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20 Doomwatch:
Winter Angel

In December 1999 Channel 5 brought back the series with a new pilot, "Winter Angel", with Philip Stone playing Quist after John Paul had died in 1995. The elderly Quist enlists the help of a new character, played by talented actor Trevor Eve. The supporting cast is hugely variable, and the themes far more "sci fi" than the original series - including the creation of a man-made "black hole" that looks like the opening from the dire 3D Doctor Who special Dimensions In Time.
     Worst of all for fans of the series is that Quist gets murdered, though the TV movie is generally respectful to the source material, and the death of regulars was a large part of the original series anyway. The use of bad language, including three uses of "fuck" and "fucking", may seem out of place, but instead reflect what the 1970s show would have done had it been allowed... a series that regularly used the word "bastard", it saw the use of the word "fucker" when transferred to the big screen in 1972. The story does begin to grind to a halt during some very poor SFX sequences at the end, but even these represent the cheaper excesses of the original show.
     The decision to buy the rights from the BBC was an odd one for Channel 5, which hadn't been known for quality programming. Launched in 1997, its share of the UK audience was, and continues to be, negligible, with a 5.4% share in the year Winter Angel aired. Consequently Winter Angel's viewing figure of 1.62 million (the sixth most-watched programme on the channel that week) was seen as a large success. No official reason was ever given for why this didn't progress to a full series, though the rumoured £1.5 million production costs may have been a large factor.

19 Public Enemy (2.13)

The low concept of the second season continues, with a final episode featuring factory pollution. Perhaps the sole saving grace of this one is that it's the only season two episode to still exist in its original PAL 625 format, meaning it's the best-looking of the second run. Lowlights here include a bizarre "investigation montage" whereby still photographs of Geoff Hardcastle (John Nolan) talking to factory workers is set to a rendition of "Exclusive Blend" by Keith Mansfield. A similar thing happens at the end of Flight Into Yesterday which, while montage-free, plays out its final moments to "Eagle's Son" by Electric Banana.
     It must be taken into account that, while some of the episodes are relevant even today, the lower-key episodes about things like pollution and overcrowding were quite groundbreaking for the time. While today viewers are used to television that repeatedly attacks "the man", Doomwatch was made in a time where an episode was pulled from broadcast because it was too controversial. However, while regarded as "important" television, many of the episodes present in this ranking do unfortunately talk down to the audience, offering up lengthy political diatribes in place of natural dramatic conflict and realistic dialogue. At its best, it offers food for thought, but at its worst, as here, it talks down to the audience and becomes the antithesis of true drama. Possibly the worst bit in the entire series occurs here, where Quist, delivering a sermon on the nature of pollution, turns from preaching to the cast, and breaks the fourth wall, continuing his lecture to the viewers watching at home.

18 The Inquest (2.11)

Doomwatch was the product of 18 separate writers, with a 19th, Wolf Rilla, behind the series finale that was never made. The Inquest is the sole entry by Robert Holmes, almost inarguably the most lauded of all Doctor Who writers. Sadly, The Inquest fails to bring out his usual wit and invention, and is instead a rather static tale of a suspected rabies breakout.
     Television of this vintage was often performed in a style of theatre on the small screen, and almost every episode of Doomwatch sees one or more of the regulars stumble over a line as lengthy scenes, shot in single takes, put pressure on them that wouldn't be there today. While this does sometimes undermine the perception of the performances in the programme, the 1972 movie adaptation, shot in a more forgiving, edit-heavy manner, does allow them all to shine.

17 The Human
Time Bomb (2.10)

The concept of social decay in a tower block may seem old-hat today, though this was made four years before J.G. Ballard's novel "High-Rise". Sadly, it marks one of the negative aspects of the series: while its remit was to use then-modern advances in science to predict a destructive future, it can use said predictions for scaremongering. Here we receive a projection that the population of Britain will have risen by 14 million by the year 2000... the reality is, it's risen by less than that in 2017.
     Worst of all though is the demonisation of the working class, who are all portrayed as violent, would-be rapists and killers. In a particularly hilarious scene, Quist is beaten up by a gang of 10-year-olds. In fact, the entire thing, frequently badly made (at one stage Fay looks directly into camera, and it's not clear if it's intentional or not) is very entertaining despite, or because of, itself. If a laughter track was added, this would be one of the greatest episodes of the entire series... sadly, as it stands, it's one of the worst.

16 Train And
De-Train (1.10)

Five episodes of season one are still missing from the BBC archives, meaning viewers are unable to get a full picture of how good it really was. Crucially, some of the most lauded episodes, such as Friday's Child and Survival Code, are among them. Of the eight remaining season one episodes, then two of them - this one and Tomorrow, the Rat - are available only in the 525 line NTSC format. As can be evidenced from the screen capture here, the picture quality is far poorer, though we must be thankful that it exists at all.
     John Paul's Quist was an odd choice for a lead character, indicating that the BBC had a thing for grey-haired, somewhat charmless speech makers in the early 70s... the series ran pretty much concurrently with Jon Pertwee's first three seasons of Doctor Who. However, this episode shows that it often needs Quist, sidelined here, as the repetitive storyline lacks true involvement without him. This episode is also a testament to how close to broadcast date the series was produced: the season finale, featuring the death of Robert Powell's Wren, was filmed just five days before this tenth episode aired.

15 Waiting For A
Knighthood (3.4)

Full appreciation of season three is a difficult task, given that so little of it actually exists. Of the 11 aired episodes, only two remain in the BBC archives, meaning huge chunks of storylines are missing. Doomwatch members Geoff and Fay are absent, with an explanation for their leaving given in missing episode 3.2: High Mountain. Not only that, but the season began with John Ridge having a breakdown and holding the world to ransom with anthrax... without being able to see the episode in question, it's left to the imagination whether such an event would be genuinely plausible. Ridge would appear in just four Season Three episodes, and it's unclear if his exit was developed, just as it's unclear why he so readily detests John Bown's Commander Neil Stafford, a ministerial mole who appeared in every third season story.
     For this particular episode, then the big mystery is the exact details of Quist's marriage. Previously a broken man whose wife had died 13 years prior, season three captures him in domestic harmony with new wife Dr. Anne Tarrant (Elizabeth Weaver). Tarrant helps out on cases as a psychiatrist, and largely becomes a member of the team. Directed by Pennant Roberts, a director who went on to helm some of the most languidly-shot Doctor Who stories, it's an episode that actually benefits from his more soporific touch. An easy-going, undemanding watch, Waiting For A Knighthood can be pleasantly viewed like an episode of Downtown Abbey with discussion about petrol; a less vital instalment for those who find watching Great British Bake Off too nerve-wracking.

14 Re-Entry
Forbidden (1.6)

Just one year after the moon landing, this tale of a Brit involved in space exploration would have been very topical at the time. Watched in 2017, with its sets shared with Doctor Who's The Ambassadors of Death and stock NASA footage, it can look dated, as can most of the series. Populated by English actors doing their best "American", it features Quist doing a soft interrogation of an astronaut suffering from psychosis... and keeping up the subterfuge by discussing it at the top of his voice in the room next door. Re-Entry Forbidden isn't an especially popular episode with fans of the series, but, as its relatively high ranking attests here, it has some plusses, and is often a fun watch, even if for all the wrong reasons.