Doomwatch **** PG
1970-1972 UK Colour 37x50mins
Widely described as the first green" drama series, this mix of sci-fi, horror and eco-drama was highly innovative. Tackling such issues as embryo research, toxic waste pollution and genetic manipulation, it was the brainchild of Doctor Who script editor Gerry Davis and Dr Kit Pedler, a scientist at the University of London. It told of a fictitious government agency whose job was to protect mankind and the environment from dangerous or unprincipled advances in science. The early episodes, notably one featuring intelligent man-eating rats, are the most celebrated. As the stories became more mundane and less fantastical in ambition, Pedler and Davis left the show in protest.
John Paul Dr Spencer Quist o Simon Oates o Dr John Ridge o Robert Powell Tobias Wren o Joby Blanshard Colin Bradley o John Nolan Geoff Hardcastle o Jean Trend Dr Fay Chantry o John Barron Minister o John Bown Cmdr Neil Stafford o Elizabeth Weaver o Dr Anne Tarrant Devised by Kit Pedler, Gerry Davis Producer Terence Dudley
The Doomwatch series eerily predicted many newspaper headlines:
The Plastic Eaters (9 February 1970) featured an airplane dissolving in mid-air when its plastic components are eaten by a mystery virus. Five months later News of the World (5 JuIy1970) reports on scientists launching a research programme looking at self-destructive plastics that crumble into powder which would then be eaten by bacteria.
Tomorrow the Rat (2 March 1970) looked at an experiment in rat breeding gone wrong, resulting in London being plagued with a new breed of intelligent killer rats. On 16 September 1970 the Daily Mail reports on a New strain of “super rat” in Shropshire, Immune to Warfarin and all permitted rat poisons.
The Ministry has now summoned pest controllers in and around the area to meet its ‘doomwatch’ experts next month to discuss what to do next. It is going to tell them that they must now train farmers in the use of the old highly toxic, dangerous and painful rat poisons that were abandoned 20 years ago in favour of the more humane and safer anti-coagulant rat poison Warfarin.
The Red Sky (6 April 1970) showed the damage caused by a high-flying rocket plane. Five months later, on 3 September 1970, the Daily Express reports “Concorde shock waves a danger to health”, as the supersonic plane's test flights split rooftiles, crack windows and disturb animals.
1972 UK Colour 91mins
As a spinoff from a modish ecological BBC TV series — a more fact-based version of The X Files—this crash-landed unhappily In the swamp of horror instead of on the firmer ground of science fact or fiction. John Paul, Ian Bannen and Judy Geeson look suitably intense as an investigation is mounted into the effects of a sunken oil tanker on the inhabitants of an island off the Cornish coast only to discover something hastily mutated in the biological woodshed. Risibly alarmist, certainly, but the environ mental dangers it pinpoints are still only too topical.
Ian Bannen Dr Del Shaw o Judy Geeson Victoria Brown o John Paul Dr Quist o Simon Oates Dr Ridge o George Sanders Admiral o Percy Herbert Hartwell o Geoffrey Keen Sir Henry Layton o Joseph O’Conor Vicar O Shelagh Fraser Mrs Straker Director Peter Sasdy Screenplay Clive Exton, from the TV series by Kit Pedier. Gerry Davis
Doomwatch: Winter Angel****
1999 UK Colour l20mins
The fight against eco-disaster continues in Channel 5's telemovie spin-off from the ahead-of-its-time seventies sci-fi drama series. Philip Stone replaces John Paul as an aging Spencer Quist, and recruits Trevor Eve’s Professor Neil Tannahill to lead an investigation into an international conspiracy involving secretly-stored toxic
waste. Although the exploits of Tannahill and his new “Doomwatch" team become increasingly absurd and confusing as the story develops. They are stylishly shot and well-acted, especially by Eve. Perhaps even more impressively, the production also recaptures the spirit of the original series. and its all-important thought-provoking relevance. Despite its obvious strengths. however, the telemovie failed to spawn a proposed revival series of Doomwatch. Trevor Eve Neil Tannahill o Amanda Ooms Meg Tannahil o Philip Stone Spencer Quist o Miles Anderson Toby Ross o Dallas Campbell Hugo Cox o Allie Byrne Teri Riley Director Roy Battersby Written by Ian MacDonald, John Howlett Producer Peter Lee-Wright
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With thanks to John Archbold