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The scene: a storeroom cum office in the Microbiological Research Station at Porton Down in Wiltshire. Doctor Richard Poole, a young man is surprised to receive a visit from Dr. John Ridge. 'What can we do for Doomwatch? You think we're up to no good? Beating the local ploughshares into bacteriological weapons?' Ridge explains that it is for personal research. Poole is distracted by a phone call and tells the person at the other end as he is busy and short on staff due to a spot of flu that has been doing the rounds. Poole hangs up and returns to Ridge who explains he is research a little enterprise of his own. 'Of all the bacterial and virus diseases you have here... which is the most dangerous?' A little bothered, Poole asks why. 'I want to hold the Government to ransom,' explains Ridge. It's the degree of immunity he is interested in, vaccines. Poole warms to the theme. Forget about your viral diseases, Poole begins, as there is pretty widespread natural immunity and readily available vaccines. With plague there's a fifty fifty chance of survival, and the government would just shrug it's shoulders. Poole shows a humourless Ridge something fresh in from the states. 'Anthrax. Highly stable. A sure killer and little or anything you can do about it. That'd have 'em really worried.' Ridge is satisfied with this. Another phone call takes Poole away, leaving his assistant, Julie, with Ridge. Poole locks the cabinet with the viruses and diseases he had shown Ridge. 'Julie what?' asks Ridge. 'Julie doesn't,' she replies. 'One of the Dorsetshire doesn'ts?' On her husband side! But the does nots doesn't extend to a cup of tea and she goes out to get one, leaving Ridge alone with the cabinet, and a set of keys in his hands. He opens the cupboard and begins to remove the anthrax phials... 
(Image featured above from the 3-9th June 1972 edition of the Radio Times.)


That night, Ridge is in the Doomwatch outer office, sitting on Barbara Mason's desk...

We next see him driving in London airport. Over this shot we see the titles, and we hear Ridge's voice... (The script does not specify but it seems he has a package with him). 'By these three was the third part of men killed, by the fire, and by the smoke, and by the brimstone... And the rest of men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone and wood.'

Quist has dropped off to sleep on the sofa in a little cottage in Brindley Heath. Opposite him is Anne Tarrant who is reading and taking notes. The caller is Colin Bradley in the Doomwatch offices, with Barbara Mason and two plain clothes policemen... Anne doesn't want Quist to be disturbed but Bradley thinks it's something he ought to know. 'I thought if I kept my eyes closed it'd go away,' grumbles Quist as he goes over to the 'phone. Bradley tells him that the police want to talk to Ridge and wondered if he knew where he was. 'What's he done?' demands Quist, 'Mistaken Piccadilly for Brands Hatch?' Bradley explains that he was down to Norton this afternoon, and something very dangerous is missing. The police want to talk to him. Bradley is as confused as Quist. 'I saw him this morning and he didn't say he was onto anything.' The police had been in and out of the office since five this afternoon, and he isn't at home.

We now see Ridge driving and pulling up beside some docks. He has a second parcel which is described as quite unlike the first in size and shape. 'By the fire and by the smoke and by the brimstone... brimstone... brimstone...'

Taking a pencil from Anne, Quist jots down Ridge's home number, getting irritable by being reminded of different area codes from London. Bradley offers to hang around the office in case Ridge turns up.

Ridge is now walking up a street by night carrying a third parcel and goes inside a post office. 'And the rest of men which were not of the works of their hands... works of their hands... works of their hands...'

Quist is restless. 'Bradley's only assuming he's in trouble.' Anne disagrees. 'You are!' She doesn't want to argue with him. She wants him to relax for a change... The telephone rings and Quist answers it before she can. This time it is the Minister, George Holyroyd who is in full evening dress having been called out from the Opera. With him is Richard Duncan. The Minister comments that Quist took a bit of running to earth. 'I was persuaded to take a weekend off.' The Minister eventually gets to the point: 'Porton Down, Anthrax, Ridge.' The Minister assumed that this was some Doomwatch operation but Quist is just as surprised. Perhaps he was acting on his own initiative? 'Then we're in for one of those juvenile bacteriological warfare protests.' The Minister lambastes Quist for his inflexible recruitment policy before Quist suggests they wait to see if his suspicions are justified and then he'll take the necessary action. 'Rely on my inflexibility.'

After he hangs up the phone, the Minister talks to two other people in his office: Commander Neil Stafford and Doctor Poole. The Minister assures Stafford that if Quist claims he doesn't know anything about this incident than he can believe him. Stafford would rather reserve judgement. 'His security clearance recommends constant surveillance.' 'Then I've no doubt it is constant,' replies the Minister. 'We do our best.' 'Then if I'm wrong perhaps your best isn't good enough, Commander.' Stafford explains that the theft was very carefully planned. What looked like a casual visit was timed to coincide with a staff shortage. But was there collusion?

