Sunday, November 19, 2006

XXXIV. DOOMWATCH (CLASSIC FORGOTTEN T.V) 1970 - 1972 - THIRD SERIES

Arguably one of the weakest seasons according to varied recollections, as there is bugger all to represent it in the archives we will never be able to judge for ourselves. The opening story titled ‘Fire and Brimstone’ saw Dr.Ridge disillusioned with the world around him, holding key cities across the globe to ransom, with phials of anthrax.

Apparently, based on reports, as there are no viewing materials/audio or scripts, the third season steered away from the ‘grittiness’ and the environmental dread aspect for a more ‘personal life’ emphasised plot.

Dr.Anne Tarrant becomes a permanent fixture and marries Quist. The only additional person to the cast, introduced in Season 3, is Commander Neil Stafford.

Stafford is a ‘mole’ planted by the Minister, so Doomwatch is unknowingly placed under political scrutiny. Another area where the third series seemed occupied with, was boardroom drama and political opinion dominating several stories this time around, compared to the last two seasons.

I can’t comment on John Bowns’ performance as Stafford, as I have only seen three episodes that exist and feel it unfair to base any opinion of a character when the resource material is so poorly represented.

Colin Bradley returns and seems to ‘duo’ with Secretary Barbara Mason on a few adventures.

Despite only a few representative episodes of season 3 Doomwatch, I did notice that there is a slight change in atmosphere. In the first two seasons there was strong focus on developing the plot at the Doomwatch offices. More emphasis was on ‘team work’ in the earlier stories. By the third season this seems to shift, become ‘scattered’ some what. There are frequent ‘cosy’ chats between Tarrant and Quist in their new found domesticity and the lab scenes at Doomwatch H.Q become lessened.

For me this seemed to dull down the impact compared to the early series and with only fleeting pop ins’ to the laboratory it seemed sci-fact had become second place to the proceedings.

Such scenes are more intimate and are of some interest on the outset but outstay there welcome and occasionally are merely there to pad out the plotline. The episodes I have seen are very wordy and appear more slower in pace than before.

The dramatics are still of a high calibre and the plots despite being a bit hit and miss , are still interesting enough, but it seems that at this stage in the series’ life, the initial concept of the programme begins to lose direction and foresight.

By the end of the final season Doomwatch was showing signs of flagging. The last series was due to be 13 episodes but only 11 were ever broadcast. ‘Sex and Violence’ was made but was unbroadcast. The main reservation for not screening the episode was that some of the characters bared too strong a resemblance to actual persons in the media e.g. the severely oppressed draconians' Lord Longford and Mary Whitehouse amongst others.

To prevent legal issues the programme remains untransmitted in the U.K to this very day. I believe it was broadcast overseas.

Another reason was the controversial decision to use a real life military execution. Although this would not be an ‘issue’ now, back in the day it may have raised a few corporate eyebrows at the Beeb.

With this episode becoming more and more of a liability the easiest decision was to shelve it.

Unfortunately ‘Sex and Violence’ was also held back from the UK Gold repeats in the mid-1990’s and the episode ‘The Logicians’ was broadcast in its place.

The season’s swansong was to be ‘The Devils Demolition’ but the story never got to the filming stage.

Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis were not very impressed with what the series had become and washed their hands of it. Terence Dudley still pursued with their idea and defended the third season championing the fact that they were still dealing with ‘hot ecological topics’.

This is seemingly true judging by the synopsis we have to go on, however if the episodes that exist are representatives of the season as a whole we can certainly indicate that Doomwatch had lost its impact significantly.

With Dr. Tarrants introduction there appears to be several episodes based on psychological experiments and dishonourable motives on behalf of the practitioner. Although some of these tales are grim in premise as ‘Hair Trigger’, they do have a tendency to wane and flag to the point of interest lost.

There is nothing ‘revelatory’ anymore and this episode in particular could be passed off as melodrama with a fleeting reference to sci-fact, a pale reflection on the previous two seasons.

Other sources indicate that Terence Dudley also moved towards more fantastical elements to draw in the viewers. A couple do sound dubious in their credibility but who am I to sincerely believe this to be the case as all my hypothesis is based upon is a paragraph of words and differing recollections.

I am unsure how much of an impact Commander Stafford had on the season too as the material available either featured him generally being a hindrance or in the background doing very little.

