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Weatheroak Hall
'Man isn't born free. For him...the dreadful has already happened. He has to live with the nightmare, or rise above it. And natural evolution is too slow.

The episode begins with an establishing shot of the outside of Weatheroak Hall Maximum Security Medical Research Unit (Owned by The Department of Health and Social Security). The building is surrounded by a large wall covered in barbed wire and pointed glass shards.

Terry and Mr Beavis
A security camera watches over a corridor when two men approach a doorway who can be seen on a security monitor from the inside.

One of the men (Terry) presses an intercom buzzer and informs a Doctor McEwan that Mr Beavis (the other man) is now in section 3a and addresses Doctor McEwan as Sir. Doctor McEwan asks Terry to hold him until he flashes him (when he is ready).

In the room is Doctor Anne Tarrant, Doctor McEwan and Professor Alec Hetherington who apologises for all the security measures.

Dr McEwan calls Miss Abrahams on the same intercom and asks if she is ready. Dr McEwan opens a set of blinds revealing a window into which a preparation room exists.

In this room a Nurse enters with a female patient (Mrs Abrahams) and attaches a headset to her. Mrs Abrahams sits quietly and nervously as the Nurse finishes attaching wires to the headset.

Doctor McEwan explains to Doctor Tarrant that Mrs Abrahams is an acute depressive. Doctor McEwan flicks an intercom and asks Mrs Abarahams if she is ready and is informed that she is. While preparing equipment Professor Hetherington explains to Anne:-

“Electrodes are planted in the patient’s pleasure centre, in the cepstral region of the brain, by stimulating this pleasure centre we can counter act her severe states of anxiety and depression” Anne asks if this process can be self administered but

McEwan explains that the process is addictive and in the patients own words “Better than sex”

Meanwhile in the corridor Terry and the Mr Beavis approach the advanced treatment reception room. After the treatment the headset is removed and Mrs Abrahams leave the room with the nurse. Professor Hetherington cheerfully explains to Anne that Mrs Abrahams earlier records were consistent attempts at self mutilation and suicide.

Anne interrupts “But if she becomes addicted to this pleasure substitute…

McEwan “We can condition her out of that”

Anne replies.

“But you will know nothing of the original causation.”

Professor Hetherington continues

“Doctor Tarrant our brief is effective rehabilitation of the violent psychopath, If we succeed we will have established a viable, cost-effective alternative to Broadmoor.”


“And this is a pilot unit?”

Professor Hetherington

“The trouble is our statistics are so good I constantly have to apologise for them”


“Does that include readmissions?”

Professor Hetherington explains to Anne the process has no readmissions and he indicates the arrival of another patient in the preparation room to Anne

In the treatment room a Mr Beavis is greeted by Doctor McEwan and then sits down in the the same chair as Miss Abrahams while one of the assistants sets up a strobe light in front of him. Doctor McEwan explains to Mr Beavis the demonstration procedure.

“I’m going to trigger you off by inducing feta and the treatment will run its usual course, understood?

Anne asks Doctor McEwan why Mr Beavis isn’t wired up, to which Professor Hetherington replies “He doesn’t need to be.”

The process then begins as the strobe light is switched on. As the strobe light blinks faster and faster Mr Beavis suddenly looks agitated and rises quickly from his chair breathing heavily and turns to the window with Anne and the team watching in horror as he starts to bash on the sound proof window. McEwan motions to a colleague in the room surrounded by electronic equipment who then pushes a switch. Mr Beavis leans against the window looking in pain. Professor Hetherington explains to Anne who looks on confused “He’s radio controlled...”

After her visit Anne and Doctor Quist are relaxing at home. Anne puts a record of classical music on and they discuss the pros and cons of the process at Weatheroak Hall. Doctor Quist seems to agree with the process where Anne does not arguing the process creates Robots. Quist argues that all McEwan has done is simply an extension of Delgado’s classic experiment, stopping the charging bull…calming the angry chimp by remote control… Anne reminds Quist that Mr Beavis is not neither an animal or a machine and warns Quist of the dangers involved, the destruction of personality, the social implications… Anne asks Quist in all seriousness “I want something done about the whole setup at the Weatheroak institution”. Quist replies that it’s not our brief and seems uninterested. Anne is concerned about the process appearing perfect with no failures and asks him if he thinks their techniques are acceptable. Quist tells her that new methods aren’t necessarily invalid. Anne tells Quist if he wants proof she will get it. Quist is still uninterested and wants someone else to look into it. Anne sticks the boot in and asks him if he would have said the same thing had John Ridge been the patient…

The next day Professor Hetherington and Sir George Holroyd are discussing a press conference in a weeks time at Sir George’s office marking a year of achievement. Professor Hetherington is seeking ministerial approval and recognition by the establishment and a move to larger permanent unit while the treasury will welcome the cost savings by using the process if not by the methods used.

