Saturday, November 28, 2009
DoomWatch Watch: The Inquest
Best Doomwatch ever. Forget your Plastic Eaters and your Rats, this one is just great.
Oh, it's dull and cheap, but that's its charm. For a start, it's Computer Colin's episode. In every single other episode he's just mumbled "Eckee thump, I'll run it through t'computer, but ee, I've got other work ta do, ya know," but finally they give him something to do, and he absolutely shines.
With every other member of the team on holiday or off filming, Quist summons Colin to the office. "It's a studio-based courtroom drama. I can't be bothered. Off you trot, old chap" and, with a face like a lovesick haddock, off Colin slouches to go and attend an inquest into a girl who died of rabies.
Since Colin is a man of considerable girth, this features quite the stockiest guest cast of any Doomwatch episode - the world's fattest coroner, the largest ever Lady Bountiful, and the widest ever man from the ministry. It's like a Slitheen convention!
Size isn't Colin's only asset - turns out he's a great actor, and you immediately wish that DoomWatch was just him and Quist solving science crimes like a grumpy Steed and Mrs Peel.
Setting almost the entire action in a country hotel allows the episode to really unwrap a complicated scientific mystery - what killed the girl? Was it really a rabid dog? Or was it a mutant tse-tse fly escaped from the local maverick scientist's lab?
Mary Lincoln from Sybil Hall - a solid dog-breeding gal decked out in Evans' country casuals range, carefully explains her solid theory that it was a mutated fly carrying a version of rabies. A theory that has the whole village on her side - because Science Is Wrong, and the government just want to kill their dogs, the swine.
It's up to Colin to quietly, patiently knock this down. Without test-tubes or a computer he just stands there and simply, and patiently explains the process of genetic manipulation and you just go "Coooo. I've actualy learned something. Blimey, this guy's great."
Just when you're turning against Mrs Lincoln, it turns out that the rabid dog came from her farm! Gasp! She was the evil one all along, not the Sinister Scientist!
Then, in another shift, it turns out that the dog came from Sinister Scientist's lab after all... so it was him! Only... he didn't know it had rabies. The dog was stolen from his lab by the genial pub landlord's son, and he's been keeping a whole pack of rabid hounds in a shed... and the kid's been bitten himself. So if anyone's evil, it's the kid - only he was simply misguided.
Just when you think this is the most morally complicated Doomwatch yet, up pops Quist wearing what can only be described as his Battle Dungarees. He's worked it out - the rabid dog was actualy procured for the scientist by the genial pub landlord - he's effectively killed one girl, and now his own son is ill. Case closed. The Villagers rush off to get their torches and pitchforks.
Time for Doomwatch to make a quick exit, but not before Quist, with his famous sensitivity, gets to say to the landlord "Well, you'd better hope we got to your son in time. Cheerio."
And then they're off. Whole thing utterly brilliant - neat idea, some solid explanation of science, great characters and a thumping good guest cast. More like this please.