Search this site

SEASON 2 EPISODE 4 NO ROOM FOR ERROR by Roger Parkes

We see a distressed young girl being made comfortable in an isolation ward. The Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Ian Phelps is told by the hospital's Senior House Officer that the young girl, Doreen Taylor, who has typhoid, is not responding to any of the other antibiotics. It is a totally resistant strain. There are four other suspect cases, all from Doreen's school and they have visited a lot of areas. 'So it's bad, we could be on the verge of an epidemic,' says Phelps. 'Yes. And absolutely no effective drug to fight it with.'

TITLES

Phelps goes to see Professor Lewin and Nigel Waring at BAP and tells them about this typhoid case. It's inevitable, he feels since this country imports meat from countries without controls, drug resistance is bound to crop up. The one antibiotic used to fight typhoid that has been kept away from livestock in this country, in order to preserve it as a final weapon doesn't work. Lewin's firm has developed Stellamycin, a new antibiotic. It is supposed to kill all typhoid bacillus. Lewin has sent reports to the Ministry of Health but they have heard nothing. 'Red tape-osis I suppose,' says Phelps. Lewin replies 'The last I heard of it, it had been sent to Doctor Quist's lot at Doomwatch.'

Ridge is having a cut over the eye covered by a plaster by Barbara Mason, who is compelled to kiss it better. Ridge goes into see Quist who declares him an idiot for being rumbled by a group of, as Ridge described them, cockney sewage workers. He submits his report on the investigation as Barbara buzzes on the intercom to say that Dr. Fay Chantry has arrived for her appointment. Ridge asks if this is the successful candidate? The woman herself is shown in and is introduced to Ridge. 'Contrary to appearances, John is a chemist, not a bouncer.' Quist makes it clear that Ridge is on his way out – of the office. 'Yes, story of my life, really.' Fay explains to Quist that although she has had her letter of appointment, she would like to discuss the deeper implications of working here before giving her commitment. This need was one of the qualities that earned her the job. She needs reassurance before she takes the final vow.

Bradley thinks she looks like a nice kid, perhaps too nice for round here. Ridge wonders if she might stir something in old Father Quist!

'Well, you certainly won't be healing people as in the hospital, or researching dramatic new cures as you were before before that,' Quist tells Fay. 'More like civil service police, in fact.' 'We're just like ombudsmen fighting bureaucracy and red tape.' There is a phone call for Fay, from Professor Lewin of British Associated Pharmaceuticals, one of her referees for this job. It's about Stellamycin. It is fully developed and ready for release, 100% effective against typhoid, and Doomwatch is behind the ministry's reluctance to release it – and there is a nearby outbreak of typhoid totally resistant to other medicines. Fay agrees to help and tells Quist that perhaps she should join Doomwatch in order to stop the rot and asks about the drug and their tests. Without taking offence, Quist looks up their report on the drug on September the fifth last and ran tests in conjunction with the Royal Infectious Diseases hospital and they sent their full report six weeks ago. It could be used now therapeutically, subject to final ministry approval. She had helped to pioneer the stuff, and Fay apologises and tells Quist about the typhoid strain. Quist sets up a meeting with the Ministers' PPS and sends Fay down to the BAP lab to help out. She is a little puzzled, and resistant but goes anyway.

Fay shows Lewin the glowing Doomwatch report. He makes it quite clear that her job is open for her if she wants to return. 'You're no civil servant. Research, that's your talent.' Her work on Stellamycin could have earned her a PHD and earned Lewin instead a fellowship. 'We'd have been there months earlier if you hadn't quit.' She asks him to remember why she left. Nigel Waring enters and is delighted to see his old flame again after a couple of years. Lewin asks him to show Fay the new lab extension...

The Senior House Officer reports to Phelps again. Four cases confirmed, ten more suspected all involving three more local schools... Doreen Taylor is critical. Phelps has heard that there is a couple of suspects in Reading too. The officer can't believe that in the space age there is a shortage of vaccines. 'Bloody red tape,' storms Phelps.

The Minister's PPS is still musing over Quist's report. The PPS is worried about the side effects of Stellamycin. A fine cure but a dodgy prevention. But in view of this strain of typhoid, Quist wants it cleared. Quist loses his patience and says his department will take full responsibility and walks out. 'I think I can ask the minister to give it top priority...' Quist slams the door shut behind him.

Hilda asks Lewin if Fay is coming back, she was so conscientious. He reminds Hilda of why she left... Hilda returns to the lab where Waring finishes the tour for Fay. Lewin comes in and tells Fay that Stellamycin has been cleared for use. He asks her if she is any nearer her decision to return to BAP or go to Doomwatch? She doesn't know. She is about to return to London but Waring doesn't want her to leave so soon, Lewin suggests Waring drives her to the station. There's nothing to hold him back now... Waring bustles her out.

