on the forest floor.
A Land Rover makes its way across a field. It pulls up by four men in country clothes who surround a pile of rubbish bags on a plastic mat. Two more men appear carrying full plastic bags from the forest. They are told to hurry up and put the bags they are carrying and those in the pile into the back of the Land Rover while one of the men takes notes.
Doctor Ridge appears from the forest and steps over a barbed wire fence.
One of the men tells him that there are 100 bags and complains “at this rate there will not be anything left”. Ridge is carrying a squashed canister he has found in the forest. On the base of it a number appears, AC3051. Neither of them know what it means, but Ridge tells him he will check it.
The final few bags are being loaded. Ridge picks one up and empties the contents onto the plastic mat on the floor. Inside the bag is a horrific assortment of dead forest animals including squirrels, foxes, badgers and pheasants. Ridge spreads the animals apart with his foot and takes a camera out of his pocket and takes photographs.
In the morning at Doomwatch Toby Wren is sifting through the black and white photos Ridge has taken when Pat interrupts him. Toby shows her the pictures of the dead animals. Toby turns to Bradley and tells him that he wouldn’t be at all surprised if the pictures taken are a result of a pesticide spray and bets him a month’s salary on it and Bradley refuses to participate. Bradley tells him that the animals were found on common land and wonders why anyone would want to spray there. Toby suggests that the farm nearby may have accidentally treated the forest but Bradley tells him to wait until he has the facts. “One of these days the world’s going to fall around our ears while we are still getting the facts” he replies,
Quist arrives and asks Bradley to go into his office. Quist tells him that he is off to York in a couple of hours to a pollution conference while Ridge is investigating wildlife deaths in Somerset, Wren is doing a report on organo chlorine content of greenlands coasts lice and he tells Bradley until Ridge gets back that he is in charge and gives him some work to check. Quist leaves Bradley to it in his office and then asks Toby on the way out if he has finished his report. Toby tells him he is three quarters of the way through it. Quist then gives him a new job. He asks him to go round all pesticide manufacturers who are marketing new stuff and get samples and tells him to run tests. Quist shows him a list of all the likely companies. Toby wants to get on with some lab work instead but Quist tells him that this is more important and asks him if he has heard any news from Ridge. In response, Toby shows Quist the photographs of the 100th bag and tells him that there are about 2000 dead animals altogether. Quist tells him that this is all the more reason for Toby to finish his report and get on with this new investigation and asks him to keep an open mind. Quist then leaves the office having finished his briefing not even stopping long enough to take his coat off.
Pat walks into the room and Toby addresses her formally as Miss Hunnisett and asks her to take a letter…
On close up, the camera bumps into a piece of unseen set
Please could you let us have some of your new pesticide so that we can prove it is dangerous? With an open mind of course.”
Pat is ready to write it down with a pad and pencil when she realises he is joking and gives him a cheeky look.
A car drives up to a large building (Alminster Chemicals) and stops at the security gate. The driver bids the security guard “Good morning” to which he replies “Good morning Mr Branston” and then the guard operates the security gate letting him pass. Another car pulls up to the gate and yet again the driver bids the guard “Good morning” to which he replies “Good Morning Mr Ellis” Mr Branston then pulls into a car park and into a space that must belong to Mr Ellis. Mr Ellis is close behind. As Mr Branston is about to leave his car, Mr Ellis shouts at him through the open window of his car. “Hey!” By this time Mr Branston has walked from his car to Mr Ellis who has now also got out of his car. Mr Branston asks if Mr Ellis got the memo telling him that as from today that parking space was his. Confused Mr Ellis asks why but Mr Branston has no idea. “But that’s Chief Chemists…that’s mine” he says pointing back to his former space. He continues “I’ve been parking here for the last two years”. You know that” Mr Branston says he can see the memo. Mr Ellis is clearly unhappy but lets Mr Branston go.
At the main reception Mr Branston walks past Mr Mitchell. Mr Mitchell bids him “Good Morning” and then greets and walks past his secretary in her own office next to his. She starts to tell him “there was a cable…” but he continues walking straight past her and into his office.
Mitchell walks into his office closely followed by another lady who bizarrely disappears!! 7mins 25sec
As Mr Mitchell puts down the briefcase he is carrying and opens it, his secretary gets up from her desk and walks into his office telling him “There was a cable from Chicago at head office. They are sending out an export agent to assess marketing in North Africa”. “Anything else?” he replies. “Ellis rang from the gatehouse a moment ago…” Mr Mitchell asks her what he wanted. She explains to him that his car parking space has been taken from him and nobody seems to know why and he hadn’t been given a replacement. She suggest giving him a replacement but Mr Mitchell tells her “No, and don’t worry, forget about it, if he calls or rings I am engaged” She smiles wryly and leaves.
In a smaller office shared with his secretary Miss Jones. Mr Branston is studying a piece of paper, when Miss Jones gets up and walks over to him a short distance with a note and reminds him that Mr Ellis is usually in now, to which he replies “hmm, maybe he’s having trouble parking his car…”
Meanwhile, Mr Ellis has obviously parked his car by now and decided to go straight to Mr Mitchell’s office and confront him. He stops at the office door that reads Mr J.H.Mitchell, Managing Director, has a think about going in and then decides not to.