Quist decides he can't stay at the cottage. He would rather be in town on the spot. Anne reluctantly agrees and offers to drive him to the station. 'You know, Spencer, one of these days you're going to wake up and find you've got someone to talk to.' He gives her a light kiss when there is the sound of a tap at the window. Quist lets in Ridge, who apologises for the intrusion.

The Minister tells Poole to stop apologising and asks him about the anthrax, in particular its endemicity. This particular anthrax is a special strain, developed from Zollos's variant, adapted to invade the respiratory tract. And there is no treatment. Nothing. It could wipe out the population in a few days if a phial was opened in the tube or in a bus. 'And a man was allowed to walk into your establishment and walk out again... unchallenged... with six such phials?' Stafford explains that he does have the necessary security clearance. Poole thought Ridge was researching an article, a lecture. 'He wanted something to hold the government to ransom.'

'Hold the government to ransom? Are you mad?' exclaims Quist. Ridge warns him that Doctor Tarrant's the psychiatrist. Ridge wants a full page advertisement in six world newspapers, advertising common sense. He doesn't want to involve Quist which gets exasperated considering what he has done. Anne offers him a drink. Ridge refuses, he's driving. 'You're not driving any more,' says Quist. 'I'm turning you in!' Ridge warns him not to rush him. 'Where is the anthrax?' 'On it's way.' Ridge refuses to say where; he does not want it intercepted. 'Whatever you do don't underestimate me! That's what I'm here to say; don't underestimate me.' He explains that they are in safe packaging so that they won't break. Quist is still not sure if this is a joke and Ridge gets angry. Anne shakes her head at Quist, behind Ridge's back which he sense when Quist changes tack. Ridge's terms for the return of the anthrax will be known on Monday when the Minister reads his mail. Anne asks why did he come here. 'To see Doctor Quist. It's possible they won't let me see him again.... The law, security, the Ministry... any part of the squeaky machine. They'll ask him if I'm bluffing. I want him to be able to tell them I'm not. You know I'm not, don't you?' Ridge goes to leave, and find the nearest police station. 'Look after him, Doctor Tarrant.' Quist makes a move after him but Anne stops him. 'I've got to do something! I've never seen him like this before!' Anne thinks from what she has heard from Quist, Ridge is a dab hand at this sort of thing... 'Oh! This is way over the top! He's off his head!'

As Ridge parks outside a police station, a constable advises him not to park there but Ridge explains he has committed a felony and so the policeman tells him to stick the car round the back. 'We get all sorts, sir...' 'Just so long as you keep calling me “sir”.'

Stafford interviews Colin Bradley and Barbara Mason at the Doomwatch office where she remembers being asked to do a label for him on the type writer. . It was to a school but she can't remember much more. Stafford tells a plain clothes policeman to check the rubbish for the note Ridge had written down for her. Barbara is livid that Stafford is going through her very packed drawer. He holds her deodorant. 'You seem to keep everything else. You should open a shop.' 'We call her the office squirrel,' says Bradley. Stafford answers the phone. He learns that Ridge has given himself up.

Ridge is not surprised to be interviewed in a police cell by Neil Stafford. They have met before. 'As if it was yesterday. Bastards like you are unforgettable.' Something to do with a woman called Isle who was deported, or so Ridge thinks, and died twelve months later in Dresden. Ridge accuses him of using a sledgehammer psychological approach in his snide questioning. Ridge tells him that he wants fifty thousand pounds but not for himself. He won't strike until Monday. 'Ever seen a case of anthrax?'asks Stafford. 'But it's quicker than chronic bronchitis... and diseases of the liver.. and the kidneys... and the gut.' Ridge launches into a speech about what he has learned in his time in Doomwatch, that they only have a generation, their generation to grow up and deal with population, ionizing radiation, to clean up the rivers and the seas, to stop sweeping the muck underneath the carpet, plant more trees, to recycle the earth's resources, even our excrement and urine... 'We've got to pay more for everything. Our money or our life!' Stafford replies: 'Rhetoric.' There's been a Royal Commission of Pollution but what's been done about it? 'Sweet F.A!'

On the Monday morning, the Minister is suspicious that Quist has not been sent Ridge's ultimatum as well. 'There can be no question of your not being involved!' But only Quist has any chance of resolving the situation. Ridge is in Brixton having been charged and remanded in custody. 'Six lectures, he calls them,' says the Minister of Ridge's thesis. Disarmament, population, industrial effluent, the internal combustion engine, noise and recycling development. 'All put together with great originality and considerable depth, to say nothing of an impressive cost analysis, and you know nothing about it?' To be published in six global newspapers on six successive days. One bottle will be returned per publication.