On the drive back to the station, Waring tells Fay that his divorce came through and he got custody of their child, Jane. He promises it had nothing to do with them, it seems his wife started the adultery chain, not him. Fay's been through divorce as well, and knows it was horrible. And now that he is a single man, he hopes she might like a drink...

At the Bull, Waring is trying to talk her out of Doomwatch, they're weirdo snoopers, not proper scientists. 'BAP needs you more than Doomwatch.'

Quist is preparing to leave the offices, and notices Ridge is still there, mugging up on his television appearance about Stellamycin. Ridge asks him if Fay is joining them; it's not an easy decision for a woman like that to take; the dedicated type. 'Like you, John, eh? Always the last to leave?' Quist is about to give an address to the Royal society on pollution. Ridge wishes it would be seen by as large an audience. 'They always prefer to hear about sickness rather than health,' remarks Quist. Ridge asks why he rushed Fay off to BAP if the problem was at Ministry level. 'Which problem?' asks Quist. 'There's more than one...?'

'Marriage left me confused rather than cautious,' says Fay over dinner with Waring as she describes the breakdown of her marriage – careers got in the way. Waring is still keen on her, and starts to get a little over-emotional, and it is not because he's had a bit to drink. 'Jane needs a mother, I need a wife. Just like you and Angela, you need a feller.' He takes another swipe at Doomwatch. 'Why you?' On the television, Ridge is being interviewed about Stellamycin and why Doomwatch evaluates it...

The next day, Lewin and Waring prematurely celebrate the idea that Fay may be returning to BAP. 'Except she won't stay long enough...' thinks Lewin. 'A few months, a year at the most. You'll drive her away again. Do you want a 24 hour partner, or a wife and mother for your kid?' He isn't a romantic, Lewin agrees, they don't run commercial laboratories. Fay has turned up, and Lewin leaves it up to Waring to offer her the job. But as Fay discusses things with Waring, Lewin comes in – they're having trouble with Stellamycin.

Doreen Taylor has died – she was already critically ill, but they are having a mixed response to Stellamycin. This is what Phelps tells Waring and Fay at the hospital with the Staff officer on hand. Phelps is not happy with the drug – no bad reports from Guildford and Reading. But as medical officer of health, Phelps has no choice but to remove Stellamycin from this area. Fay suggests Phelps reads Dr Quist's report on the toxic side effects of Stellamycin.

Quist stands by his judgement to the Minister's PPS on the phone and angrily tells him to report that they're investigating. Quist discusses the case with Ridge, its an all or nothing reaction: extreme side effects or none at all. These reaction cases must have been exposed to Stellamycin at a low prophylactic dose. 'And you want me to go down there and find out how where and when!' says Ridge, heading for the door. 'Why so eager?' asks Quist. 'Even typhoid is healthier than sewage workers.' 'Sanitation officers,' corrects Quist.

As BAP look into the processes behind distribution and make up of the doses, Waring discovers that his daughter has fallen ill... Typhoid. She is in the isolation ward.

A little later, a haunted Waring stands outside the ward, looking at his daughter as Fay Chantry tries to reassure him. She is hardly delicate in the great Victorian tradition. The senior house officer breaks the grim news that it is typhoid and they are putting her on sulphonamides. Waring is appalled. This is lunacy.

He goes to see Phelps but he won't be swayed. 'I'm biased. If you've seen the side effects of some modern drugs like cortisone, you might be less keen to put children at risk with a brand new one...' Waring tells him that Stellamycin has been doing wonders at Reading and Guildford, and even here before he stuck his nose in. 'Sick children are being denied the one thing that can cure them because this man is incapable of taking responsibility.' He won't let Phelps kill his child....

Ridge and Lewin discuss the matter – it has to be the children. Lewin thinks it's quite impossible for the children to have had exposure to the drug, all their field trials and tests were scrupulously controlled. But, as Ridge points out, all the reaction cases are in children from this area,,,

Back at the hospital, Waring is begging Fay to treat his child and use Stellamycin, as she is a doctor and has the authority to do so. She admires the faith he has in the new drug that they both developed but fears it is simple pride in his case, not the true scientist or parent speaking.