While relaxing with a drink with Sir George Professor Hetherington explains to Sir George that a high cure rate and a rapid turnover of patients keeps costs down whilst Sir George suggests providing a good public image is needed. However, Professor Hetherington is concerned about security and opposition to his work and suggests some of this comes from the depths of Whitehall. Citing a visit the day before by an attractive lady consultant psychiatrist of the civil service, who is also a part time consultant at Broadmoor. “A Doctor Anne Tarrant” Sir George knows exactly who she is…

Anne is at home, just about to leave to go to the Doomwatch office when she thinks about calling in to say she is going to Weatheroak Hall. At Doomwatch Quist is unaware of Anne’s intentions and waits for Anne to arrive. In the meantime Barbara puts through a call from Sir George. Sir George warns Quist not to interfere at Weatheroak Hall due to the sensitive nature of their work, the upcoming press conference and because of the ministerial backing the project has. Sir George doesn’t want any controversy surrounding the treatment methods used and asks Quist to tread lightly. Sir George suggests that if Anne has any further concerns she should contact him directly first and then he abruptly rings off.

Commander Neil Stafford arrives at Doomwatch with a pile of paperwork under his arm that he dumps on Barbara’s desk. Barbara reprimands him and Neil starts to set off  to file them away alphabetically when he is interrupted by Quist entering the room. Quist asks him what he knows about a Professor Hetherington. Neil doesn’t know him. Quist instructs to find out about him. Quist tells him that he runs a maximum security hospital unit at Weatheroak Hall. As Neil says he will look up all he can, Barbara passes Quist a sheet of paper from a file. “Let me save you the trouble” smirking. The fact sheet contains information on Hetherington. Quist wants to know if Barbara is psychic. Barbara said that she received the fact sheet over a month ago with an invitation to the lunch time symposium at the London society reminding Quist of his acceptance. Quist is unaware until Barbara tells him that Doctor Hetherington is the main speaker. He is speaking on Violence and the Psycopath.

Back at Weatheroak Hall Doctor Anne Tarrant is in Doctor McEwan’s office quizzing him over Mr Beavis. She tells him that she is disturbed by the method that they are treating him, although Anne doesn’t doubt its effectiveness. Doctor McEwan tells Anne that if Mr Beavis was in Broadmoor that it would be at least 5 or 10 years before they would let him go, and then he would go to another hospital and argues that he would be able to leave here inside 3 months. Anne argues that by that time he will be totally alienated by human contact. “Are you afraid he will get hooked on electronic impulses?” replies Doctor McEwan.

Anne continues to argue that Doctor McEwan is not curing him, only controlling him and Mr Beavis is a violent psychopath and could relapse at anytime because he is still sick. Doctor McEwan tells Anne that in five years he could put twenty men like Mr Beavis back into society and Anne would be lucky with one in that time and still have relapse problems.

Anne “He would be an integrated human being, not a radio controlled object.”

Doctor McEwan still tries to convince to Anne, but Anne wants to talk to Mr Beavis and finally Doctor McEwan agrees.

At the London society Quist and Professor Hetherington discuss psychiatry. Quist mentions Weatheroak Hall and they play a cat and mouse game with words sussing each other out.

Meanwhile back at Weatheroak Hall Anne and Doctor McEwan wait for Mr Beavis to arrive for an introductory meeting. Mr Michael Beavis arrives and introduced to Doctor Tarrant. Mr Beavis tells Anne is worried he is going to be examined and she reassures him thats it’s nothing physical, she is just visiting. Mr Beavis then remembers Anne from the observation room and offers to tell her about the details. He tells her he’d like to see her again tomorrow.

Meanwhile Professor Hetherington and Quist discuss the three kinds of treatment:

Psychosurgery, Electrical stimulation of the brain and bio feedback (as the Americans call it). Quist wonders what Freud would have made of it all. Showing off Hetherington thinks Freud has had his day. Quist mentions Doctor McEwans radio manipulation of violent patients. Hetherington scoffs at this and tells Quist that Doctor McEwan has nothing to do with it and the patients are controlled by computer.

