11/05/2015

Doomwatch The Battery People



The episodes I’m watching for these reviews were taped from the old UK Gold channel years ago and therefore include adverts. The ident they have chosen signifying the return to the series after sundry wavy haired pastel coloured ads is from the first episode and shows a white coated scientist looking at something. I like the idea that UK Gold imagined this was enough to literally portray the title. This man is clearly looking at Doom. If I seem distracted by such triviality that might be because it’s time for something a little less thrilling than the stories so far. When this episode became the first Doomwatch episode not to automatically fill a Google search I might have known that it’s one of the less celebrated ones. Not, as we might have hoped from the title, a story about robots secretly working in factory `The Battery People` struggles to light up and therefore is the least successful of the surviving season one episodes. With a name like Emrys Jones as the writer you’d think the results would better serve the Welsh community in which the episode is largely set but it ends up being rather patronising. The story itself is an idea that doesn’t really have enough legs to fill a 45 minute drama and unlike previous episodes there is no real sense of peril or tension. As for Quist he seems positively avuncular this week, indeed the whole team seem to be getting along fine. 


We open in something that resembles one of those futuristic bases you see in seventies sci- fi films where people in identical uniforms are injecting fish. There’s an overheated argument in which two men come to blows. Then we find ourselves back in London where Quist and co are researching the latest Minister not that it seems worth it considering the turnover at the top. Somehow or other- and frankly my attention was already meandering- the two tie up and Ridge finds himself in the valleys masquerading as a journalist. Gaining the confidence and seemingly limitless access of local stringer Bill Jones (well he had to be called that didn’t he?) Ridge slowly…very slowly uncovers something about fish being bred without bones. He secures an interview with the splendidly named factory owner Colonel Archibald Smithson an unlikely scientist but seemingly someone with a past in experimental science. It’s all a bit stodgy to be honest.
Freddie the Fish does not look happy, does he readers? He's seen the whole script.
The big reveal turns out to be that the men working in the factory, most of whom seem to have been chosen for being over 40, are infertile due to the liquid in which the aforementioned fish are swimming. Quite what this liquid does to the fish isn’t explained but apparently they are alright to eat, something the team seem to accept despite their doubts about everything else. This revelation does put into context a series of overplayed scenes we’ve been subjected to in which a divorced couple argue elliptically because the writer doesn’t want to drop too many hints. The Colonel doesn’t seem to be bothered even though he knows about it dismissing the men because of their age, a rather cruel attitude that doesn’t come across from David Davies’ one note performance.There is a kernel of an idea here and you can see what they were going for but it doesn’t coalesce and you find yourself wondering whether the liquid has affected people’s hair as well. How else to explain the bizarre barnet atop the husband’s head?
It all ends with an unlikely accident and a dark quip from Quist and has perhaps been hard work for everyone not least the viewer. Mind, you do have to admire a script about loss of virility that manages to insert cock fighting into the mix. Cheeky symbolism aside this episode is firing blanks.

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