In his cell at Brixton, Ridge tells Quist and Anne that he has sent six bottles to the cities of Paris, Berlin, New York, Rome and Moscow. The last one had to go by sea so there's time to intercept it. The sixth is here in London and they will never find it. 'John, d'you know how your... ultimatum was received? ... They think you're insane.' Ridge asks Quist what does he think? But doesn't get an answer. Anne tries to point out how his shock tactics won't work. His articles are telling everybody – from rich to the school boy with twenty five pence that they've got to give up their money. 'What you're trying to do will set us back years,' adds Quist. 'You too!' says John, rising. 'Pack it in, John.' 'Pack it in? Is that what you are going to do? After... three years?' Quist says they have achieved a lot in three years. Ridge doesn't see that. He is angry. The Tobacco Bill was talked out, manufacturers volunteered their minuscule warnings... 'Legislation! The only salvation we've got. Outlaw the poisoners! Outlaw the filth makers. Publicity! It's our only chance!' He shows them a cutting from The Daily Mail, March 9th 1971. 'That's the sort of attitude we're up against! That's why we're rushing along with the Gaderene swine gathering momentum by the second!' He has memorised the television review where he says he refuses to believe that nothing will convince him that the human species is killing itself on the grounds we have been mutating for twenty million years and survived a ten million year drought. Ridge is outraged and calls it wilful ignorance. 'What will we be drinking by the year Two Thousand?' Ridge is prepared to kill millions! Quist is sorry, Ridge is mad. The population is three and a half thousand million, and rapidly on the increase. Ridge tells them to speak to Stafford. Ridge has killed three men to protect the state, to save thousands. He sees the deaths of millions in a similar way.

Barbara suddenly remembers the address on the label she typed for Ridge.

Driving away from the prison, Quist asks Anne what is he going to do? The government won't agree to his terms, and the alternative is to tell six capital cities that every parcel sent from England last Friday has got to be boiled for ten minutes. Anne has an idea. 'You're incredible,' he says. 'You're the serenest person I know.' 'That's because I'm the most realistic.'

Barbara tells Quist the address is a school – Melrose Primary in Wandsworth.

Two bystanders watch as the police cordon off the school and protective suited men enter. 'Looks like Doctor Who if you ask me.' Bradley introduces Quist to Stafford. The name on the address label was Rachel Carson... Reporters gather but Stafford tell them this story is under a D-Notice.

In the Doomwatch laboratory, the package is opened in a protective glass cabinet. Poole is using the gloves inside the container to open the packet and the polystyrene block. Poole is surprised, this isn't one of the anthrax bottles. Inside is a piece of paper: 'Congratulations! But you've found this one because I wanted you to. I promise you the others are the real thing...'

The rest of the message is read by the Minister. Had this one been real, it would have lain neglected for a time or opened at the school or returned to the post office. 'The real thing is a bottle of bacillus anthracis with enough organisms to wipe out fifty millions.' Quist, Anne, Duncan and Stafford are there. Stafford is convinced that this is no hoax and asks for a free hand and is agreed. 'But Ridge is sick,' protests Quist. 'You can't do this!' Anne has been the second opinion Quist wanted on Ridge's state of mind after Brixton's Dr. Ramsay. Anne points out that any information gleaned from Ridge under duress is bound to be unreliable and lead to delays. 'This is classic paranoia with, as yet, no personality disorganisation. But it wouldn't take much to push it to the schizophrenic pole. If that happens and there's withdrawal... you might as well put a thumb screw on a turnip.' She suggests they agree to his terms but before she can go on, the Minister disagrees. The Government would be pledging itself to massive legislation for the next ten years. 'To say nothing of industrial revolt right across the board.' Quist asks for Anne to continue...

Ridge is enjoying taunting the Commander about how difficult it will be to track the packages. Stafford asks the prison officer, Mr Clark to wait outside. Reluctantly he does and Stafford turns the screw... He tells him he has been given a free hand. 'John, how tough are you?' He makes it clear that they have techniques; get false information and he'll be tossed to the perverts... the boys who enjoy it... What choice is there to protect the millions who will die? There is a phone call. Stafford looks at Ridge. 'How have you done it? Your terms have been agreed.' 'You sound disappointed.' 'Oh, John. You really are round the twist.'