Ridge now talks to Phelps. The probable source of the typhoid is veal imported from the continent. There is simply no restriction abroad on feeding drugs to livestock, some with almost the full spectrum of antibiotics, so the calves develop a multi resistant bug inside them. Combine that with sloppy abattoir practises and refrigerated transport from the continent and Doreen Taylor preparing the veal casserole for her mum and... Unstoppable:. 'Especially with these over medicated hot house kids of today.' There's no natural resistance these days, desperately vulnerable. Stellamycin can cure it. Phelps has asked his senior house officer to examine any links between the reaction cases but so far their priority has been in locating the source of the typhoid. They have to pin it down to the supplier. They can't just recommend banning imports. Phelps is amazed at Quist's low level exposure theory. If he can prove it, Phelps would be delighted to put Stellamycin back on.

Fay finally agrees to help despite Waring's self pity but only on a professional level, not as a friend or a lover, but as a doctor. Ridge walks past and recognises Fay, and is introduced to Waring, but does not realise at first his daughter is one of the victims. Fay and Waring go off to work, whilst the senior house officer tells Ridge he thinks all the cases went to the same school.

The Head Master, Mr Elliot, initially over-reacts to Ridge's enquiry, thinking at first it is about the typhoid. His school uses imported and cheaper meat for the domestic science classes. And they're all pupils here. Ridge has checked with the parents to see if they could have made contact in some other way. Elliot over-reacts once again, asking how could they have been exposed to an anti-biotic here? It's probably been ingested, in small doses over a long time. Ridge takes samples from everything in the kitchens to test.

BAP run the tests much to Waring's frustration. 'The whole thing's a blind waste of time.' Hilda comes up with a few theories, the tests they did with the pork – the feed trial on a batch of pigs, but Waring had already checked on that one. Waring is almost satisfied when Ridge turns up, that the school is clear, despite the fact that his daughter went to that school and has reacted badly to the Stellamycin. But as he lets out his grief and fury, ('Further vindication of your elegant theory that for all this testing is getting us nowhere, nowhere.') Fay enters and has to tell him she is no better and is back on sulphonamides. Fay wonders if the drug was exposed to the food last week... She looks through notes and remembers Blake's Farm, where feed trials were ran by BAP. The farm delivers milk to the school each day. It is clear now, but was it last week? Now cows cannot take antibiotics – it makes them sick and kills them. The herd were fine last Monday when Waring saw them. Ridge still insists on looking around and Fay goes with him.

Fay hasn't seen a farm like this and wonders where all the animals are? They find Gillian Blake, the daughter of the owner who explains that the farm is computerised! The food mix is sorted by machine and distributed to the animals kept in large barns. She tells that she tests BAP antibiotics on the pigs and chickens are monitor the responses. Blake doesn't know which ones but presumes they are the standard types. She takes them to the broiler house where they are fattening chickens in battery pens. They are in a controlled environment, feed antibiotics and slaughtered with eight weeks, Ridge asks to go and see the cows, who are being milked at present on a conveyor system with fairground music played in the background to soothe them! A slow milker holds them up. Ridge spots a BAP cylinder – X-80-S. Blake explains that a disease can spread through a herd like a summer storm – the milking tubes on the udders – so Blake used an antibiotic that worked wonders on pigs and put a few scoops full in the cows udder wash at milking time from last autumn... for a few weeks. 'Worked like a charm! Clean as a knife, the whole herd.' 'You say this was last month?' asks Fay...

'It's Stellamycin, isn't it Nigel?' They had left the drum of the drug on the farm after a batch of trials on pigs. They thought they would use the drug solely on animals before they had discovered a way of preventing extreme side effects on humans. Fay defends Blake: how could she have known otherwise, that an antibiotic would pollute the drinking milk of some five hundred school children?None of the kids showed reactions until the typhoid struck and the unlucky ones were put onto Stellamycin. 'Although it was curing the typhoid, it was poisoning the patients.' Waring knows what she is saying: he poisoned Doreen Taylor who died, and now her own daughter. 'I hope you're satisfied, chief inspector.' In a fit of anger he sees his career, his piece of mind and his conscience ruined, 'You must expect that when you make one tiny mistake – but the main thing is that Doomwatch triumphed again.' He gently wishes Fay good luck at her new job... 'I wish you a long and satisfying career.'

Quist is surprised that Fay is upset. She vindicated Stellamycin, and helped get all those children back onto effective treatment, and even found a modified dose for the side effect cases. 'And so she also a woman, for whom, and you may have forgotten, emotion can sometimes confuse priorities.' Quist explains that was rather the object of sending her down to BAP in the first place. A query in her security clearance. He knew about Waring, the one doubt, and he sent her down there to clear the air, wipe the slate clean... 'Take the vow?' asks Fay as she enters. He explains the metaphor to ridge about why none of them, except Colin, are married. Spying on their pasts is necessary in the interests of security. 'Take it or leave it, Dr. Chantry. This isn't just a job, this is Doomwatch.'

