I might get round to doing Doomwatch in Lost Gems/Nostalgia Corner some day (there’s a long list). It was a 1970s show that “dragged from the headlines” stories about science and then sent a fictitious government department to investigate their worst possible outcomes: genetic engineering, sound pollution, subliminal messages, embryo research, toxic waste – they and more all got a look-in. It’s the show that catapulted Robert Powell to stardom – and then took the unexpected step of killing him in the final episode of the first series – and its name entered the English language for a while, such was its power.
Here’s the entire episode for your delight.
Anyway, a friend of mine from university has now written not just a whole book about the show, he’s also gathered together the scripts from some of the lost episodes (yes, another victim of the BBC’s archive-wiping policy of the 70s) into a second book, the proceeds from which are going to charity. Both are going to be published in July. Here’s the press release so you can find out more:
Prophets of Doom is the definitive guide to the BBC TV Series Doomwatch created by Kit Pedler & Gerry David and broadcast from 1970 to 1972.
In February 1970, one of the most important television drama programmes from the 1970s was broadcast on BBC1. Not only did it introduce a new word to the English language, it also brought to a mainstream audience of ten million viewers each week the new, emerging idea of the scientists’ moral and ethical responsibility in society. This was Doomwatch, a visionary science fiction series which took scientific research and technological advances and imagined where they could go disastrously wrong if greed, politics or simple ambition won over caution. This was drama with a message. And it was heard. The fears of the Sixties: over-population, test-tube babies, super-sonic aircraft, DDT, the Bomb, all found expression in Doomwatch.
Launching the career of actor Robert Powell, Doomwatch entertained and thrilled its audience with concepts such as a plastic eating virus, animal hearts transplanted into children, toxic chemical dumps, cannibal rats, the surveillance state, noise that can kill, food poisoned by drugs and chemicals, and by the end of its first successful series, the ultimate horror: a nuclear bomb washed up underneath a seaside pier, its countdown ticking down to claim the life of one of the celebrated Doomwatch team.
It was conceived by a research scientist and a television dramatist, Dr. Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, who had previously devised the Cybermen for Doctor Who. With Doomwatch, they soon became famous for creating seemingly prophetic storylines in which the media eagerly found parallels in real life. Were the writers of Doomwatch prophets of doom or simply scaremongering popularists?
The programme divided the scientific and political establishment into those who thought the programme was a much needed and timely warning and tried to do something about it, and those who thought it was a naive, reactionary piece of trivial, and ignorant television. Dr. Kit Pedler actively tried to create a real-life Doomwatch, and was at the beginnings of the alternative technology movement in Britain and did his own experiments on creating ecologically sound housing and develop a new way of living in a modern society without destroying the habitat or regressing back to the stone age.
With contributions from the family of Dr. Kit Pedler, Darrol Blake, Jean Trend, Glyn Edwards, Martin Worth, Adele Winston, Eric Hills, and others, this book will tell the proper story of Doomwatch both on and off the screen, how it was made, the true story behind the stories, the controversies, the back stage bust-ups, and how the programme inspired those who looked around the world in which they had been conditioned to accept, and begin to question.
Deadly Dangerous Tomorrow is a compilation of six scripts for episodes from the legendary 1970s BBC drama series Doomwatch which no longer exist in the BBC’s archives as they were considered to be of no further commercial value.
Doomwatch is a team of government scientists who investigate current scientific and technological research which could prove hazardous to Mankind. Unloved by industry and governments alike, it is headed by the Nobel Prize winning physicist Dr. Spencer Quist, a man who never forgot that he was one of those who had helped to create the first atomic bomb. His crusade was to prevent a deadly, dangerous tomorrow…
The scripts included in this volume are:
Spectre at the Feast by Terence Dudley
Dr. Quist convenes an anti-pollution conference in the luxurious Jayson’s Hotel but some of the delegates begin to fall ill and experience terrifying hallucinations. Food poisoning? Or are they being targeted by one of the worst polluters in the country: Newington Chemicals?
Fire and Brimstone by Terence Dudley
The strain of preventing environmental catastrophe in the face of governmental indifference proves too much for Dr. John Ridge and he suffers from what appears to be a nervous breakdown. He steals phials of anthrax from Porton Down and tries to shock the Governments of the world into acting now before it is too late.
High Mountain by Martin Worth
Doomwatch is finished and Dr. Quist is facing an uncertain future. He receives an offer to spend a weekend with the family of a rich industrialist in Scotland where he receives an extraordinary job offer, one with much power. But with it comes a catch, and Quist has to rely on help from a very unlikely source.
Say Knife, Fat Man by Martin Worth
A consignment of plutonium is hijacked and all the evidence points to London gangsters in league with a foreign power wanting nuclear weapons. Or is that what they are meant to think? Who else would want to build a nuclear bomb in the heart of England?
Deadly Dangerous Tomorrow by Martin Worth
A family of sick Asians, recently smuggled into the country, are found squatting in a tent in St James Park, next to Buckingham Palace. Who is behind this appalling publicity stunt and what connection does it have with an American mission to ban the pesticide D.D.T.?
Flood by Ian Curteis
Two flood warnings over two successive nights in London is more than just a coincidence and Doomwatch are ordered by the Minister to explore every possibility in just a couple of hours. Is this a natural or a man-made phenomena? As London is put on full Flood Alert, the problem for Quist and the team appears to be that the Minister already knows the answer.
These stories from the first and third series of Doomwatch are the only way to enjoy the episodes which no longer exist in the BBC archives. They have been constructed from a mixture of rehearsal and camera scripts along with notable camera directions giving a flavour of what the episodes may have looked like on transmission. High Mountain appears as both rehearsal and camera scripts since many changes were made during the transition. Each story comes with a set of footnotes, explaining the background and references that would have been familiar to viewers of the time. Also included are extracts from promotional material for the third series written by Terence Dudley, and letters by Martin Worth.
Author profits from the sale of Deadly Dangerous Tomorrow will be donated to the East Anglian Air Ambulance service.