DOOMWATCH MAN HELD
DR JOHN RIDGE, 38, a member of the controversial Doomwatch team was held for 24 hours today by a 'mystery' Army unit in a remote Yorkshire village.
"Are you saying that anything that comes up out of the ground in this place gets shot?"
The Yorkshire dales on a day threatening rain. A jeep pulls up next to a cave entrance where John Ridge and Geoff Hardcastle meet two brothers, Reggie and Dave, both in wet suits, and some rather expensive pot-holing equipment, the invoice for which they present to the scientists from the government! Ridge is a little shocked! Geoff is going to go into the caves with them. Ridge, on the other hand, opts to stay outside. 'I get claustrophobia on the Piccadilly line!' 'You should try the Bakerloo,' replies Geoff. Ridge expects to see them back within an hour and settles down for a nap back in the Jeep as the weather turns for the worse.
Inside the cave system, Geoff points to an area of an underground lake where he wants a water sample from. With their goggles, snorkels and flippers on, the two brothers descend into the water whilst Geoff watches. But the brothers do not return as quickly as Geoff expects and he begins to get worried.
Ridge and Hardcastle pull up outside the Devonshire Hotel in a picturesque Yorkshire village. Inside, the pensioner Sandy Larch is already having a pint with his beloved dog by his side. The landlord Joe Bates is there too. They are discussing the disappearance of the lads. Joe is not amused; it is the second time half of the village has been out looking for them. 'Happens every year, a spot of fun for some, next thing folk are out there risking their lives in this weather... ' But Ridge and Geoff defend the boys: they were there at their request, helping in their nitrate level check. Larch reports that there is a reporter asking questions at the shop. Sergeant Harris and dairy farmer Tom Hadley arrive having been down into the caves. They have abandoned the search since the caves are awash with rain water. They've checked all the possible entrances. There isn't anything they can do until morning.
In the shop, the sound of a passing motor bike makes Mrs Smith wonder if its her two grandchildren. Mrs Hunter and her young daughter are in for eggs... She thinks the lads know how to look after themselves.
Quist is still in Paris and won't be back until later tonight so Ridge and Geoff will have to act on their own accord. A map of the cave system interests Geoff. The lads have told Joe in the past that there are more caves to the west than shown on the map. Geoff thinks that if the water is still rising they could have made their way west, and emerged from a hitherto unknown exit, and there is a fault in the limestone, a possible narrow crack. Close by is a big house also on the fault line, Wensdale Grange.
It is surrounded by a huge fence with warning signs, and an army Jeep pulls up and the unfriendly soldier inside carrying a shot gun and wearing wellingtons tells them to hop it. The soldier reports to base – two civvies, inquisitive types. Ridge decides to look around. Electrified wire all around the wall. They look for an entrance.
At the entrance, Ridge introduces themselves as being from the Ministry of National Security, Doomwatch, and wants to see the man in charge. They try to explain what they are looking for but the soldier is not interested: no admittance without an appointment. Over hearing the argument is Major Simms. He calls down to the sergeant to let them in, but to make them take off their boots, they look so dirty....
Let in through the barrier, ridge is exasperated at having to take off his boots. 'Are you looking for your mates or just trouble?' replies the Sergeant. Reluctantly, Ridge and Hardcastle take off their boots and walk into Simms office in their socks! Simms is reading the account of the missing boys in his newspaper. 'Is this how Doomwatch operates? Couple of lost cavers as a pretext to get your foot inside the door?' 'We don't want to open doors. It's our job to keep them shut: tight shut.' Simms assures them security is tight here, they might have noticed during their tour of the perimeter. Ridge isn't sure if two boys stumbling inside a top security establishment would be released. Simms assures them no one has been found in the Grange. There is a gun shot from outside. Rabbits, says Simms. 'We can't always keep them out, they burrow under the wall.' 'Do you mean to say that anything that comes out from under the ground in this place gets shot?' asks Geoff.
