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Doomwatch ABC Preview - Canberra Times - 17 April 1972

'Science fact' dangers to the human race

'DOOMWATCH', a highly-praised BBC television drama series which gave a new word to the English language, begins on Channel 3 at 9.15pm on Tuesday.

When the program began terms such as "technological hazard" and "environmental pollution" were little known in Britain and although the main purpose of the series is to entertain, it has drawn attention to some of the dangers threatening the human race.
More science fact than science fiction, an alarming number of dangerous situations used in the series have since been paralleled by real life events.
The series is set in Britain after the election of a new government, which has promised to answerthe increasing public outcry about many of the after-effects of industrial and scientificresearch. Through the Ministry of National Security, a small group is set up to study both the practical and ethical problems arising from specific research activities.

The Press quickly names the group Doomwatch. On the surface it is little more than a sop to public opinion, yet it is well financed and has been given the brief not only to investigate and report but also to take action in emergency situations.

Discovering where DOOMWATCH was aired outside of the UK, is no easy task! We have previously covered as best we can, the transmissions in Canada and thanks to Jon Preddle at the excellent Doctor Who foreign transmission resource site BroaDWcast we can shed a bit more light on what the Australians were enjoying...

"Doomwatch played on ABC in 1972. However, there is no evidence the first season was screened. The first listing is for the second season episode You Killed Toby Wren on the 6th of June (the Adelaide TV Week described this as the “premiere”).

Doomwatch was never aired in New Zealand. The reason for this is - at least as far as I have been able to determine - was that at the time it would have been made available (by 1973), the NZBC was preparing to switch to colour, and with so many episodes available only in b/w, they passed on it. Sure, they could have taken just the colour eps, but it seems they didn't want to go down that track. While researching for BroaDWcast, I did make note of other BBC programmes that other countries aired, and I must say I can't recall ever seeing Doomwatch listed... Mind you, The Goodies was everywhere, even Korea!"

The Second series commenced on Sydney's Channel 2 and Canberra's Channel 3 on 18 April 1972. (The two stations were connected by microwave link which enabled them to play the same programming simultaneously.) It aired Tuesdays, in a timeslot that ran from 9.15pm to 10.05pm (no commercial breaks) The run was for 13 weeks, uninterrupted.

18-Apr-72 You Killed Toby Wren

Sydney Morning Herald - 17 April 1972

25-Apr-72 Invasion
2-May-72 The Islanders
9-May-72 No Room For Error
16-May-72 By the Pricking of My Thumbs
23-May-72 The Iron Doctor
30-May-72 Flight into Yesterday
6-Jun-72 The Web of Fear
13-Jun-72 In the Dark
20-Jun-72 The Human Time Bomb
27-Jun-72 The Inquest
4-Jul-72 The Logicians
11-Jul-72 Public Enemy

The Canberra Times dated 17 April 1972 previews the series, (as well as the accompanying listing for Episode 1 at the top of the page). The billing from the Sydney Morning Herald of the same date (the Monday editions of both papers have a TV guide for the full week is included here too). 

As the series commenced in Tasmania on 25 April, it means the film prints were shipped from Sydney to Tasmania during the week. The series commenced in Adelaide, South Australia on 6 June.

The series commenced the following week in Melbourne, Victoria on Tuesday, 13 June. (The films would have been shipped from Adelaide to Melbourne that week.) The timeslot varied, being 9.15pm or 9.25pm for some episodes. It's not possible to determine when the run concluded there, since not all newspapers for the period are available; at least one episode was pre-empted during the run, because there was an episode on 12 September, which pushes the run to over 13 weeks. 

Although airdates for the other regions (Brisbane, Queensland; Perth, Western Australia) aren't available, the series probably aired in those regions during the 'gap' between the Sydney and Adelaide runs.

Based on ABC sales paperwork it's clear that the first series was never offered to the ABC. The ABC's paperwork refers to the second series as "Doom Watch Series II", so they were certainly aware that there was an earlier run. It's very odd... Maybe the master tapes of series 1 had been wiped very early on before they could be telerecorded onto film.

The ABC formally accepted Series 2 on 24 February 1972. The rights period -- which was for one run across all regions - ran from 1 April 1972 until 30 September 1973. They had an option for a repeat run, but this was not taken up. (They had until April 1973 to notify the BBC if they wanted to do so.)

Invoices for the purchase are filed: they paid in two instalments: $14,600 Australian dollars, due on 30 April 1972, and $14,000 AUD, due on 30 June 1972. That's a total of A$2,200 per episode! 

But that's not all. I can confirm that the ABC was offered series 3! On 27 February 1973, a 16mm TR of 'Say Knife, Fat Man' was previewed as an audition print. It was considered "GOOD" and "up to the best of Doomwatch", but they note that "later programs fell off a bit". 

Despite a "good" assessment of this single episode, the ABC decided not to proceed with a purchase of series 3. (Interesting how the opinion of one person viewing one random episode can seal the fate of an entire series!)

That the ABC didn't acquire series 1 or 3 is why there were such limited sales anywhere else. New Zealand never acquired the series, Canada got a limited batch of episodes, Jamaica (as noted on the this site) may have got it in 1974, but there are no TV listings to confirm this; Zambia apparently got series 3...    

