Boy's Own Fare from THE STAGE by John Lawrence
Doomwatch, The Plastic Eaters, BBC 1, February 9
I was favourably disposed towards Doomwatch well before it started, and was looking forward to watching a well written, exciting science fiction based series. In the event, it turned out to have more in common with the Boy's Own paper of the fifties than with even the immediate future. No doubt the series will improve, but on the viewing of the first episode, it has a long way to go before it can hope to be regarded as anything but a descendent of Doctor Who.
The plot concerned a substance which has been devised to eat plastic, thus solving what could be a large problem in a few years, waste disposal. Unfortunately, the inventors of the device fail to come up with an effective means for its control, before testing it in comparatively open conditions. The result is that it spreads like wildfire, causing the crash of an aeroplane and putting another in danger. Doomwatch's job is to persuade the relevant authorities to prevent further testing, on the grounds that it could endanger human life.
So far, so good. This is an interesting plot and could be very exciting. Where it went wrong was in the actual production. The writers resorted almost entirely to moving the story along by way of cliché, including sending off a new recruit who had only come for interview anyway to Spain on a trial mission. We were also treated to a tense moment of the don't move – there's – a – tarantula – on – your – sleeve variety, this time using a contaminated plastic pen picked up inadvertently by one of the characters, and I really could not see why it was such a dramatic moment to reveal that it was the Minister himself who had transmitted the substance to the plane. They were not suggesting he had done it on purpose, so it was no more than a red herring.
The production lacked tension throughout. I would not have thought it possible that a plane fighting to land before it crashes could be shown battling its way down without communicating any feelings of excitement or suspense whatsoever, but between them, the writers Kit Peddler (sic) and Gerry Davis, and the director Paul Ciappessoni managed it.
With thanks to Michael Seely