Whilst Ridge is on the phone to the Minister's parliamentary secretary, Duncan, Bates tells Geoff back in the hotel what he knows about the Grange. It was the big house of the area, owned by mill owners but then taken over during the war by the government and used as a research station. Mr Larch enters and says a party of potholers is coming over from Skipton. He is uneasy at mention of the Grange. He's thinking of the time before Geoff was born when the Farren family lived there.... He knows the place is haunted. The scientists that settled down there got more than they bargained for... 'Head to foot in silver, they were... Tall, they say, moving along the terrace at night. Silver.' Bates is sceptical. A man died there, and they wouldn't let his wife see his body, body smuggled out at night and the place closed down... Bates remembers that all the security was put up after the place was closed down five years ago. Ridge overhears the conversation before Duncan tells him nothing about the Grange and warns him off the place. Geoff is outraged and wants to go inside. 'Leave off,' says Ridge. 'Want to do a man out of a job?'
That night Ridge breaks into the Grange, cutting through the electrified fence and climbing over the wall. Geoff waits outside. As he approaches the house, he hides from a passing patrol carrying shot guns. He looks at the house, sealed up. Suddenly a gun shot rings out and he dives for cover...
The next morning Duncan is expressing his outrage about Ridge breaking and entering a secret government research unit to Quist. 'So called responsible civil servants acting like school boys.' Quist isn't impressed by the security! 'What goes on there, Duncan?'
Ridge is dropped off by a Jeep outside the hotel. He quietly goes inside, but Geoff is waiting and is greatly amused by his new army clothes!
To Quist's great surprise, the Minister has intervened and ordered Ridge's release. 'He is trying to keep the wraps on, isn't he?' To his even greater surprise, Duncan has been ordered to put Quist in the picture.
Ridge tells Geoff and Bates what he went through inside the Grange. They apparently made him walk through a foot pool, the sort used for cattle during a foot and mouth epidemic, stripped him and sprayed him with more disinfectant. Then they gave him sterilised army clothes to wear. But one thing he did learn: nothing is happening there 'But they did do something once, something that went bad on them. And it's still in there. Waiting to get out'
Duncan explains that the bug developed at the Grange was developed for defensive purposes. Quist doesn't know what is defensive about a bug that can wipe out a city in six weeks. Wensdale Grange was shut down five years ago, because it got out of hand. Duncan isn't keen to discuss this. Quist wants to know how many research workers died before a halt was called. The whole affair was hushed up. Quist thinks germ warfare should be taught in schools and examines the effects of the virus. 'This disease starts with a sore on the skin, usually the fingers, or an irritation in the eyes. A few days later...' And what is left behind? 'An area like anthrax island where no one can live for the next half century because of a war time government experiment? Do they have any idea in the Dales what they have in their midst?' Duncan assures him that the house has been sealed off. All animals are shot and carcases examined. What about water, the rain, asks Quist. He wants to check their safeguards. What if those boys had got into the grounds?
Quist is giving Major Simms and Doctor Wilson, the chief scientist at the Grange a hard time examining their precautions. No one denies what is inside the house and there is no contamination in the grounds. The circus that Ridge went through was partly to teach him a lesson, and that extermination of a pest was out of the question. Geoff asks if the two boys have been shot? 'I'm only trying to say that anyone who flouts are security and breaks in here regardless deserves to be.' Quist wants to make sure that the boys haven't got into the house and reassure everyone. Wilson says that they are not saying that the bug couldn't escape the house, that it hasn't yet. Quist is invited to inspect their records on animal and vegetation tests. Quist agrees, he also wants to inspect the house. Simms is surprised. 'What do you expect to find?' 'Two very sick boys.'
Suited up, Quist approaches the house and puts on a respirator...
Quist explores the house along with the equally protected Ridge and Hardcastle. Wilson escorts them. The house is indeed a preserved relic from the Farren days, with paintings on the wall, antique furniture, all covered in dust and cobwebs. They look around the house looking for signs of the boys, exploring every room. Geoff notices an uncorked bottle but its significance does not register.
The boys turn up, outside the shop as their grandmother is tidying their room. 'Did you miss us?'
Simms tells Quist once he emerges from the house that the boys have turned up. 'They've never been anywhere near us.'
