Doomwatch

9 February 1970

Image: Simon Oates as Dr John Ridge, Toby Blanshard as Colin Bradley, John Paul as Dr Spencer Quist, Robert Powell as Toby Wren and Wendy Hall as Pat Hunisett in episode one "The Plastic Eaters".

The first episode of environmental drama Doomwatch was shown on 9 February 1970. It featured a group of maverick scientists in the Department for Measurement of Scientific Work, codenamed Doomwatch. Their job was to investigate any scientific research which could possibly be of danger to humanity and frequently brought them into conflict with the government. The environmental issues and themes of dangerous technology resonated with the press and public, and attracted 13 million viewers. The impact of the series was such that for a while the government considered setting up a real Doomwatch committee in Parliament.

Doomwatch was created by Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler, formerly of Dr Who, who insisted that the drama was not science fiction, but thoroughly researched. The first episode was typical, concerning an experimental virus engineered to assist the breakdown of plastic waste. When it escaped, causing a plane to crash, it took the Doomwatch team to avert a global catastrophe, despite government attempts at a cover-up. The stars were John Paul as lead scientist Dr Spencer Quist, Simon Oates as man of action Dr John Ridge, and Robert Powell – in his first major role - as researcher Toby Wren.

Doomwatch ran for three series, although Davis and Pedlar distanced themselves from final series, which they felt had become too conventional. A feature film followed in 1972. Many of the issues explored in Doomwatch continue to be relevant today.

February anniversaries