Saturday, December 05, 2009

DoomWatch Watch: Into the Dark and The Iron Doctor

These two episodes both spring from a similar premise - what happens when computers become involved in keeping someone alive?

In Into The Dark, Patrick Troughton's head explains that his pet computer alows him to live forever, a thinking brain in a rotting body and that's fine, thank you. Only Quist turns up and has a couple of chats, and Patrick Troughton decides he'd like to die after all (well, wouldn't you rather than sit in a room with Quist - the Gordon Brown of Science?).

There's a bit more to it, but it's mostly just an excuse for Quist and Troughton to run through a few quick acting exercises and then The End. Several other issues here get discarded along the way - toxic cargo on wartime shipwrecks, running a company from beyong the grave, but mostly it's just Troughton looking a bit ill and Quist doing thoughtful cardigan acting.

Meanwhile, The Iron Doctor tells us all about a hospital ward where the patients are being kept alive by a radical computer. Only - whoops - they accidentally bought in a military computer, and it's killing off the patients and waging war against hospital staff it doesn't like.

The whole episode is about tensions in the NHS, lining up Caring Doctor and Cuddly Matron against Sinister Administrator and his Battle Computer. Quist and Fay Chantry bumble around a bit, stumble on the truth after a few people have died, and then it's up to Grumpy Computer Colin to save the day with his screwdriver.

The episode is both duller and more exciting than you think it's going to be. It starts out as being about medical ethics (can we trust a computer to prolong life?) and then switches to red tape conspiracy before turning out to be "The hospital's run by a Dalek!".

There's a few little notes about Patient Confidentiality (all the old people on the ward are under constant CCTV) and, in an odd point, clearly the view out of the Sinister Administrator's window must be fascinating because every character spends most of their time on the set crossing over and peering through the slats of his Ventian Blind. I wonder what they're seeing - is it a geriatric being given a bed bath?

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