Here is the cover and the features from the first episode of the second season of Doomwatch on BBC One from the UK tv listings magazine. RADIO TIMES DATED 10 DECEMBER 1971. Photograph by PHILIP SAYER
DOOMWATCH IS BACK
Presenting the deadly dangers of today...
Doomwatch — You Killed Toby Wren: Monday 9.50 BBC1 Colour
KIT PEDLER, scientist, and Gerry Davis, dramatist, had an idea for a sci-fl thriller series with a difference. It was a bold idea, for the difference was that their stories were actually likely to come true. While having to succeed as exciting drama, each story in their series would be anchored in scientific reality, its writers projecting what could happen if a particular experiment or technology got out of hand. That was three years ago. Doomwatch finally reached the screen last February under producer Terence Dudley and made an immediate impact. By the time popular Toby Wren (Robert Powell) had been killed attempting to disarm a nuclear device in the last episode, the series had gained a record audience for a first run — 12 million viewers. In the Doomwatch offices on the eleventh floor at Television Centre, the team has been working flat out since spring on the new series that starts on Monday. Gerry Davis declares succinctly: ‘We intend to discomfort, shock and provoke.’ Terence Dudley says he believes in the characters as much as he does in his friends. And Kit Pedler tells you that as a scientist he’s deeply concerned about the dangers of uncontrolled scientific growth.
For a programme that purports to be fictitious, Doomwatch has an ominously accurate record, scoring four prophetic bull’s-eyes in its first four episodes. The last series’ first episode was The Plastic Eaters, which opened with a shock sequence of an aeroplane dissolving in midair, its plastic components eaten away by a mystery virus. Shortly after this was transmitted, the search for a plastic- eating organism to ease waste disposal problems was intensified, and scientists launched a research programme involving a range of self-destructive plastics that crumble into a powder which would then be eaten by bacteria. Doomwatch 2— Friday’s Child — showed a surgeon breeding a human embryo, which he planned to bring to life within his private laboratory, in a flask. ‘We thought this up as a warning,’ Kit Pedler explains. ‘If this technique were perfected a general, for instance, might be able to order 100,000 troops to be produced. The possibilities would be terrifying.’ During the very same hour that Friday’s Child was being televised the newspapers were printing a headline story. At Oldham General Hospital, gynaecologist Dr Patrick Steptoe, in conjunction with others, had just succeeded in fertilizing a human egg outside a woman’s body. The egg was alive and developing. In the next programme, Burial at Sea, a group of pop stars and their girls were found drifting out at sea close to a secret dumping ground for surplus chemical warfare projects. Two of them had died from the effect of a defoliant which should have been safe in canisters on the sea bed. Pedler says: ‘After the episode was written, but before we’d had time to screen it, a branch of the American armed forces actually tried to dump something like ten thousand tons of toxic gases in the Atlantic. They were rumbled only just in time, and stopped by pressure of public opinion. Subsequently the Pentagon has dumped nerve agents in the sea near the Bahamas. This time public opinion was brushed aside.’ Could they have been coincidences? ‘There were no coincidences, says producer Terence Dudley. ‘Our idea was to entertain, but to entertain with cautionary tales. Our objective was to base every Doomwatch subject on something real, something that could and probably would happen in time if nobody took steps to stop it.’
In Tomorrow the Rat, written by Dudley, an experiment in rat breeding got out of hand and London was plagued with a new breed of intelligent killer rats partial to the taste of human beings. In that same week a massive outbreak of a particularly dangerous kind of rat was reported in Shropshire. These ‘super rats,’ as they have been christened, were hitherto unknown in Britain. They are immune to Warfarin and all permitted rodent poisons. Ministry of Agriculture experts soon gave up hope of ever exterminating them completely. With The Battery People they showed men who were handling hormone-based fish feed becoming impotent. ‘This seemed a little over-speculative at the time we thought it up two-and-a-half years ago,’ Pedler says. ‘But just a few months before it was screened a similar incident actually occurred on a farm in Leicestershire.’
Now that so many of the fears of Pedler and Davis have already become fact, can we afford to ignore their other warnings? Electronic invasion of privacy is just one, and Project Sahara examined life with a state computer programmed with highly personal information on all citizens. ‘Even in this country,’ Pedler says, ‘there’s evidence of a lot of information stored on computer tape which should be private — and certain people we’d prefer not to may have access to these tapes.’ More and more of the organisations that keep tabs on us are using computers, and now even the police are having a centralised computer built at Hendon, London. While there seems no reason at present to doubt the confidential treatment of information we give to the police, the Giro, the Inland Revenue, our banks and employers, the prospect of computers getting together for a chat, and in effect becoming one mammoth computer with an eye on us all like the computer in Project Sahara, must alarm anyone who likes his privacy. As if to back up the Doomwatch team’s judgment, a programme called The Red Sky, which showed the damage caused by a high-flying rocket plane, has recently become all too real. Concorde, on supersonic test flights down the west coast of Britain and over the North Sea, split roof tiles, cracked windows, disturbed animals and, when it landed at Heathrow, caused people to complain of the unbearable noise.