The headline reads 'Exploding bombs the only answer to exploding population?' Stafford tells Ridge that the Russians refused to print the articles, they are not a free press. Ridge agrees, it was a little test. 'If Pravda had published I'd have known for certain these are phonies.' Stafford plays dumb. 'You could send out for other copies.' But Ridge wants to go on and buy a copy for himself. Under escort if need be. Stafford agrees. He asks Ridge did he really send one to Moscow? He did. Clearly marked. 'Anthrax. Kosygin, for the use of.' (A Russian Communist leader.) 'Treason as well,' muses Stafford. 'In for a penny!'

Quist tells Anne the plan – a hundred and eighty newsagents within a radius of the prison are going to co-operate. They'll all have the special copies.

Stafford escorts Ridge by car to a newsagents which Ridge picks. He goes inside to buy a copy with a Detective Constable. He gets back into the car. 'Home, James!' He tells Stafford where they can have the Rome one. He actual sent it to one of the Mafian millionaires!

Quist tells Anne that it worked. He was sure Ridge would tumble it. Anne explains: 'It's the obsessive thinking. Stafford's very clever.' 'He's a bastard,' says Quist. 'Don't make an enemy of him.'

Next day, the Minister is reading Le Monde, Duncan listens at a telephone and Quist comes in. The Minister is very pleased with the operation. Quist is worried what will happen to Ridge when he discovers the truth. The Minister tells Quist that he knows a large part of him agrees with what Ridge has done. 'Because a small part of you does too?' Quist talks about Ridge's condition, as a result of two long years of pressure and frustration. The minister says they all do, but only the fittest survive. Duncan reports that recovery has been completed in New York. That was to the United Nations, a fictitious secretary. 'That could have significance,' says Duncan. 'At least someone here doesn't underestimate friend ridge. All right then Duncan, where's the last one? Inmy pocket?' 'I did look, sir.'

Ridge is flicking through The Times, in a controlled panic. He hides the paper under his bed and a prison officer looks in through the open door of the cell to ask if he is all right? He hides the paper and then tells Mr Clark that someone has nicked his paper! Any chance of getting one? Even though he's on remand he will have to wait till tomorrow. Ridge pretends it's for the crossword. A bribe doesn't work either. But Clark relents and sees what he can do. But a passing convict, Warren, does... He plans to lift a copy from the Governor's office!

Barbara is on the phone to her mother. As she tells Colin, her mother is fussing, it's only a cold but she's lonely. She plans to leave work a little earlier. She gets her container of antiperspirant and complains she forgot to get a refill. She hates hot hands! She tosses the container into her hand bag.

Ridge is back in the Interview Room. He is sitting at the table, very dangerous and still. Stafford brings in the last batch of newspapers for old time's sake. But Ridge knows he was fooled. 'You try finding the last one!'

The Minister is furious that mere chance has ruined the operation. 'Merest chance that a prison governor hadn't time to do the Times crossword. Under what ministerial banner does overcrowding in prison parade itself?' Stafford has an idea that Ridge will now want revenge – and if he won't tell them where the bottle is, he can lead them...

Stafford briefs Prison Officer Clark and the Governor. The plan is to give Ridge every opportunity to escape. Ridge must be told that he is being taken from the prison to elsewhere...

Ridge is standing at the table in the interview room. Stafford enters, and asks him if he is ready for treatment? 'You'll never find it,' says Ridge. 'Because you' can't see... what's... under... your... noses.' He collapses onto the table. Stafford is horrified. Ridge has cut his left wrist. Stafford tells clark to get help and then uses his tie and a fountain pen to make a tourniquet to try and save his life.

Quist and Anne are driving to the prison, Ridge is too weak too move. He actually bit through his radial artery. 'How deranged do you have to be to do that?'

Under your noses. Under protest, the Minister agrees to search his own office!

Stafford thinks the last phial is in the Doomwatch offices, as Bradley tells Quist over the phone. Stafford is now searching Barbara's desk. Bradley has a sudden idea. Stafford encourages him and explains what the bottle of anthrax would look like. The deodorant – with a roll on top! Stafford agrees. 'That's it! Lightning never strikes twice! And it would be safe in the squirrel's hoard!' They run through where she lives, her clothes, and gets men to Ealing Broadway station. Quist arrives as the activity progresses. She left twenty minutes ago. Quist goes to the radio room with him, leaving a startled Colin. 'Oh 'eck!'

It is rush hour and Barbara is on the tube going west. Barbara is being pushed and pummelled mercilessly on that over crowded train and her bag gets knocked about! The journey gets hotter...
Two policemen boarding at Holland Park miss spotting Barbara as a middle aged lecher prods her backside on the pretence of offering her his seat.

Quist has suggestions but Stafford has already thought of them. Bradley reckons that they wouldn't have thought of Barbara as the carrier because Ridge had already used her for the label.

