‘…Doomwatch is way ahead of its time in suggesting government conspiracies, and expressing anxiety about what we eat and how it might affect us…’

Director Peter Sasdy deserves his cult reputation; from the Whispering Gallery finale of Hands of the Ripper to the enigmatic hysteria of The Stone Tapes, his best work has an iconic feel. Viewers of the popular BBC science-fiction drama Doomwatch generally felt that this 1972 feature film was a somewhat cruder affair than the series it drew inspiration from, but as it resurfaces on streaming, Sadsy’s film is likely to entice the curious with a little enviromental horror in a Scottish setting.

Moving amongst characters created by Dr Who scribes Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, Doomwatch sees Dr Shaw (Ian Bannen) tackling chemical dumping on the fictional Scottish island of Balfe, although being a Tigon production, it’s actually Cornwall which doubles as the beauty-spot. There’s not much picturesque about what Shaw finds; growth hormones used on fish are getting into the food chain, and mutations are resulting, making the natives a little more restless than usual.

Does the Admiral (George Sanders) know more than he’s saying? Of course, he does, and Doomwatch is way ahead of its time in suggesting government conspiracies, and expressing anxiety about what we eat and how it might affect us. A co-star role for Judy Geeson, plus small roles for James Cosmo, Bond star Geoffrey Keen and Shelagh Fraser (who played Luke’s aunt five years later in Star Wars) keep things interesting.

The original series is now impossible to locate in any kind of complete form , so this capsule version of Doomwatch is well worth seeking out as a period piece with some unpleasant ideas which still resonate. Scottish people may be revolting, but they’re not mutating as yet; enviromental issues still threaten to turn science fiction into science fact.


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  1. Never heard of any of it – not Doomwatch, not the show, not the big ladies soccer new…..

    Must pry away this rock I’ve been living under.

    Always keen to see George Sanders……

    • If you fancy seeing George Sanders talking about ‘massive dumps in the sea’ then this film is the one to see.

        • Normally I’d agree with wanting to see Sanders. But this is from my notes:

          On first seeing him my mouth fell open and I had to say to myself “This man is not well.” He wasn’t. He was suffering from dementia as well as depression, had perhaps experienced a stroke, and apparently had very basic mobility issues. His appearance is just sad.

        • It’s free on YouTube over here, so you can judge for yourself. Sanders made far worse than this.

  2. Remember the TV series more than the film. It was unusually ambitious for telly and extraordinary prescient. Effectively, one of the first disaster programmes. Robert Powell’s breakthrough as I recall.

    • The Doomwatch sweater selection can be bought from Balfe Woolen Mill and Bio-mutation Heritage Centre, would you like a link to their website?

      • Yes please.

        Do you think Fraggle is sleeping off a big night of partying after England winning that soccer game yesterday? I wonder when she’ll be joining us.

        • I think fraggle actually holds down some kind of respectable, helpful job that gives her a meaningful role in society. Can’t imagine that over-celebrating women’s football looms large in her life, the media have completely ignored it until aout three weeks ago. I went to the women’s footballer of the year awards a few years back, and the media generally ignore it unless England are involved in some way…

          • She might not be a fan, but it seemed like it would be a good excuse to go out rioting in the streets. As long as people didn’t tip any bins over.

            • Where fraggle lives, they don’t need an excuse to go out and riot in the streets. England winning the women’s football thing is like a tree falling unseen in a forest from where I’m sitting; another cultural disconnect that adds to the ongoing alienation…

                • Women get a tiny fraction of the wages and sponsorship that men do. The same media screaming about this from the rooftops are the same bunch who have consistently devalue the same product for the last couple of decades.

        • Fraggle was up at 7am in the shower, at work for 9. Mondays always mad busy soonly now just got 10 mins to have a break. Didn’t bother with the footy though saw the highlights on the news, glad the ladies won, makes a nice change.

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