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SEASON 3 OVERVIEW


There is a myth that the third season was somehow lacking in film effort, in comparison to the previous three. This is nonsense. Episodes such as Fire and Brimstone, High Mountain, Say Knife, Fat Man, Waiting For A Knighthood and Hair Trigger, Sex And Violence had a lot of film time. Without The Bomb had some filmed adverts and Deadly Dangerous Tomorrow features film. If any season lacks serious film input, it is the first - and it didn't need it to be effective!

There is also the view that it became boring, padded, waffly and lacking in threat and action. The letters pages in the Radio Times and The New Scientist suggest this as well! Well, for the latter point this is very true. The plotting is slower. There is less breaking and entering, hardly any at all! Perhaps Terence Dudley felt his approach was more three dimensional than a perceived (and I am speculating here) two dimensional good guys bad guys routines from the first.

Kit Pedler was no longer there, and replacing one scientist for ideas with another is fine. Except, Kit was alarmed. His ideas came from what was happening and how, with a little dramatic flourish, could be exaggerated into a threat to us all which Doomwatch tries to identify and stop. His fear of spare part surgery dehumanising us created the Cybermen. He exaggerates the real life problem with noise pollution and turns it into a killer. Science and technology gone bad. That fear is gone, replaced in the series, with middle class dinner party topics: ecology, pollution in the rivers, third world development, population explosions, care for the elderly... The show has become a police series in all but name, rather than the scientific detectives of the first...

Possibly the best way in understanding the development of the third series is to look at how it uses its characters, old and new.

Fay and Geoff are gone. In terms of the story it was in order to maintain their silence over the Ridge/anthrax affair (even though they are not seen or even mentioned in Fire And Brimstone). Terence Dudley replaces them with Dr. Anne Tarrant as Quist's wife, first seen in You Killed Toby Wren as the psychiatrist who helps sort out Quist. She is again played by Elizabeth Weaver. As a psychiatrist, she is only qualified to talk about people's mental conditions, such as Ridge in Fire and Brimstone, and the unfortunate Clark in Enquiry. She can contribute little else scientifically, and is hired by Doomwatch on a freelance basis. Whereas Fay was a biologist, not just a medical nurse, this means Anne would be no use in a story such as Flood, other than to mentally wipe people's brows or assess the impact on the evacuated Londoners. (Come to think of it, neither would Fay!) So she too does not appear in every episode.

Ridge is replaced by Commander Stafford, played by John Bown, who is a Special Branch man and thus is involved in the crime element of every story, can do the talking around the Services in a manner which Ridge did, but cannot contribute (again) scientifically. He is no chemist and delights in his ignorance in High Mountain in order to wind up Colin Bradley. His behaviour in Fire and Brimstone, which inadvertently causes Ridge to attempt suicide, leaves little love in the Doomwatch team for several episodes and Quist can barely look at him in High Mountain and is one of the reasons why 'Superman' (as Ridge nicknamed Quist for most of the second series) was prepared to jump ship and join industry. Stafford could dominate stories, sometimes relegating Quist to second place. His conversion - albeit partially, occurs in High Mountain where studying the effects of John Ridge, he begins to see his point about environmentalism and manoeuvres the situation to preserve a very necessary Doomwatch. He is by no means a bad character and very well played, but his character is indicative of the way the show has changed more in favour of political intrigue and towards thriller. The Killer Dolphins, for example, has Stafford go to look for clues in Italy about the possible misuse of our aquatic friends and discovers a spy instead! He is in every episode...

One positive character development in the third series is Barbara Mason. At first, our 'office squirrel' as Bradley calls her is still the general secretary of Doomwatch who inadvertently becomes a carrier of an anthrax bottle, and then feeling the gig is over in High Mountain, is suddenly promoted to being Quist's PA in Say Knife, Fat Man where she infiltrates the group of students who have the plutonium. The office duties are taken over by Susan, played by Maria O' Brien and she has even less to do than Pat Hunnisett, other than flirt with Ridge! Barbara is the voice of youth-ish in Without The Bomb and becomes a shoulder to cry on for Ridge in Cause of Death where she was supposed to go out on a date with him! She supported Ridge through his exile.