Barbara uses the deodorant on her hot hands, having dropped it on the train...

Bradley and Quist see the enormity of the problem. Stafford summarises. 'Gentlemen, we're lucky or we're dead.'

At Ealing, Barbara is finally located. The police try to explain without causing panic. The police don't know the anthrax story but do know it is something dangerous – and Barbara has used it.

At the Radio room, Stafford orders a decontamination squad from West Central.

A police car pulls up outside a small chemist shop in Holborn.

Colin remembers Barbara needing a refill...

The Chemist is grumpy. 'How was I to know?' Barbara had asked for a refill and thrown away the old one she gave him – in the yard in an enormous pile of rubbish!

Stafford prepares to get down to the Chemists, quickly thanking Quist for his help.

Duncan tells the delighted Minister that the last phial has been recovered from the chemist's shop. 'Nothing like this is ever to happen again. The time has come, Duncan to wield the shears... to clip Doomwatch's wings.'

Quist visits Ridge in the prison hospital ward. Anne is there and tells him that he'll live, but recovery is another matter. He's in a catatonic stuper. But Quist wants to try and talk to him. He softly calls his name twice, and Ridge's eyes open, half closed and blink... 'We'll do all we can. You can depend on it.' Ridge tries to speak. 'Goodbye. Goodbye.'


Synopsis by Michael Seely

John Ridge is the Unabomber! Twenty years early! The Unabomber was the nickname for Dr. Theodore Kaczynski who was a former assistant professor of mathematics. In 1971, he retired to an isolated area in the United States where he wanted to be self-sufficient and became a veritable recluse, and saw the wilderness around him being eaten up by new developments. He was a proto-environmentalist, and started a one man terrorist campaign, sending letter bombs to universities (hence his nick name). For nearly twenty years he waged his private war on those he blamed for technological disasters. He killed at least three people. He tried to bomb an airliner, which made him a target for the FBI. He offered to stop providing a newspaper such as The Washington Post published his manifesto entitled Industrial Society and its Future. This 35,000 word essay was published. I remember at the time how people were surprised it was not some lunatic rambling but a coherent article. It proved to be his undoing – his style was recognised by his brother, with whom he had had a rift.

John Ridge, a man who killed three people for the State, wants six articles published in six different newspapers in six different countries. The plethora of Biblical references in the script doesn't make too hard a decoding session. The story title comes from the book of Revelations as does Ridge's voice overs at the beginning. Ridge has often showed signs of a religious side, from as early as Friday's Child. His motivation – to wake up the world to its doom and force governments to act against further technological disaster. Ridge displays a touching faith in the power of legislation...
Once again, the issue is about who pays? We pay – it's our money or our life!
At the end of Public Enemy, Quists warns the people of Carlingham – and us, the audience, that we have only thirty years left of slow, dirty dying. Ridge was not there to hear it, but he was probably told about it. And it must have sunk in!

The feeling of it being too late to 'save the world was not an uncommon theme amongst environmentalists at the time. The television review Ridge quotes from was presumably from the 1971 BBC2 documentary 'Tomorrow has been cancelled due to lack of interest.' Here, predictions of ecological disaster made by certain scientists are investigated such as Professor Paul Ehrilch of Stanford University. He will get a name check in a later episode. Ridge sends the decoy anthrax to Rachel Carson. She is author of Silent Spring and an early proto-Quist as we discuss in the Train and Detrain review.

Is Ridge really prepared to kill millions? He describes how he once killed three men for the State, and he has met Stafford before, over an incident with a girl who is deported and killed at home. No other details are ever forthcoming, but it does sound suspiciously like the last episode of Special Branch when it was a video taped drama. Indeed, Derren Nesbitt plays a very Ridge like policeman.

Thus the issues in Doomwatch have become broader. There is a threat here, from anthrax, a more souped up version, admittedly, but not from a sloppy lab or an unethical company. It comes from the pent up frustration Ridge has felt in the past two or three years of not being to make change fast enough or to get the broader public to see. Three episodes later and Ridge's mania is given a proper diagnosis, but Quist, and even the Minister feel sympathy for his motives, if not his methods.

The episode has to introduce three new characters to the regular Doomwatch line up, write out Ridge from a permanent status and set the seeds for Doomwatch's fall and eventual rise before it's not quite business as usual.. But in doing so, the series begins the slow decline of Quist from the leading, moral force of the programme, to something more quieter, comfortable, and far more establishment figure. The Minister and Stafford dominate the script, Quist can just react, take some advice from Anne Tarrant (so they did begin a relationship after all!) and pace up and down. In this episode, he can see the beginning of the end for Doomwatch. And so can we.

