Thursday, November 23, 2006

XXXV. THE CULT of DOOMWATCH


THE CULT of DOOMWATCH

TX. 21ST November 2006 20.30 ,U.K, BBC4


It was with trepidation I sat and watched this documentary courtesy of BBC4’s British sci-fi strand (thank you for that!). I love this programme so much you see.

Overall I felt the programme to be a half decent primer for an introduction to the series if, criminally, you had never seen it.

It was admirable enough in its retrospective look at the show. There were a few things I was unaware of too, such as the programmes influence on the merits of unleaded petrol and the government warning off doing such a story (bloody hell!) at the time.

Another area thankfully covered was the cool guest appearances, they all seem to have aged well, Robert Powell (wouldn’t he make a fab Who ?) was as enigmatic as ever, Simon Oates still had a glint in his eyes as always and Jean Trend was also such a welcome addition, especially as she was the first ‘emancipated female’ element of Doomwatch.

Bit disappointing though regarding Jeff Nolan who played Geoff Hardcastle and Elizabeth Weaver who played Anne Tarrant, not adding their points of views. I would have loved to have heard their recollections.

John Nolan could have commented if Toby Wren was a hard act to follow and his experiences of being the new sex symbol. I feel Elizabeth Weaver could have added value as many of the stories she appeared in were junked and she oversaw seasons 2 and 3, so it’s not as though either were relegated to a period in Doomwatch that we know nothing/very little of.

Disappointing on the fan front though, Kim Newman classed ‘Tomorrow the Rat’ as a ‘thematic’ sign of the times and quoted ‘Willard’ and Nigel Kneales ‘Beasts’ as comparisons, but failed to highlight that these all were after this Doomwatch episode was broadcast. ‘Willard’, 1971 and ‘Beasts’ 1976 were all successors of this ‘rats have gone mad’ style of storytelling, but this was not mentioned. If it was and I overlooked, then the sincerest of apology, if not – you should’ve.

As for the other guy, Steve O’Brien, an editor of SFX magazine, waxing lyrical about the sexism and how ‘cringe inducing’ it was, I felt this to be a foolish demonstration of his lack of understanding programmes of this calibre and ‘enveloping’ of political correctness; which has destroyed the majority of most programmes today, irrelevant of what genre it is in.

The show was made in the ‘70’s after all, life was like that. Sir, if you cannot watch a programme for what it is and take the genre, time and sociological perspective into consideration then I feel it would be best not to comment at all.

If we take into consideration the real world and avoid the Utopian idealism of a nanny state and political correctness which has totally buggered this country up and obviously doesn’t work (it has created wider gaps in minority culture, made cities into dirty ghettos and has stripped away any identity we have whether immigrant, national or otherwise), I feel this is a most trivial aspect to mention and tiring.

Such sexism still goes on, but not as blatant. I also believe there is a fucking massive gap between genuine misogynistic spite and banter/levity. As with most things in 2006 it all gets blurred into one as people are too incompetent to rely on their own discretions anymore and break down severities. With human beings and what they think individually, now beginning to be controlled by others in more subtle ways, I suppose it is sadly understandable.

I feel to shield women is misogynistic in itself, with an equal society we all should fend for ourselves anyway, equally, so why patronise and highlight ‘special dispensation’ of one of the sexes?

His comments weren’t balanced either, by the ‘clips’, as well as dumb blonde instances where was the balance of Penelope Lees’ fantastic put down of a potential ‘chat up’ in ‘Tomorrow, The Rat’? (“Before you offer to buy me drink I think you ought to know I am not a whore neither am I an easy lay; although I enjoy a man from time to time, you are more than unusually repulsive and you don’t stand a snow balls chance in hell – Push Off!”)

Some of it seemed to revel in those naughty misogynist ‘70’s misconceptions without balance. I suppose they had to up the anti a bit to put us off from realising that comparing 70’s drama to today’s is like comparing a Faberge egg to a turd.

The ‘juicy’ bit in the documentary had to be the recollection of ‘in fighting’ between Terence Dudley and Pedler and Davis. As in my Caligula review (Gore Vidal vs. Bob Guccione) it is quite surprising how something so sweet could turn so sour. Bloody funny though!

This is biased on my part, but I felt more time could have been dedicated to the programme, but overall I think it was informative, well researched and insightful for the time provided.

Also commendation for, I believe it was, BBC Scotland, actually giving a toss about making something about Doomwatch in the first place.

In the trailer it mentioned about why Doomwatch was so important/well received in Canada – was this covered? Does anyone know why? The reason I’d like to know is that if the programme was significantly praised and received by another country maybe, just maybe, they still may have a few episodes that are missing from the u.k archives.

Does anyone know how well the programme was received abroad and if it was exported quite liberally?

So many questions – food for thought for a ‘Doomwatch’ DVD box set release?


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