Colin Bradley is still Colin Bradley, another survivor from The Plastic Eaters. He is used quite well either as the voice of traditional values in Without The Bomb or up in an unseen helicopter in Flood monitoring NATO exercises in the North Sea. He becomes in charge of a team of scientists and at first feels a little ill at ease with them but soon is able to initiate projects such as monitoring sea pollution levels in The Killer Dolphins.

Ridge, poor Ridge. Lead poisoning leads him to blackmail the world into dealing with pollution which leads him to attempt a suicide at the end of the episode when Commander Stafford implies that they are going to either torture or pump him full of drugs in order to find that last cylinder of anthrax - which he's planted on Barbara Mason! He is almost an evangelical demagogue with bible Quotes and has memorised negative attitudes towards the doom sayers from TV reviewers in The Daily Mail! His recovery in Waiting For A Knighthood is marred only to discover his landlady is using his flat to hold hostage a small child. In Flood we discover he has taken a chemist's job with a relief agency and sees India as a place needing DDT to fight malaria and that the third world should have all the advantages we have, but use them better. The rest of the episode is spent with Quist trying to show him that interfering with the Third World is something we shouldn't do, although he agrees with the use of DDT to fight malaria, and he becomes something of a comedy figure. At the end of the episode, Ridge has vanished, not particularly wanting Quist's help in finding another job. His final, traumatic appearance centres around his father's final illness and eventual death. He is at first horrified by the idea of assisted euthanasia, and wants to take his father away from the clinic his sister had put their father in. By the end of the episode, he has almost come round to the idea, having seen at first hand the horrors of an over-crowded, inhumane geriatrics ward. By then it is too late. his father has died from natural causes. Whether he took up the job offer Quist had found for him we don't know. Incidentally, his brother in law is played by Nicholas Courtney, Doctor Who's Brigadier and married to Ridge's sister who is played by the actress who played Miss Wills, the Minister's secretary in the previous two seasons!

Miss Wills fans will be pleased to hear she is name checked several times but never seen. The minister, Sir George Hollroyd who is firmly in the control seat. He does have sympathies with the aims of Doomwatch, even a sneaking understanding of Ridge's actions. He is given the chance to clip its wings after Fire And Brimstone, and refuses to accept Quist's resignation in High Mountain, wanting the heat to die down before turning Doomwatch into a simple monitoring outfit. However, when Stafford leaks the story to the French, the Minister has no choice but to strengthen Doomwatch - doubles its budget, new premises, more staff, etc... He features heavily in episodes like Waiting For A Knighthood and Without The Bomb - where we discover sex was never his prime motivation, and we meet his flirtatious wife whom he adores, played by Katherine Kath, who you may recall from The Prisoner's AB & C episode. He will send Doomwatch on investigations, such as Flood and Enquiry, occasionally be frustrated by their investigations, such as Hair Trigger, or calls them in for advice such as Say Knife, Fat Man. But as a thorn in their side, not much... In Flood, he needs them to provide evidence for his use in Cabinet without being able to tell them what it is he is trying to prevent; and in The Killer Dolphins he is leaned on to prevent any investigation going into sensitive areas. He fights their corner in Cause of Death. He points out how things have changed - once Doomwatch was exceptional, now, three years on, it is accepted as a norm. Doomwatch no longer has to fight its way to the truth. Enquiry is about their enquiry into the activities at an army weapons research station. They were asked to do it, they didn't have to twist anyone's arm. Doomwatch is establishment now!

So where does this leave Quist, the Man of the Year in Survival Code? After three years, he has had his views changed. His fight is still there, but he is softened. He feels they have been a success, but the character does not have the bite it once had. He is almost second fiddle to the Minister and bamboozled and confused by Stafford at times. Perhaps domesticity is calming him down, married to Dr. Anne Tarrant... He even takes a few days off during The Cause of Death, owing to a cold. It is only really in The Killer Dolphins we see the fighter in him, trying to understand why dolphins are attacking people. The Killer Dolphins shows how an Italian marine biologist wants to set up an Italian Doomwatch. Did the Americans create theirs after Flight Into Yesterday?