The programme is no longer a scientific detective show that Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis devised in order to show the technological and scientific nightmare threatening the people and the planet. It has now become a programme of debates about ethics, the dangers foreseen and discussed, the threats broad and well known. Plastic eating viruses, cannibal rats, supersonic killers, are things of the past. Doomwatch no longer has to find a cause for menace, it is presented to them from the start! Conventional methods apply. Ridge is replaced by Stafford – a chemist by a police man. Fay Chantry is replaced by Dr. Anne Tarrant – a nurse and a biologist by a psychiatrist. Geoff is replaced by.... well, thankfully, he isn't – unless you see the Minister as a heart throb who smokes a lot.

Reading the script you can suddenly understand Kit Pedler's point that the episode was akin to the police series Softly, Softly. There is no scientific mystery to solve, it is simply a glorified police case with a lot of broad-ranging environmental or ecological statements thrown in. It is a job for Special Branch in which Doomwatch looks in.

By the end of the episode, Ridge could easily have been written out – or simply die. Instead, his character will be allowed to deteriorate where he becomes almost a fool, whose opinions are mocked or sneered at. But his attempted suicide is shocking. I always imagined the last shot of the episode would be ridge, alone in his cell, breaking down and crying with frustration with having his schemes foiled, or the realisation he had tried to do. There is no Fay Chantry or Geoff Hardcastle. Their absence will be explained in the next episode. Barbara Mason gets a bit more to do than usual including some nice location scenes (presumably!). Promotion – and a character – is on its way for our office squirrel!

So what do we make of this episode? It is a gripping piece of drama, without doubt. Terence Dudley is a master script writer. For those who only know his Doctor Who work, he is often dismissed. But Four To Doomsday is a very clever and literate script about individualism and society. He is a master at structure and introducing elements subtly. We are given clues about where the London tube of anthrax is kept from the start with Ridge sitting on her desk. Although the script only describes this in a line, we can safely presume it is the Radio Times cover of Ridge clutching the anthrax. The Minister is finally given a name and we see that Anne and Quist are in a relationship. We don't learn of their marriage till episode four.

One regrets that Ridge hands himself over so early (to a young Jonathan Pryce it seems!) to the police. You could imagine him as a survivalist, communicating his demands before getting corner and captured. But the episode sets the scene for how Doomwatch has been redeveloped. Its seeds are in the Dudley/Worth scripts of the second series, and of episodes like Public Enemy. Doomwatch is being grounded in reality and fantasy has been ejected. The fools and rogues are out.

And Doctor Who gets mentioned!

Review by Michael Seely


Terence Dudley received permission to script the series opener on the 4th May 1971 on a form called Contributions to programmes outside normal duties. “Reason for use of Contribution: 'Because of his particular involvement with, & knowledge of the series, to write a script for the 1st episode in the new series, providing necessary continuity, the writing out of one of the main characters, establishment of a replacement and restatement of the themes of the series.” It is approved by
Andrew Osborne.

On the 7th July 1971 A memo was sent to Martin Worth. “Terms have been agreed as follows. Title: DOOMWATCH – at present untitled. Basic fee: £625 @ “Please let me have details of delivery and acceptance in due course.' Ben Travers. Head of copyright.

A few days after the recording Project Number: 02241/0475, Terence Dudley tells Martin Worth that “Fire and Brimstone came out a treat.”

Audience Research Report
18th July 1972

Size of audience
It is estimated that the audience for this broadcast was 13.4% of the United Kingdom population. Programmes on BBC2 and ITV at the same time were seen by 2.1% and 20.9% (average)

Reaction Profile
(based on 216 questionnaires completed by 16% of the Viewing Panel).
Viewers were asked to rate the broadcast on four dimensions defined by pairs of adjectives or descriptive phrases. Their selection of one of five scale positions between each pair resulted in the following reaction profile

Thoroughly entertaining 33%    30%    21%    10%    6%    Very Boring
Very easy to understand    38%    35%    17%    7%    3%    Very difficult to understand
Excellent plot    37%    23%    15%    14%    11%    Poor plot
Definitely out-of-the-ordinary    39%    25%    18%    7%    11%    Just ordinary

Although widespread pleasure was expressed at the return of a favourite series, it was clear that, for a sizeable number, this particular episode failed to come up to expectation. The main cause of disappointment was aparrently a far-fetched and over-dramatised story which struck several as 'more like a common-or-garden thriller on the "mad scientist" theme' than the fictional but realistic treatment of serious current problems which they had come to expect from Doomwatch. The complaint was not so much that the actions of John Ridge in holding the world to ransom with phials of deadly anthrax was quite out of keeping with his character as built-up from the beginning of the series (which could have been a result of his illness) but that no real attempt was made to explain the events or make them seem more realistic, with the result that the episode was totally lacking in that 'it could happen here' feeling which had made the previous series so riveting. 'Not a patch on the last series': 'first Toby was blown up and now John has gone off his head; are you trying to kill off all the characters?'; 'I was so looking forward to this, but what a let-down!' were typical comments from this group, several of whom felt that Doomwatch had completely drifted away from the original concept of the series.

