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SEASON 2 EPISODE 5 BY THE PRICKING OF MY THUMBS by Robin Chapman


'I'ts ironic really, that images as beautiful as these should come from the blood of violent men'

A school chemistry lab and some unsupervised senior students, MacPherson and Jenkins are preparing a prank on one of their own... However, a friend of theirs, a very tall boy called Stephen Franklin is worried if they have calculated the amount that the others are pouring into a test tube... Paignton, a rather obnoxious Billy Bunter type victim of the prank gets a face full of test tube fragments and scalding liquid as it explodes in his face. The boys watch in horror as Paignton screams and screams and screams.

TITLES

'I've forgotten how beautiful chromosomes were,' reflects Fay Chantry in the Doomwatch lab. She is watching some cine film of the things, with Professor Ensor. He is absolutely convinced that you can detect the dance of destiny in these patterns from blood. 'It is ironic that images as beautiful as these should come from the blood of violent men.'

The Headmaster, Botting, details the injuries suffered by Paignton to the three boys. 'First degree burns, he may lose the sight in his left eye. ' He tries to find out who was actually responsible for the business but they remain silent.

Quist enters the Doomwatch lab, unhappy with the amount of time Fay Chantry is assisting Ensor. It is quite obvious that Quist does not approve of Ensor's theories. 'Only yesterday I was reading an article by a colleague of yours, Ensor, in The Lancet. Once again he cast grave and honest doubt on the theory that the extra Y chromosome predisposes one to criminal behaviour.' Ensor responds that he had obviously researched less than he has. 'I look forward to all doubts being quelled by my work here.' After Quist leaves, Ensor prepares to return to the School. Fay asks if she can look at one of his personality tests but refuses to fill it in! It is designed for children up to 15 plus. Ensor asks Fay if she could placate Doctor Quist but she says not to worry, after all, the Minister has sponsored his work here.

Botting dismisses the boys with a threat that if they don't break their wall of silence, they will all be expelled. He afterwards discusses the affair with Tom Avery, their senior chemistry tutor who is disappointed that the boys betrayed his trust. They had been trying to encourage a university type atmosphere in the school as an experiment in treating them as adults. 'Principles are not negated by betrayals or accidents.' Botting thinks one of them lead the other two boys, but which one? Botting thinks Franklin, he never cooperated. Avery thinks its Jenkins. He's always had it in for Paignton. Ensor enters. Ensor is doing a survey for the Berwick Institute of Juvenile Criminality, using the children at this school as controls. Avery goes to meet Paignton's parents as Botting discusses the case with Ensor and tells them their names. But the name Stephen Franklin rings bells with the Professor. He looks at some notes – the dates would tally. Franklin was an adopted boy, the tallest boy even then at the age of ten. Botting is surprised he knows of Franklin. 'My job is recording abnormality.'

Franklin has a hard time explaining the business to his father, a journalist called Oscar and his adopted mother Mary. He tries to explain why he didn't report Jenkins for what he did. 'A boy nearly blinded and he didn't stick up for himself?' His adopted sister Kate had heard of the business as well. Rumours have spread around the school. She thinks Jenkins did it. Everybody in her class hates Jenkins.

The next day Jenkins and the quieter MacPherson receive their punishment: 'A lousy essay!' “Environment versus Hereditary, discuss.”' But when it is Stephen Franklin's turn, he discovers Botting has a visitor – Ensor.

Oscar Franklin is furious: the other boys got essays, Stephen has been expelled, Even Franklin is worried he could have stopped the 'joke', could have warned them. Botting had also attacked Stephen for not taking a bigger enough part in the school. Oscar feels he could blow this story wide open, and knows three editors who'd love this story. Then Stephen remembers Botting mentioned his height, and that he was adopted at the age of eight. Stephen breaks down, and his mother, Mary asks what the name of the essay – it suggests that he has bad blood! 'But what if there is?' worries Stephen. Judy comes home having heard, but is bustled out whilst father and adopted son talk. Stephen remembers another man being there, a man who kept looking at him. 'As if I seen him somewhere before. I began to feel like a specimen or something...'