He walks past reception and then into Mr Branston’s office and interputs a conversation between him and his secretary. Mr Ellis says Good Morning and then walks past them into his own office. Miss Jones then brings him a letter that needs signing, which he immediately does. Mr Ellis then sits down at his desk and picks up a piece of paper. Deep in thought he instinctively reaches out with his right hand to the empty space where the telephone should be… Confused, he has a quick look around for the phone and notices just the wire from the socket is left. He picks the cable up in disbelief muttering to himself. He drops the telephone cable and rushes into Mr Branston’s office complaining that “The general phone’s gone now!” Confused Mrs Jones says “What?” Mr Ellis then explains that the carpet went last week, then a change of secretary without being informed, then head office asks Mr Branston to head the technical conference instead of him and then this morning his car parking space is taken and given to Mr Branston again with no communication. Frustrated he exclaims “What in god’s name is going on here?”. Miss Jones tells him she knows nothing about the phone and then Mr Branston indicates to her to leave the room. Mr Ellis complains that he can’t take any more of it and asks Mr Branston if he knows anything about the telephone and he tells him he does not and then shows Mr Ellis the memo about the parking and Mr Ellis complains there is no signature on it to which Mr Branston excuses it by blaming admin. Mr Ellis asks him to get Mr Mitchell on the phone. Mr Branston rings the office and tells Mr Ellis the bad news that Mr Mitchell is not to be disturbed. Mr Ellis gives up and returns to his own office. MrBranston screws the memo up and throws it in the bin.
Ar Doomwatch Pat Hunnisett asks Toby if he has had a look through the list of pesticide firms, but Toby feigns being stressed, says he hasn’t yet. Cheerfully Pat informs him that she has. She asks him if he has heard of Alminster Chemicals. To which Toby, uninterested, says No. Undettered, Pat tells him that has recently been taken over by an American company Neopolomo Chicago. Managing Director John Howerd Mitchell FCA, Chief Chemical Wilfred Ellis MSC. Wren is interested now as he recognises Mr Ellis. He tells Pat that Mr Ellis is his old tutor from Cambridge. Toby asks her how she got hold of the information. Ridge has called in reporting the discovery of the container he found marked AC in Somerset. Pat tells him that it’s the only company that has got those initials. Toby tells her that this is an incredible coincidence. Pat tells him its two good reasons that he goes there first then but Toby tells her it’s one good reason why he doesn’t. Pat laughs and asksToby if he didn’g get on with Mr Ellis. Toby tells her that it’s just the opposite and Mr Ellis is a very nice man and he wouldn’t like to upset him.
The next morning Mr Ellis arrives at Alminster Chemicals and parks his car in his usual spot. As he grabs his briefcase and is about to get out of the car another cars horn blasts from behind him. He looks into his driver’s door mirror. It is Mr Branston. Angrily he realises his mistake and moves his car out of the way.
Mr Branston greets his secretary and tells her he is off to the lab. While she goes back through a door with a sign that says MR ELLIS, CHIEF SCIENTIST.
Mr Branston arrives in the lab where about half a dozen scientists appear to be working and while he puts a white lab coat on he makes his way over to Mr Ellis and tells him that Mitchell wants to see him. Mr Ellis is clearly unhappy and carries on tipping a red liquid from a flask into another container. Mr Branston tries to grab the container offering his help but Mr Ellis still obviously angry and stressed tells him to “Get Off!” The other scientists who are working in the lab stop what they are doing in stunned silence. Mr Ellis apologises and then leaves the lab and heads towards Mr Mitchell’s office still wearing his white lab coat.
Meanwhile Toby has arrived at the company and is speaking to Miss Sephton. It’s obvious he was not expected. He tells her he had made an appointment. She tells him that she is busy and in the middle of a big export drive and asks him to sit down and wait as Mr Mitchell is only in the packaging department. Wren tells her he was actually hoping to see Mr Ellis. She tells him that Mr Mitchell wanted to have a word with him first. Toby sits down. Almost immediately the office door opens. It’s Mr Ellis. He doesn’t notice Toby and tells Miss Sephton that Mr Mitchell wanted to see him. She tells him that he won’t be long. Toby has got up in the meantime and greets Mr Ellis cheerily with “Hello Sir”. Mr Ellis doesn’t recognise him. Quickly Toby ushers him out of the room blustering something about looking at his thesis, just so that he can get him out of the room. Mr Ellis is confused, Toby introduces himself properly and reminds him that he was his tutor at Trinity. Mr Ellis recognises him and happily shakes his hand and flustered tries to apologise for his behaviour blaming work. He then asks Toby to go into his study. As he opens the door to his office he is shocked to discover his office has totally changed even down the partition that separated his office from Mr Branston. A secretary now sits at a desk with a manual typewriter in what is now a very minimal office. Mr Ellis angrily demands to know where his desk is and who the secretary is. Without waiting for a reply he storms out of the office past Wren and heads for Mitchell’s office. Toby waits briefly, then follows him taking in the situation.
Mr Mitchell is now back in his office talking to Miss Sephton. She tells him Mr Wren had an appointment but then just walked out. Mr Ellis interrupts them by bursting straight into the office demanding a word with Mr Mitchell. Mr Mitchell tells him he sent for him and asks him to take a seat. Mr Ellis asks him if he is going mad and starts to explain that he has just been in his office, but Mitchell interrupts him. Again Mr Ellis is asked to take a seat. He sits down and Mr Mitchell offers him a cigarette.
