Doomwatch

(United Kingdom | BBC | 1970 – 1972)

Doomwatch
Series Background

Created by Gerry Davis and Dr Kit Pedler, Doomwatch set out to explore the world of science and the possible abuses of it that might occur.

Season 1 began transmission on BBC1 in February 1970, with the very first episode, The Plastic Eaters, throwing both the viewers and new employee Toby Wren (Robert Powell) in at the deep end, with an investigation into a virus which could break down plastic, and which had seemingly escaped from the laboratory in which it had been developed.

Other leading characters included Dr Spencer Quist (Andrew Paul), a veteran of the Manhattan Project; John Ridge (Simon Oates), the resident action man; and Colin Bradley (Joby Blanshard), the department's computer expert and information man.

With stories dealing with everything from concerns over genetic engineering through to the dumping of waste at sea, and even the threat posed by super-intelligent rats, the series immediately captured the public imagination. It was therefore rather unsurprising that there was a vocal public response to the demise of the popular Wren in the final episode of the season, Survival Code. Sadly, this episode no longer exists but it was later novelised for the educational publisher Longman as part of Doomwatch: The World in Danger, which was written by Pedler and Davis in 1975, two years after the end of the series.

The following two seasons saw various cast members coming and going, including the departure of Ridge from the department, even if not from the actual series. Davis and Pedler themselves parted company with the programme at the end of the Season 2.

The series finally came to an end in August 1972 after a shorter than usual season, which became even shorter when the decision was taken not to screen the final episode, Sex and Violence. For many years it was assumed that this was due to scenes of a genuine execution which had been included in the programme, although in recent years the possibility has been raised that it was actually due to the similarity between a number of characters and their real life counterparts.

But between the transmission of Seasons 2 and 3, audiences had the chance to go and see a movie version of Doomwatch, although it only featured relatively brief appearances by the regular cast, with most of the action being given to new character Dr Dell Shaw (Ian Bannen), who had only recently joined Doomwatch. Needless to say, when Season 3 arrived on television Dr Shaw was nowhere to be seen.

To date, the most recent outing for Doomwatch was 1999's Winter Angel, a one-off TV movie for Channel 5 which starred Trevor Eve as Neil Tannahil, an astrophysicist who is called in by the now retired Spencer Quist (Philip Stone) and ends up battling against a man-made black hole. Sadly, it was only to be watched by 1.62m viewers — a respectable figure for Channel 5 at the time, although not quite high enough for any more editions to be made.

One final item concerning the programme need mentioning at this point and that is the second episode of BBC Four's 2006 documentary series The Cult Of.., which was entirely devoted to Doomwatch. Should the series ever get released on DVD, this would be an ideal overview of the series, and the equivalent episodes for The Tripods and Survivors have already been released in this manner.
Further Reading

Prophets of Doom: An Unauthorised History of Doomwatch
by Michael Seely
  • Miwk Publishing
  • Paperback
  • 2012
Archive Status / DVD Releases

Like many series of the 1960s and 1970s, Doomwatch is no longer complete in the BBC archives. Of the thirteen episodes from Season 1, six exist in their original format, with a further two existing solely as NTSC conversions returned from Canada.

Of the thirteen episodes from Season 2, just the final one, Public Enemy, exists in its original format, although the remaining twelve are all held as NTSC conversions.

The third and final season is the most badly affected of all with just three of the twelve episodes known to exist, although all three are in their original broadcast format — fortunately, the unbroadcast episode, Sex and Violence, is amongst them.

The Plastic Eaters and Tomorrow, the Rat have both been released on DVD in the UK, having previously been released together on VHS. Both episodes are from Season 1 and the latter is one of the ones returned to the BBC in NTSC format.

The Red Sky and You Killed Toby Wren have been released together on video in the UK. Although advertised, and indeed still listed in some locations, the proposed DVD release of these episodes was cancelled.

The Doomwatch movie has been released on DVD in both the UK and the United States. No subtitles.