Fay is taking more photographs from a microscope of slide blood specimens as Ridge enters, 'Good 'orrible morning, Fay. Superman in yet?' Fay is a little unimpressed with Ridge's implied boast of his latest conquest. They talk about the situation between Quist and Ensor and Fay is feeling the pressure. Ridge is not surprised. 'Ah well, he's under pressure too. Y'see the Min of Ag and Fish are ringing up asking why all their senior secretaries have the DTs? It's the red tape giving off a subtle nerve gas we suspect.' Fay tells him off for fiddling with the microscope and then he reads one of Ensor's psychological profiles and too late before realising Fay has been filling it in, admitting she feels lonely. 'Are you working towards telling me something?' she asks. He asks her where the DNAsamples she has been analysing comes from? She says from prisoners at Parkhurst and Broadmoor. Ridge tells her that these samples were taken from children. Under twelve. Fay is shocked but tries to justify testing Ensor's theory. 'Or to act upon it before it has been proved?' 'Don't be absurd, who'd want to do that?'

Oscar tries to defend his son to Botting the next day but gets nowhere. It is quite clear that Botting seems to know something that Oscar doesn't. He believes Stephen to have inherited something from his real father. Botting has a recommendation for a special needs school! Botting will not put the other children at risk from a boy with the extra Y chromosome.

Stephen, meanwhile, has found articles written by his foster father on the extra Y chromosome, that these people, almost always above average height and violent,

Botting refuses to divulge the source of his information and is confident he can justify his actions. This is when Franklin decides to go to Doomwatch.

Distressed, Stephen packs a bag and finds his passport. He tells his mother that he is going to the library.

Fay challenges Ensor. 'You believe that everyone should be screened for the extra Y abnormality.' Ensor agrees, every male, certainly at birth. 'But what about the normal XY criminal? Well, the majority had normal chromosomes in your prison sample...' You can't see any abnormality there, but for Ensor this is a reason to check what they can see. Those detected he feels should be given supervision. 'You wouldn't have begun to put that conviction into practise, would you?' She knows about Dale Heath Grammar School but he doesn't answer her question - if he would put his theory into practise at the school. Ensor begins to get cross but Barbara Mason walking through the lab calms the air for a moment. 'Now you have put me in a difficult position, Doctor Chantry.' 'Have you put me in one?'

Barbara tells Quist that a man has been waiting for over an hour and still insists on seeing Quist. 'I do not meet the popular press in any form.' It seems he gained access officially and apologises for that but it is a personal matter. Quist relents and agrees to see him for two minutes. 'But warn him, Barbara, I am not Nostradamus.'

She does not value less the work but Fay is angry that Ensor deceived her deliberately. He says it is not a matter of deceit but of scientific research.

Oscar Franklin is shown in to Quist's office. Quist thinks Oscar is a gross simplifier of matters scientific. 'Well you have to modify it for the general public.' 'To the point of misinformation?' 'Hold on, Doctor, I've always given Doomwatch a good press.' 'For which I must be grateful, you assume.' He tells Quist about his 17 year old adopted son being expelled from Dale Heath Grammar School for quasi-biological psycho-genetic reasons. Quist is not interested in the case that the extra Y chromosome does not necessarily preclude violence in a man. He asks Barbara to bring in articles from 1965 learned – and unlearned – on the extra Y chromosome. 'The head has simply taken the crude popular view...'

Stephen leaves a post office and collides into a furious old woman!

Quist thinks he should take it up with the Minister of Education. And they had referred him back to the local divisional office. Quist thinks Oscar Franklin only has himself to blame for the way the school has reacted. His articles has helped spread this myth of violent tendencies. 'This was the correct view of the time, five years ago.' 'An aspect you seized on professionally. And now your son is the victim of your scaremongering.' Franklin tries to threaten Quist, that he knows there are certain government departments howling for his blood. Quist is not impressed. 'As I said, you may have a genuine case, and if you have, I'll back you, damn you, despite you. But you can't expect me to relish your easing your way in here begging for help in one hand and attempting to twist my arm with the other. Write your damned article, may help your son, who knows? But whatever you say won't touch Doomwatch.' As Ridge enters, Quist tries to dismiss Franklin, by whose admission his son is going to the Batterford Clinic. 'That's as good as a mental home.' Quist has had enough. Franklin leaves declaiming dark threats. Ridge then gets an outburst from Quist when he tells him that the Minister is considering a request. Quist calms down and apologises. Franklin had rankled him. Ridge asks about Franklin's problems and tells Quist that the school Ensor is experimenting in is the same one as from which Franklin's son has been expelled... And the samples from the school have been analysed here – not just prison samples. The children were the juniors. Quist asks how he knows all this? 'Rather sordidly really, I chatted up the bird wot brought the blood samples.' The staff at the school are beginning to feel the pinch but Ensor is backed heavily by the Head. 'Ensor assured me that his work was purely theoretical. It was on that condition that I granted him lab time and Fay's assistance. He said himself that his work so far was too tentative to warrant practise.' Franklin's son is XYY and is 17, so how does Ensor know about him? Quist goes to fetch Ensor but the lab is empty of him and Fay. Ridge thinks they may have had an argument... Quist asks Ridge to take his enquiries into the school. Quist wants to be absolutely sure of his ground with Ensor.