He seems to be a character of interest but we will never get to see just how much of a threat he was to the Doomwatch team and how he fitted in with the dynamics of the other characters. One thing is for sure that Barbara Mason is not a fan and often challenges his motives which he seemingly crawls out of.

A mammoth question mark hangs over the final outing of the Doomwatch team for one fundamental reason – the scarcity of material.

Could there be missing stories? There are rumours, but there always is, that some episodes are lurking about overseas. Doomwatch, despite its varied tales of environmental hazards applicable to most countries in the world, is quintessentially ‘British’ and this may have been a stumbling block for marketing it overseas?

Therefore this makes the dream of ‘stumbling’ upon some season 1 and 3 stories highly remote and virtually an impossibility. We're not talking Doctor Who here!

Unless the series becomes as popular again due to remake or revival, I sincerely doubt anything else much will come to light, which is a crying shame.

A DVD release is so desperately needed but I wouldn’t imagine it to be a priority of the BBC at the moment as they are probably clogged up with releasing mainstream crap to the great unwashed currently in time for Yule.

In 1972 a rival to Hammer studios, Tigon, produced a feature length movie of the television series. The regular cast were represented on the big screen in disappointing cameo appearances and the main roles were played by Ian Bannen and Judy Geeson as Doomwatch scientists from another ‘branch’, totally unrelated to the BBC version.

In 1999, Channel 5 took the initiative and updated the show. Unfortunately it never turned into a series despite the pilots’ potential.

It was above average but like most contemporary programmes lacked solid identity. The theme tune, as all modern shows, is uninspiring noise; the ‘sit-up-and-take-notice’ nuclear bomb/Max Harris credits is sacrificed for CGI and ‘barren’ modernity.

Trevor Eve, he of bland cop show ‘Shoestring’, is fine in the role but is let down by a two dimensional supporting cast featuring the uninspiring ‘tough women who acts like a dyke, but who isn’t’ and the ‘token black/ethnic’. Despite the failings, at least someone tried, and it is such a shame it never took off.

I believe another reason why the plans of a new season were scuppered was due to the lack of finance.

So despite it fading in and out of the ether Doomwatch still leaves a legacy and is an overlooked gift just waiting to be unwrapped once more. With the way in which we are killing the planet it wouldn’t be a moment too soon either.

Some delightful news, as part of BBC4’s Brit Sci-Fi strand they are dedicating a whole thirty minutes to the show hopefully this will be able to fill in further gaps. Don’t forget Tuesday 21st November 2006 at 8.30 p.m, BBC4.

DOOMWATCH

Broadcast: 5th June 1972 to 14th July 1972

Mission Brief

Any Good?

Archive?

Season Three

'Fire and Brimstone'

by Terence Dudley

5th June, 1972 @ 9.20pm - 10.15pm

Terrorism and Environmental Threat – Ridge Goes Loco.

No Sources Available

No - Wiped

'High Mountain'

by Martin Worth

12th June, 1972 @ 9.20pm - 10.10pm

Mental Breakdown, Wonder Drugs, Political Corruption.

No Sources Available

No - Wiped

'Say Knife, Fat Man'

by Martin Worth

19th June, 1972 @ 9.20pm - 10.10pm

Nuclear Hazards, Dirty Bombs

No Sources Available

No - Wiped

'Waiting For a Knighthood'

by Terence Dudley

26th June, 1972 @ 9.20pm - 10.10pm

Lead Poisoning, Processing Dangerous Chemicals and Potential Threat.

An o.k. episode but a bit of a snoozer. Of interest but weak. 5/10

Yes (Broadcast on UK Gold in 1995 – when it was good !)

'Without the Bomb'

by Roger Parkes

3rd July, 1972 @ 9.20pm - 10.10pm

Pheromones, Contraception and Aphrodisiacs.

No Sources Available

No-Wiped

'Hair Trigger'

by Brian Hayles

10th July, 1972 @ 9.20pm - 10.05pm

Lobotomies and Remote Controlled Psychopaths

Enjoyable and thought provoking yarn. Lacks pace. 7/10

Yes (Broadcast on UK Gold in 1995 – when it was good!

'Deadly Dangerous Tomorrow'

by Martin Worth

17th July, 1972 @ 9.20pm - 10.10pm

Malaria, Immigration and the Use of D.D.T

No Sources Available

No-Wiped

'Enquiry'

by John Gould

24th July, 1972 @ 9.20pm - 10.10pm

Toxic Gas. Health and Safety. Corprate Cover-Ups.

