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One year after a giant oil tanker has been holed off the West coast of England, Dr. Del Shaw (Ian Bannen) of Doomwatch, goes to the small island of Balfe to investigate the effects on sea-shore life.

He meets in turn, Mrs. Straker (Shelagh Fraser) who runs the village store, the local vicar (Joseph O'Conor) and the village policeman, Hartwell (Percy Herbert) - all suspicious of his presence there - and the local school teacher, Victoria Brown (Judy Geeson). He is conscious of the almost Neanderthal features of some of the men on the island and their aggressive nature. Walking through some woods, he uncovers the foot of a half-buried body, but when he returns with Hartwell the body has gone. Del is determined to find out what is happening.
Meanwhile, at Doomwatch headquaters, Dr. Quist (John Paul), Dr. Ridge (Simon Oates) and Dr. Fay Chantry (Jean Trend) have discovered that the samples sent back by Del are abnormally large. They ask for samples of the local fish. Del, however, has been following three of the islanders one night to an old barn where, after they have left, he is attacked by a horrifying figure and knocked unconscious. When he comes to, Victoria tells him he had been found at the foot of a cliff and must have fallen over. She agrees to try and help him discover what is wrong on Balfe.

They go out in a small boat to catch fish and discover a Ministry of Defence prohibited area off the island. Del is particularly surprised, though, by the size of the fish they catch and when he later returns to the Doomwatch laboratories he learns that the fish are contaminated by a hormone substance. He is granted an interview with a Royal Navy Admiral (George Sanders) who tells him that canisters containing radio-active waste have been dumped in concrete in the prohibited area but that it is not dangerous.

Ridge tells Del that if the hormone was absorbed by humans it would cause acromegaly - a disease resulting in the Neanderthal-type features that Del has already seen and assumed to be the result of centuries of inbreeding on the island.

They return to Balfe and Ridge, wearing frogman's gear, discovers other illegal canisters on the sea bed close to the Navy's dump. These are traced back to a large chemical company, Doran Chemicals, and when Ridge meets the chairman, Sir Henry Leyton (Geoffrey Keen), he learns that Doran had disposed of the hormone after it had proved unsuccessful as a livestock feed additive. Del and Victoria visit the company contracted to dump the Doran canisters to stop more being off-loaded. Del explains that radio-activity from the Navy's dump has split the hormone canisters and the material is escaping into the sea. While the Navy consults other governments to suspend all fishing in the danger zone. Del calls a meeting of the islanders to explain the situation.

They believe the disease is an act of God to punish them and they accuse Del of trying to destroy their island. Del and Victoria attempt to phone Doomwatch to send in medical teams to evacuate the island, but are threatened by the men until Tom Straker, one of the worst affected realises the truth and breaks down. The menace drams away. As the islanders are evacuated, Del reflects that soon Balfe will be an island of ruins.


With thanks to Andrew Wilson and Scott Burditt