IN DOOMWATCH (BBC1) science invents a scavenger enzyme to decompose plastic. Lest, one day, the world should disappear under a heap of empty cartons. This amiable enzyme, however, finding itself footloose aboard a plane, begins gamely eating its way through the plastic fixtures and fittings. There is little to beat that cloud-hanger, a plane in distress. I am even adapted to the ones where Doris Day takes the pilot’s seat and is talked down to a perfect three-point landing. I could have wished last night’s episode was a serial so that the enzyme could continue its rampage. Decomposing and liquifying television sets and telephones and typewriters and washing-up bowls. I can think of nothing plastic I possess which I could cheerfully live without.
“Doomwatch” is a series, and each episode will refer to the efforts of Dr Quist and his lads to prevent some new miracle of modern science throttling the life out of us. It is, as the writers Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, say Sci-fact not Sci-fie. There is no longer any need for thriller writers to invent a menace from Mars. Horror is here and now and in newspaper clippings.
This down-to-earth idea gives “Doomwatch” great immediacy and veracity. Though the characters are such irremediably plastic people that one hungry enzyme could eat the whole lot of them for elevenses. Still, as thrillers go, it went down very nicely. And, it could be argued, that a mass appeal thriller format is a better way than many of getting not as serious a concern across to those whom it should concern seriously. You will not have had the opportunity to see both “Doomwatch” and “Suicide Club":-(Thames) as the channels love to hit the public with the same kind of programme at the same time on the same night.
But you will, of course, have read the original story. And permit me to congratulate you, for I had not. (How contagious its straightbacked style of dialogue is). And be familiar with that fiend in human form. The President, who to judge by their hysterical whooping kept a studio audience in his cellar, that “diamond of the nobility.” Prince Florizel and Lieutenant Brackenbury Rich who “made a single mouthful of a hoard of barbarian cavaliers.” Let me commend all three for their stylish acting, which made me choke now and then on a laugh as if I had committed a deplorable solecism. (I must stop writing pastiche to Stevenson. I must take something for it). With time, the story has grown mutton-chop whiskers, but its marvellous muscles are barely wasted.
The Guardian 10 February 1970
N.B Kit’s name was spelt Tedler in the original article. The ITV series Mystery and Imagination is refferenced in this article. Luckily Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Suicide Club episode still exists in the archives and hs been released onto DVD by Network DVD
With thanks to Andrew Wilson