Doomwatch: Winter Angel has been released on DVD in the UK. The disc is region free and in NTSC format, so can safely be bought by anyone outside the UK. No subtitles.
Deadly Dangerous Tomorow

Edited
by
Michael Seely
Cover image: Deadly Dangerous Tomorrow, Miwk Publishing Ltd (2012)
Country UK
Format Paperback
Publisher Miwk Publishing Ltd
Publication Date October 2012
Original Price 12.99
ISBN UNKNOWN

Deadly Dangerous Tomorrow contains the scripts to six missing episodes of Doomwatch, one from Season 1 and five from Season 3.

Television Episodes
50 Minutes | BBC1 | Colour

13/04/70 Spectre at the Feast Terence Dudley
05/06/72 Fire and Brimstone Terence Dudley
12/06/72 High Mountain Martin Worth
19/06/72 Say Knife, Fat Man Martin Worth
17/07/72 Deadly Dangerous Tomorrow Martin Worth
31/07/72 Flood Ian Curteis

Notes
Cover image: Doctor Who, Black Orchid, Target Books (1987)

Cover image: Doctor Who, The King's Demons, Target Books (1986)

Cover image: K-9 and Company, The Companions of Doctor Who, K-9 and Company, Target Books (1987)
  • As well as producing all three seasons of Doomwatch, Terence Dudley also contributed no less than five scripts during the course of the show, beginning with Tomorrow, the Rat and Spectre at the Feast for Season 1. You Killed Toby Wren, which opened Season 2, dealt with the death of Toby Wren, while Fire and Brimstone and Waiting for a Knighthood were both written for Season 3. Of the five scripts, the two included in Deadly Dangerous Tomorrow are the only ones not still in existence in the BBC archives.

    Apart from his work on Doomwatch, he was a prolific producer/director for BBC Television, amongst which were contributions to a number of other telefantasy series such as Survivors (producer), Doctor Who (director), Out of the Unknown (director) and the 1962 serial The Big Pull (producer/director).

    In a scriptwriting capacity he also contributed a single episode to Survivors (Manhunt) and three stories for Doctor Who (Four to Doomsday / Black Orchid / The King's Demons, as well the K-9 and Company pilot which was produced in 1981. He would go on to novelise the latter for Target Books, as well as the final two of his three Doctor Who stories.
  • The book contains scripts to six of the fourteen episodes of Doomwatch which are missing from the BBC archives, with the five from Season 3 being arguably the most important. While Spectre at the Feast from Season 1 is also missing, there are at least eight extant episodes in the archives, with the missing season finale, Survival Code, already available as a novelisation in The World in Danger. In contrast, of the twelve episodes produced for Season 3, just three still exist, and none of them have ever been released commercially.
  • Martin Worth was a prolific script writer for UK television throughout the 1960s and 1970s, contributing to archive classics such as Public Eye, Special Branch and The Onedin Line. Needless to say, telefantasy series would also figure amongst his credits and he would end up scripting no less than than seven of Survivors' thirty-eight episodes, not to mention single episodes for each of Out of the Unknown (The Last Witness), Into the Labyrinth (Succession) and Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense (A Distant Scream) — the latter two would both be towards the end of his television career in the early-1980s. For Doomwatch, he would be responsible for six episodes, contributing three to each of Seasons 2 and 3. Invasion, Flight Into Yesterday and The Human Time Bomb from Season 2 all still exist in the BBC archives.
  • Ian Curteis wrote extensively for UK television during the 1970s, although his sole contribution to telefantasy-based series was Flood for Doomwatch. His 1980s work would largely be overshadowed by a highly public row over the cancellation of The Falklands Play, which examined the 1982 invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentina. The script would finally be produced for BBC Four in 2002
  • All profits from the book are being donated to the East Anglian Air Ambulance.
Doomwatch: The World in Danger

by
Gerry Davis
and
Kit Pedler
Cover image: Doomwatch, The World in Danger, Longman Group UK Ltd (1975)
Country UK
Format Paperback
Publisher Longman Group UK Ltd
Publication Date 1975
Original Price UNKNOWN
ISBN 0582538238
Illustrator Richard Osbourne

The World in Danger contains novelisations of three episodes from Season 1.

