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Series / Doomwatch

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A short-lived science fiction BBC series from The '70s, airing from 1970 to 1972. Spencer Quist is the head of the Department for the Observation and Measurement of Scientific Work, or "Doomwatch," a government agency which investigates the deadly dangers of unchecked scientific progress. Despite its short run, the series drew in 13.6 million viewers at its peak and elicited topical discussions about embryonic research, noise pollution, animal exploitation, and other issues. Unfortunately, the series was not renewed past its third series and, as was standard BBC practice, many of the show's master tapes were wiped.

The original series spawned a 1972 film adaptation, released in the U.S. with the title Island of the Ghouls. A Continuity Reboot series was attempted by Channel 5 in 1999, but did not elicit viewer interest past a Made-for-TV Movie aired as the pilot.

The series provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Animal Assassin: "Killer Dolphins" focuses on the United States Navy training dolphins to act as underwater saboteurs. Quist discovers that they are capable of becoming assassins.
  • Anyone Can Die: Toby at the end of "Survival Code."
  • The Atoner: Quist feels lingering guilt after helping build the atomic bomb, and witnessing his wife dying from radiation poisoning.
  • Extra Y, Extra Violent: In "By the Pricking of My Thumbs...", a teenager faces discrimination because he is XYY. The episode features a scientist who is convinced that having the extra Y chromosome predisposes a person to criminal behavior, but this position is meant to be seen as misguided.
  • Hope Spot: Toby's death. Toby disarmed a nuclear bomb that had been planted at a seaside pier and, believing the threat was over, lets his wire-cutters drop into the ocean. Then he sees another wire attached to the still-active conventional explosive and...
  • Killed Off for Real: Done to Toby at the end of the first series, despite being a main character.
    • Quist himself in the 1999 TV pilot.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: The episode "Sex and Violence" featured characters based on Lord Longford, Cliff Richard, and especially Mary Whitehouse, hence why it was banned.
  • The Plague: The debut episode "Plastic Eaters" has Quist deal with a virus that corrodes plastic materials and causes aeroplanes to fall from the sky.