Season 1
Season 2
The Movie
Season Three
The TV Movie

The Department of Observation and Measurement of Scientific Work

The Department of Observation and Measurement of Scientific Work - nicknamed ‘Doomwatch’ - is a section of the Ministry of National Security whose remit is to act as a watchdog group investigating current scientific work, and ensuring that the welfare of the general public and the environmental is not compromised. It is led by Doctor Spencer Quist, a gruff and no-nonsense Nobel Prize-winning mathematician, who is driven to champion the cause for ecological awareness following his work on the Manhattan Project and the death from leukaemia of his wife Helena. He is assisted by a small team of staff, including Doctor John Ridge, a chemist in his late thirties who is not only a ladies’ man, but who also has a shady past and connections to MI6 and Colin Bradley, the team’s electronics engineer, who looks after the department’s computer and undertakes any required scientific tests. Other members would come and go over the three seasons, but particularly well-known is Toby Wren, a physics postgraduate from Cambridge who meets a dramatic end in season one’s finale ‘Survival Code’.


‘Doomwatch’ was devised by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, who had previously worked together on the science-fiction programme ‘Doctor Who’, and who were responsible for creating the part-human, part-machine race known as the Cybermen. The series can probably be said to be the first television drama to seriously deal with 'green' issues, long before they were a major public concern. Stories were thought-provoking and intelligently written, touching on controversial subjects such genetic engineering, euthanasia, and governmental research projects going out of control. Ironically, on several occasions topics covered in the programme occurred for real shortly after the episodes aired, making the issues being addressed particularly pertinent.


Nigel Kneale was offered to write for the series, but declined the offer.

Some episodes no longer exist having been wiped or destroyed during the BBC's infamous archive purge of 1972-8. From Season 1, eight episodes out of thirteen survive; from Season 3, only three episodes out of twelve exist (which includes the un-broadcast episode, "Sex and Violence"); whilst every episode from Season 2 survives. No footage from any of the lost episodes is known to exist except for the three minutes and thirty seconds (approximately) from "Survival Code", which was used in the reprise of "You Killed Toby Wren" - this footage covers the explosive climax of the Season 1 finale in which Toby Wren is killed when a bomb he is trying to diffuse explodes.

In 1972, a ninety-minute feature film was made simply entitled Doomwatch. While it did feature the original cast members, they only played a minimal part and a new character was created for the lead role.

By the third season, several implausible themes had featured in the series - the focus of Season 3's "The Killer Dolphins", for example, was dolphins that had been trained to work with explosives. The decision to incorporate these implausible themes was allegedly to attract higher ratings.

Sex and Violence", the twelfth episode of Season 3, although made, wasn't broadcast in the UK. A long-standing myth claims that the episode was banned because it incorporated footage of a real military execution. However, this was just a cover story and simply isn't true - the footage in question has been featured in other programmes since. The real reason why the episode wasn't broadcast is because it spoofed real-life personalities such as Mary Whitehouse, Lord Longford and Cliff Richard and would have been too libelous to broadcast and almost certainly would have resulted in legal action being taken against the BBC. More than three decades later (September 2005), the episode still hasn't been broadcast in the UK or even released commercially.

Whilst "Sex and Violence" has never been broadcast in the UK, some reports suggest that it was broadcast in 1995 on UKGold. This is not true - although the episode was listed in the schedules, it was ultimately not broadcast and a repeat of "The Logicians" went out in its place.

On the end of the original BBC transmission spool of "Sex and Violence", less than three minutes of unused material exists.

Following the controversy regarding "Sex and Violence", spoofing real-life personalities, the series was cancelled during production. Production on "The Devil's Demolition", the final episode of Season 3, was never completed.

In 1999, a pilot episode for a proposed new series was made for Channel 5 (now called Five). The pilot was entitled Winter Angel and although it proved to be popular, the series was never picked up.


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