So, with the replacement of a chemist with a special branch officer, and a biologist with a psychiatrist, the stories have shifted in a direction that the second season was indicating. There are few threats to ordinary people created by bad practises, rogue companies or advance science in a hurry. An irritating soap powder is not the centre of High Mountain, and the contraceptive lipstick with an aphrodisiac is simply a catalyst for a wider debate about population control. Implanting chips in the brains of psychotic killers only becomes a danger when it goes wrong. This sounds more traditional as a story, but whereas this happens at the end, in the first series, Beavis would have had already escaped, leading Doomwatch to investigate what happened... There are some stories where Doomwatch needn't get involved at all! What use is the team in Say Knife, Fat Man, Waiting For A Knighthood, Sex and Violence or Deadly Dangerous Tomorrow? They simply give a spot of advice to Special Branch. No wonder Kit Pedlar nor The New Scientist were impressed very much. Flood is a stand out episode as the palpable threat of flooding from unofficial underwater nuclear tests was strong. Enquiry was a study in how a scientist could no longer cope with the ethics of his work.

The plausible science fiction was out. Doomwatch was no longer investigating mysterious deaths and circumstances and stumbling across an abuse of science, fighting to get official notice. Social comment was in.

As to the vexed question of whether it is any good or not, difficult to say with only three out of eleven episodes surviving. The scripts are very readable, and in some cases, sing out to you.

Overview written by Michael Seely


FACT FILE:

Work in preparing the third season occurred before August 1971 with Terence Dudley being cleared to author his own stories. However, due to a strike, production was delayed. Quite what this strike was and whether the series was due to record from August (as per the second series) or November (as per the first) is not clearly known.

The third season was recorded in the following order:

Fire and Brimstone - Tuesday 8th February
The Killer Dolphins - Friday 18th February
Hair Trigger - Tuesday 29th February
Say Knife, Fat Man - Friday 10th March
Flood - Friday 31st March
Sex and Violence
Without The bomb - Friday 21st March
High Mountain - Tuesday 2nd May
Enquiry - Friday 12th May
Deadly Dangerous Tomorrow - Tuesday 23rd May
Cause of Death - Friday 2nd June
Waiting For a Knighthood - Tuesday 13th June

A thirteenth episode, The Devil's Demolition was never made.
The scientific script consultant on the series was Anna Kaliski.

Quote from Martin Worth, interviewed in TIME SCREEN issue 14.

"She'd been working for Terence Dudley as a researcher and a consultant, and so that he didn't have to have a script editor foisted on him he gave her that post. She was a good researcher and often came up with fascinating scientific papers we could make good use of."

Simon Oates did not want to reprise his role as Ridge but was persuaded to do four of the planned twelve. .
Darrol Blake, interviewed in TIME SCREEN issue 18..
"What happens in all series, if you're not careful, is that somebody comes up with an idea for a script, the story for which suggest whatever research had been done. [The writer] may create a scientist, a wife, or whatever, and somewhere along the way he must 'sew in' the regular characters. The come in and ask questions, lean on the filing cabinet, and have coffee. However, if you're not careful, that's all they do. If you've done twelve of those, you're called Simon Oates, you're six foot four and you come in, lean on a filing cabinet and ask questions, you can get rather bored. Simon became known in the papers as 'the one with the shirts' and that's something he always use to quote me. Every now and then he was given something to do, but holding the world to ransom in "Fire And Brimstone" was crude beyond belief. An actor gets tired of that and wants out, which was probably why he wasn't in much of the third season. As I remember, he didn't want to do the third series at all, but Terry [Dudley] persuaded him to do four episodes."

The series only transmitted eleven episodes when Sex And Violence was pulled from the schedules.

Quote from Martin Worth in TIME SCREEN issue 14.1991

"Although Doomwatch introduced a new word into the English language, the series eventually ended because it suddenly looked as if we'd 'done it all.' Yet these issues haven't gone away. We still live in the shadow of the bomb and there are more ecological disasters threatening us now than there ever were when we were writing Doomwatch. ... When Gerry Davis finished work on Doomwatch in England, he went over to America with the idea of setting it up there. Carl foreman was going to produce it and they were going to have Raymond Burr playing Quist. nothing came of it, but at least the attempt gave Gerry a chance to meet American writers and producers and he has been working over there ever since."

With thanks to John Archbold for the "Next week" Radio Times billing.

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