TV past

Your Family History - - Agenda -

In 1970, a tele­vi­sion drama se­ries that wouldn’t seem out of place to­day started on BBC One. This was Doomwatch – a great name for a se­ries that fo­cused on the en­vi­ron­ment, and in turn was fo­cused on by politi­cians and sci­en­tists.

The se­ries was a cross be­tween a fac­tual se­ries and sci­ence fic­tion, us­ing real events and facts to cre­ate a vi­sion of a world in which tech­nol­ogy could be abused, cre­at­ing huge prob­lems in the world. It fol­lowed a team of sci­en­tists work­ing for the gov­ern­ment (as part of an or­gan­i­sa­tion called De­part­ment for the Ob­ser­va­tion and Mea­sure­ment of Sci­en­tific Work), who were tasked with in­ves­ti­gat­ing the mis­use of tech­nol­ogy. This ranged from the es­cape of a plas­tic-eat­ing virus on a plane, to rather more fa­mil­iar sce­nar­ios – ge­netic mu­ta­tions, the im­pact of nu­clear power and toxic waste, how do­mes­tic waste could cause ex­ten­sive pol­lu­tion, and the ef­fects of growth hor­mones used to pro­duce food.

The se­ries had a con­sid­er­able im­pact from the time of its first episode, and reached a peak au­di­ence of nearly 14 mil­lion. The Daily Mir­ror set up its own Doomwatch team to take on en­vi­ron­men­tal in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and even the gov­ern­ment thought about set­ting up a Doomwatch com­mit­tee! Three se­ries of Doomwatch were even­tu­ally aired be­tween 1970 and 1972 – and as the last re­vival of it was on Chan­nel 5 back in 1999, it would be in­ter­est­ing to see it re­turn now, to see how many of its doom-laden hy­pothe­ses are com­ing true in the 21st cen­tury…

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