Relaxing in front of the fire listening to music, Quist and Anne discuss the events do far. Quist is impressed by Hetherington’s radio control progress on a long range control system using satellite communication.

Mr Beavis chats with Doctor McEwan in his office while he takes notes. Mr Beavis is pleased his treatment is working. Doctor McEwan is concerned that not everyone is convinced by his progress meaning. Mr Beavis is upset by this news because he wants to feel he is getting better, he thins Dr Tarrant is impressed by his progress and that is why she is coming to see him the next day. He reassures himself and Doctor McEwan that he will convince her the treatment is working. Doctor McEwan tells him that Anne is more interested in his history rather than the treatment. Mr Beavis is not happy as he feels that this is none of her business. Doctor McEwan tells him that Anne needs to make her own judgement and that this will be necessary. Doctor McEwan pleads with Mr Beavis that they must convince Anne that their work is right and his treatment is a success. Doctor McEwan reminds him that he will be talking alone with Anne the next day.

Doctor McEwan speaks into an intercom and tells Terry Mr Beavis is leaving. When he has left Doctor McEwan sighs to himself looking worried.

The next day Doctor McEwan is showing Anne the equipment he uses. A machine constantly monitors each patients progress and prints a constant readout. Anne using a missile analogy asks how the cutout process works (to stop the missile exploding). Doctor McEwan explains that once theta activity starts it has to run its usual course, however just prior to normal violent action the expectancy wave build and peaks. He then walks to a set of computer banks with reel to reel tapes spinning. Doctor McEwan tells Anne that it is programmed to recognize the expectancy wave. Just before the wave peaks the computer activates a transmitter that sends the signal that calms the patient immediately. Doctor McEwan says that the machine uses an “infallible form of exterior homeostasis” in response to Anne questioning that the computer never fails to stop the violence.

Anne is concerned that the computer is taking over the natural inhibitor to violence in the brain. Doctor McEwan said is doesn’t and it just enforces them. Anne questions the underlying cause rather than just treating the effect. Doctor McEwan counters this by telling Anne that some of the problems are so deep rooted the patient would otherwise have to spend a lifetime in an institution which would be very expensive.

Doctor McEwan explains that this is the case with Mr Beavis, as he is a multiple murderer.

In the corridor Terry brings Mr Beavis to the advanced treatment reception room. Mr Beavis straightens his tie before going in. As he goes in he notices Anne arguing with Doctor McEwan through the observation room window. They notice Mr Beavis is watching and Doctor McEwan hurriedly closes the blinds on the window. Anne is not happy to interview Mr Beavis in the observation room concerned that this would just be an extension of Doctor McEwans mechanized experiement. Anne ants to talk to him in the grounds outside worried that Mr Beavis has been brainwashed which Doctor McEwan angrily refutes. Doctor McEwan realizing that this looks very unprofessional accepts Anne’s proposal.

In the grounds of Weatheroak Hall Anne walks quickly with Mr Beavis. Anne doesn’t want to question him over his treatment which throws Mr Beavis. Anne wants to know about his past instead but Mr Beavis doesn’t want to talk about it claiming it’s dead and buried and the only thing that concerns him is the here and now. Mr Beavis is uncomfortable with Anne’s questions. Undeterred Anne presses on addressing him as his first name Michael. Anne asks Michael if he ever suffers from recurring dreams, to which he says he does. Michael describes the dream to Anne. He is racing in a fast powerful car. He is in complete control and it does exactly what he wants, and before long he has passed everybody and he is way out in front… then he crashes.

In the Weatheroak observation room a scientist (Robbie) is taking careful notes of the equipment and its readings with a clipboard and reassures Doctor McEwan that all is normal.

Almost immediately Doctor McEwan then points out that something is starting to happen…

In the grounds Michael and Anne sit on a bench. Michael tells Anne that he doesn’t want to talk about his family. Anne presses on anyway and asks if he has a sister. Michael says he does, but agitated by the questioning he doesn’t know or care if she is alive. Michael goes on to angrily describe that his mother was a stupid bitch and was always trying to dominate him and was never caring. Anne asks him if being married made a difference to Michael. Michael says Janet (his wife) was just the same. Anne realizes Michael is getting agitated and apologises. She starts to get up suggesting they start walking again when Michael angrily grabs her arm claiming that he won’t talk to her and doesn’t listen. He wants her to understand that what he says matters. Michael is getting angry…

Doctor McEwan watches the readings closely and waits for the computer to kick in when it sees the expectancy wave rising fast.