Nevertheless, a substantial number of reporting viewers were clearly delighted with an enjoyable and exciting opening episode which kept them on the edge of their seats. The topical theme of concern at Man's pollution of his environment was in the Doomwatch tradition; the suspense was well maintained, especially in the tube-train sequence, when it was thought that Barbara might be carrying one of the deadly phials, and, in their opinion, the series had got off to a good start.

There was a little criticism of 'over-acting', especially from Simon Oates as John Ridge, but several reporting listeners felt the part he was called upon to portray this week was so exaggerated as to be almost impossible to play in a natural or realistic way. Most, in fact, thought him very good - 'giving, in the circumstances, a commendably convincing impression of desperation' - and the rest of the cast were generally commended, John Paul (Dr. Quist) and John Barron (the Minister) being singled out for special mention. It was occasionally said that the dialogue was inaudible at times, while the use of music during Ridge's 'outbursts' was 'rather corny', in the opinion of one or two, but most considered the production entirely satisfactory, and there was a special word of praise for the camera work.

83% of the sample watched the whole programme, 10% came in in the middle, 4% only tried a bit and 3% switched off before the end.


Dr. Spencer Quist

Dr. John Ridge

Dr. Anne Tarrant

Commander Neil Stafford

The Minister (Sir George Holroyd)

Colin Bradley

Barbara Mason

Richard Duncan

Dr. Richard Poole





Police Sergeant

Police Constables

Prison Officer Clarke

Prisoner Warren

Radio Operator

Extras (Uncredited)

Prison Governer

Newspaper Men

Detective Constables

Police Constables

Woman P.C.

Male Civil Servant


Female Civil Servant

Prison Officer


Series Originated by

Script Consultant

Theme music by



Film Cameraman

Sound Recordist

Film Editor

Studio Lighting

Studio Sound


Assistant to Producer

Produced and directed by

Uncredited Crew





Sound Supervisor


Vision Mixer

Grams Op

Floor Assistant

(1st) 7th February 1972 & 8th February 1972
Camera Rehearsal (TK35)

10/2/72 Between 1.30 -5.30

5th June, 1972
9.20pm - 10.15pm

Recording Number: VTC/6HT/76772
Production Crew: 1
* Actors appearon Film Only

From The Radio Times dated 1st June 1972
With thanks to Tony Darbyshire and John Archbold for supplying a copy of this. All text retyped by Scott Burditt.

Doomwatch, Monday 9.20 BBC1 Colour
Cover story

Doomwatch is back - but what on earth has happened to Ridge?
Here Gordon Burn talks to the cast about environmental problems.

Does Quist give a damn?

FOUR O'CLOCK on a miserable out-of-season Saturday afternoon in Callander, a one-street market town buried high in the Trossachs, and a pale blue family saloon has swung off the road and wrapped itself around a lamp-post. Desperately, witnesses are trying to wrench the driver out of his seat: his head is where the windscreen should have been and his features have been obliterated by blood, oozing relentlessly. And trafficwise, for this part of Perthshire, it has been a slack day.

'It's the machines themselves I hate'

For Liz Weaver, in Scotland for a week on location, it's the kind of scene that lends weight to her worst fears. She hates the motor car, she says with an almost fanatical loathing, and if she had her way the things would be abolished.

'It's the machines themselves I hate, not so much the pollution from their exhausts although, God knows, that's bad enough. Cars are incredibly ugly things and its getting to the stage where they're blocking everywhere.'

Close-by John Paul (Dr Quist) was saying nothing and getting redder by the minute. Eventually he raised his eyes slowly from the floor, focused them on Mrs Weaver and let his irritation surface. His car, it turns out, is one of his best friends and, no matter what it might be doing to the atmosphere, he insists that he'd be lost without it. 'I'm basically as an anti-social old so-and-so and I depend on my car a lot for my freedom. It's marvellous being able to hop in whenever you like and go straight to wherever you want to go. I certainly would have no truck with some official who wanted to step in and curb my personal freedom.'

The two of them had been filming all day, out in the rain in the mountains up around Loch Katrine, near Callander.

