Doomwatch (1972)

*. As a general rule, British TV has never been very popular in North America. There are still some people who enjoy classic Britcoms and can endure Coronation Street, but they are dying out. Even Doctor Who is a niche taste over here.
*. Doomwatch was a program that ran on the BBC from 1970 to 1972 about a government agency set up to deal with the unanticipated consequences of scientific research. Apparently it was quite popular but I’ve never seen it, and given the BBC’s policy of wiping master tapes after transmission I’m not sure all the episodes even survive. I think it was a bit like the X-Files of its day, and like that show it led to a big-screen spin-off.
*. Anyway, the story here has it that a chemical company dumped a bunch of experimental growth hormone with Food of the Gods properties off the shore of a remote island. The barrels sprang leaks and contaminated the fish, which, when eaten by the local fishermen, led them to develop a form of acromegaly and drove them mad. A doctor from the Doomwatch patrol (Ian Bannen, not a regular on the show) is sent to the island to investigate an unrelated oil spill and slowly twigs to what’s going on.
*. That’s all there is. About as much plot as you’d get in an hour television show. As a timely ecohorror thriller it’s not very scary, especially when you figure out that the “monsters” are only to be pitied. Nor is there anything terribly interesting going on. The only highlights are the locations, with the picturesque town of Polkerris in Cornwall standing in for the island.
*. The lowlights are another matter. I’d list the wardrobe here, though there may be some out there who will groove to Dr. Quist’s odd belted sweater-jacket or Dr. Shaw’s mauve turtleneck. More distressing is the appearance of George Sanders as the Admiral. Doomwatch was one of his last films, with only Endless Night and Psychomania to come, which lets you know that he had a lot to be depressed about on a professional level. 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.
*. So I’d pass on this one. The next year there’d be a much better British horror movie about an authority figure visiting a strange island where the locals guard a deadly secret. But this would be the end of the line for Doomwatch.

33 thoughts on “Doomwatch (1972)

  1. fragglerocking

    I don’t remember Doomwatch at all. British TV is mostly crap, though I believe Americans love our period dramas like Downton Abbey or whatever it’s called. Now and again a really good one turns up though, check out Years and Years, that was excellent.

    1. Alex Good

      Yeah, that period stuff like Downton Abbey still travels. I liked the original Office but they had to remake it for it to play in America. I remember watching the original and having a really hard time making out what Ricky Gervais and the rest of the cast were saying. Haven’t heard of Years and Years.

      1. Alex Good Post author

        The Tudors, I’m sad to say, didn’t quite work for me. All the sexy stuff and nudity put me off. Not that I have anything against sexy, and I could see why they were doing it to grab a younger audience, but it just felt like it was trying too hard and the sex felt unnecessary. I liked Wolf Hall.

      2. fragglerocking

        Wolf hall was really good. I don’t remember there being loads of sexy and nudity, apart from the Katherine Howard section. Must have closed my eyes!

      3. Alex Good Post author

        They couldn’t keep their clothes on right from the bell! Lots of young gleaming bodies. Which is also off-putting because a sexy body in Tudor England wasn’t a sexy twenty-first century model look, for men or women. Men had body hair, for starters.

    1. Alex Good

      Haven’t heard of the first two. Sherlock was good, but I don’t personally know of anyone who watched it, and that’s with a pretty big star behind it too. I mean, I know it did well but it wasn’t a big hit in the U.S.

    1. Alex Good

      No, that was from my bit at the Blanefield Bowl. Billy Connolly was opening for me. Not much of a venue, but I believe in taking entertainment to the people.


        Brilliant piece; that guy really unlocks the polymath within! Can’t find the typo you mention, but such brilliant writing the way he explores the directors other work, and the Dr Who connection, he really spells out the context. awesome find! You could learn something from writing like that! Maybe you should contact him and find out how he does it!

      2. Alex Good Post author

        Lucky there is a screenshot of the review in its enturity, but no need to embarrass the author any further. He’s already concealed behind a plague mask of anonymity.


        An honour to join Julianne Moore on the toilet in your screen-shot collection. mention director in your reviews muxch? Or just forgot the key information? I guess you got your best observations from mine….

      4. Alex Good Post author

        And so ends this educational episode of Sunrise Semester. Oh wait, what’s up today . . .
        “Cannavale and Cox’s characters experiment a new line of swearing here by creating new profanies by linking existing ones linking words . . .”
        Oh Scotland . . .

      5. Alex Good Post author

        *sigh* It wasn’t just the double “linking.” Profanities has a “t” in it.
        Look, I have to go do the bins now. I can just take the whole site out in the grey bin to take to the landfill. Your call. Might be better than just slapping bubble gum in the cracks of this Hoover Dam of error.


        No such errors have occurred. Maybe you might be able to look up Doomwatch and find out who directed it. It’s customary for a film review to include the name of the author of the work. Criticism 101. Even a child would know, but for some reason, you don’t. Anyway, I should let you go, these bins ain’t gonna hump thrmselves.!

      7. Alex Good Post author

        “Profanies” has been “corrected” to “profanites.” Presumably these are aliens from the planet Profanus. There’s no putting duct tape on this site. Just clear everyone out and nuke it from space. That’s the only way to be sure.

      8. Alex Good Post author

        Obviously this whole distance-learning thing over the lockdown hasn’t been working for you. I can only hope that when in-class instruction starts up again you’ll be able to make up for how far you’ve fallen behind.

      1. Alex Good Post author

        Haven’t heard of that. Sounds good. You never know with an American version. Sometimes they get these things right. I would imagine there’s quite a bit of work translating rural Britain to rural America though.

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