In the office next door, Toby is told to wait before he can see Mr Mitchell as he has somebody in the office. Mr Ellis can be heard shouting from next door that he “can’t take any more of it” and “this is ridiculous, what’s going on. Toby listens to the shouting, confused.
Mr Ellis continues, “I wouldn’t mind if I was a lab assistant or something, but I don’t know what to say, this sort of thing has never happened to me before. Now, I had a carpet, it’s gone, and a car parking space, now it’s gone, I had an internal phone..”
“Now it’s gone” Mr Mitchell finishes his sentence.
Mr Mitchell, “Mr Ellis, how old are you? 60?
Mr Ellis “I’m 51 actually”
(Outside Toby listens in nearer the office door while Miss Sephton carries on her duties in another office)
Mr Mitchell “ Of course, you do realise when I was a subsidiary and our American father does not take kindly to us warming our backsides as we have been doing. We have one viable product. In fact we depend upon our existence on one chemical”
Mr Ellis, “Yes, but what’s all this got to do with my telephone?
Mr Mitchell “Don’t you understand anything? No of course not, it’s the academic in you. No grasp of reality. You realise in the states you would have been out of your master of science at the age of 40. We’ve just had a directive from head office, here I will read it to you”
Mr Mitchell puts his glasses on and continues “In the matter of redundant staff, steps must be taken to further bed the process of redundancy”
Mr Ellis “What?”
Mr Mitchell “Obviously, with you we have not succeeded, you have not taken the hint.” After a short pause he waits for a reply from the dumbfounded Mr Ellis and then he continues “Oh for god’s sake, do you not see that you’re no use to us anymore?”
Toby is still listening in shocked and then angry at the unbelievable conversation he has overheard.
Mr Mitchell continues “What little knowledge you brought with you has been used up and is of no value. Branston’s a great deal more use to us than you are”
Toby can’t take anymore and bursts into the office.
Mr Mitchell immediately confronts Toby. “And who the hell are you?”
Toby counters with “I’m Wren, I had an appointment”
Mr Mitchell “And do you normally come bursting into people’s offices?”
Mr Ellis gets up “It’s alright I am going”
Mr Mitchell shouts at Mr Ellis “You will stay where you are. Mr Ellis please and Mr Wren will wait outside if he doesn’t mind”
Toby leaves and shuts the door behind him just as Miss Sephton returns through another door to the office.
Mr Mitchell “Now we are going to move you”
Mr Ellis “ I am still under contract”
Mr Mitchell “To another department”
Mr Ellis ”I am employed here as Chief Chemist”
Mr Mitchell “You haven’t read the small print”
Mr Ellis then threatens to protest to the President of the society of the company and see his solicitor. “Write to the Sunday papers” adds Mr Mitchell to which he replies, “Yes, I might even do that”, replies Mr Ellis.
Mr Mitchell “You still don’t see do you?”
Mr Mitchell asks Mr Ellis if he knows what he did two years ago. Mr Mitchell reminds Mr Ellis as he pours himself a Whisky. When Mr Mitchell asked him to conduct a field pilot on the 3051, Mr Ellis complained that it was too dangerous. Mr Mitchell explained to him that it was exactly the object of the exercise, to find out how dangerous it was. He continues despite a protest by Mr Ellis that he had been back to Somerset recently.
Mr Mitchell “We have found out how dangerous it is, and we’ve been working ever since to reduce the dangers.”
“Slightly” adds Ellis.
Mr Mitchell “Now we come down to economics. If we do not export 3051 in massive quantity we expire.
Mr Ellis looks beaten by the argument. Mr Mitchell then offers him a job in distribution, telling him that it will require some training and a little scientific knowledge would be a help. Mr Mitchell opens the door to his office and tells his secretary that he will see Mr Wren while Mr Ellis is still standing, mulling the offer over. As Toby enters Mr Ellis leaves without a word or even acknowledging Toby.
Mr Mitchell welcomes Toby with a false cheery smile and asks him to take a seat and offers him a cigarette that Toby accepts. “Your from the ministry of national security” Mr Mitchell’s says while lighting Toby’s cigarette for him. Toby tells him that his department is interested in pesticides. “So are we” adds Mitchell. Mr Mitchell asks Toby what his job is. Toby tells Mr Mitchell he has the empowerment to ask Mr Mitchell for a sample of the new pesticide they are manufacturing so that we can test it for dangerous effects on wildlife. Mr Mitchell finds this amusing.
Mitchell asks Toby for his official ministry address which he gives, somewhat ungraciously. We can tell that he does not like Mitchell one little bit. Satisfied for the moment, Mitchell shows him a picture of public enemy number one, a locust. ''This little fellow kills people by taking away their food.' Wren asks if 3051 was going to kill them? Mitchell feigns no knowledge of the serial number and wonders if Wren is an industrial spy. Wren invites him to phone the Minister. Mitchell chooses to accept his credentials and then turns colder and harder... 'You know what annoys me? You haven't once asked me for the results of our tests. Do you think we are irresponsible? Don't you think we have conducted exhaustive field tests of our own? And you know what conclusion we draw from that? We are guilty before proven innocent.' He refuses to hand over a sample of their new pesticide. They have to export from next week or their competitors will be there. He can have his sample after they corner the market.