Back in the grounds Michael is getting violent with Anne and she tries to escape from him. Michael starts shouting “I will kill you!” as Anne struggles desperately to release herself whilst her plea to be left alone are ignored. Michael is out of control and his ear radio control piece gets damaged.

In the control room Doctor McEwan and Robbie look at the readings very concerned.

Michael is still attacking Anne. Whilst struggling and shouting “Let go of me” Anne is thrown to the floor, but as she falls she hits her head hard against the corner of the bench they were sitting on before she collapses unconscious to the ground.

Unaware of what has happened in the grounds Doctor McEwan seems pleased with the computer results as everything appears to be back to normal but decides to go and check just in case. He puts his coat on leaves Robbie to continue to monitor the computer.

Michael looks down on Anne unconscious, suddenly upset he decides to make a run for it.

Robbie starts to notice the readings peaking sharply again. Worried, he drops his clipboard and starts to check the results closely.

As Doctor McEwan searches the grounds, he spots a body not far off near the bench and he starts running towards Anne. He quickly checks her and looks around worried, for signs of Michael Beavis.

In Doomwatch Commander Neil Stafford is on the telephone taking a message down for Doctor Quist while Barbara watches him, when Quist appears through the lift doors to the office just as he hangs up. Neil asks Barbara to try and get the Minister (Sir George) back on the phone. Neil tells Quist a patient has escaped from Weatheroak Hall after attacking a visitor. Doctor Tarrant. Quist is alarmed by this and immediately leaves. As he leaves Neil shouts after him that Sir George wants the fullest explanation.

In the grounds of Weatheroak Hall Michael is still running. He trips and falls in the forest. He hears the sound of police car sirens approaching and continues to run.

Back in Weatheroak Hall Professor Hetherington and Doctor Quist quickly make their way into the control room. Anne sits while Doctor McEwan works away. She apologises to Quist and tells him that she was alright and has just had a knock on the head. Anne explains that she got through to Michael only too well. Professor Hetherington cuts in by telling Quist that she was saved from serious assault by the computer and Doctor McEwan adds that Anne was never in any real danger and that it is Mr Beavis that has actually suffered the most damage. Quist snaps at Doctor McEwan asking him if Mr Beavis was under control to which Doctor McEwan explains that he was even after his receiver was damaged. Quist is not impressed and tells Professor Hetherington that his design standards for the receiver are not good enough, but Doctor McEwan explains that it was never designed to withstand physical assault because Anne panicked struggling to escape.

Anne apologises for being partly responsible for Michael’s escape. Professor Hetherington reassures her that Michael has nowhere to go and the police are very efficient. Doctor McEwan explains that Michael is still effectively under his control.

Michael appears to have escaped the police and comes across a house in the middle of a field. Whilst standing at a stile to the field he fiddles with the receiver behind his right ear discovering it is broken, then in frustration throws it to the ground the and runs haphazardly towards the house…

At the observation room the readings on Michael immediately stop. Doctor McEwan tells everyone that he has lost contact with Michael and now anything could happen. Doctor McEwan tells Quist that Michael isn’t just violent and he wiped out his whole family with a gun.

Michael approaches the house and hides behind a large shed at the bottom of the garden whilst he watches a woman (Emily) from the house taking her washing in from the line whilst listening to Terry Wogan on the radio. Michael makes his way round to the house using the garden wall as a cover unnoticed by Emily. He spots an open window to the house and then an open door. He makes his way in cautiously and smiles when he immediately finds a shotgun. He opens the gun to check the barrel for cartridges. The barrel is empty. He quickly finds a box of cartridges and hurriedly loads the gun.

Emily has nearly finished her work and picks up the basket and makes her way to the house just as Michael has finished loading the gun with two cartridges. Michael waits for Emily to come through the door. As she does she puts down the washing basket and immediately goes to boil the kettle and then she suddenly notices Michael in the house pointing the loaded gun towards her…

Back at Weatheroak Hall Quist is aghast to hear that Doctor McEwan allowed a stress situation to develop in order to extend his experiment in a social atmosphere. An argument insinues where Professor Hetherington and Doctor McEwan argue that the computer and the patient work together instead of the computer manipulating the user. Professor Hetherington defends the project as just another method of control like a doctor prescribing drugs to change peoples everyday activity or the voluntarly intake of alcohol, tranquilisers and caffeine affecting a persons abnormal behaviour including Doctor Tarrant’s psychoanalytic methods.