Sergeant Harris wants to have a word with the Dave when he goes into the shop and speaks to Mrs Smith. Ridge and Geoff enter and the policeman tells them that the lads got lost and emerged this morning, on Tommy Hedley's lands. Reggie has hopped it to fetch his bike.
Geoff finds Reggie looking for his girl friend Molly. He wants to know what happened.
Ridge hears the story from the Sergeant. They apparently came back and found Geoff had gone and then with all their new equipment decided upon a grand tour of the caves.
Geoff asks Reggie to swear that they haven't been anywhere near Wensdale Grange. But Reggie is more concerned about his bird... He does say that Hedley's son found them on the fields.
Hedley picks up the story. He and his wife gave the lads a good meal, they had been missing for over a day and a half. Bates isn't so genial, thinking they need a good clip around the ear, but he still got a lift up to the moor from him – and a pint from Sandy Larch! Geoff enters the packed hotel and settles up with the landlord but then he notices a half empty bottle...
Ridge is back in the shop, passing to tug at Mrs Hunter's daughters hair asking if it was a wig, and getting a frosty look! Ridge asks the boys' grandmother if she thinks they are telling the truth? At the moment they are at the police station. Poor Mrs Smith had brought up the boys after her daughter died. They've been nothing but trouble. Ridge notices some glass objects on the counter, left behind by the little girl.
Quist discusses the Grange with Geoff. Their safe guards are as sound as they can be although he did make one or two suggestions. 'There's only one thing wrong with that place: that it exists.' He finishes his pint with a heroic gulp and wants to get home tonight. But Geoff explains his concern: he had seen a wine bottle in the Grange with its cork pushed through. The liquid could have been there for thirty years. It should have had a fungus on it by now. But this one didn't. He wished he had checked it. Quist decides to go back to the Grange.
Suited up once more, Geoff takes Quist to the bottle and he searches the room. There was a door blocked by bits and pieces that they didn't notice before that leads down into the cellar. The lights still work and at the bottom is a wine wrack with evidence of moved bottles. They also find some loose flag stones... Quist signals to the others to fetch a lever from upstairs. Ridge goes back upstairs to fetch a poker from the fire place where he notices before the grand stair case a display of flintlock pistols – two are missing, judging by the staining on the wall. He also spots on the floor pieces of glass – like the one he saw in the shop – and it came from the chandelier above...
In Major Simm's office, he telephones the police. Wilson is shocked: there is a way down from the cellar. This route is not marked on the plan. It looks like an old well, thinks Ridge. And they must lead to the caves. He tells them what he discovered. Quist speaks to Harris and discovers that Reggie and Dave have been let out of the police station... They've gone off for the evening on their bike. They could be anywhere.
The search for the boys begin. Quist finds Harris at Mrs Smith's shop. Harris searches the boy's room for the pistols but Quist wants to go back to his station. Harris asks what is going on?
Geoff asks in the hotel and speaks quietly to Bates, telling him that the boys are very ill. Larch comes in having heard the boys have been let out of the station. They hadn't broken any laws...
Quist tells the policeman about the virus. 'I don't know what chances the boys have got. They've had the infection for three days now.' Everyone else can be protected providing they round up the contacts in time. Ridge is putting Mrs Hunter in the picture. She had been down at Hedley's Farm – and Harris's own children had been there too. It seems that those two boys have been in contact with most of the village. Quist tells him that the vaccines is on its way. 'Vaccine? Where's it going to stop, Doctor Quist? Those two lads are on the loose. Where are they spreading it now?'
We see a fairground. Reggie and Dave pull up outside Sadler's antique shop. Dave pulls out the two pistols from a side bag and finds that the shop is closed. He is scratching his hand. Reggie is rubbing his eyes. Returning to his brother, Dave finds Reggie is unconscious...
Wilson takes a call from Quist. They discuss Hedley's farm. Simm's men are on their way there now.
The soldiers approach a herd of cattle coming up the road. They point their guns at them. Meanwhile, a policeman on a motorbike has found the bike – and the two dying, if not dead, boys in a field.