Meanwhile, Stephen Franklin is at a waiting room...

Geoff Hardcastle is busy with mundane work on behalf of Fay, cutting up pictures of the 46 or 47 chromosomes, putting them into a bag and attaching it to a picture of the whole 46 or47 chromosomes. The ones with the 47 chromosomes is marked in red, for danger, according to Ensor. Ridge gets him to find out everything he can about Stephen Franklin and throws him his coat. 'What's keeping you?' 'Well, it's not Doomwatch, that's for sure.'

Meanwhile, Mary Franklin is getting worried about Stephen. He hasn't been to the library all day. She is worried that he might have done something... silly. She is worried about the extra Y chromosome making Stephen into a raging psychopath.

Ridge meets Jenkins and MacPherson outside the school and asks them if they have done their essays yet, which deflates Jenkins a bit. He asks how are their thumbs before realising Ensor hasn't worked his way up above the juniors. Jenkins asks if this is worth money, Ridge says it might be worth a cup of tea over in the café.

Stephen's journey reaches a train station.

Ridge watches as Jenkins and MacPherson argue over the joke that went wrong, and that Stephen couldn't have stopped Jenkins because there wasn't time. MacPherson had tried to tell Botting the truth, to set the record straight, but it made no difference, it was all over. He had made up his mind Steven was guilty. Jenkins is uncomfortable, and a little annoyed someone tried to grass.

Oscar Franklin finds trying to sell his family's tragedy to the newspapers more difficult than he expected. No one wants to buy it, or even take it for free. His wife is furious at what he is trying to do, especially his angle, a mother's agony... The doorbell rings and Geoff Hardcastle introduces himself. Mary tells him Stephen has run away.

Stephen arrives at Gatwick airport.

Geoff knows Ensor, the man Oscar Franklin thinks is a fraud. But when and where did he test Stephen? Their adopted daughter Judy comes in with a sore thumb – the nurse had taken blood samples this morning. And they had also done a questionnaire last week which they enjoyed.

As Stephen watches a plane land with a vacant expression on his face, Geoff and the family enter his room where the remains of a screwed up article on the extra Y chromosome which Oscar himself had written makes his father realise what he has contributed towards. The radio is also missing, VHF, Stephen used it to listen to air traffic control. Gatwick!

'A series of hypothesis about unhypothetical people and the statistics all implying a norm.' Quist is surveying Ensor's studies. Ridge tells him about what he had heard from the boys, and that Franklin had tried to warn them of the danger, and that one of the boys tried to tell the head master but he wouldn't listen, he had gone too far to back down. Ten years ago Ensor was working at the Eisleton Care Centre. Possible connection. Ridge tells Quist that Geoff is down with the Franklins. 'I wish him joy with the father...' Ridge is concerned that Quist seems more concerned about beating Ensor than Stephen Franklin. Quist denies that. 'To be told that you're different, you're marked, it's ineradicable because it's in your blood, how dare anyone say that to another. But Ensor has and compounds this action by lying to me.' Ridge spots Fay in the laboratory. Ensor told her that he does not act without proof, it was proved. Geoff 'phones Quist and tells him what he has learned. He speaks to Mrs Franklin and discover that Stephen was indeed at one time at the Eisleton care centre.

Stephen hears a PA announcement asking for him to go to the information desk at the entrance to the airport... As he goes down an escalator he sees the backs of two policemen and hurries back up it again, colliding with another passenger. Stephen tries to book a ticket for the Guernsey Islands,.

Fay is disgusted to learn how Ensor has got a child expelled because he had the extra Y chromosome. Ridge, surprisingly, does think that the fact remains lots of XYY men are violent. Fay disputes this. The variations are enormous. Some are subnormal, some are average intelligence, others like Stephen Franklin are very bright indeed. And these are only those studied in prisons or borstals or mental hospitals. That's where most of the work has been done to date. 'We just don't know. The extra Y's effects are just not proven.' 'Yet,' said Quist, 'the headmaster acted as if they were. That's the danger: a man educated in one sphere acting on advice, supposedly expert, acting on another.'

