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SEASON 3 SEX AND VIOLENCE by Stewart Douglass

by Stewart Douglass

”Sex and Violence” was originally the untransmitted episode 5, this episode was banned before it could even reach the pages of 'Radio Times'. The episode contains real footage of a military execution in Lagos. It also features characters designed to be satirical analogues of Mary Whitehouse, Cliff Richard and Lord Longford used to debate the levels of Sex and Violence prevalent in society. The episode was also seen as too hot a potato politically for the time and was held back. The episode features a lot of dramatic debate.

by David Richardson January 1995

Middle-aged Mrs Catchpole addresses a meeting of housewives, and deplores the “rising tide of filth” prevalent in today’s permissive society. She introduces their guest speaker, Arthur Ballantyne... 
The Minister voices his concerns to Quist that pornography is a threat to society. Quist doesn’t believe an investigation into Permissiveness is Doomwatch territory, although the Minister argues there is little difference between pollution of the air and pollution of the mind. The government has to be seen to be doing something. As Quist points out, the noises made by minor MPs have resulted in the Purves Committee. He doesn’t want to have any part of it, but is informed that Dr Tarrant is already on the Committee. The Purves Committee comprises Reverend Garrison, Professor Fairbairn, clean-up Campaigner Mrs Cressy, educationist Mr Granger, pop singer Dick Burns and Anne Tarrant. They will study established facts and reports to see if a change in the law is required. 
As Dick Burns leaves the building, he is cornered by Mrs Catchpole who begs him to vote for a change in the law. She believes he will have the swaying vote. Mrs Catchpole leads a protest outside a theatre, complaining about the indecent scenes in the play ‘Do It’. Anne Tarrant arrives, and refuses to be intimidated. As she tries to get through the picket, she is hit in the face. In hospital, Quist visits Anne. Her attacker has not yet been found. 
Mrs Cressy gives the committee a run down of the subjects featured in American cinema, wife swapping, prostitution, transvestitism, nymphomania and homosexuality. Granger refuses to believe these films corrupt the youth of the nation - more likely they are watched by people denied sex education in their childhood. The only way they can judge the effects of these films is by viewing one... 
Anne’s attacker, Mrs Hastings, is found and Anne visits her to discuss the incident. The woman is distraught and begs forgiveness. She lives alone with her child after her husband left her, and loneliness has driven her to join the ‘Housewife’ group, and their clean-up campaign struck a chord with her inability to control her son. Carried along in Mrs Catchpole’s religious crusade she began to see the theatre audience as perverts... 

Quist wants to feed the Committee’s reports into Bradley’s computer, hoping for an answer to the debate. He also learns that ‘Housewife’ has 6000 members in the UK, and during the past week there have been four separate incidents involving the group. The organization is financed by Arthur Ballantyne. Mrs Hastings reveals that she was told nothing about sex when she was young. She is a mentally scarred woman, with serious hang-ups about how ‘shameful’ and ‘disgusting’ sex is. Later, Anne Tarrant relates this to the Committee. She says the sexual instinct is part of everyone. If it is repressed, a stunted person results. Harsher laws will just sweep the problem under the carpet, and perpetuate it. The Committee now turns to the subject of violence. Mrs Catchpole is visited by Doomwatch’s Neil Stafford. She is quite concise in her opinions: the ‘Reds’ are behind the problem. She criticizes the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is too kind to ‘the blacks’, who she would have expelled. She has no faith in politics, and wants a strong man to lead the country. 

The Committee gather to watch a newsreel broadcast on television in September 1971. It shows an incident in Nigeria, where public executions draw huge crowds. Seven men are executed by firing squad. The Committee is horrified. Mrs Cressy is revolted and says it should never have been shown, Dick Burns is nauseated, but tearfully admits the footage made him want to do something about the Nigerian situation. 