Doctor McEwan continues to argue that the process is liberation and not domination. He explains that it is the interface of brain and machine working as a two way operation. The mind using the resources of a computer to evaluate and influence its own functions and purpose. Releasing the brain of its upper primitive responsibilities giving it truly creative freedom. “A super brain?” replies Quist Doctor McEwan tells him that it’s not impossible. Anne counters this with “It’s fantasy”. Doctor McEwan  thinks that there is something beyond the conditioned reflex and that this experiment was an early step towards this. Doctor McEwan had told Michael that this was his real goal and he thinks that Michael has run away because he thinks that Doctor McEwan has failed.

Back at the house Michael takes the frightened Emily at gunpoint upstairs. She tells him that people will come here eventually. As she steps into a room, Michael keeps the gun pointed at her. She reminds him that she has given him food and drink and she offers him some clothes. Undeterred by the gun she now asks him to go. From the open window the sound of children playing can suddenly be heard. She quickly makes her way to the window as three young children come running towards the house. Michael bolts for the stairs as Emily comes running after him…

A young girl and boy come running into the house and Emily embraces them as Michael opens the door to them and hides unnoticed behind it. The third child, a young boy called Stephen then comes running up to the door. Emily tells the startled boy to run. Confused and not entering Stephen sees Michael hiding behind a door through a crack in the frame and then decides to run for it. Michael quickly shuts the door reprimanding Emily  “You shouldn’t have done that”.

Michael cracking up tells the women to give the children their tea and addresses her wrongly as Janet (his wife). She tells him she is not Janet and Michael tells her not to argue and give the children their tea and then he will talk to her.

It is now night and Quist and Anne are leaving Weatheroak Hall as there is now nothing more than they can do except wait for the police search parties to find Michael. Quist explains that to Doctor McEwan that he would still like to talk to Michael and question him over his informed consent. Professor Hetherington enters the room and informs everyone that Michael has been tracked down to a farm six miles away and he has a gun and three hostages. Professor Hetherington tells them that the police have asked for their help. (It looks like the boy Stephen has informed the police)

Meanwhile at the house Michael awaits the arrival of Doctor McEwan. Emily pleads with Michael to let the children go. He waits with the family in one of the children’s bedrooms with a gun near the window. He spots a school bag and asks for a pen and paper.

Rodgers, one of the policemen is guarding the house with a gun.

Quist, Anne and Doctor McEwan arrive at the farm. Doctor McEwan is appalled the police are armed. Doctor McEwan warns the police inspector in charge that as long as Michael isn’t provoked capturing by force will not be necessary. The inspector tells Doctor McEwan that Michael might be fed up waiting for him. They are interrupted by Michael shouting out of the window for McEwan “where are you?”

Doctor McEwan approaches the house. Michael spots him and asks him to come inside and only then will he let the woman and the children go. Michael tells him to hurry and turns to his captives and tells them “he’d better hurry”.

Doctor McEwan turns away from the house and explains that he is going inside the house and Michael will let the woman and her children go. The police inspector is worried that Doctor McEwan might not be able to handle Michael, but McEwan decides to go back to the house.

Michael watches his approach, while Quist, Anne and the police inspector watch carefully hidden. Doctor McEwan enters the house and calls to Michael. He makes his way partly up the stairs as Michael lets the family go instructing Emily, calling her Janet to take them out of the house. It is clear to Doctor McEwan that Michael has cracked. Doctor McEwan emplores Michael to come back with him to the unit. Michael does not want to and he also doesn’t want to let go of the gun. Doctor McEwan tries to convince Michael that he is in control of his actions. Michael a piece of paper from his pocket.

Anne, Quist and the police inspector debate what to do next outside. Quist wants to talk Emily  but the police inspector thinks she has been through enough. Anne wants to know what state Beavis was in when she came out, but Anne is told that she is with her husband and will make any statements to the police later. Anne is concerned about Doctor McEwan. The police inspector tells her that he is going to give them five more minutes, then he is interrupted by the sound of gun shot. The inspector instructs Anne and Quist to stay where they are and he instructs the other police officers to call an ambulance. Fearing the worst Anne turns to Quist who embraces her. As they look on toward the house Doctor McEwan slowly makes his way down the garden.