As Stephen Franklin is once again paged, Geoff and the family search for him. They see him and Geoff tries to chase after him. They end up outside, and a distraught Stephen begins to panic. Geoff returns to alert flight control as Stephen catches his breath underneath a plane. The police arrive and Stephen listens on his radio to air traffic control... Geoff is taken by police car onto the runway as Stephen waits for a plane to land – and kill him. Geoff tries to talk to him by a megaphone. 'I'm too tall! I want to die! I don't care!' He later says, 'It's in me! It's in my blood, don;t you see? If I had been normal, I could have stopped them.' The plane starts to land but Stephen dives, and Geoff reaches him and helps him to his feet and to safety and reunited with his family who are grateful to Geoff, but he says its Ridge they should thank. 'You brought Quist round?' asks Oscar Franklin. 'He brought himself round, his way.'

Quist is in full flight with Botting. How he deals with Stephen Franklin is his affair. He only comes into it one way: Ensor, who realises he might have acted prematurely, 'But in the light of my knowledge...' Quist interrupts, staring down at the little man. 'Your knowledge? Your knowledge that condemns a child unheard, that drives him to risk death on an airport runway at night. I surveyed your knowledge, Ensor. And I found this.' So far they have found one hundred XYY men in this country and all of those in institutions for the maladjusted. 'And you yourself say there are 45,000 cases in England. Where are they? Where? Is it possible they are leading proper, useful lives, and our assumptions of those we do know of are conditioned by the institutions in which they are found. How can we? You yet say that XY equals normal and XYY equals abnormal,' Botting says that Stephen can return to the school, but can his self confidence be restored as easily? 'We may yet be proved by you Ensor amongst others that we may be the sum total of our chemical components, but until that bleak day dawns I suggest we treat ourselves and our children as responsible even moral beings.' Ensor stares out of the window, lost for words. 

Synopsis by Michael Seely

Review

Once they used to look for the causes of criminality in the shape of people's skulls or the composition of their brains. Often in a 1950s drama or comedy, a criminal in court would plead coming from a broken home as an excuse for criminality. Nowadays, the Government want to identify potential future criminals by their family's present circumstances. It does not match that the son of a criminal will follow that route. In the 1960s, the focus turned to blood, and in particular inherited genes. Were criminals made that way? Some religious types believe so. But the discovery of the XYY abnormal chromosomal variety made some cytogenetisists very excited indeed during the 1960s where studies of tall, incarcerated criminals in institutions. First in Scotland, then across the ocean in America, studies were carried out in similar institutions and the press soon lapped up the idea of the XYY criminal – usually tall, at one time covered in acne, as a symptom, and, of course, very violent and dangerous. Some of the reportage was inaccurate and reported that mass murderer Richard Speck was an XYY man. He was not. In May 1969, cytogeneticist Mary Telfer who the previous year had published the first US reports of the tall, institutionalised XYY men and jumped to a few conclusions herself, decided that their behaviour may not be as different as from normal XY criminals. In 1970, surveys of the chromosomal make up of African-American males between the ages of 8 and 18 by the National Institute of Mental Health Centre for Studies of Crime and Delinquency was stopped by a law suit from the American civil Liberties Union who queried the lack of informed consent. which introduced For more information, try Wikipedia, which isn't as bad a source as some think, with some excellent links.

So there is the background for this week's episode. In the next series we will see criminals treated with circuits in their brains and the issue of informed consent raised there too.

The episode portrays how a flawed scientific premise, acted upon in 'good faith' can destroy lives. The flawed science, exposed in this episode as being the result of poor methodology, is then repeated in the press by, coincidentally, the foster father of the affected boy, five years earlier. This is the modern equivalent of old wives' tales. We get them every couple of years or so, for example, the scare over the MMR jab which, had concerns raised by one scientist, disputed by the government, and thus a section of the public prefer the stories in the paper rather than the government. Hardly surprising, frankly, but sad. And it is this particular journalist, whose 1965 expose of the 'syndrome' is despised – there is no other word – by Quist – who lays into him with as much ferocity, perhaps more, than he does with Ensor at the end of the episode. Quist only helps Franklin when he realises it is a stick with which to beat Ensor who he cannot stand – nor his theories. Ridge is quite right, Quist wasn't really thinking of the boy. But Quist has never claimed to be perfect.

Quite how the Head Master, (whose dislike of Stephen Franklin was allowed justification from a scientific point of view), was not sacked or at least reprimanded is any one's guess. The man would be lynched in this day and age – and rightly so. Jenkins, the real culprit of the prank, hopefully did get his comeuppance. Why on earth did Ridge give him money, and not MacArthur? One suspects an edit point here as the café scene ends abruptly. Ridge, too, seems to know the plot before the plot unravels before the Doomwatch team's eyes in his playful banter with Fay early in the episode. Why does he think Ensor was putting theory into practise before the evidence of Oscar Franklin was known? And after all that, why does he think that there is something in the XYY theory anyway?