Synopsis by Michael Seely

Review

The over use of antibiotics has become a very real issue in our times. Some years ago, a campaign was launched to stop people demanding the almost mythical antibiotic every time they catch a cold. This does not work on the influenza virus, and besides, we seldom catch the proper 'flu... Antibiotics did revolutionise our lives. Once fatal illnesses now just become unpleasant periods in our lives. Our life expectancy grows ever longer, adding to the population figures, an issue that gets dredged up in another Roger Parkes' script, Without The Bomb. The first Sulphonamide drug was developed in the late 1930s. But it rapidly became clear that penicillin and other antibiotics were capable of being resisted by ever evolving bacteria. And this is what we see in this episode – a totally resistant strain of typhoid – and only the wonder drug – Stellamycin can kill it. As early as the 1950s it was realised that overuse was dangerous, lessening resistance. Our children are vaccinated and given these drugs so much that the fear is they are developing very little natural resistance, especially when we push hygiene to very strict levels. And then a super bug is let loose! The recent scares over the deadly bugs sweeping hospitals, for example... But there the victims are already weak.

Antibiotics have also helped revolutionise the livestock industry, in getting healthier animals, and helping to fatten them up. Both the farming and the pharmaceutical industries – typically – are resistant to a reduction in their use especially in America but the European Union banned their use as growth promoters in 2003! The farm we see here is very automated. Fay does not recognise the collection of silos as a farm. The robots Ridge joked about do exist in modern farms, milking cows for example, reminiscent of the machines that make cars on a production line. The machines here mix the feed and deliver it as required to the caged animals. Ridge is not queasy about the battery hens this week.

No Room For Error deals with the wonder drug Stellamycin, and for once, what the scientists are making is safe and useful. It has the Doomwatch seal of approval. There's no dangerous side effects (except through an accident), there's no attempt at a prophetic warning against over-medicating, and the effects on our health. Being a new drug, the authorities are nervous about using it. Red tape is blamed. The typhoid outbreak is blamed on veal but we don't find out the precise source of the outbreak. It's no science fiction bug. There's no science fiction. It could almost be an episode of General Hospital, or whatever hospital based drama was on the television at the time. There's even a romance between Nigel Waring – developer of the wonder drug and Dr. Fay Chantry, who ends up treating his sick child! Real soap opera stuff!

Except... Fay Chantry, sympathetically played by Jean Trend, is Doomwatch's answer to the charges of sexism from viewers of the first season. Trend was contracted at the same time as the rest of the cast (late April 1970) and so how soon after the criticisms were made her character was created we can't be too sure. But if she was, then judged by modern standards, what a sexist episode to introduce her in! Ridge makes the amazing claim that as a woman she is liable to cloud issues with emotion – in other words blub like a baby. Not like our Dr. Ridge then! He never clouds the issue with emotion – apart from the occasional sob, punch and angry outburst! The testosterone at British Associated Pharmaceuticals is quite high with Waring (not exactly butch himself) and Dr Lewin with their occasional references to women's lib, crusaders and so forth, accepting their female colleagues as equals but forever having to remind them that they're women! Hilda – know your place. And who is the villain of the piece? Why, Gillian Blake, a woman with more plums in her mouth than no doubt 'Daddy' allowed her to have. She comes across as a Sloane Ranger (ten years too early but never mind) and, although she wasn't to know what she was doing, poisoned 500 school children. Now, of course, it is Warings' fault – he left the cannister at the Blake's farm, although you wouldn't think it was judging by his self pitying outburst at the end of the episode. What a git! And he even dumps Fay because she discovered the truth behind the reaction cases but he takes it as a personal attack. 'Doomwatch triumphs again!' Emotion clouding the issue, eh? He tries to cut through her professionalism earlier in the episode by getting her to prescribe Stellamycin to his daughter when it was already causing reaction cases.

So, for an episode to attempt to introduce a woman to Doomwatch, we have a cast of characters who are nothing but old women – take that headmaster, for example. Drama queen or what? It has to be said, his dialogue is slightly over-written, he has a fine line in exaggerated sarcasm. 'An orgy of mass-medication...' We'll see more unrealistic heads and teachers in next week's episode.

