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
"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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and Alys Hayes, 2009