Quist is reading a book which puts forward a view that repressed individuals can be controlled by dictators. Later, he visits Ballantyne in his country mansion. The man is an extreme right-winger who inherited his fortune. Ballantyne admits he is a political opportunist, and an amateur psychologist. He thinks the nation fears freedom and fears sex, so anyone who brings in a law that bans sex will be popular. Like many politicians, he will pander to popular fears; after all, it’s easier for politicians to focus the country’s thoughts on moral problems, rather than economic crises. The sexually deprived, stunted individuals will look to a leader. And Ballantyne sees himself as the right dictator. He says: “If you have created a society in which a naked couple cavorting on a public stage is more shocking than a million on the dole, a hundred thousand homeless, or half a million dead in Pakistan, don’t blame me for taking advantage!” 
The Committee’s votes are cast: and Dick Burns has the casting vote. He is against a change in the law. Quist compares Ballantyne’s campaign with Hitler’s rise to power, when the masses agreed to their own subjugation. Bradley shows the result of his computer’s analysis — no change in the law.

by David Richardson January 1995

Sex and Violence must be one of television’s greatest ironies. A thought-provoking analogy of the censorship debate, it was itself banned in 1972 when the BBC felt the topic was too controversial. 
In the production’s defence, the news- film in the episode had been aired at least twice on television during 1971, while the pornographic movie was faked. Adult shops in London’s red light district Soho had refused to provide any suitable clips when approached; apparently they were appalled that the BBC should consider broadcasting such material! Instead, a number of extras were hired, and a fairly innocuous sequence involving several cavorting half-naked bodies was shot in a hotel near Heathrow Airport.

Director Darrol Blake assembled an excellent guest cast for the episode, many of whom are now better known as principal performers in popular series. June Brown, who gives a fervent performance as Mrs Catchpole, is now firmly rooted in tv mythology as EastEnders’ Dot Cotton, although Doctor Who fans may re- I member her as Eleanor in 1974’s The Time Warrior. Brian Wilde (Professor Fairbairn) went on to star in both Porridge and Last of the Summer Wine. Bernard Horsefall (Steven Granger) was a regular guest star in Doctor Who (The Mind Robber, The War Games, Planet of the Daleks), while Christopher Chittell went on to play Chris, the Homo Sapien friend of the Homo Superior teenagers in The Tomorrow People. Locations for the episode were all quite close to the BBC’s Television Centre. Mrs Catchpole’ s violent demonstration against the fictional play ‘Do It’ was filmed outside Richmond Theatre, and on the same day the production team shot outside a block of council flats for Mrs Hastings’s home, and at a nearby church hall for the opening scenes of the Housewife meeting. Arthur Ballantyne’s rambling country manor was Poulsdon Lacey, a stately home in Surrey. After finishing the location shooting and studio recording, Darrol Blake supervised editing and dubbing, and with Sex and Violence ready for transmission, took his family off to France for a well-earned one month holiday. “When I got back I bought the Radio Times,” the director recalls. “I opened it to look at the spot where Sex and Violence should be, and found another episode billed. This was how I found out that the whole thing had been scrapped. I rang Terry Dudley who said, ‘Oh dear, what made me think I told you!” 
During Blake’s absence, there had been a minor fuss about the episode in the British press. “The BBC had been so foolish to put out a press notice regarding Doomwatch,” he continues, “saying that the current series would be one short due to a substandard production. Fortunately I didn’t know anything about this. “The writer saw that, rushed to the television centre with his agent and made a great deal of noise. He spoke to his friend Keith Waterhouse, who wrote about it in the Daily Mirror, and it started to gather momentum. The BBC then put out another press notice to the effect that the current series of Doomwatch would be one short, not because of substandard production which was a misunderstanding, but that it dealt with a subject that couldn’t really be dealt with honestly and fully in fifty minutes.” More likely the BBC was getting cold feet because aspects of Sex and Violence mirrored exactly real events at the time. Lord Longford had been assigned to host a committee to examine the moral pollution of the Nation. On the Longford Committee were a clean up campaigner (Mary Whitehouse) and a pop star (Cliff Richard)... 
Fortunately, Sex and Violence still exists in the BBC, together with a few minutes of additional material from the studio recordings — cut-away shots of the Committee’s reactions to viewing news footage of the public executions. Today the story remains as pertinent as ever. In 1994, a low profile Liberal Democrat MP, David Alton, called for amendments to the Criminal Justice Bill, to prevent violent films being available on video. Echoes of Doomwatch?