An emergency vaccination unit is dealing with the entire village out in the main square. Quist watches from a Jeep. Sergeant Harris is trying to convince Mr Larch to have an injection but he sullenly refuses. Quist enters the packed hotel and tells them that the boys have been found and wants to call a meeting of the whole village. Harris is pleased and hopes it will reassure the village. But then Hedley enters. Hedley blames Quist for all this. He was the man who sent the lads into the caves. 'No one knew there was a way into the cellars,' says Quist firmly. 'Then they bloody well should have! God knew, didn't he? And you lot play God. Wasn't to know? You people can't afford excuses.' Quist stares into the distance. 'They're slaughtering my cattle, dressed up like something from the moon... those lads must have tramped all over it.' Quietly, Quist tells the truth: all livestock must be slaughtered. Larch looks in horror at his dog. Hedley has also lost his house and land. Simms enter as Quist tells the village that they must be evacuated. Fully and immediately.
Army vehicles head towards the village...
Larch is refusing to co-operate, he doesn't want to go into any home. And as for the dog... Harris tries to persuade him that it is only until the village has been disinfected. Larch says he speaks as if they're some sort of cesspool... 'There's 650 of us, you can't split us up!' Eventually, he agrees to go. Soon, all who are left in the hotel is Dr Quist and the landlord. Bates can't take it in. Quist asks him to pack his things and join them outside, they need his help. 'Just a minute. They had the Grange shut up for five years.' Quist speaks quietly but firmly, and not sympathetically. 'As long as these places exist, the best we can do is contain them... We fence a bit more off, try again, do better next time.' Quist is suppressing his anger at the tragedy. Bates asks him if they will ever come back. Quist has no answer. Bates looks around his life for the last time.
The whole village is being herded onto coaches. The Doomwatch team help and they are left alone with the police as a special army moves in and wastes no time in sterilising the village with sprays, shooting animals. Quist helps direct them
When the last of the coaches leaves the perimeter of the village, a sign is placed in the middle of the road: EXTREME DANGER KEEP OUT...
Synopsis by Michael Seely
During the second world war, Britain stately homes, or anything larger than a cottage became requisitioned either as places for the wounded to recover, or connected with the war effort. Bletchley Park, for example, is famous for its code cracking exploits. These places were out of the way from cities and industrial centres more likely to be the targets of air raids. For Wensdale Grange to become the centre of biological weapons is no surprise then. Porton Down experimented with anthrax as a potential biological weapon as Winston Churchill did not think that the devil ought to have all the best tunes, and the Scottish island of Gruinard was used as their test site. It remained a contaminated until declared safe in 1990.
Anthrax island came back to haunt the UK Government in 1981 when persons unknowns removed soil from the island and placed quantities of the contaminated soil close to Porton Down! It did indeed contain anthrax spores. Another quantity was sent to the Conservative Party Conference in 1981 but this did not contain spores although the soil was similar! Newspapers and TV and radio stations received statements from a group calling themselves OPERATION DARK HARVEST demanding action is taken over the island! Perhaps they watched Fire And Brimstone back in 1972?
Gruinard was an uninhabited island except by sheep and rabbits. There was no community to displace. A diseased carcass was washed up on Scottish shores in 1943 and that is the only 'leak' from the place that we know about.
The disease in Invasion is never specified. We only hear about its symptoms and how quickly it can wipe out a city. There is no scientific trail for the team to follow this week. But it seems that experiments at Wensdale Grange continued beyond the war as the place was only closed down in the 1960s. The script does not specify a precise chronology. Did the scientists evacuate after the war and the Farren family remain only to fall victim to the bug by chance sometime later? Or did they continue their work until 1965?
The episode succeeds in conveying a sense of community which still existed in the late sixties and seventies and was very strong in the north of Britain. For suddenly the whole population of 650 to be uprooted in the space of an evening must have been a traumatic experience for them all. It's not the first time this would have happened.
In 1943 the village of Imber was chosen a training ground for the military and the inhabitants were evicted. The United Kingdom is no stranger to seeing plenty of land used by the armed forces. Dartmoor and Salisbury Plain, Thetford Forest in Norfolk are just a few examples. But here was an entire village, given just 47 days notice, their homes to be used for American soldiers to practise street fighting in advance of the allied invasion of France. The villagers saw it as their patriotic duty to give up their community. They also thought that they would be back inside six months. The village is still in the hands of the Army today. The church is still in use, as a graveyard and for services at least once a year. The first person to be buried there after the evacuation was the village blacksmith, broken hearted. The church was used as a location for the third season Survivors episode Sparks in 1977.
