Doomwatch Invasion

Well there’s a right to-do down village when two lads go missing in caves and don’t turn up for more than 36 hours. Question is did they exit their subterranean adventure via Headley Grange, a big old house full of secrets? Well what do you think? The cool thing about this episode is the way it plays with television sci-fi imagery but in a more down to earth manner. Tweak some details here and there and it could be one of those kids serials ITV used to make or even a standard Seventies Doctor Who. Well John Paul only needs the cloak..

So in a way everything is as we might expect. The two missing villagers were helping Ridge and Hardcastle take samples of the local water which had shown high nitrate content. You may well ask if such a discovery had been made already why the need for more samples but we’ll let that one go. Once it becomes clear they are missing and standard searches have come up with nowt, as the very loud local copper might yell, suspicion falls on the big pile near by. This is a house surrounded by imposing Keep Out signs and soldiers carrying traditional shotguns so naturally Ridge breaks in and is nearly shot. The place is run by another Reginald Perrin alumnus Geoffrey Palmer sporting a distinctly odd looking moustache. Perhaps that’s the top secret operation that used to go on here; strange facial hair for the troops?
The village meanwhile is awash with rumours of silver figures lurking in the grounds of the Grange which we can guess fairly accurately are not going to be Cybermen. However the lads’ relatives seem unconcerned. “Ooh, sometimes they go missing for years” one of them almost says. It’s the sort of country idyll where the folk are happy to sup beer and leave things to chance.
Martin Worth’s story doesn’t really hold too many surprises; when the missing couple show up you know full well they’ll be carrying some horrendous infection because by now we’ve learned the place used to be a centre for germ warfare experiments. This revelation brings Quist along and before you know it he’s calling meetings and evacuating the place.
There’s probably more drama to be had from the scenario than plays out on screen; for example the locals are narky about moving but hardly terrified when told they might all otherwise die. “By’ eck he don’t half go on” you expect someone to pipe up when a sombre faced Quist is addressing them.  I’d say the episode would play better if the missing duo turned up sooner and we see a bit more of a gradual spreading both of fear and infection. Mind you the downbeat ending has a chilling quality as the village is cleared of its inhabitants for what will probably be a long time.
The folks over at Doctor Who would certainly have been jealous of the large number of troops and vehicles mobilised for the final sequence, an impressive display that gives the climax a punch that the rest of the episode lacks. 

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