Doctor McEwan tells Anne and Quist in dismay that Michael has shot himself through the heart. He then goes on to produce a piece of paper that Michael had given. A sort of will, leaving his brain to research for Doctor McEwan to find out what went wrong.

Synopsis by Scott Burditt 


'It was like growing a tree of knowledge in my head, only the fruits were for you.'

One of the most memorable aspects of this very strong episode of Doomwatch is Michael Hawkins's wonderful performance as Beavis. From his full furious murderous outbursts or trying to control himself in the siege at the end or when considering if he is free to see Dr. Tarrant another day, attempting a degree of dignity it a sheer bravado performance, The kind that should win awards, rather than from an internet review some forty years later. Also worthy of praise is Barry Jackson as Dr. McEwan.

Following on from the analysis of the role of sex in society in Without The Bomb, and the degrading and trivialising and deceitful nature of pornography in Sex and Violence, here Dr. Anne Tarrant takes a look on violence. Remote control in the brain of a psychotic killer – science fiction. Actually, it wasn't!

The issue of how to deal with hardcore psychotic murderers and whether it is possible to rehabilitate them is not original. And using implants and computers was a popular idea in the air at this time, and the concerns expressed by Dr Anne Tarrant's that they're fitting the killers with a safety valve, rather than dealing with the original trigger. Doomwatch had already looked at the cause of violence as a disputed genetic disorder in By The Pricking of my Thumbs, or as a social phenomena in The Human Time Bomb.

A Clockwork Orange had been released not so long before this episode. Also, Mr Hayles, or perhaps Anne Kalanski had read the 1971 book 'Beyond Freedom and Dignity' by the American behavioural psychologist B. F. Skinner. McEwans' plea that man isn't born free echoes Skinner's idea that man is not an autonomous, individual being, that there is no divide between the mind and the body (it's one and the same -therefore no soul...), and that behaviour is created from the society or environment in which we live, and what we would define as crime, is generated by the reaction to the social environment around us, its influences and so forth and thus conventional punishments are useless because they are based on a false premise! Punishment is ineffective in controlling behaviour if there is no free will, the option to choose your behaviour. He advocates a 'technology of behaviour' – although I don't think that Hair Trigger was what he had in mind, or perhaps it was!

The experiment Quist refers to was by Dr. Jose Manuel Rodriguez Delgado, who was a professor of physiology at Yale University who had a stimoceiver implanted in the brain of a bull and Delgado stopped it in full charge at the press of a button which he felt caused the bull to lose its aggression. In the episode we see some of the effects Delgado claimed as a result of the stimulation of the implant – elation (as in the case of the first patient in the episode who thinks it is better than sex), and the cut off in Beavis. The satellites and the computer that 'controls' Beavis is also a fictionalisation of an experiment Delgado carried out on chimpanzees. Here, the computer recognises a particular brain signal called a spindle which is recognized by the computer, and the stimoceiver sends a signal into the brain and causes a reaction. After a few hours, the chimp's brain was producing fewer spindles. You are no longer safe within your own thoughts! Delgado was hailed by the New York Times in 1970 as the 'impassioned prophet of a new pyschocivilized society.' This is the brave new world of Dr McEwan. Two researchers at Harvard Medical School, Frank Ervin and Vernon Mark, suggested that 'psycho-surgery might quell the violent tendencies of blacks rioting in inner cities.' ( That did it. A psychiatrist called Peter Breggin described Delgado and others in this field as trying to create 'a society in which everyone who deviates from the norm... will be... surgically mutilated....' and Delgado as 'the great apologist for technologic totalitarianism.'

Perhaps it is no better way of dealing with violent patients than lobotomies which was the previous preferred answer since the 1930s... Delgado would leave the USA in 1974 and return to his native Spain, his controversial work soon forgotten.

The full implications of implants is not investigated in Hair Trigger. As the Season Two overview will show you, Martin Worth remembers a rejected Dennis Spooner script about an implant manipulating a Minister's brain based on a Kit Pedler idea. Perhaps this influenced Terence Dudley to pursue the Delgado experiment idea but in a less implausible storyline. But this is a Doomwatch story reacting to what has gone before rather than seeing it put into the future and asking what if...? If implants can go into murderers, one day they can go into less serious criminals, your common or garden thief, for example. Then your anti-social teenager, and so on, like tagging and DNA databases, it could get round to everyone. All for the sake of society, you understand. Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime. Just as Ervin and Mark fantasised over. Brain implants are still being investigated today to see if they can help Parkinson's disease and other illnesses.

