Doomwatch is probably the series for which you are best remembered today. It was a popular series, often uncompromising and challenging. Did you enjoy working on the series and did you realise then just how ahead of its time it was?

"It was a total delight. The creator, Kit Pedler, was a genius. Doomwatch was science fact, totally science fact. Obviously, we told stories, but they were always based on what could and often did happen in the fullness of time. I can remember one where we had a man out in space at the same time as an American astronaut was actually zooming around up there. We'd do a scene, then go down and put the radio on and listen to what was going on. It was practically happening at a parallel to what Kit had written – and then our one died and we got a bit worried. Was this an indication of what was going to happen to the real one? Of course, it didn't happen and he was alright, but that was very close to reality. Kit Pedler saw so far ahead in some of the things that he did, he was practically clairvoyant. A brilliant mind… I trusted him implicitly – in fact, we all did. He was a lovely, lovely man. Very clever and very nice. You felt safe in his hands. We had a very strong team too – John Paul, Robert Powell, Joby Blanchard and others. Doomwatch was a joy – and that really was when you couldn't go out in public! Sure, it was nice to be well known – of course it was nice! People often say that they get so bored with being recognised – not me. I was delighted!"

Did the attention ever turn nasty or unpleasant?

"Only about one per cent of the time. I've always treated everybody I met as a friend. You get what you give in life, I say. It's always seemed to work for me, and that's how I've been through life. I've not had many confrontations at all."

Dr John Ridge, your character in Doomwatch, had what would today be called a character arc. It developed throughout the series, culminating in Ridge becoming mentally unhinged and threatening the world with phials of anthrax. The series creators, Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, distanced themselves from this storyline, claiming it had moved too far from the series intent. Do you remember the controversy and how did you view these developments?

"There was conflict between Terry Dudley and the writers at that time. I think the storyline went a little beyond credibility. It was leaning a bit more towards Doctor Who than Doomwatch really, and I do remember thinking, that's it, it's going to go into fairyland quite soon. When people run out of ideas, they start looking for hooks to hang things on and that's what they did. I was so proud of what we'd done in Doomwatch that I didn't want to be involved with something that might be going a little bit under-par."

Despite that, the storyline prompted your face to be emblazoned across the cover of Radio Times magazine. How was it going into the local newsagent's that week?

"It felt marvellous. I mean, can you imagine, walking in and there you are, everywhere. It's got to feel good, hasn't it? Let's be honest. It was lovely. A bit of a shock to the system, but part of the game. You get lucky, you get the front of the Radio Times once in a while. Not many people have done that. I did once get a letter from Who's Who, asking if I wanted to be listed in their publication. I jokingly sent them a letter back. I couldn't resist asking them, why, why?"

Shortly after the series finished, a feature film of Doomwatch was produced, but your colleagues and yourself were relegated to cameo roles. How did this come about and did you find it a disappointing experience?

"I didn't want to do it. I hadn't seen a script or anything like that, but I didn't think it would work. I was actually working around about that time, in any case, so I said I couldn't possibly do it. They then came back and offered me silly money to be in it. Not long after, I realised that we'd been shafted. They'd cast Ian Bannen – a lovely man, who I liked very much – to play what was basically my part. It cost them… but I was ashamed that I gave in to the money. I should just have said no, because it was a terrible film – a really crap film. But I did. No, not one of my most favourite episodes. We were shafted, basically."

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© Alan and Alys Hayes, 2009

The Stage Show:
Introduction
Storyline
Scene Breakdown

Full Production Credits
Biographies
Press Coverage

Interview: Simon Oates
Tribute to Simon Oates

Quote, Unquote...
Archive
Photo Gallery

 

Interview: Simon Oates
1. Early Days
2. On The Telly
3. Doomwatch
4. The Avengers
5. The Cockney Comic
6. Looking Back