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Before Doomwatch

This is an extract from the Paul Bernard interview in DWB issue 115. He was a TV designer and director of many classic shows such as Doctor Who, Out of this World, The Avengers and The Tomorrow People. He also directed an early 1960s BBC serial called R3...

'R3 was a unit – Research Unit Three. It was a top drama series, not officially science fiction. It was a research station which got involved in espionage. I remember one story I directed was about a missing radium canister dropped out of the back of a travelling vehicle and it's picked up by some kids who start playing with it, so it's about the effects of radium. Another one was about submarines, written by Norman Crisp who was a top naval writer. They go down to do some research at the bottom of the ocean and don't come up again, so they're trying to get them out. They were all wearing outfit and breathing apparatus, so it was science fiction without being set in the future. It starred Oliver Reed, Michael Hawkins, and an actor now dead called John Robinson, who was the second Quatermass. He was very big in those days, and he was the Head of the Unit. It was a big series and lasted about three seasons.'

Michael Elwyn interview from DWB issue 92 (1991) conducted by Anthony Clark.

'... I always seemed to be at a desk with a phone – although I got to act my guts out when I contracted a disease carried by spiders (The Web of Fear). I remember filming the opening scenes in the sauna for that episode. It's a very strange scene! Me perched there with a note pad and a hairy chest... Very odd! The guy who collapsed on the sauna floor with the mystery disease was Desmond Jones. He was in Dad's Army, always standing in the second row behind the main characters...

As the character appeared more and more I got quite frustrated because I felt that he could have been more interesting. He was just a link with the minister and Whitehall. He wasn't really allowed to be the kind of character actors fall in love with. You didn't see him away from his desk or the minister – he had no wife or family life. However the writers did get something of a feel for Duncan. You can see the difference between Red Sky and Invasion where they've expanded the character and gave him more authority.

...Doomwatch was so successful because it seemed real. The subjects it tackled could happen and very often they did, sometimes just days before or after an episode was transmitted. The coincidences were amazing. I also loved the Max Harris music.... I think it was ahead of its time. I think there should be a series of it now because people have become so much more aware.

Extract from Gerry Davis interview issue 59, 1988.

'Kit Pedler wanted to do his own (Doctor Who) script so we asked him to come up with some ideas and one was something rather like The Tenth Planet but the characters he used were sort of star monks... By the time we had a real rapport and we could strike sparks of each other and I said, 'Look, Kit, forget sci-fi, forget everything you've read. What do you feel about medicine?' and I soon found that he was afraid that medicine would become a matter of machines; that you'd hook people up to computers and they would be the Doctors and nurses. We wrote a Doomwatch later about cybernetics called The Iron Doctor about a computer which actually makes a decision to terminate certain people after summing up their cases and deciding there was no sense in wasting the time and money. It was like an electronic Margaret Thatcher! Kit originally came up with that idea for Doctor Who, then I said, 'Well, suppose people got totally cybernetic where they lose their souls? What would happen?' And that's how the Cybermen were born between the two of us.'

I'd love to write a stage play and at one point Kit Pedler and I were going to write the first sci-fi play in the West End but we didn't get very far because we were both very busy and I could see there was going to be a lot of work because Kit wasn't a fan of the stage. I've always followed the theatre and it really takes a lot of your time. I'd like to pick it up some time. It was a about a rogue computer and it had a very unusual setting...

Gerry Davis Remembered by Anthony Clark... DWB Issue 97.

After remembering Davis's issues with Doctor Who producer Innes Lloyd, 'This was not the last time Gerry would fall out with his producer, but in the case of Terence Dudley it was a full blooded hatred rather than a slightly cool relationship. Gerry regretted not becoming his own producer on Doomwatch and also not getting a better deal set up by his agent with the BBC over the series. His dislikes of Dudley's paranoid attitudes was echoed by Terry Nation's feelings about what Dudley had done to Survivors. This surfaced on one occasion when Nation and Davis were at an American convention soon after Dudley's death. The two men were asked for their opinions about their ex-producer and Gerry, ever the diplomat, said it was not right to talk ill of the dead. However, Terry Nation was more blunt about his feelings and could see no reason why not.

From DWM The Tomb of the Cybermen archive.

Although Pedler continued to submit ideas to the Doctor Who office, Davis' connection with the programme would be broken for several years. Later in 1967, Pedler was consulted by Head of Drama Andrew Osborn concerning the revival of an aborted science-fiction series called Counterstrike; in July 1968, during production of the first season The First Lady (a Davis edited project which Terence Dudley worked on), Pedler and Davis submitted to Osborn a pilot script for a new scientific drama series, Doomwatch.

All articles supplied by Michael Seely

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