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The world has always had to face disasters of one kind or another, from volcanoes to tidal waves. From the Black Death to the night the Titanic hit the iceberg. In the 1970’s, however, it is not the natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes that we are concerned about; the most terrifying disaster of their future will come from man himself.

This is no selling prose for DOOMWATCH, but for its never born descendent, WORLDFORCE 5 and the Disaster Squad team.

Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler had combined their writing talent and scientific knowledge in a phenomenally successful way to create DOOMWATCH, but despite unused stories being ready for scripting, a fourth season was not forthcoming. The pair had drifted away from DOOMWATCH after disagreements with Terence Dudley during the second season and had already begun formulating ideas for the next logical phase. What would happen if the Doomwatch team failed in stopping the disaster or it was an area out of their realm? Who goes in to clear up the mess afterwards? Who attempts to minimalise the environmental and human cost? Answer: the Disaster Squad. The series never developed beyond the original document DISASTER SQUAD by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, although the title of the proposal was later altered by hand to WORLDFORCE 5.

Arnold Kramer is an astute businessman and political animal. From his early twenties, he spent fifteen intensive years of wheeling and dealing, intrigue, politics and non-stop hard work to become a millionaire. Then he sat back to let the money come rolling in and it did. His life seemed ideal and complete. Happily married, a pretty daughter and rich. That is until his daughter is poisoned from mercury effluent whilst swimming in the sea off the New Jersey coast and dies.

Kramer spends thousands of dollars to try and trace the source of the pollution. The final discovery is almost too much, as the effluent was discharged from one of his own subsidiary factories. His marriage breaks down and so does he.

Whilst Kramer’s life is falling apart, John Whale, a scientific genius and idealist, is working on a computer to beat all computers. Whale is unorthodox in his manner, unacademic in his approach and untidy in his appearance. He is the one thing that the unmotivated Kramer needs. Kramer offers Whale a home for his computer and, financed by Kramer’s immense fortune, they set to work.

After five years of around-the-clock shift work, aided by a dedicated team of scientists, they have programmed the computer with every conceivable disaster situation and effective ways of dealing with each crisis. The problem is what to do with this knowledge. The solution lies in the hands of the third member of the team, Nils Madsen, the Danish Secretary-General of the United Nations and friend of Arnold Kramer. Madsen is respected and feared by all the nations, East and West from Russia to Afro-Asians. He derives his authority from this knife-edge position as the one thing that all the nations fear is Madsen’s resignation. If he goes, then it would be practically impossible to find a replacement acceptable to all sides.

The series would open a year from this point. Worldforce 5 are now known internationally, operating from a lake-side chalet in Geneva, although Kramer also retains an office at the United Nations building in New York. Their work is appreciated by some and, naturally, of great interest to the world press, who ask some embarrassing questions if Kramer’s group are not called in in emergencies. But like any good idea, it has its adversaries and enemies from International big businesses to political leaders, for Kramer does not really care whose toes he treads on.

In many cases the action of the Disaster Squad has had to be completely ruthless and objective, for example one of the plot outlines in the original series proposal reads:

When a munitions train in France crashed and caught fire on a high viaduct, the group found that the imminent explosion threatened an entire village at the level of the viaduct. They immediately dynamited the viaduct and the train blew up in the valley below, killing the trapped train crew, but saving the village.”

Another incident listed is a fire in a mercury factory (with a note to the effect that Kit Pedler would supply the technical details), and the fact that the computer can come up with nine ways to handle the situation in nine seconds.

Local based scientists and supporters inform the main team of imminent disaster and if there is time they will go through the official channels. However, Kramer will not think twice about the use of kidnapping, assassination and blackmail as viable weapons in their fight against entranced villainy and stupidity. Part of this enables funds for Kramer’s team to be collected, since Kramer asks the governments he assists for large donations. If a disaster will not occur again, he will keep the incident a secret - for a price.

“Sometimes they win. Sometimes they lose. Their battlefield is the last great frontier of our times... the issue at stake nothing less than our survival.’’

A big thanks to Jean Riddler for this article.

When Gerry Davis finished work on DOOMWATCH in England, he relocated to America in the mid-70's with the idea of setting it up there. Gerry took across episodes of the series to interest US producer Carl Foreman and at one point Raymond Burr was apparently slated to play Quist. Nothing ever came of it but up until Gerry died in August 1991, he had maintained that the time was ripe for a new DOOMWATCH. He was of course right and the 1999 TV Movie was made for Channel 5.