Back at the Doomwatch lab, as Bradley is examining the corpses of the wildlife, Ridge is finding it difficult to calm down Wren who is still angry from Mitchell's treatment of Ellis. 'Do you want Quist to think that a member of his team is showing lack of balance?' Wren pretends it is more Mitchell's refusal to give them a sample. Ridge isn't fooled. He explains that Ellis is experiencing a standard procedure in the States: 'A man's usefulness goes, and so not to upset the Unions or the professional organisations they get rid of him by reducing his moral. He resigns and everybody is happy. If he complains they de-train him... equip him for him for work in a less trained capacity which is what will happen to you, mate if you go on as you are a doing of!' Ridge is studying dead grasshoppers which Wren suddenly decides is the link between the Somerset tests and the locusts! But Ridge isn't satisfied especially since Quist isn't here to take action, which leads to Wren astonished by Ridge's attitude and nearly being thrown out of the window by Ridge! Having calmed Toby down, Ridge explains that they need a sample of the pesticide to compare it to the toxins which killed the animals. 'You're not going down to Alminster, are you?' asks Wren. 'Who me?'
We next see Ridge in his car waiting to be admitted into Alminster by the gatehouse keeper. He is let inside the main compound and stops the car to let out Toby – who is concealed in the boot!
Mitchell is told via the intercom that Mr. Ridge is here... Mitchell is delighted to the see any man who is going to help them with their exports!
Wren is looking for the chief chemist's lab and has to hide when Branston emerges from an office. He finds a reflective Ellis in the laboratory, finishing work.
Mitchell shows Ridge a list of all the export people they have been in contact with recently. Ridge's cover is working for the Export Advisory Service... Mitchell pours him a glass of whisky. 'That's what I like. A man who is sure, certain...'
Wren explains to his former tutor that the container marked AC was found in the affected area. Ellis kindly, and perhaps still loyal to Alminster chemicals, says that it isn't proof. He tries to justify the argument Wren overheard the other day, a misunderstanding. He has been offered another job. He will be in charge of another department shortly. He returns to the subject of the ecological disaster. Wren explains that apart from the odd earthworm, there is very little left alive. Ellis declines to hand over a sample, He ponders over the dilemma. 'Trying to save human lives by using such a method and the side effects on the wildlife. I was always most careful, myself. To monitor tests under the most stringent safe guards...' Then there's the problems of production, distribution: economics. He envies Wren's job. As he leaves, he suggests that like the myopic sea captain, he could just leave the evidence behind... after all he has every confidence in their product. Wren does that, taking a tiny sample from a jar and places it in a test tube. But as he leaves, runs straight into Branston.
Mitchell is informed of this development, and goes into the outer office where he is not surprised to see the man from the ministry, Wren escorted by Branston and a security guard. Ridge takes advantage of this to study some documents in Mitchell's desk. Wren is sent into the office, whilst Branston tells Mitchell Ellis was in the lab shortly before. Mitchell wants to see Ellis and sends Branston to check if anything is missing from the lab...
Mitchell tells Ridge that an important matter has arisen and Ridge takes this as his cue to leave, secretly wriggling his eyebrows at the crestfallen Wren. As far as Mitchell is concerned, Wren works for another chemicals manufacturer, a common thief, working a nice spot of industrial espionage... Wren tells him to phone his department and they will vouch for him. Mitchell gets Miss Sephton to do just that – and to check upon Ridge's credentials too. Mr Ellis has arrived. And the fireworks begin... Mitchell asks the former chief chemist how much did Wren pay him? Wren is shocked: Ellis was his tutor at Cambridge. 'I see, all is revealed. You get the push and you get your revenge by giving away false information.' Ellis denies this, he has after all signed the firm's security documentation, and has been loyal and upheld Alminster's principles. Mitchell angrily accuses him of bleating about principles when found out. 'Something you couldn't understand, Mr Mitchell.' 'As interpreted by you, no I don't think I could.' Ellis resigns. Mitchell retorts firmly 'Good.' Wren is appalled but Ellis tells him he can fight his own battles and leaves with dignity. Wren turns on Mitchell and calls him a bastard. He is almost speechless at the injustice of it all. 'You don't care what you do, do you, with business or with men.' Mitchell starts to calmly encourage Wren to say more, about why working at Alminster was not a good idea. Unknown to Wren, Mitchell begins a tape recorder in a desk drawer. 'I think you're a bit of an idealist, Mr Wren.' 'Yes, it's a bloody nuisance, isn't it?' He refuses to take the blame for Ellis losing his job. 'Why don't you look at yourself, Mr Mitchell. Because I'm going to make sure that everybody sees you for what you are.'
After Wren has gone, Branston rushes into Mitchell's office as he asks Miss Sephton to make a transcript of the tape. Branston is convinced that a sample of 3051 has been taken from the lab. Mitchell knows that Wren had been alone in his office long enough to slip anything he had pinched to Ridge. And he also receives confirmation that there is no one called Ridge at the Export Advisory Service. He gives Miss Sephton some instructions, the copy the tape and send it to the number Wren gave them yesterday. 'I don't think that Mr Wren is going to find his future career very attractive... By next week we'd have started distribution.'
A numb Ellis opens a locker in his lab, inside are a series of bottles and jars of chemicals... He looks at them for a while...
