DEPARTMENT FOR THE OBSERVATION AND MEASUREMENT OF SCIENTIFIC WORK
is better known by its nickname DOOMWATCH which thankfully is easier to say and fits rather nicely on a badge.
Groundbreaking classic British sci-fi series Doomwatch originally aired on the BBC from 1970 – 1972 and at its peek, attracted in excess of 13.6 million viewers and spawned two film adaptations. Although in huge demand, it has never before been available on DVD, until now… Thanks to Simply Media Doomwatch Series 1-3 makes its long awaited DVD debut.
Not all of the episodes made it but the ones that still exist come to DVD as Doomwatch Series 1-3 The Remaining Episodes. The available episodes have been released in a stunning seven-disc box set, together with the unseen episode ‘Sex and Violence’ and the BBC documentary ‘The Cult of Doomwatch’.
The cult series is the brainchild of Kid Pedler and Gerry Davis, the men responsible for Doctor Who’s iconic Cybermen, and follows government agency The Department of Measurement of Scientific Work AKA Doomwatch, as they fight to protect mankind from all manner of horrifying technology and experiments gone wrong.
The team lead by Dr. Spencer Quist (John Paul – A Countess from Hong Kong), alongside Colin Bradley (Joby Blanshard – The Brothers), Toby Wren (Robert Powell – The Detectives), and Dr. Fay Chantry (Jean Trend – Z Cars), must battle hyper intelligent rats, toxic waste, plastic eating bacteria, mind destroying sound waves and genetic mutations from day to day – all the while confronted with volatile corporations, their own unsupportive government superiors and ever changing dynamics within the team.
Set in a time of public fascination with the perils of science and technology, Doomwatch offers a glimpse of real scientific concepts, that are still relevant today and explores the moral dilemmas faced by those left to pick up the pieces when things inevitably go wrong.
A must for any discerning sci-fi and classic TV fan.
So here we have the reviews the remaining episodes for series 1.
SERIES 1 -DISC 1
Episode 1 THE PLASTIC EATERS
A plane crash is caused by some mysterious plastic melting of the cockpit control. The Doomwatch investigators, stalled by Minister Barker are forced to use unorthodox means to get the information on the plastic dissolving microbe, Variant 14 developed by Beeston Laboratories. Quist then has to take drastic measures with Barker before a repeat plane crash occurs with Wren on board.
First episodes of a series can be hit or miss in this case it was a hit. Some would argue that the episode itself was far fetched, a plastic eating virus indeed how absurd? But isn’t it funny how before the words ‘being green’ was cool, ‘DOOMWATCH‘ was already looking at the environmental factors of plastic and the pollution it could cause. A great opening episode to a T.V. series.
Episode 4 TOMORROW, THE RAT
A new species of rat with a lust for human blood has been developed by Dr Mary Bryant and have escaped her lab. The rats are spreading, attacking Londoners and becoming dangerously intelligent. While Bradley investigates Mary, while the Doomwatch investigators put pressure on Mary’s employer Preston to take serious action on the vermin.
Next up is this episode that sees the team investigating a strange case of genetically modified rats eating human flesh that causes the government to look in on itself. Surprisingly this episode actually has bit of gore, sure tame by todays standards what with the likes of ‘THE WALKING DEAD‘ gracing our screens. In this episode you also get to see a bit more of the character of Dr. John Ridge (played by Simon Oates) and how he can get his way….most of the time.
Episode 5 PROJECT SAHARA
Toby Wren and his new colleague Dr Stella Robson are suspended from the Doomwatch team at the behest of a mysterious security department within the Ministry, which is using a computer to vet civil servants for potential criminality.