Doomwatch itself has elevated its opinion of itself. Quist uses metaphors about taking the vow, and has become very keen on probing into the private life of his staff in the interests of security, something which the Project Sahara Quist would have baulked at – but maybe he's learned his lesson since that unfortunate incident. Let's hope the query on Fay's security clearance was not flagged up by the computer. He gives the Minister's PPS a hard time as well, walking out with a comedy 'D'oh!' before slamming a door out of view. His relationship with Ridge has settled down since You Killed Toby Wren and they are gently mocking one another and forming a close bond. It's nice to see, But is Ridge becoming a pale imitation of the man he used to be? Still ably played by Simon Oates, we can begin to understand why the actor did not feel compelled to do a third year and this episode may be the one the director Darrol Blake heard the complaints from the actor about being 'the one in the shirts', leaning against the filing cabinets. To be fair, the episode did have to introduce Fay Chantry so Ridge will be pushed aside, and he did get to accompany her on the investigations and help save the day.

Fourth episode in, and Doomwatch is beginning to feel very different indeed... 

Review by Michael Seely

The cover from The Radio Times which features NO ROOM FOR ERROR

FACT FILE

This was commissioned as The Massacre of the Innocents on the 17th of June 1970 with a project number 02240/0608. An idea by Roger Parkes given the code name Obsession was written off during the 1970/71 production year. This had the number 02259/0426 and since the write-off fee was only £50 probably never went beyond a scene breakdown, if even that.

It was the fifth episode in production. Location filming was performed at a farm near Shrewsbury for two days on the 27th and 28th of August 1970. The project number now was 02240/4415.

CLASSIC NEWSPAPER REVIEWS

Unknown Paper
The Doomwatch team ... remind me more and more of neurotic housewives as the series continues. One would imagine that you would require a level head at least, but Dr. Quist flaps about like an old hen in any crisis (under a thin pretence of efficiency) and Dr. Ridge spends most of the time staring at every female through half-closed eyes and behaving like a big headed pop star. As for the doctor in yesterday's episode, whose daughter was struck down by incurable typhoid and who was responsible for the slip that resulted in the curative drug proving ineffective, he was squawking and squeaking like an actress who'd got bad notices on her first night.Every bit of drama was squeezed out of the character's temperamental and unreasonable personality rather than the situation itself – a story, incidentally, that could have produced enough drama on it's own.

Daily Express
Jean Trend, once a regular actress on the TV scene but lately a mother and housewife, has arrived back on BBC1 in the new Doomwatch series. And she's an attractive addition to a dedicated team which always seems to owe something more to Doctor Finlay and Doctor Who. Miss Trend appeared at times on colour TV last night to have green hair. But there was nothing green about her performance. she has lost nothing of her punch – yet whether this series will put her talents to the best use is not easy to say.
Doomwatch is a rather incredible outfit (run by John Paul as Doctor Quist) which deals with everything from Cabinet leakages to outbreaks of fowl pest. Its few operators have the knowledge of the gods and since they never seem to have time to read the gods alone know where the acquired it.
EPIDEMIC
Last night they were involved in a typhoid epidemic, a new strain resistant to known drugs. The children were being struck down, including the daughter of the lover of Doctor Chantry (Miss Trend). Would the new relatively untried drug be used? What would be the possible side effects? In her début with the programme, poor Miss Trend was faced with proving the value of the drug which she had helped to develop.
It seemed that the whole exercise was merely a test of security for the lady before she actually joined the Doomwatch team. Would she give up her lover to go ahead with the drug? she did. With the addition of some glamour to these unique investigators, the Trend Which is going to hold on to the audience is obvious. 


Cast

Dr. Spencer Quist
JOHN PAUL

Dr. John Ridge
SIMON OATES

Doctor Fay Chantry
JEAN TREND

Colin Bradley
JOBY BLANSHARD

Barbara Mason
VIVIEN SHERRARD

Professor Lewin
ANGUS MacKAY

Dr. Ian Phelps
ANTHONY SHARP

Senior House Officer
ANTHONY AINLEY

Minister’s P.P.S.
MICHAEL CULVER

Elliott
NORMAN SCACE

Gillian Blake
SHEILA GRANT

Hilda
FREDA DOWIE

and Guest Star
Nigel Waring
JOHN WOOD

Crew

Series devised by
KIT PEDLER
and
GERRY DAVIS

Theme Music by
MAX HARRIS

Film Cameraman
TERRY HUNT

Sound Recordist
JOHN WOODIWISS

Film Editor
CHRISTOPHER ROWLANDS

Studio Lighting
ERIC MONK

Studio Sound
JOHN HOLMES

Script Editor
GERRY DAVIS

Designer
GRAHAM OAKLEY

Assistant to Producer
GLYN EDWARDS

Producer
TERENCE DUDLEY

Directed by
DARROL BLAKE

TX:
11TH JANUARY 1971
9.20PM - 10.10PM

No comments:

Post a Comment