‘I’m just as concerned as I ever have been,’ Kit Pedler says. ‘But I’m putting my concern to a more practical use now. I’m giving a series of lectures on Doomwatch themes; and I meet with a group of scientists who are just as concerned are about the dangers of technology. ‘I very strongly believe that there should be some sort of real- life equivalent to Doomwatch. Not acting for the Government, but investigating on behalf of the people. I believe it to be a feasible proposition.’ Whatever the chances of the creation of an official Doomwatch Department, the name has been tossed around Parliament and seized upon by the press. One national newspaper now runs a regular Doomwatch column. And a college in Plymouth has launched a course in the social responsibilities of science entitled ‘The Doomwatch Diploma.’ But Doomwatch, however scientifically accurate it has proved, is first and foremost an entertainment programme. Assuredly, it looks as if anything could happen when Quist, already riddled with self-doubts, is attacked on all fronts in You Killed Toby Wren. Besides introducing three new characters including Jean Trend as Dr Fay Chantry (‘a real dish,’ promises Davis), the new Doomwatch series offers 13 frightening new predictions for the future, many of which, let us hope, may never come true. Unfortunately, one already has — will you be able to spot which of the 13 it is?
PETER FRENCH - RADIO TIMES 1971
The Ministry has now summoned pest controllers in and around the area to meet it's 'doomwatch' experts next month to discuss what to do next.
It is going to tell them that they must now train farmers in the use of the old, highly toxic, dangerous and painful rat poisons that were abandoned 20 years ago in favour of the more humane and safer anti-coagulant rat poison, Warfarin
Doomwatch 'Tomorrow, the Rat', 2 March 1970
– Daily Mail, 16 September 1970
GAS DUMPED IN SEA BY BRITAIN
By Dr. ANTHONY MICHAELIS, Science Correspondent
Britain dumped 200,000 tons of poison gas, including 6,000 tons of the nerve gas Tabun, in the Atlantic up to 1957, the Ministry of Defence said yesterday.
It is possible that some leaked and was carried towards the shore by ocean currents, causing the mysterious deaths of thousands of sea birds, fish and seals in the Irish Sea in December last year.
Doomwatch 'Burial at Sea', 23 February
–Daily Telegraph, 12 August 1970
CONCORDE SHOCK WAVES A DANGER TO HEALTH, SAYS DOCTOR
By JOHN CHRISTOPHER
A SURGEON claimed last night that low frequency shock waves produced by Concorde's supersonic boom could be a serious health hazard.
Doomwatch 'The Red Sky', 6 April 1970
–Daily Express, 3 September 1970
SCIENTISTS may have solved the problem of disposing of plastic litter, with an additive that makes plastic extra sensitive to sunlight–to the extent that it can be reduced to powder if left in the open. The team at Aston University, Birmingham, say the process is harmless, and could be ready for commercial application in about three years.
In April, after a BBC TV Doomwatch thriller programme on the subject, plastics consultant Dr Peter Staudingen warned against developing self-destructive plastics. Such "bugs," he said, would be impossible to control.
Doomwatch 'The Plastic Eaters', 9 February 1970
–News of the World, 5 July 1970
TEST TUBE BABIES
What are our scientists really doing?
The idea of growing human embryos in the laboratory, and perhaps regulating their development so that they end up as babies possessing particular and chosen characteristics (big muscles, perhaps–or a genius for mathematics) is one that has fascinated science fiction writers for many years.
Doomwatch 'Friday's Child', 16 February 1970
–Evening News, 14 February 1969
The greatest intrusion into private life since the Inquisition is well under way. This time it is electronics.
Our secret lives are being recorded on computer tape and added to day by day.
All our details, achievements and errors are being gulped into data banks.
So what's wrong with this? The answer is we are being turned into see-through people. Who wants the idly curious person–or the criminally motivated–to be able to
Doomwatch 'Project Sahara', 9 March 1970
–News of the World, 8 February 1970
'SEX CHANGE' MEN FORCED TO SWITCH THEIR JOBS
Men working at a factory making birth pills have been forced to switch jobs because they developed feminine curves. Now, middle-aged women have been moved in to take over from them.
SEASON 2 SYNOPSIS
The series is starting to broaden its range, from scientific detective stories to more broader social and environmental themes. It's no longer a What If...? It's a What's Now, let's Debate! Thus the series gradually moves away from its roots as investigating the side effects of scientific horrors with exciting, exaggerated, chilling and strong concepts, to a more general, traditional form of drama veering towards the philosophical and sociological. It's more Tell Me, rather than Show Me. The series starts to lose it's gift for prophesy – because the 'threats' faced now are more social fears although just as valid, but lacking in that “oomph” factor that cannibal rats or drugs in chocolate had.
The Iron Doctor Saturday 2 August 1970
The Human Time Bomb Friday 4 September
With thanks to John Archbold for the "Next Week" Radio Times billing for Season 2.