A new member joins the ‘DOOMWATCH‘ team and in a surprising turn of events she isn’t in the series very long at all. Dr. Stella Robson (played by the stunning Hildegard Neil) is brought on to help the team with Project Sahara, a project that could help shorten wars by dropping a chemical on plant life in the area turning it into nothing, hence Project Sahara. Though her stint on ‘DOOMWATCH‘ was short it did allow the series to look at a woman’s perspective being in a generally male dominated series.It is also interesting to note that this episode looks at the government having a computer database with peoples information on it and using it to judge who is a threat or not. So far this series is like a predictor of things to come, what will happen in the next episode?
Episode 6 RE-ENTRY FORBIDDEN
Quist fears the new Sunfire space programme – which uses a highly radioactive fuel – may be endangered by the disintegrating mental state of a British astronaut.
Interesting plot to this episode as it sees three astronauts testing out a new type of rocket fuel which is highly radioactive so you have that danger as well as the prospect that one of the members of the crew suffers from undiagnosed schizophrenia, probably not what you want while your in space. Of course at this time of this episode mental health wasn’t as recognised as it is today and still to this day is taboo and the fear of what could happen if man went to space is evident also as mankind at this time of this episode was only making baby steps into space travel.
SERIES 1 – DISC 2
Episode 7 THE DEVIL’S SWEETS
Pat Hunnisett, the ‘DOOMWATCH’ secretary takes a give-away chocolate on the way to work. What results involves ‘DOOMWATCH’ in a desperate fight against time to save her life.
Manipulation, we are all capable of it and we all will have it done to us over our lifetime but what if you were manipulated by the companies you trust. Not a far stretch at all as this episode shows that corporate greed can get the better of anyone, the cigarette company even the small chocolate factory. They themselves are also manipulated by a person they thought they could trust. Psychology and human nature is the main ideas in ‘THE DEVIL’S SECRETS‘.
Episode 8 THE RED SKY
Noise from roads, industry and aircraft is one of the penalties we have to pay for modern technology. But what happens when the rising crescendo of sound becomes more than an irritant? When noise can actually kill?
Cars revving, people shouting in the streets, dogs barking all day, trains going by your home and planes flying everywhere. Wherever you are, noise pollution is not far away, but what would happen if the noise got to such high decibels it could actually kill. That is what what the team have to investigate here and what will the government do to stop such annoyances to the general public. Will they stop testing out their new fancy plane? No of course not, they will just buy the land surrounding the base, problem solved…….for now. With more airports being built around the world and the ones that are already around getting bigger how long till this is possibly a real life problem.
Episode 10 TRAIN AND DE-TRAIN
There has been a mass extermination of wildlife in Somerset. ‘DOOMWATCH’ investigate and the trail apparently leads to field trials of a new type of pesticide. At least that is the way it looks to Toby Wren…..
Another episode dealing with human greed and profit margins by the big corporate machines, in this case makers of a pesticide. Of course we all know that companies test products out before releasing them out to the public but what if a company spread something across the country without anyone’s knowledge leading to hundreds dead, would you trust that company after knowing the facts? This episode we get to see a bit more of the character of Toby wren (played by Robert Powell) as he investigates not only the company behind the killer pesticide but also the death of his former tutor.
Episode 11 THE BATTERY PEOPLE
Tough ex-miners in South Wales drinking gin instead of the traditional beer, giving their wives the cold shoulder and and secretly turning to cock-fighting. It all sounds wildly out of character to Dr. Quist and his team, who investigate despite the fact all this is taking place in the Minister’s own constituency.
Genetically modified food is what is on hand in ‘THE BATTERY PEOPLE‘ where a colonel is currently running a chicken farm and now using techniques he learned from a top security military operation sees him changing the genetic structure of fish so they are boneless, unfortunately for the men handling these fish they become impotent and are no longer able to hold an erection. As you can imagine this results in alot of men becoming single and their partners ditching them for men that can keep up….in more ways then one. A cautionary tale of genetically modified food if ever there was one.
So there we have what remains of series 1 of ‘DOOMWATCH‘ reviewed. Series 2 is available in this boxset also and you can find the review of that series by clicking here.
Reviews by Peter ‘Witchfinder‘ Hopkins