The next day in Quist's office, Ridge and Bradley are listening to the tape. They both agree that Quist ought to be told. Ridge asks Pat to get through to him in New York.
Ellis walks up to a post box, uncertain whether to post a letter or not. But the decision is made for him when an impatient lady thrusts her letters through the slot, including Ellis's. He turns and walk away.
The following day, that letter is received by Mitchell. He smiles after he reads it and sets it on fire and uses it to light a cigar... He asks Miss Sephton on the intercom if Ellis has cleared out of his office yet, and gets irritable that she is not responding. He wants to see Ellis if he is still there. A stunned Miss Sephton enters his office. 'I thought you knew... It was in the paper last night'
Quist has returned and confronts a sullen Wren about the tape. 'I'm giving you the boot, Toby. You can stay as long as it takes to get another job. You'll get a damn good reference.' Wren tells him that Ellis is dead and it looks like suicide. 'Nothing to do with you,' says Quist. 'I'm sorry, Toby.' He asks Ridge to come in as Wren leaves. Ridge could tell by his face that Wren had been given the chop. Quist explains that Wren is going because he used his personal feelings to influence his work. Whatever the outcome he worked in a manner that was completely unacceptable, 'And you know it.' Ridge doesn't argue. But Quist is intrigued and wants to go down to Alminster with Ridge. Why didn't Mitchell send that tape to the newspapers or even the political boys? 'That man has got something to hide.'
Dr Quist is taken to see Mitchell who hopes he has returned the sample he stole. Quist explains that he would not have behaved like that if he had cooperated. Mitchell assumes Quist wants the tape back because it puts his department in a bit of a spot. Quist doesn't deny or confirm that. Mitchell asks where Ridge is, hoping they're not play the 'old one two' again... 'Because it is games we are playing, I hold all the cards this time.'
Ridge is talking to an indifferent Branston about the Alminster tests but Branston counters that guests don't ask rude questions. He has only been working for the firm for a year, which allows Ridge to deduce when the tests were carried out. 'Sorry,' says Branston, 'all I'm allowed to give is name rank and number. Geneva convention, you know.' Ridge points out that chemical warfare was banned by the Geneva convention and that was broken.
Mitchell tells Quist that these tests would interfere with their production, delaying them for at least five months, and that Quist wants to take away evidence of a vendetta by a member of his staff. 'Of course I'll threaten you with it unless you get off our backs.' Quist leaves; he'll think about it.
Bradley is conducting animal tests with the pesticide. One of the white rats looks as if it's dying. 'Our pesticide is harmless,' quotes Wren scornfully. But Bradley can't be sure until they've had a post mortem. Wren asks what the dose rate is, an idea forming in his head. A dose every eight hours. It would take about three days to die. He leaves the Doomwatch laboratory in a hurry, ignoring Pat, struggling with her type-writer.
Wren visits the pathologist, Stevens, who is conducting the autopsy on Ellis, claiming that Quist had sent him down investigating the dangerous effects of exo-toxins on wildlife. The inquest isn't until the day after tomorrow and the pathologist won't have any definite information until tomorrow at the earliest. By his manner, the pathologist isn't quite satisfied with Wren's credentials but doesn't say anything, takes Wren's number ('It's Doctor Quist's actually.') to let him know the details of the case, despite the legalities to observe...
The next day, Wren asks Pat if anybody called Stevens has rung yet but he hasn't. There is a letter for him but Wren disappears back inside the laboratory. The 'phone rings and it is Stevens asking to talk to Doctor Quist. Quist is going back down to Alminster chemicals and refuses to take the call. 'Never heard of him. People get our number and think we're some sort of reference library.' He walks out. Pat smiles.
Bradley picks out of the control group the first dead rat. Wren wonders what would be the equivalent period for a human to die from the pesticide. Bradley estimates it would take about sixteen months. Pat tells Toby that his Mr. Stevens is on the phone.
Wren takes the call and explains that Dr Quist is busy. The news he is told shocks and saddens him. He tells Pat that Ellis took a massive dose of poison. 'So he didn't die from slow absorption. I just thought he might have proved it was lethal, that's all. Industrial hazard.' ' He finally reads the letter, He grabs his coat and leaves.
Mitchell tells Quist that in the past year they have spent twenty thousand pounds on safety tests alone. They want a safe product but there isn't time. And despite losing in a competitive market, there are people dying. The locust effectively kills people by starvation. Their pesticide will stop that. Quist doesn't dispute the short term effects. Mitchell interrupts. He knows, the balance of nature. But they will continually improve their product. '
MITCHELL: What do you think we're doing? Spraying vast areas of luscious vegetation? There is no vegetation where the locust has been, not even an animal could live there. So where is your nature to be unbalanced?'
QUIST: You unbalanced it in Somerset.
MITCHELL: Prove it.
Quist isn't satisfied and asks for his official cooperation in a series of tests on 3051. Mitchell replies that he cannot be forced and he has evidence of a personal vendetta against him by a member of his department. Talking of whom, Wren's arrival is announced. How did he get in? Mitchell agrees to see him, as Quist tries to maintain a poker face. 'Gluttons for punishment your staff,' jokes Mitchell. Wren is shown in, explaining he has come to apologise. Mitchell takes this on face value and is offered a seat next to Quist who does not make eye contact. 'Go home, Toby.' 'No, Mr Mitchell does deserve an apology.' Mr Ellis didn't die because of the way he had been treated or given the sack. Mitchell feigns bafflement. The inquest hadn't been yet. Wren asks him if he had got the letter yet. His tone is changing to something a bit more hard. Mitchell denies understanding what Wren is on about. Wren reads out the letter he has been sent. It was a copy, like the tape, and from Ellis. The original was sent to him.