If this had been a first series script, the story would have started with Beavis already escaped and possibly having killed, and then Doomwatch investigating when some link to Weatheroak hall is revealed, etcetera, etcetera. Or someone with the implant had been attacked and did not defend himself, ala A Clockwork Orange. The victim was acting out of behaviour and Wren is suspicious... Hair Trigger becomes a manhunt and develops into a hostage drama, another crime avenue where Quist really has no place. But for once in this season, the crime element is really good. It helps that the episode exists to see it unfold. It must have come as a relief to see one of the Doomwatch team – albeit unofficial – getting into danger, and a good exciting conclusion after last week's ethical hair pulling and angst.

The worst thing Quist could find about the place was whether Weatheroak Institution neglected informed consent? No. Beavis was completely aware of the experiment and wanted to do it. It was naturally unwise for them to let Anne press Beavis on how he felt about the original murders and he snapped. The 'remote control' in his brain did not switch in because Anne panicked and struck him, damaging the implant. But she proved a point – the original cause had not been dealt with.

Also a change from the previous episodes, the Minister only has a couple of scenes and plays no real role other than trying to warn Quist off Weatheroak Hall. Stafford, too, only has a couple of scenes and plays no role in the episode, rather like last weeks. The Minister, being a politician who needs to address the problems of society would be attracted to the scheme.

Plenty of film effort in this existing episode, and yet the myth started of a lack of 'film' in the third series as a sign of falling standards. This is no sub-standard episode... This is Doomwatch.

Review and Analysis by Michael Seely 


Expenditure Ref: 2240/4584. It is interesting to note that this episode appears to be originally scheduled as episode 3.

Monday 28th February 1972

Set and light: 9.00am - 11.30am
Tech. Rig and light: 11.30am - 1.00pm
LUNCH: 1.00pm - 2.00pm
Camera rehearsal: 2.00pm - 7.00pm (TK - from 2.00 - 2.30 only)
DINNER: 7.00pm - 8.00pm
Camera rehearsal:8.00 - 10.00pm

Tuesday 29th February 1972
Set and light: 9.00 - 11.00
Camera rehearsal:11.00 - 1.00
LUNCH: 1.00 - 2.00
Camera rehearsal: 2.00 - 6.00
DINNER: 6.00 - 7.00
Lineup: 7.00 - 7.30
TELERECORD: 7.30 - 10.00 on VTC/6HT/77370
VT EDITING: Wednesday 2nd March 1972 9.00am - 1.00pm

Audience Research Report
3rd August 1972

Size of audience
It is estimated that the audience for this broadcast was 9.9% of the United Kingdom population. Programmes on BBC-2 and ITV at the same time were seen by 5.9% and 22.4% (average)

Reaction profile (based on 187 questionnaires completed by 11% of the Viewing Panel)
Viewers were asked to rate the broadcast on four dimensions define 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    30%    41%    17%    10%    2%    Very boring
Very easy to understand    47%    26%    13%    8%    4%    Very difficult to understand
Excellent plot    32%    35%    19%    10%    6%    Poor plot
Definitely out-of-the-ordinary    32%    33%    21%    8%    6%    Just ordinary

The Reaction Profile Indices, with those of the first five programmes in the present series for comparison, were as follows:-

Week 23 - Fire and Brimstone
Entertaining/Boring    76/24
Easy/Difficult to understand    81/19
Good/Poor plot    67/33
Out-of-ordinary/Ordinary    73/27

Week 24 - High Mountain
Entertaining/Boring    80/20
Easy/Difficult to understand    86/14
Good/Poor plot    75/25
Out-of-ordinary/Ordinary    70/30

Week 25 - Say Knife, Fat Man
Entertaining/Boring    85/15
Easy/Difficult to understand    89/11
Good/Poor plot    80/20
Out-of-ordinary/Ordinary    76/24

Week 26 - Waiting for a Knighthood
Entertaining/Boring    82/18
Easy/Difficult to understand    86/14
Good/Poor plot    74/26
Out-of-ordinary/Ordinary    73/27

Week 27 - Without the Bomb
Entertaining/Boring    68/32
Easy/Difficult to understand    84/16
Good/Poor plot    67/33
Out-of-ordinary/Ordinary    66/34

Week 28 - Hair Trigger
Entertaining/Boring        79/21
Easy/Difficult to understand    81/19
Good/Poor plot    74/26
Out-of-ordinary/Ordinary    75/25

This week's 'frightening' story about experiments to control a psychopath was sometimes considered to be an improvement over recent Doomwatch episodes - 'stronger' dramatically, and with more 'action'. It was said to be thought-provoking in that it 'could possibly be happening' now or in the near future. In fact the majority of the sample found it quite strongly appealing. Michael Hawkins was said to have given a very convincing portrayal of the patient.

