Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Doomwatch (1970-72)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of Doomwatch (1970-72)
BBC1, 9/2/1970-14/8/1972
3 series of 38 episodes total (colour)
Created byKit Pedler
 Gerry Davis
ProducerTerence Dudley

Cast: John Paul (Dr Spencer Quist); Simon Oates (Dr John Ridge); Robert Powell (Tobias Wren); Joby Blanshard (Colin Bradley); Wendy Hall (Pat Hunnisett

Show full cast and credits

A team of government scientists investigates cutting-edge environmental issues.

Show full synopsis

The environmental drama series Doomwatch premiered on BBC1 in early 1970, quickly capturing newspaper headlines and an audience of 13 million viewers. The programme also attracted the attention of politicians, scientists and the burgeoning environmental lobby.

Doomwatch, about a team of government scientists responsible for investigating the abuse of technology, was created by writer Gerry Davis and scientist Kit Pedler, a partnership that had already spawned the Cybermen for Doctor Who. But unlike their previous work, the premise for Doomwatch was drawn from real events but, Davis insisted, "Doomwatch is not science fiction.... We go to great lengths to check our scientific facts."

The series went into production just before Christmas 1969, with the first episode - 'The Plastic Eaters', about the accidental escape on an aeroplane of a virus which consumes plastic - screening the following February.

Mary Malone, the Daily Mirror TV critic at the time, gave the opening episode the thumbs down. She considered it "unbelievable", but before the year was out her paper had taken a very different view. It set up its own Doomwatch team to investigate environmental issues on behalf of its readers under the headline, "Call in Doomwatch! They are ready for action!".

The government considered going one step further and for a while thought about setting up a real-life equivalent to the TV series. Labour MP Ray Fletcher planned to create a Doomwatch committee at Westminster, which was to have included Pedler among its members. It never came about, but the recognition Doomwatch was giving environmental issues was starting to create headlines. This was partly helped by the show's uncanny knack of predicting real events, sometimes to within days of the transmission of an episode.

Davis was quoted in the Daily Mail as saying, "It is a staggering coincidence that many of the programmes we put out turn into reality a few days later. Of course we do our research in scientific journals but that does not explain everything."

The first season carried uncompromising plot lines about the effects of growth hormones used in fish farming on the staff at a hatchery, the threat of pollution from non-degrading domestic waste and nuclear fallout. The success of these episodes guaranteed Doomwatch two more seasons, although these never reached the same prophetic levels as before, despite some inventive writing.

Anthony Clark

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. Introduction (2:33)
2. Top secret (4:38)
3. Spreading the virus (4:32)
Complete episode: 'The Plastic Eaters' (48:05)
Production stills
Powell, Robert (1944-)
TV Sci-Fi