22/06/2015

Doomwatch By the Pricking of My Thumbs & Flight into Yesterday



By The Pricking Of My Thumbs
A rather interesting episode examining the ramifications of lazy scientific labelling. A 17 year old boy Stephen Franklin is expelled from by a seemingly progressive headmaster based on the work of Professor Ensor who has concluded that those in possession of an extra Y chromosome are predetermined towards violence, criminality or mental problems. This may well be why he looks about 28! Stephen has not been proved to have such an extra chromosome and as his father Oscar, who is a journalist, digs deeper he contacts Doomwatch for help. The episode sits rather uncomfortably on the unlikely coincidence that Ensor is currently working in the Doomwatch building; indeed the pros and cons of his research are being debated just as Oscar walks through the room. This odd scenario aside, the episode is filled with intriguing questions.
"I hope he doesn't know I'm also drilling to the centre of the world."


To enjoy it though you have to get past some of the overwrought acting both from Barry Stokes who plays Stephen and especially the normally reliable Bernard Hepton, billed as a special guest here, and hamming it up no end. There are a few too many shouty family arguments between father and son and rather less screen time for Olaf Pooley’s oily scientist than the narrative could do with. Ensor remains a closed book, there’s no scene where he really argues his ethics and at the end he allows Quist to rubbish his work without any comment at all. It seems rather a waste of both actor and character for him to be painted as the bad guy without allowing him justification.
The human dimension eventually plays better when Stephen runs away from home wracked with guilty over his apparent abnormality the evidence for which is nothing more than the fact he’s tall for his age and was in a care home before he was adopted. Quist has a tremendous speech from writer Robin Chapman in which he demolishes the idea of children being marked for life in this way by matters beyond their control. Even so it is too obvious which side the writer is on that, as mentioned, he never allows Ensor a defence.
It would be interesting to know whether or not this concept is taken from any real research and what conclusions it did reach. Here, you can only side with Quist at the end and hope that it was an theory best left to rot in old paper files somewhere.

UK Gold seemed to finally tire of the `scientist watching doom` photo that was the rather literal representation for the series as it went into and out of ad breaks. They replaced it with the image below in which the trendy Quist dons a hoodie decades before they became the clothing de jour. This still is obviously from a lost episode in which Doomwatch investigates why sherbert is causing kids to go ape crazy and attack people. The sherbert obviously comes from a shady lab where it got mixed in with something else. Undercover in his hoodie, Quist tries to blend in with the yoof. "Yo, yo, yo bro," he declares, "Is you up for a little science?" He was arrested one minute later and the episode was unaired. "Is it because I is a scientist?" he was heard to shout as they bundled him into a poilce van. 



Flight Into Yesterday
"Me? Quist? Pissed? You're having a laugh mate. Hic"
It’s time I mentioned Colin Bradley because he never goes out, in fact never appears to leave the Doomwatch offices and always sports a white coat looking like a proper scientist. Joby Blanshard has the most thankless role though at least he’s stopped talking to his computer each week. So when it comes to a conference in the United States they don’t send him of course because he can’t leave the office. They send Quist and when he gets back to brief the Prime Minister he arrives sounding distinctly sloshed. Yes, whisper it in Whitehall- Quist is pissed!
`Flight Into Yesterday` is not as exciting as it sounds. In fact it’s a tad dull unless you enjoy watching John Barron chatter away in that self important voice or imagine just how horrible it must have been when people could smoke on planes. The point of the episode seems to be to draw out the distinction in approach between Quist and Ridge and show how Barron’s Minister appears to enjoy playing them against each other. The villain, if we can call him that, is a Scottish bloke called Ainslie who deliberately over feeds and keeps the Doomwatch folk awake on a flight to disorientate them as they travel across time zones. Disappointingly they don’t arrive yesterday.

You wonder whether there is no issue too miniscule to be taken up by the series. Will there be an episode about uncomfortable shoes perhaps? Or maybe one about a squeaky chair?  What `Flight Into Yesterday` needs is a more defined hook, something better than the slightly annoyed look Ainslie gives when Ridge turns out not to have been suckered by his plan. It’s the sort of look you might give when something slightly niggles you. It’s an episode without bite and after the amusement of Quist’s slurred arrival, little to hold your attention. 


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