As Doomwatch aired in Gibraltar in 1973, I suspect that it would be just series 2, since Gibraltar would have been able to buy only the same ones that Australia did (it was the same with Dr Who); the 1973 airdates suggests perhaps that the ABC sent the prints to the GBC. If Jamaica *did* get series 2, the prints may have been bicycled over from Gibraltar a year later.

Gympie Times - 20 April 1972

As a clipping from a Queensland newspaper (Gympie Times) shows; an episode aired on 20 April 72; there's no way of telling if that's the first or a later episode which means Brisbane commenced the run either before or after the Sydney/Canberra screenings. (It can't have commenced before 1 April, as that was when the rights started.) That just leaves Perth and Darwin without a clear timeframe for the series.

It's likely the Australian prints went to Singapore first, then to Gibraltar, with the GBC screenings commencing a matter of only a few days/weeks after the Singapore run had concluded. Gibraltar could still have sent the films to Jamaica (if at all).


Thanks to help from Retroz TV Forum, more information has been uncovered. Dr. Kyron Mallett investigates DOOMWATCH in Tasmania and discovers that Season 2 only was shown in Black and White...

"I eventually made it into the local studies library today and managed to find the 1972 screenings of Doomwatch listed in the paper. I only had time to search the Examiner (based in Launceston) and not the Mercury (based in Hobart). As the show was shown on the public broadcaster ABC, it is very likely that any listings were identical. There were only three stations in Tasmania up until I got married in the early nineties and you could only access one commercial channel and the ABC at either end of the state. 

The show was listed as 'Doomwatch' except for the first broadcast. I have since discovered that this appears to be made up of season 2 episodes. The running length of the first episode suggests that it was not 'Doom Watch' the original movie (?) but perhaps 'You Killed Toby Wren' (?). The other episodes exactly correlate episode listing guides on the net. This strange listing suggests to me that this may have been the first time this programme was broadcast in Tasmania (and therefore in Australia as ABC scheduling was pretty much uniform across the nation except of course for local news content). 

The show appears to be slotted in a later time-slot than Doctor Who (which was playing sporadically at that time) which suggests that it was probably seen as a more 'adult' programme. I do not know if the first season was shown before or after this transmission schedule or if any of the episodes were ever repeated. I can keep an eye out fro the programme as I work my way through transmission listings from about 1964/65 onwards. Significantly, none of these transmitted episodes appear to be missing from the archives.

If there was a write up on the show it may have been included in a magazine like TV Week which began in 1957. Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, this was where the mainstream got their TV info. They often had articles on new shows."

Tasmanian Doomwatch Listings


Examiner, 25 April 1972, p. 25
Doom Watch – listed only as ‘Doom Watch’ - more than likey it was 'You killed Toby Wren'


Examiner, 02 May 1972, p. 33
Doomwatch – ‘Invasion

Examiner, 09 May 1972, p. 41

Doomwatch – ‘The Islanders
The small island of St. Simons in the South Pacific suffers an earth tremor, which threatens the inhabitants. A British Protectorate, it has been the home of emigrants from Britain for 150 years. Doomwatch is given the opportunity of measuring them against the environment of western industrial civilisation.

Examiner, 16 May 1972, p. 21
Doomwatch – ‘Room for Error’ should be 'No Room for Error'

Examiner, 23 May 1972, p. 25
Doomwatch – ‘By the Pricking of My Thumbs

Examiner, 30 May 1972, p. 21
Doomwatch – ‘The Iron Doctor


Doomwatch - Flight into Yesterday - Examiner 06-06-72, p. 33

Examiner, 06 June 1972, p. 33
Doomwatch – ‘Flight into Yesterday
Doomwatch - The Web of Fear - Examiner 13-06-72, p. 17
Examiner, 13 June 1972, p. 17
Doomwatch – Incorrectly billed as ‘Web of Fear’ - should be 'The Web of Fear'

Examiner, 20 June 1972, p. 25
Doomwatch – ‘Into the Dark’  - should be 'In the Dark'                                             
Doomwatch - The Human Time Bomb - Examiner 27-06-72, p. 33
Examiner, 27 June 1972, p. 33
Doomwatch – ‘The Human Time Bomb’ 


Examiner, 04 July 1972, p. 17
Doomwatch – ‘The Inquest’ 
Hardcastle has been sent ot Suffolk to investigate the death of a child from rabies. He visits a Dr Fare, who complains of persecution by the community in general, and one woman, Mary Lincoln, in particular. He is being held responsible for the child’s death because of his work on tsetse flies.

Examiner, 11 July 1972, p. 21
Doomwatch – ‘The Logicans
Ridge and Fay Chantry are involved in routine checks with the pharmaceutical firm Beresfor, when the company is robbed of a vital new formula of value to competitors.

Examiner, 18 July 1972, p. 22
Doomwatch – ‘Public Enemy
Two deaths are traced to a compound used in the manufacture of an alloy being developed by Carlingham Alloys. Final Programme.

A huge thanks to Dr. Kyron Mallett at Retroz TV Forum  and Jon Preddle at BroaDWcast Also, thanks to George Rainey from Australia for the listing from the Australian TV Guide The Gympie TimesDoomwatch is listed in 1972 which would have been a B&W 16mm print. Interesting, that it appears to be on at 9.20pm reflecting the same time as the UK showings and also the name is split DOOM WATCH.

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