An interview with 
Director Darrol Blake

Conducted by Marcus Hearn originally in Timescreen Spring 1992

Darrol was given his first official chance to direct by Ned Sherrin on the Saturday evening satire programme “BBC3”. Going freelance in order to pursue his new career full time, he became a director in 1965. ‘By 1970 I wanted to get into drama so I wrote to Terry Dudley. He wrote back saying he didn’t have anything for me at the moment but that he’d been watching my career with interest. He asked me to keep in touch and I saw him in the bar about a fortnight later and he said he had something for me. It was, of course “DOOMWATCH”.
He was very much a theatre professional, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense as we were working in television. He’d been an actor, writer and producer and had theatre companies on his own. I’d first met him when I filled in for someone on a night shoot for “MOONSTRIKE”. He was wonderfully supportive and encouraging but I think he knew by then that I knew enough about television just to get on with the job.
What was extremely important about the development of “DOOMWATCH” at this stage was that the first season had been so enormously successful; the BBC seemed to be breaking new ground and words like ‘environment’ and ‘pollution’ came into the language. They rushed ahead with a second season and there was a falling out between Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis and Terry Dudley. By the time I arrived to do two episodes in the second season Pedler and Davis had already gone. I vaguely remember Gerry still being around but he’d packed his bags and went about the time I arrived.
“The BBC has never known how to deal with success; they either run it into the ground or let it languish. For instance they decided to produce the second season six months after the first season had been completed. That meant they had to find writers fast. I think that was one reason for the mediocrity of the second season compared to the first one. In addition to this Kit and Gerry had gone.
“I was given a script called “No Room For Error” by Roger Parkes. I discovered later that others had disliked it and refused to do it, which was how it had suddenly come into my lap. However I rushed into it as my first piece of drama. I had a very strong cast, the guest lead being John Wood who is now stratospheric at the RSC and Hollywood movies. He breathed life into this rather simple-minded script in fact so much so that I won a second chance at “DOOMWATCH” which we did in January. It was called “Flight Into Yesterday” and was about jet lag. I remember Robert Urquhart as a rather villainous PR man!
“I can’t remember exactly what I felt at the time, but I’m sure I had a feeling that what we were doing in the second season was way below what had been achieved by the first season. We didn’t seem to be breaking any new ground and there didn't seem to be an air of excitement about the scripts of the show. If the creator and the script editor, who have become a team, have parted company with the show then I think something was bound to go out of it. The initial impetus was gone and the creative spark which made bugs in plastic exciting was gone.” 

Before work started on the next season, Darrol turned his hand to the popular thriller series “PAUL TEMPLE” and became one of the establishing directors of “THE ONEDIN LINE”. “The third season of “DOOMWATCH” didn’t go into production for eighteen months, as I remember, I had been contracted to do four episodes, subjects unknown. I can remember being extremely disappointed when some of the scripts actually turned up. We shot “The Killer Dolphins” first, then “Sex and Violence”, “Without the Bomb” and finally “Deadly Dangerous Tomorrow”. “Without the Bomb” was the one about the contraceptive that tuned out to be an aphrodisiac. I christened it ‘JOYNE’ as we decided it had to have a commercial name. I remember I couldn’t cast the lead. I offered it to a marvellous Irish actor and he wrote back saying he wouldn’t possibly do such filth. I ended up with Brian Peck, and Antonia Pemberton who played his wife very well.“ 

“In that period I did two scripts which I thought were outstanding and they were both by the same man, Stuart Douglass. One was an episode of “The Regiment” called “Wine and Retribution” and the other was the “DOOMWATCH” episode “Sex and Violence”. As you say, and which I think everybody said then, this was somewhat out of the mainstream for “DOOMWATCH” stories but nevertheless seemed to hit the mood of England at that time. I think this was something we had to do, stand up for our rights to see films, read books, paint pictures and do whatever you like. I’m afraid that stance has to be taken and that fight fought every two or three years if not every month. Terry Dudley knew this and that’s why I suspect that he defended that script up hill and down dale, certainly against his immediate masters who numbered Andrew Osbourne and, I think, Shaun Sutton. Eventually that middle management didn’t have any confidence in “Sex and Violence” and so referred it right upstairs. As I understand, it was pulled from transmission at the last moment.
As soon as Andrew saw those words (penis and vagina) on the first page he said we couldn’t do it. Later on what I think they were afraid of was that we’d put Mary Whitehouse on the screen and portrayed the Lord Longford commission which was the subject of enormous scandal and concern in the country at that particular time. The pop star (‘Dick Burns’) was of course supposed to be Cliff Richard who was on the committee. I think Stuart Douglass was bearing all those people in mind when he wrote that script because the reality was enormously publicised and the public would know what they were looking at when they saw the episode. Of course they didn’t. Had it gone out a fortnight before they reported and come to the same conclusion, then I think it would have made the series. I think we were all quite pleased when the Longford Committee came up with the same verdict our lot did.”

