A routine flight to San Pedro is in trouble. The flight was reaching its end when the pilot noticed one of his dials was not working, he gives it a tap to see if it would register but nothing. The Flight Engineer pulls out a panel and notices inside that a cable is melting... As the air hostess make sure their passengers are safely belted, the situation worsens in the cock pit. Anything plastic is softening and melting. The Captain orders a mayday alert and initiates an emergency descent drill. Controls begin to spark. On the ground, emergency airport response teams drive out from their hangers. The Captain and his crew have lost control of the plane, his joystick or yoke breaks up in his hands as a sticky mess. The plane crashes in the scrub land and is destroyed.
THE GUARDIAN NEWSPAPER 10th February 1970
IN DOOMWATCH (BBC1) science invents a scavenger enzyme to decompose plastic. Lest, one day, the world should disappear under a heap of empty cartons. This amiable enzyme, however, finding itself footloose aboard a plane, begins gamely eating its way through the plastic fixtures and fittings. There is little to beat that cloud-hanger, a plane in distress. I am even adapted to the ones where Doris Day takes the pilot’s seat and is talked down to a perfect three-point landing. I could have wished last night’s episode was a serial so that the enzyme could continue its rampage. Decomposing and liquifying television sets and telephones and typewriters and washing-up bowls. I can think of nothing plastic I possess which I could cheerfully live without.
“Doomwatch” is a series, and each episode will refer to the efforts of Dr Quist and his lads to prevent some new miracle of modern science throttling the life out of us. It is, as the writers Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, say Sci-fact not Sci-fie. There is no longer any need for thriller writers to invent a menace from Mars. Horror is here and now and in newspaper clippings.
This down-to-earth idea gives “Doomwatch” great immediacy and veracity. Though the characters are such irremediably plastic people that one hungry enzyme could eat the whole lot of them for elevenses. Still, as thrillers go, it went down very nicely. And, it could be argued, that a mass appeal thriller format is a better way than many of getting not as serious a concern across to those whom it should concern seriously. You will not have had the opportunity to see both “Doomwatch” and “Suicide Club":-(Thames) as the channels love to hit the public with the same kind of programme at the same time on the same night.
But you will, of course, have read the original story. And permit me to congratulate you, for I had not. (How contagious its straightbacked style of dialogue is). And be familiar with that fiend in human form. The President, who to judge by their hysterical whooping kept a studio audience in his cellar, that “diamond of the nobility.” Prince Florizel and Lieutenant Brackenbury Rich who “made a single mouthful of a hoard of barbarian cavaliers.” Let me commend all three for their stylish acting, which made me choke now and then on a laugh as if I had committed a deplorable solecism. (I must stop writing pastiche to Stevenson. I must take something for it). With time, the story has grown mutton-chop whiskers, but its marvellous muscles are barely wasted.
The Guardian 10 February 1970
N.B Kit’s name was spelt Tedler in the original article. The ITV series Mystery and Imagination is refferenced in this article. Luckily Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Suicide Club episode still exists in the archives and hs been released onto DVD by Network DVD
When sci-fi runs wild
Before the credits of “Doomwatch” we were dazzled by an exploding aircraft and thereafter blinded by science.
The evil in this case comes from the lunacies of science. Last night researchers were experimenting with a virus called Variant 14, and it melted plastics.
Carelessly, the experimental station lost some. It would go “through a city like a tidal wave” and finish off London or at least all the plastic bit, in 12 hours.
The super-scientist of Doomwatch saved the day. But not before it destroyed one aeroplane and started melting another. It looked very nice too. Like a dripping, multi-coloured ice cream cone. I suppose this is today’s version of the gothic shockers that frightened the Victorians.
Robert Louis Stevensons “Dark Tale” began the latest ITV series “Mystery and Imagination”
Prince Florizel, a sort of titles hippie out for kicks, joined a suicide club where the members executed each other and the president sold the corpses for dissection.
Robert Muller’s adaption chilled the spine and threw in a few Victorian kinks as well. We supped satisfyingly on horrors last night even before the Elvis Presley film.
LAST NIGHT article by Gerard Garret
Project Number: 02249/4079
Friday November 28th 1969
Rehearse/Record (VTC/6HT/55040A/B) 1430-1730 (With TK-22)
Saturday November 29th 1969
Camera rehearsal 1400-1830 (With TK-22)
Camera rehearsal 1930-2200
Sunday November 30th 1969
Camera rehearsal 1030-1300 (With TK-22, 1100)
Camera rehearsal 1400-1800 (With TK-22)
RECORD: (VTC/6HT/55040/E) 1930-2200
FILMING: Bishop's Storford.
(Friday 28th November 1969)
Passengers (Plane 1)
Bob E. Raymond
John De Marco
Passengers (Plane 2)
Saturday 29th, Sunday 30th November 1969
Bob E. Raymond
John De Marco
Brian Gidley (6' 1")
Girl in Lab
Friday 28th November: 4 peds, 1 creeper, 4 booms, fishing rods
Saturday 29th/Sunday 30th November: 5 peds, 4 booms.
BBC STOCK FILM Footage 57' Sound 16mm
Probably from the Phoenix Plane Crash (Library Material)
BBC SPECIALLY SHOT Footage 129' Sound 16mm
OUTHER SOURCES Royal Air Force Footage 9' Silent 16mm
MUSIC DUBBED ON TAPE
THE MAX HARRIS ENSEMBLE Signature tune 2'00
Radio Times Feature