Other Editions
Cover image: Doomwatch, The World in Danger, Longman (1986) Doomwatch: The World in Danger
UK | Paperback | Longman | 1986
Although not strictly a separate edition, by 1986 The World in Danger had reached its Ninth Impression.
Doomwatch — its proper name is Department of Measurement of Scientific Work — is a team of five people. Their work is very important; they watch all the scientific work in Britain. Science has given the world many good things — but it can be dangerous, it can kill. Scientists make mistakes — they can be careless. So the government started Doomwatch — but often the government are the last to listen to the team's advice.
Television Episodes
50 Minutes | BBC1 | Colour

09/02/70 The Plastic Eaters Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler
06/04/70 The Red Sky Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler
11/05/70 Survival Code Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler
Notes
  • The three episodes novelised in The World in Danger were the only three for the series which were be be written by Davis and Pedler in tandem, although Davis would also script Project Sahara for Season 1 and The Web of Fear for Season 2.

    Survival Code is one of fourteen episodes of Doomwatch which no longer exist in the BBC archives, so the novelisation is the only opportunity to experience what happened — Toby Wren discovering that defusing bombs is such not a wise career move...
  • The book contains a number of photographs from the relevant episodes.
  • The World in Danger was released as part of an educational range of books. Unfortunately this means that, in all probability, very few copies are in general circulation, making it one of the hardest UK telefantasy books to locate.
  • Although the novelisations of The Plastic Eaters and The Red Sky retain their original titles, Survival Code is renamed A Bomb is Missing.

    The Plastic Eaters also formed the basis for the original novel Mutant 59: The Plastic Eater, written by Pedler and Davis in 1971.
  • Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler created the Cybermen for the 1966 Doctor Who story The Tenth Planet, which also saw the departure from the series of William Hartnell, who had played the Doctor since the series had started in 1963.

    Their script for The Tomb of the Cybermen was released by Titan Books in 1989, and during the 1970s and 1980s Davis novelised a number of Doctor Who stories for Target BooksThe Celestial Toymaker, Doctor Who and the Tenth Planet, The Highlanders, Doctor Who and the Cybermen and Doctor Who and the Tomb of the Cybermen.
Mutant 59: The Plastic Eater

by
Gerry Davis
and
Kit Pedler
Cover image: Mutant 59: The Plastic Eater, Souvenir Press (1971)
Country UK
Format Hardback
Publisher Souvenir Press
Publication Date 1971
Original Price UNKNOWN
ISBN 0285620320

Mutant 59: The Plastic Eater isn't actually a Doomwatch novel, but the plot is loosely based on The Plastic Eaters, the very first episode of the series.

Other Editions
Cover image: Mutant 59: De Plasticrvreter, AW Bruna, (1972) Mutant 59: De Plasticrvreter
Holland | Hardback | AW Bruna | 1972
The identity of the translator is unknown.
Cover image: Mutant 59: The Plastic Eater, Viking, (1972) Mutant 59: The Plastic Eater
United States | Hardback | Viking | 1972 | 0670496626

A BIOLOGICAL TIME BOMB?

  "In the shaft leading to the [ventilation] grille a mindless, groping mass of malodorous corruption was thrusting its way silently towards the surface. Buoyed up by bubbling foam it steadily rose. Single units in an obscene abrogation of normal order divided and made two. Two became four and four, eight. Endlessly supplied with food, each unit absorbed nutrient and in a soft, ancient certainty fulfilled its only purpose — to multiply, to extend and to multiply...

  "In the Coburg Street control room of the London Underground system, there was a full emergency... In a dozen tunnels, trains ground down to a halt. Hordes of terrified commuters made their way anxiously along dark, musty tunnels to the lights and safety of the next station. There were minor explosions, fires, and the failure of a million wires and cables. As the dissolution of plastic proceeded and accelerated in rate, the elegant order of the system gradually turned into complete chaos.

  "On the surface, in the freezing December air, the smell of the rotting plastic began to hang permanently in the air. A cloying, wet, rotting smell similar to the smell of long-dead flesh. It filled streets and homes, basements and factories. Traffic lights failed, causing irresolvable jams.... The breakdown of plastic spread into Broadcasting House.... A gas main with polypropylene seals on its pressure regulators erupted into flame.... Plastic cold-water pipes softened, ballooned, and burst, flooding into shops, homes, and restaurants.