Fay Chantry is a different character from that which we saw in her debut episode last week. She is less prim and proper, and seems to have relaxed into the Doomwatch team. But her character is given a little push, with the throwaway revelation that she is lonely, and once again she is prepared to stand up to another professional – this time Ensor. Her sense of ethics is very well rounded and she is a delight. Why she wasn't introduced earlier is lost to history – and budget. Geoff Hardcastle – remember him – only pops up towards the end of the episode to do some digging into Stephen Franklin's background and be heroic at Gatwick, although he was never trained as a Samaritan as his attempts to talk down Stephen were a little clumsy at least. But that's realistic. You have to be an all rounder at Doomwatch.

Four months before this episode was recorded in November 1970, Kenneth Royce's thriller The XYY Man, was published. This tall thief was non-violent and used by the security services.

Coincidence is pushed to breaking point this week: last week it was a lucky coincidence that a super antibiotic developed by new Doomwatch recruit Fay Chantry was needed by typhoid sufferers and then went bad on some, allowed Quist to iron out a security issue regarding her relationship with another colleague from BAP. This week, a child expelled from his school for a prank that went wrong, was targeted by the man who knew the boy in his care home some ten years earlier and was now treating the school as a survey for his XYY theory and was having his experiments studied at the Doomwatch lab where the boy's foster father went to get help. Lucky, eh? Coincidence in drama is never quite accepted even if it happens in real life. But this was pushing it a bit! Next week's medical episode – the third in a large number this series, shows how to do it with only a little coincidence.
In some ways, the episode is quite sinister, with the revelations that Ensor is 'working his way up the school' like a creeping menace and Stephen's discovery of what might be bad blood inside him, making him feel like he is a ticking human time bomb. The night time scenes on Gatwick Airport are quite good too. Gatwick was often the next best place for dramas to feature as an airport as Heathrow Airport (or London airport) wasn't keen on location filming. Doctor Who fans will recognise an escalator and a radar dish from 1967's The Faceless Ones. 

Review by Michael Seely

FACT FILE

Project Number: 022404419 Ep.9

Artists booked for Project Number: 02240/4419 for 6th November 1970 on 14th October 1970 - JOHN PAUL SIMON OATES JOHN NOLAN JEAN TREND VIVIEN SHERRARD

FILMING
19th October (filming) Simon Oates

STUDIO
Telerecorded on 6th of November. VTC/6HT/62929/ED

TRIVIA

The cine film being watched by Professor Ensor and Doctor Fay Chantry in the first scene following the titles of By The Pricking of My Thumb came from a series of short films called Mitosis in Endosperm of Haemanthus katherinae by Doctor Andrew Bajer (b. 1928) of the University of Oregon who collaborated with Dr Robert D. Allen of Princeton University in 1965. The full film lasts for four minutes and 15 seconds and was an 8mm film.


BY THE PRICKING OF MY THUMBS

by Robin Chapman

Cast
 


Dr. Spencer Quist
JOHN PAUL




Dr. John Ridge
SIMON OATES



Geoff Hardcastle
JOHN NOLAN



Dr. Fay Chantry
JEAN TREND




Barbara Mason
VIVIEN SHERRARD


Botting
COLIN JEAVONS


Ensor
OLAF POOLEY



Stephen Franklin
BARRY STOKES



Judy Franklin
SALLY THOMSETT


Jenkins
MARTIN HOWELLS


MacPherson
DAVID JANSON


Painton
ROBERT YETZES
 Avery
DAVID JARRETT
Airport Policeman
PATRICK MILNER
 
 Woman shopper
JULIE MAY


Ground Hostess
PAULA SMITH


and guest stars

Oscar Franklin
BERNARD HEPTON


Mary Franklin
PATSY BYRNE

Crew

Series devised by
KIT PEDLER
and
GERRY DAVIS

Theme Music by
MAX HARRIS

Film Cameraman
MAX SAMETT

Sound Recordist
STAN NIGHTINGALE

Film Editor
CHRISTOPHER ROWLANDS

Studio Lighting
DAVE SYDENHAM

Studio Sound
JOHN HOLMES

Script Editor
GERRY DAVIS

Designer
TIM GLEESON
 
Assistant to Producer
GLYN EDWARDS
 
Producer
TERENCE DUDLEY

Directed by
ERIC HILLS

TX:
18TH JANUARY 1971
9.20PM - 10.10PM


With thanks to John Archbold for the Radio Times listing and cover.

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