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…