  "Slowly and inexorably, the rate of dissolution increased; failures occurred in increasing succession until, within forty-eight hours, the centre of London had become a freezing chaos without light, heat, or communication."

Cover image: Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters, Pan Books (1973) Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters
UK | Paperback | Pan Books | 1973 | 0330237969
The image on the cover of the Pan paperback is the same one that was used on the cover of the Radio Times dated 7 — 13 February 1970, to publicise The Plastic Eaters, the very first episode of Doomwatch. The episode had involved a plastic eating virus which had ultimately been carried onto a passenger plane via an infected pen, with Toby Wren being stuck aboard as the control system wires, and all other plastics, began to dissolve. Fortunately, the hapless Wren managed to survive the landing, only to be blown up twelve episodes later at the conclusion of Survival Code.
A new nightmare...

From the creators of Doomwatch comes a chilling and topical story of what can happen when scientific research, done in the name of progress, backfires to spread terror throughout the crippled hell that is London...

Cover image: Mutant 59: The Plastic-Eaters, Viking (1972) Mutant 59: The Plastic-Eaters
United States | Paperback | Bantam Books | 1973
First paperback edition in the United States.
LONDON IS MELTING?

WHY? ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN SEARCH FOR THE SCIENTIFIC KEY TO A FIERY HOLOCAUST THAT IS INFECTING THE CITY AND IS CAPABLE OF INFECTING THE WORLD.

MUTANT 59:
THE PLASTIC EATERS


PART SCIENCE...PART SPECULATION...ALL THRILLER! THE ASTOUNDING NEW NOVEL. "IN THE SAME LEAGUE AS THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN...TENSE EXCITEMENT ALL THE WAY!"
— SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

"UTTERLY FASCINATING...VIVIDLY PORTRAYS WHAT CAN HAPPEN WHEN SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH — IN THE NAME OF PROGRESS — BACKFIRES...A POWERFUL READ OF TERROR AND SUSPENSE!"
— LITERARY GUILD MAGAZINE

Cover image: Die Plastikfresser, Heyne (1974) Die Plastikfresser
Germany | Paperback | Heyne | 1974
Translated by Rolf Palm.
Cover image: Lebbra Antiplastica, Urania, Issue 643 (1974) Lebbra Antiplastica
Italy | Magazine | 1974
Released as Issue 643 of Urania science fiction magazine. The identity of the translator is unknown.
(Mutant 59: The Plastic Eater)
Japan | Paperback | Kadokawa Shoten | 1975
The identity of the translator is unknown.
Cover image: Urania: Millemondinverno 1983 (1983) Urania: Millemondinverno 1983
Italy | 1983
This omnibus edition contains translations of all three original novels written by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis: Lebbra Antiplastica (Mutant 59: The Plastic Eater), L'effetto Dinosauro (Brainrack) and Dynostar (The Dynostar Menace). The volume was subtitled "Tre romanzi completi di Kit Pedler e Gerry Davis". The translators were Beata Della Frattina and Bianca Russo.
Cover image: Mutant 59: Der Plastikfresser, Heyne, (1974) Mutant 59: Der Plastikfresser
Germany | Paperback | Heyne | 1986 | 3453312899
Translated by Rolf Palm.
Cover image: Unterwegs in die Welt von Morgen, Das Beste (1989) Unterwegs in die Welt von Morgen
Germany | Hardback | Das Beste | 1989 | 3870703377
This omnibus edition contains Mutant 59: The Plastic Eater as well as Feind aus dem Weltraum by Poul Anderson.
Cover image: Mutant 59: The Plastic Eater, Novosti (1992) (Mutant 59: The Plastic Eater)
Russsia | Novosti | 1992
The identity of the translator is unknown.
Notes
  • Mutant 59 was the first of three original novels which Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler would write, with the second and third titles being Brainrack and The Dynostar Menace respectively.
Back cover blurb and cover image for the Pan Books edition supplied by Perry Armstrong