27/07/2015

Doomwatch The Inquest and The Logicians


The Inquest
Well I’ll be…Colin Bradley has left t’office for the first time in the entire series. Not only that but he’s shed his white coat and has more than a handful of lines. In a knotty, wordy episode penned by Robert Holmes, Bradley says a little too much during an inquest when he declares that all the dogs in the area need to be destroyed something which shocks the event into a recess. That’s plain speaking for you, lad. He’s probably just over excited about all the fresh air.



Colin is relieved after finally getting out of the office after 10 years

At least he fares better in the village than Geoff Hardcastle who is shot while investigating genetic experiments in a lab near where a local girl died from rabies. Cheekily the episode title is played over what at first seems to be a body and we’re wondering if this is the second Doomwatch fatality whereas in fact Geoff is fine. With Ridge apparently away and Quist far too busy making his hair even larger than usual, it falls to Bradley to high tail it oop North for t’inquest.
As Doctor Who fans know, Robert Holmes is a writer who luxuriates in lively language and interesting characters and The Inquest is a tough call as 90% of the episode is actually, erm, an inquest. How to make this interesting particularly when it goes into some scientific detail? The answer is to turn it into something of a whodunnit.
The supposed inquest lurches all over the place with the blame whizzing around the room rather like one of those Miss Marple summing ups. Was the laboratory to blame- is it flies? Is it dogs? Could it be- never- sturdy Miss Lincoln the local dog whisperer? Or perhaps it’s something to do with a bottle of imported vodka the camera lingers on. For a while I thought it might be the meat in the pub sandwiches!
Though nothing like a real inquest it’s neatly done with the process under the auspices of a very dry Coroner and plenty of inter-village strife on display. Holmes deftly ensures no party is left entirely blameless and amusingly the resolution turns out to be made outside the inquest room itself. Some may find it heavy going but despite the subject matter the tone is interestingly combative and always lively thanks to Robert Holmes’ uncanny ability to make then the dullest detail interesting.

The Logicians
A run of strong episodes comes to an end with this rather drawn out tale of ultra clever school kids stealing a file from a pharmaceutical company managed by one of the group’s fathers. The plot is so unlikely that you keep expecting something surprising to happen but it doesn’t. The crime is perpetrated by a bunch of smugly intelligent pupils from a school whose teaching methods revolve around solving problems with logic and thus are able to run rings round the adults even when the plan is threatened and one of the children has to stay in the building for days on end. Only he seems to survive on orange juice and assurances he will be rescued. He doesn’t do anything interesting at all. Neither is he attacked by toxic snakes or uncovers a mad scientist in the basement. He doesn’t even dance with a mop. In the 1987 film Hiding Out Jon Cryer played a youthful stockbroker in trouble who ends up living in a school and has fun with his confinement. He dances, he pretends to be a pupil (named Maxwell Hauser after the coffee!) and ends up standing for school president. You should check this film out sometime. Anyhow the boy here spends the time in the wainscoting, drinking cordial and tutting. Not exactly rebel youth.
Meanwhile Doomwatch become involved only because they’ve been monitoring side effects of the new antibiotic that is described in the file. Ridge immediately suspects the visiting kids but doesn’t’ get the police to look at it. Instead he goes to and fro from the school to the company for a series of uninteresting conversations. There is a promising thread when Quist starts to question the merit of an education that is more indoctrination than education and questions the methods but this doesn’t really go anywhere. To add to the tedium it turns out the kids only ransom the formula in order to get a lot of money, not to build a rocket or buy drugs, but to help prop up the crumbling school building. They’re probably all in government now.



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