Although there was a tourist shop, a car park and a splattering of visitors, unauthorised vehicles weren't allowed within 100 yards of the water. As a large sign said, this was Glasgow's water supply, so be careful. 'Do not drop litter or throw coins or...' They told us when we came to be careful not to pee in there, but all day there was a motor-boat chugging backwards and forwards, poring oil into the water.'

John Paul lives in the country himself, in a small village outside Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, and has done for about the past ten years. In the beginning, he says he left London because with a large family it was cheaper. Now, of course, he realises that there are a lot more advantages: no noise, no smog, no rush.

'Those chimneys puking poison'

Although Paul insists that he's first and foremost an actor, not a scientist, and that being involved with Doomwatch has done nothing much for his social conscience, he says what he does hate is all that industrial pollution 'You know, those tall chimneys all over the country puking poison at all hours. Still, you can't really blame the industrialists.

'I was brought up in a business family myself and its only natural that people should make use of all the resources available to earn money, so long as you stay within the law.

Ultimately, you see, it must be the government's fault. If they don't pass laws preventing people from destroying things, they can't grumble when people go ahead and do just that.'

'It's an enormous problem.' Simon Oates was agreeing, then he thought about it a bit, and changed his mind. 'Um, well, no, I suppose it's not such an enormous problem. You could deal with it at a stroke. if it's possible to pass a law about Northern Island in a day, then it's possible to pass laws about pollution in a day. But to say that we should go on destroying the earth simply because the law says we can is, I think a terribly cynical kind of outlook.'

'You see, the lobby groups are so strong. There are always bodies of people who are financially involved. There are people who make cigarettes, there are people who make petrol, there are the car manufacturers and the people who make non-destructable cartons - and all these people can employ somebody with no real moral sensibilities, somebody who honestly believes nothing's going to happen, to put forward their point of view.

'It's not for us, it's two generations' time'

You know; the cigarette manufacturers minimise the cancer problem, the petrol manufacturers minimise the lead-additive problem. In any given situation there's always somebody who will argue that you should beat children, for example, or that you ought to hunt foxes or shoot birds.

'There's always somebody to say, agh, there's too many of them. And the trouble is, there's always somebody else willing to believe. In a matter of choice, cigarettes for instance, people go to destruction their own way; that's up to them and I'd abhor interference in free choice. But when it's a case of national survival, I care.

It should be a crime for a car to spew into the air what it does spew. It should be a crime to do that, and to do a number of things that seem innocuous because…well, because it’s not use, d’you know what I mean? It’s two generations’ time. You stop somebody walking down Bond Street and ask them if they know what the petrol fumes are doing. They won’t give a damn. It’s a vicious circle you see.’

Three years ago Oates was interested – vaguely – but uncommitted. His information was sketchy and his awareness dulled. ‘Basically speaking, I suppose, when Doomwatch started I had no idea of the problems of pollution. I didn’t know quite what was going on. But if you do 13 50-minute programmes, each one of which is devoted to some aspect of ecological disaster, then you have to become more aware of the problems as they are; you realize more and more – and I’ve said this before – that in about 50 years it’s going to be too late unless something’s done about it immediately.

‘It doesn’t matter how intelligent people are’

‘The levels of safety for civilization are really frighteningly small – I mean real death and destruction, apart from anything else. What one nation might do to another nation by mistake. It has to be realized, I think, and it’s part of what we’re trying to say in this first episode, that it doesn’t matter how level-headed or how seemingly intelligent people are, there is always the possible situation where someone can…can lose control, go round the twist if you like. Unless you can guarantee that three or four people in a chain of command aren’t going to be affected at the same time, then…

‘We’re lucky in a sense, because what started as a job, an actor’s job in a series, has become, for some of us, something much more. It’s an opportunity to make a meaningful statement, to push home a point, to tackle the pressure groups. I mean, what can a man in the street do? How can he say: all right, I’ll stop them putting lead in petrol, I’ll start a campaign? It’s not a question of lethargy: he’s got neither the time nor the money. It’s up to newspapers, the magazines and programmes like Doomwatch.’

Insets: ‘Cars are incredibly ugly things and it’s getting to the stage where they’re blocking everywhere.’ Says Liz weaver, Doomwatch’s Doctor Anne Tarrant. ‘I’m absolutely certain some form of free transport system, possibly one run on electricity, could be devised by somebody’

Insets: ‘What’s more important, cutting an hour off a journey or pouring stinking fumes into the atmosphere?’ asks Simon Oates, Doomwatch’s Dr John Ridge, pictured here on the edge of the future £1million-a-mile M3 motorway that will skirt the picturesque village of Thorpe, in Surrey. ‘If only the train systems were organized properly, motorways like this would become redundant.’ Says Oates.

With thanks to John Archbold for the colour Radio Times articles and listings.

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