'I was forced into conducting tests into 3051 which I knew would be dangerous. 3051 is still dangerous despite improvements and I will not be party to indiscriminate pollution.' It is signed by Ellis.
After suggesting it was forged by Wren, Mitchell then it is revenge, the suicide proves how unbalanced his mind was. Quist asks Toby if he has informed the police yet. Wren was rather expecting that Mitchell would do that. He still carries on with the denials and fails to see the significance of the signed copy. Quist does. 'It will be read out in open court by the coroner. The implication is that Alminster chemicals have been ruthlessly developing a new pesticide. '
'But that isn't quite true, is it Doctor Quist?' 'It doesn't really matter ... It will be read out in open court.' He could have sent dozens of other copies. Police, newspapers. Mitchell gives in 'Alright, you can have your bloody tape back.'
Quist thanks him. 'And your official co-operation?'
As they return to their cars, Wren holds open the door for Quist to leave the building. They pause but nothing is said, Quist quickly goes to his car as Wren returns to his, they look at each other in the car park but Quist feels uncomfortable. Any grain of comfort Wren is hoping for isn't there.
As Ridge tells Pat, it's Quist's greatest fault: admits he is wrong. Pat thinks Quist will keep him but ridge isn't sure. Brad reports another dead rat. Pat says that no one isn't bothered about this wildlife. Brad explains that they are not wildlife; they are bred for experimentation. 'Bred to die,' murmurs Pat. 'Well, it's either them or you.,' says Brad.
Quist is studying Wren's completed report on the Greenland lice. He uses it as a pretext for giving Toby another chance. Toby doesn't want it. 'Don't you go self-pitying on me!' 'Just because I got a letter you can't reinstate me because of that.' It's the Greenland report Quist likes. He gives Wren a look and Wren smiles and agrees. Quist passes him over the tapes, and tells him to get rid of them.
The next morning, or perhaps some time later, Branston enters Mitchell's office reading for a meeting with 'them.'
Mitchell drives into work and finds Branston's car is in his parking space. He is furious and blocks the car in.
He enters his office as Miss Sephton emerges from his own private office and tells him that Mr Schultz is in there. Mitchell tells her to tell Branston to move his car. 'I can't do that now, sir,' she replies, with a sense almost of satisfaction. 'Well he's in there with Mr Schultz and another head office man, I think Mr Thorley. They said they weren't to be disturbed – at any cost.' Left alone, he sees the implication and slams his briefcase to the floor.
Synopsis by Scott Burditt and Michael Seely
It is often been complained about that Train and de-Train doesn't feature much in the way of science fiction and precious little about the environmental consequences of pesticides. This is rather over-looking the fact that as a piece of drama, which I hope is what attracts us to Doomwatch, it doesn't need to be a menace exaggerated. There are two environments in this story: the natural and the workplace. One can almost see this story as the first of a trilogy about business and science gone bad in the workplace. Apart from the pesticide, there is precious little science in this story.
The story itself looks like it is going to turn into different directions but chooses not to: Ellis did not die from exposure to the pesticide over the years, as the story was hinting at. And Ridge talking about chemical warfare to Branston for a moment makes you think whether Alminster Chemicals were secretly developing something a bit more than just an ordinary pesticide. But it doesn't: it keeps it real.
It isn't a sequel to Silent Spring, a book that questioned the over-use of DDT and pesticides in general. That had been published in 1962 Its author Rachel Carson had been worried about pesticide misuse since the 1940s. Even President Kennedy felt compelled to ask the Science Advisory Committee to look into the book's arguments, By 1972, the time of Deadly Dangerous Tomorrow, a near total ban of DDT was enforced in the USA. If anyone can claim to be a proto-Doomwatcher, it is Rachel Carson whose work inspired the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. And it is still not well liked by the right wing!
But, unless someone can point this out to me, what exactly happened in Somerset to bring in Doomwatch? An area of Somerset now almost devoid of wildlife, animals suddenly killed. Judging by the animals they found, none looked as though they were decomposing. If this test had happened over a year ago, why have all suddenly fallen off their perches now? Why was that squirrel frozen to the spot? Had there been a series of tests and this latest one went wrong? Ellis said that he had been back to Somerset recently in one scene, so was this test the Field Pilot Mitchell talks about? Surely it was performed over a year ago - before Branston joined the firm. The company had spent twenty thousand pounds on safety tests alone in the past year, claims Mitchell. Was the test therefore only a few days ago, another test that Ellis may have been involved in? If the pesticide test took over a year or two to kill grasshoppers and later squirrels the it wasn't very effective. Are we seeing the long term effects?
We don't know if the field tests were controlled or not. Were their corners cut? Was their an accident? This isn't very satisfactory in story telling terms. It keeps me awake at nights. But that's not what the story is about.
