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By James Whittington, Tuesday 5th April 2016
Doomwatch - DVD Review
For anyone of a certain age there will be sci-fi shows that grabbed them and lead to the way of loving horror. For some it was the earth invasions of Quatermass, for others it was the time-travelling of Doctor Who, but for some it was the gritty realism of “this could actually happen” shocks of Doomwatch.
Ground-breaking in every sense of the word Doomwatch originally aired on the BBC from 1970-1972 and at its height it attracted in excess of 13.6 million viewers and like the best TV shows spawned two film adaptations. Surprisingly it has never been released onto DVD, until now!
Sadly not all of the episodes made exist but the ones that still do (series 1-3 and the remaining episodes from series 4) are here in this cracking set from Simply Media. But for fans the real selling point is that it includes the unseen episode Sex And Violence as well as the celebrated BBC documentary The Cult of Doomwatch.
The cult series was the brainchild of Kid Pedler and Gerry Davis, yep, the very same people behind Doctor Who’s iconic Cybermen. It 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), alongside Colin Bradley (Joby Blanshard), Toby Wren (Robert Powell), and Dr. Fay Chantry (Jean Trend), 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.
Stark and bleak with the shadow of some 70s public worries such as pollution, environmental disasters, nuclear progression and population explosion, the series was steeped in “the now” of the time and the vast scientific breakthroughs the era experienced. It’s this grounding in fact and forethought (it predicted the danger of leaded petrol etc.) that makes the series so relevant today. You can only imagine what was going through the public’s imagination when stories such as the virus eating plastic, biological disasters and flesh eating rats first played. But this series delivered the conspiracy card long before Mulder and Scully had even thought about Government cover ups or big business shady deals. Yes, there’s dark dealing going on behind closed doors which makes the show even more deep and interesting.
Initially the show reflected some of the 70s sexism, which if you stick with the series adjusts itself to become more correct and was also a show where they didn’t guarantee that all of the cast will survive which gives it a lovely, unpredictable edge.
Picture and sound are what you’d expect for a series from the early 70s and although it does come with a cracking retrospective documentary from a few years back it could have done with a few ore extras for fans seeing as though this series had been a long time coming.
In short though, this is TV heaven, a series that was so ahead of its time that its almost timeless (if you can overlook the fashions, some of the sexism and effects) a series that gave a nightmare vision of the future that still has the power to chill even after all this time.
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