Quist is astonishing in this episode. He spends some of the episode furious that Wensdale Grange and its problem actually exists, insisting on inspecting their safe guards, their records and the house itself. He admits that there precautions are as tight as they can be but by sheer chance, their procedures have been breached – a hitherto unknown well in the cellar, which leads to the honeycomb of underground caves and tunnels has been accessed by two young pot holers who the Doomwatch team had sent in to get water samples a few miles to the east. Quist can't possibly feel guilty for the sheer chance that leads to the tragedy. But the guilt he may feel manifests itself almost as hostility to the villagers – he is helpless. A situation he feared has happened. He cannot look Tom Hedley in the eye when he hears of the slaughter of that man's cattle, he repeats to the landlord of the Devonshire Hotel the mantra the army or the government would just repeat to an outraged citizen in an almost sarcastic tone. He is probably rehearsing what Duncan will say to him.
Official stone walling from first Major Simms and then from Duncan contributes to the disaster. No one in the village (presumably called Wensdale) knew the cancer in their midst. Just vague rumours and tales dismissed by those of a more rational bent. Ridge would not, as Quist pointed out, gone breaking and entering had he received more cooperation and his request taken more seriously. Complacency again, rears it's ugly head in the Armed Services. Byfield Regis was bad enough.
Geoff Hardcastle gets his first proper Doomwatch outing, and that's all we'll see of him for another two weeks! Don't forget him...
Next week, we see another displaced community, victims of the cold war and ultimately, the second world war again.
It may be worth noting that although Martin Worth's recollections of the script are at odds with the transmitted episode, his memories may tally to the original intent of the episode.
MARTIN WORTH: “Kit was a very distinguished scientist who was interested in the environment; I suppose you could call him an ecologist. I was engaged to write just one script for the first season but it led to many more. ... Invasion, my first script, featured a village that had been used by the army for germ warfare experiments. The army were moving out but they left something toxic in the water supply. It wasn't anthrax although this was one of the things that Kit and Gerry were concerned with at the time. There is an island in Scotland that was contaminated with anthrax during the war, which has only been recently made safe; for many years no one was allowed to visit it. These dangers are still around today. This story was about the villagers who returned to their village only to discover that there was this appalling toxin left over from some mad experiment. “
This script, coupled with how well he worked with both Davis and Dudley, by this time, at war, got him to become an unofficial script editor for the rest of the second series.
The village of Grassington in Yorkshire is used to great effect in the episode, a more healthier proportion of film is used in this episode, with the Royal Engineers themselves providing hardware at the end of the episode to depict the “invasion” of the title.
NOW AND THEN
The village of Grassington in Yorkshire features in this episode.
Review by Michael Seely
Project Number: 02240/4413
Commissioned by Gerry Davis on 14th April 1970. Project No. 02240/0570 Davis's room no. E.1104 TC Telephone Ext. 3290
Target Delivery Date: 01. 05. 1970 DOOMWATCH (series code 53)
Title: 'Lonely The house' (2nd series Ep.4
30th April 1970: Terms are agreed.
Memo dated 24th June 1970.
25th August 1970 As arranged.
DOOMWATCH “2nd Series Ep.3 (02240/4413)
1 Return Fare London – Skipton
8 nights subsistence @ 75/-
Artists booked for Project Number: 02240/4413 for August 25th 1970 on 16th July 1970.
JOHN PAUL, SIMON OATES, JOHN NOLAN,
Camera Rehearsals: 24th August (Overtime)
Telerecorded: 25th of August 1970 VTC/5HT/62035/ED
Dr. Spencer Quist
Dr. John Ridge
Series devised by
Theme Music by
Assistant to Producer
The BBC thanks the 7 Field Squadron, Royal Engineers for their co-operation.
21ST DECEMBER 1970
9.50PM - 10.40PM
With thanks to John Archbold for the RADIO TIMES listing and cover