Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Save The World
RIP Simon Oates. Best known, in this house, for playing the character of John Ridge in the early 70’s TV show Doomwatch. According to reports he was 77 – which means he was an incredibly-youthful-looking 38 when the show was first broadcast. I’d’ve had him down as being in his late 20’s.
Doomwatch was a drama series about a government agency assigned to investigate scientific naughtiness – anything from viruses which bring down planes by eating through plastic insulation, to more prosaic threats such as sonic booms, subliminal advertising and, er, jetlag. It started out as a gripping, zeitgeist-surfing drama (albeit one with a shocking level of misogyny, even for the early 70’s)... before, due to budget cuts and a falling-out between the writers (Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis) and the producer (Terence 'Deadly Dull' Dudley) it transformed into a rather dry drama about the mechanics of the civil service.
Sadly the BBC didn’t bother keeping most of it. All that remains is about half of the first series, 3 episodes from the third, and all of the second, but in awful NTSC-conversion blur-o-vision. This is particularly annoying that this means I’ll never see the episode from season 3 which dealt with the consequences of global warming (Flood) or the episodes which dealt with John Ridge’s mental breakdown as a result of lead poisoning from petrol (Doomwatch was occasionally an extremely prescient show).
In each episode, at least before he attempted to wipe out the human race with Anthrax, John Ridge would investigate each threat largely by sitting on desks, chatting up secretaries and buying resentful ex-employees drinks in pubs. Most memorably of all, he would do this whilst wearing a selection of the most colourful and wide-collared shirts ever seen on British television.