A running theme in this first series of Doomwatch is economics, trying to find the cheapest options. Burial At Sea was one, and Tomorrow the Rat showed under-investment consequences. This story is about business in a desperate hurry, Export or Die, to quote post war Britain.. But it is interesting that Alminster Chemicals is owned by an American outfit, at a time when pesticides and the chemical industry were none too popular but still an important economic backbone to America. Neopolomo Chicago. Chicago - good base for gangsters! And Alminster Chemicals has only one viable product: AC3051 This is a company with only one chance and Mitchell plans to succeed and export before the rival firms mentioned do so.
But something malignant had crossed the pond. Ridge called it standard procedure in the States. Detraining - or rather demoralising.
AC3051 is a metaphor for Mitchell: His personality pervades what we see of the firm. His attitude spreads from the top. Like DDT, it has an accumulative effect, a corrosive effect. He doesn't engender loyalty in his staff, he works through fear and directness, thus Miss Sephton's evident delight at his own detraining at the end is palpable - and she, played by Patricia Maynard, obviously takes her cues from Mitchell in the way she talks to Wren in their initial scenes and no doubt to the rest of the staff that crosses into her sanctum. No wonder she would later change her name to Hilda Winters and try to blow up the world in a Doctor Who story. This is a totally morally bankrupt outfit and one hopes the Americans closed it down! Branston, smooth, smarmy, witty, a man who knows that he is on the way up. And apologises insincerely when he's stamping on your head.
Deliberating demoralising your targeted employee is an interesting way about it. Had Ellis still not complained, Mitchell would have probably sent in some East end thugs to remark what a nice office you have a drop a few files on the floor...
Mitchell is a tour de force of characterisation and performance by the man who went on to be Tiberius, George Baker, of a ruthless managing director who wants to keep his company going by sheer force of personality. He is probably a psychotic and has no idea of the harm he does to the human spirit. Makes you wonder whether he sees the starving in presumably Africa as a tragedy or a commercial opportunity. The latter, obviously. Rude, and ruthless, although he would probably call it being honest and straight forward, you almost want to boo him whenever he appears on screen. He lights a cigar with a letter sent in from his prime target. He praises Ridge for being some one whose certain, sure... Business, rather than academics. The way he literally chews up and spits out Ellis, a man now considered to be useless because of his age and his moral scruples over the safety of their product, he is honest, callous and crushes the man, offering him a dignified exit by relocating him to another division where he can no longer be an obstruction to the company's whole reason of existence. He delights in it, possibly even recorded the conversation in order to play to his American masters. Or listen to in the bath...
Wren handles Mitchell badly. It probably didn't help that by being a much younger man, and improperly dressed for such a job as he claimed, Mitchell does not take him at all seriously. Why should he just hand over a sample of a top secret commercially sensitive pesticide just to someone who comes in and says that they are empowered! His first thoughts are that he is from a rival company, acting upon an act of industrial espionage. But Wren is unable to conceal his true feelings and is simply not in a position for his opinions to matter or effect Mitchell. Instead, his canny, underhanded business mind sees possibilities in Wren's emotional outburst.
Quist was right: this was a man who did have something to hide - the safety of his product. An immaterial side effect that could be worked on later whilst there is a business to work on it! He could have had Wren arrested there and then - for trespass at least, and implicated in Ridge, who for some reason used his real name instead of a fake handle amidst his disuse as a man from the Export Advisory Board. He keeps on doing that.
His recording of the conversation that sees Wren temporarily sacked from his job was a technique that would later bring down President Nixon whose habit in recording all Oval office conversations proved his knowledge of the Watergate break ins. And showed the American public what a potty mouth he had. The next time we see bugging in the work place it will be in Hear No Evil where an adulterous liaison will be used as a weapon against trade unionists.
Quist handles Mitchell quite differently. He lets the managing director do most of the talking, and says very little back. There is no angry monologue such as the one Hear No Evil ends with. If it wasn't for Toby Wren coming back with the letter at the end of the episode, Quist would have lost this fight. He knew and Mitchell knew that the Somerset deaths were Alminster Chemicals fault. But Mitchell expected Quist to ask for the master tape back, but Quist does not do this, and does not even confirm or deny this charge!
The best candidate for Human Being there is Ellis, but he is hugely flawed and slightly pathetic. He may well indeed be past his best, but his background as an English gentleman, and a Cambridge tutor made his working at such a firm completely out of his league and environment. He probably was employed there before Alminster Chemicals was bought out. It couldn't have been that long ago since Wren would have been in Cambridge only a couple of years earlier. If that. He smokes a pipe, his uncertain hand echoes Quists' in The Red Sky and is probably about the same age. Quick to temper. We have a chief chemist who expressed concerns over the safety of their product, and felt forced into running tests, the result of which has decimated wildlife in a target area. But the stain on his honour and his fragile self esteem , brought about by turning a blind eye to Wren stealing a sample results in his rather drastic over-reaction to commit suicide. Had he made a fuss, it would have appeared to be the revenge Mitchell suggested for his last letter and ignored. Instead, his letter looked like an attempt at justifying himself. Instead, it was a calculated time bomb. And he found events out of his control. He wasn't even certain if he was actually going to post that letter. An impatient passer by made the choice for him.
