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DVD Review

DVD cover

Series 1-3
The Remaining Episodes


Starring: John Paul, Simon Oates and Robert Powell
Distributor: Simply Media
RRP: £39.99
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 04 April 2016

The late sixties and early seventies were times of both great optimism and threat. The greater introduction of the pill had freed women from having unwanted pregnancies, man had landed on the moon and there seemed no reason that the exploration of space would not carry on unabated. On the other side the proliferation of nuclear weapons threatened the whole of humanity. Technology offered the hope of a better future or a future destroyed by technology. Against this background Kit Pedler and Gerry Davies created Doomwatch...

Doomwatch originally ran from 9 February 1970 to 14 August 1972 totalling thirty-eight episodes, although because the BBC’s propensity to value their programs so little that they happily wiped tapes, losing countless show in the process, not all of the episodes survived. Luckily, the greater majority did and are contained in this seven disc DVD set.

The show was based around The Department of Measurement of Scientific Work, this being a bit of a mouthful they were usually known as Doomwatch. Led by Dr Spencer Quist (John Paul), Colin Bradley (Joby Blanshard), Toby Wren (Robert Powell) and eventually Dr Fay Chantry (Jean Trend) were empowered to look into any accident/disaster which may have been caused by poorly controlled research. Pedler and Davies had already broached the concept of technology running rampant to the detriment of the population when he created the Cybermen for the Doctor Who story, The Tenth Planet (1966).

In the show, Quist is given the department, not so much to actively investigate anything, but as a way of deflecting any criticism. Unfortunately, for the government, Quist had worked on the Manhattan Project and lost his wife to radiation poisoning so was more than happy to confront both abuses of science and of governmental power in the guise of the nameless Minister (John Barron). There are some elements of the show which have not stood the test of time. The basic format remains interesting and enjoyable, but Joby Blanshard’s portrayal of Colin is sexist to the point of being cringeworthy. He treats all the females he meets as dolly birds who appear to have been put on the planet so he could letch over them and smack their arses.

The show is in its original 4:3 aspect ratio with its mono audio track. The picture has not been restored and can be variable. The menu system is odd in that it lists the episode number, rather than the name of the story. On the one hand it does show you what’s missing, but I don’t think that most viewers would value this information over the name of the show. Each of the episodes lasts around fifty minutes.

The last disc does contain a single extra, in the form of The Cult of Doomwatch (29 mins, 17 sec) which reunited three of the surviving actors as well as a couple of talking heads discussing the show. The set also contains the episode Sex and Violence which was never shown on terrestrial television.

Apart from the odd hostage to its age the show remains enjoyably watchable and in its basic premise and less ridiculous storylines relevant. Shame about the quality of the surviving print.


Charles Packer

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