The reason for the non—transmission of “Sex and Violence” is nowadays often given as being the inclusion of genuine execution footage which the committee watch to study the effects of viewing violence. “I chose the execution scene, which had been transmitted twice on “24 HOURS” and shown on another programme as well. It must have been or I wouldn’t have known about it. It was BBC stock footage so the excuse that it was pulled because of that was nonsense. I got the evidence I needed to put It into “Sex and Violence” with no problem at all.

What I couldn’t get was any soft porn footage and I talked directly to a number of producers in Wardour Street who did these things and they were all to a man disgusted that I wanted to transmit something like that on BBC1 at a peak hour! The double standard of it was really quite funny. In the end I just had to take some extras to a hotel near London Airport and shoot this stupid runaround. They all kept their underwear on and it was daft, but then again it was meant to be.”
The third season saw only occasional appearances of regular cast member Ridge, played by Simon Oates. Between seasons two and three Oates had been playing John Steed in the short—lived “THE AVENGERS” stage play. Did this symbolise his wish to distance himself from “DOOMWATCH”, and did Darrol believe he was tiring of the programme? “What happens in all series, if you’re not careful, is that somebody comes up with an idea for a script, the story for which suggests whatever research has been done. He may create a scientist, a wife or whatever and somewhere along the way he must ‘sew in’ the regular characters. They come in and ask questions, lean on the filing cabinet and have coffee. However, if you’re not careful, that’s all they do. If you’ve done twelve of those, you’re called Simon Oates, you’re six foot four and you come in, lean on a filing cabinet and ask questions, you can get rather bored. He became known in the papers as “the one with the shirts” and that’s something he always used to quote me. Every now and then he was given something to do, but holding the world to ransom (in “Fire and Brimstone”) was crude beyond belief! An actor gets tired of that and wants out which was probably why he wasn’t in much of the third season. As I remember he didn’t want to do the third series at all but Terry persuaded him to do four episodes.
“Terry was a gentleman and didn’t show emotions or irritations until you knew him a bit. If you watched him you‘d realise the edges of his thumbs were raw from where he’d been tearing at them with his fingers. Every week you’d check his thumbs to see how stressed he was.”

Can the diminished location filming and fewer episodes in season three be taken as an indication of a lower budget? “Cutbacks were rife throughout the BBC at that time and things were shrinking down to nine or ten episodes per series. Presumably the money was staying more or less the same but was capable of producing fewer episodes.”
Ironically, for someone who had worked on “DOOMWATCH” it wasn’t until Darrol came to direct “THE TOMORROW PEOPLE” that he met Kit Pedler. He visited the doctor, who was by now working at the National Physics Laboratory, for technical advice on the studio—bound “A Rift In Time”. “By the time they made the second season the story they offered me seemed to be reasonable. It was a historical time travel story and history has always fascinated me so I decided to do it and enjoyed it. I remember Michael Standing played one of the regular characters and he broke his leg immediately before my episode. I replaced him with Christopher Chittell who played the pop singer in “Sex and Violence”. Five years ago I put him into “EMMERDALE FARM”; he’s a great mate of mine.

This episode was partially filmed at Polesden Lacey, Great Bookham, Dorking, Surrey, England, UK (unconfirmed)


Dr. Spencer Quist

Dr. Anne Tarrant

The Minister (Sir George Holroyd)

Commander Neil Stafford

Colin Bradley

Barbara Mason

Arthur Ballantyne

Mrs. Catchpole

Lord Purvis

Steven Granger

Mrs. Hastings

Mrs. Angela Cressy

Professor Fairbairn

The Rev. Garrison

Dick Burns


Young Man



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