However, there was also some definite adverse criticism of the episode. Several viewers said it was such a distressing or 'morbid' subject that they could not enjoy the play, while others thought it far-fetched and implausible. Some also complained that there was too much 'scientific' discussion, which slowed the story down and was difficult to understand.

General adverse criticism of the present Doomwatch series was also in evidence. Quite a number of viewers appeared to feel that there had been a deterioration of dramatic standards, or that the 'original concept' of Doomwatch had been overlaid. It was suggested that the excitement had largely vanished, together with the 'humanity and humour', now that Quist's team had become so 'bureaucratised'  and had lost such unpredictable, attractive and amusing personnel as John Ridge or the still-lamented Toby Wren. It now seems pompous, moralistic, stilted and thoroughly depressing in thematic material; 'the script is trying to teach and comment rather than entertain'.

The acting and production were generally commended.

86% of the sample saw the whole episode; 9% came in in the middle, 3% switched off before the end and 2% only tried a bit.

Viewers were once again asked which of the regular characters they found most interesting, and why. Quite a large proportion made no answer to this, or said they liked none or all equally; among those who did express some partiality, however, Dr. Quist (sometimes known to viewers as 'Quest' or 'Twist') was odds-on favourite. It was partly because he seemed more 'real' and complex than most other characters (the actor John Paul was sometimes credited here) and partly because viewers admired the independence of mind and motion, sincerity, idealism and calmness under stress he personified; it was reassuring to think there may be such men around'. Also, a handful appeared to derive satisfaction from identifying him with some kind of 'typical scientist' image. Finally, it was observed that there would be no more Doomwatch without him.

Other characters had nothing like the same number of supporters among the sample audience. However, one of the two secondary leaders this week was Quist's wife Dr. Tarrant - a 'caring' character, it was said, who as a psychologist brought some interesting themes into the series, and who had played an important part in this week's episode. The other was the Minister, whose principal attraction would appear to be that he was a typical John Barron character superbly interpreted by John Barron. Next came John Ridge - not present this week -  who was appreciated mainly for the way he always seemed to 'liven things up' when he appeared, injecting both excitement and humour. Then there was the security man Neil Stafford; a bit of an enigma, it was said, initially unsympathetic but perhaps with 'hidden depths', and according to one viewer 'the handsomest and most charming man on T'. The 'feminine element' introduced by Barbara Mason (another character with 'potential', it was suggested) was also welcomed by a few viewers, as was the quiet competence and intelligence of the neglected 'backroom boy' Colin Bradley.

There were very few adverse remarks about individual characters, but some viewers seemed to find the whole bunch - occassionally excepting Quist - 'trite' and cardboardy.


Dr. Spencer Quist

The Minister - Sir George Holroyd

Dr. Anne Tarrant

Commander Neil Stafford

Barbara Mason

Michael Beavis

Dr. McEwan

Professor Alec Hetherington


Police Inspector*



Miss Abrahams

*appear on film only

Uncredited Cast- Walk-Ons/Extras

Male Nurse

Female Nurse


Members of Royal Society

Voice Over intercom



Senior Cameraman  



Vision Mixer

Written by

Script consultant

Theme music by

Costume Supervisor

Costume Assistant

Make-up Supervisor

Make-up Assistant

Grams Operator

Film Cameraman

Sound Supervisor

Sound Recordist

Film Editor

Studio Lighting

Studio Sound

Floor Assistant


Assistant PA




Assistant to Producer


Directed by

TX: 10th July 1972
9.20pm - 10.05pm 

Working Title
The Dreadful has Already Happened

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

1 comment:

  1. noticed this reading your zine yesterday (great fanzine btw) - the plot of this episode is pretty similar to Michael Crichton's book The Terminal Man (wonder which got written first)