No Sources Available

No-Wiped

'Flood'

by Ian Curteis

31st July, 1972 @ 9.20pm - 10.10pm

Extreme Weather Conditions. Global Warming. Thames Flooding.

No Sources Available

No-Wiped

'Cause of Death'

by Louis Marks

7th August, 1972 @ 9.20pm - 10.10pm

Euthanasia & Ethics

No Sources Available

No-Wiped

'The Killer Dolphins'

by Roy Russell

14th August, 1972 @ 9.20pm - 10.10pm

Using and Manipulating Animals as Saboteurs and Killers.

No Sources Available

No-Wiped

'Sex and Violence'

by Steward Douglass

Untransmitted.

Pollution of the Mind. Does Sex and Violence in the Media Truly Affect Society?

An absolutely first class episode. The writing, direction and plot content are first class. 10/10

Yes – only aired overseas and never shown in Britain.

'The Devil's Demolition'

by Wolf Rilla

Untransmitted

Cancelled

No Sources Available

Never got to the production stage.

Season Three Regulars;

John Paul (Doctor Spencer Quist), Simon Oates (John Ridge), John Barron (The Minister), Elizabeth Weaver (Doctor Anne Tarrant), Joby Blanshard (Colin Bradley), Vivian Sherrard (Barbara Mason), John Bown (Commander Neil Stafford).

Produced by Terence Dudley

The Other Bits……………………..

Doomwatch – The Movie

A remote island village... A team of intrepid scientists... A terrifying secret...

When grossly oversized fish are caught by fishermen off the shore of Balfe, a remote and isolated island, the governmental watchdog agency known as Doomwatch is called in to investigate. Doctor Del Shaw finds that the village community is exhibiting higher than average incidents of a horrifically disfiguring condition known as acromegaly, he soon discovers that the condition is being caused by the military; illegally dumping chemicals in the surrounding waters of the island, turning the people who eat the fish into cannibalistic mutants.

Ian Bannen (Doctor Del Shaw), Judy Geeson (Victoria Brown), John Paul (Doctor Quist), Simon Oates (Doctor Ridge), Jean Trend (Doctor Fay Chantry), Joby Blanshard (Bradley), George Sanders (The Admiral), Percy Herbert (Hartwell), Shelagh Fraser (Mrs Straker), Geoffrey Keen (Sir Henry Layton), Joseph O'Conor (Vicar), Norman Bird (Brewer), Constance Chapman (Miss Johnson), Michael Brennan (Tom Straker), James Cosmo (Bob Gillette), Cyril Cross (George), Geoff L'Cise (Don), George Woodbridge (Ferry Skipper), Jerome Willis (Lieutenant Commander Tavenar), Jeremy Child (David Broome), Brian Anthony (Brian Murray), Rita Davies (Mrs Murray), Walter Turner (Mr Murray), Paddy Ryan (Grandfather Murray), Reg Lever (Sam), James Mellor (First Man), Eamonn Boyce (Second Man), Paul Humpoletz (Third Man), Pam St. Clement (Young Woman), Katherine Parr (Middle-Aged Woman)

Directed by Peter Sasdy

Produced by Tony Tenser

Made by Tigon British Film Productions Ltd

Released:

1972

Running Time:

92 minutes

Featuring; Doctor Spencer Quist, Doctor John Ridge, Colin Bradley and Doctor Fay Chantry, and introducing Doctor Del Shaw

Doomwatch – Winter Angel (1999 Channel 5 Pilot Episode)


DOOMWATCH (Pilot)

Broadcast; 7th December 1999

Mission Brief

Any Good?

Archive?

Winter Angel by John Howlet and Ian McDonald.

7th December 1999 @ 9 p.m

Pilot Episode Runs for Approx. 100 minutes

Dr.Neil Tannahill is contacted by Quist. An investigation is needed into rogue nuclear waste and some dodgy Russian dealings.

It tries and is not a bad attempt but there are definite some fine tunings necessary. More noise, more action, more pennies and more contemporary….not always necessarily a good thing. Annoyingly not developed into a series. 7/10

Yes.

Only shown the once, unavailable on alternative forms of media.

So there we are, an insight into what could be contested as one of the most influential and genuinely prophetic series of all time, so far.

Bring it back please and next time leave the opening music as it is/was but update the visuals, remember all ‘well loved’ and ‘well remembered’ television programmes always deserve their own signature tune.

Thanks for the interest and if you have any source material to fill in the gaps - please enlighten.

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home