In Project Sahara, Quist talks about Toby's weakness: to hit the bottle when he comes across injustice. Whether or not he did kick in the booze as was suggested at the end of that episode we doubt since he was looking forward to a drink in The Red Sky. One can only imagine how much he downed after this incident. He allows his outrage over Mitchell to cloud his judgement, take very bad risks,and loses his temper; implicates his former tutor in a theft, helps him to lose his job and later, life! Then he gets sacked. Even then he hopes that Ellis's death wasn't suicide but evidence of a malignant side effect of AC3051! What a nice chap. Fancy a trip to Byfield Regis? But he is learning nefarious practises, the way he bluffs, and, frankly, not very convincingly, the pathologist, Mr Stephen is beautiful, Superbly played by Brian Badcoe, knows that there is something fishy going on, possibly emotional too, as he doesn't refuse to help Toby. Another human being. But Ellis saves his career by sending him a copy of the letter which he knows will destroy Mitchell. He is able, in his last confrontation with Mitchell, to take both of their revenges!
Letting your judgement be clouded by emotion is often touched upon in Doomwatch - it becomes the central theme of You Killed Toby Wren, for example, and Survival Code touches upon it. Scientists who let their judgement be clouded by emotion - either theirs or other people - cannot do their job properly. Or at least they shouldn't. Kit Pedlar had very strong views on a scientists responsibilities to the world, and not letting all the significant decisions be made by business or politicians. That is a cross Quist bears since 1945. Ironically, Wren accuses Ridge of this very matter in Friday's Child. Wren could see the value of the work as a scientific exercise, and analysed it as such rather than as a moral issue. Quist has no choice but to sack Wren for clouding his judgement, something Ridge warns him against earlier in the episode. Quist is not vindictive, offers to give him a damn good reference. But later, the next time we see them together in Mitchell's office, Quist is completely thrown by Toby's arrival (nicely done John Paul). He doesn't even make eye contact with him until they are out in the car park. Wren respectfully holds open the door for him but they stand around, unable to talk to each other, just glances by their respective cars. Quist is obviously caught in a dilemma. Perhaps he sees a younger him in Wren? I doubt he can very much identify himself with Ridge! Ridge points out that Quist's biggest weakness is he can't admit he's wrong. Oh he can, perhaps just not to his subordinates! So he uses the Greenland lice report to reinstate Wren after giving him a snappy 'Don't you go self-pitying on me!' Wren's tiny little smile says it all.
Finally, here's another thing. Doomwatch in 1970 had no issues with animal experimentation. Those rats were bred to die. 'It's either you or them,' says Bradley to Pat who brings up the issue. A modern Doomwatch would never dare be allowed to use that logic. Emotion would cloud the issue. Doctor Quist would not approve of that...
In terms of the production, Vere Lorrimer directed this episode as well as he could. It is difficult making car parking scenes exciting, although seeing George Baker lose his temper over his parking space at the end of the story was nice! But a director directs actors - or at least they ought to, as well as worry about the visuals. And in stories such as this where there isn't much scope for visual flare, dynamic editing and so forth, getting a good performance out of your actor counts. He creates that atmosphere of intimidation in every scene George Baker is in. Even when Baker is playing it calmly and smilingly, you can sense the malignancy, waiting for a victim to walk into his trap. The aforementioned pathology lab scene could have been straight forward and routine and friendly, but it is underlined with suspicion and uncertainty. We never did know if that was Ellis's body Stephens was cleaning up from... Patricia Maynard plays a superb secretary, Miss Sephton, someone who you just feel is as ruthless and ambitious as Mitchell. Vere Lorrimer, often a police series director, went on to direct some of the best Blake's 7 episodes, and became its final producer - killing them all off in a memorable final episode.
Reviewed by Michael Seely 1st July 2010
Project Number: 02249/4089
23rd February 1970 (Filming) SIMON OATES
25th February 1970 (Filming) SIMON OATES - One return fare London/Harlow
11th March 1970 (Overtime) Camera Rehearsals: 13th March (Overtime) SIMON OATES
Friday 13th March 1970
Camera Rehearsal (TK 34) 2.00 - 6.30
DINNER 6.30 - 7.30
Camera Rehearsal (without TK 34) 7.30 - 10.00
Saturday 14th March 1970
Camera Rehearsal (TK 34 from 12.30) 11.00 - 1.00
LUNCH 1.00 - 2.00
Camera Rehearsal (TK 34) 2.00 - 6.00
DINNER 6.00 - 7.00
Sound and Vision Line-up 7.00 - 7.30
Telerecorded: VTC/6HT/57793 - 7.30pm - 10.00pm
LUNCH 1.00 - 2.00
Camera Rehearsal (TK 34) 2.00 - 6.00
DINNER 6.00 - 7.00
Sound and Vision Line-up 7.00 - 7.30
Telerecorded: VTC/6HT/57793 - 7.30pm - 10.00pm
Monday 16th March
Editing: 3.00 - 6.00pm
Dr. Spencer Quist
Dr. John Ridge
John Howerd Mitchell
*On film only
*On film only
Male lab worker/tobacconist
3 more Male lab workers
Female lab worker/tobacconist customer
Female lab worker/copy typist
Female lab worker
Series devised by
Music composed by
Dr. Spencer Quist
Dr. John Ridge
John Howerd Mitchell
*On film only
*On film only
Male lab worker/tobacconist
3 more Male lab workers
Female lab worker/tobacconist customer
Female lab worker/copy typist
Female lab worker
Series devised by
Music composed by
Assistant to Producer
20TH APRIL 1970
9.45PM - 10.35PM
With thanks to John Archbold for the Radio Times listing and cover.