Doomwatch – The Inquest

inquest

Geoff heads down to the country as Doomwatch’s representative at an inquest due to be held into the death of Marion Duffy, a ten year old girl who died from rabies.  John McAlister (Robert Cawdron) from the Min. of Ag. and Fish believes that this rabies infection was due to contact with an infected dog, but Mary Lincoln (Judith Furse) has another theory.

Ms Lincoln is a local resident who is bitterly opposed to the laboratory run by Dr Henry Fane (Frederick Treves).  Dr Fane’s lab is licenced to carry out experiments on animals – something which Ms Lincoln is horrified about – but he also conducts research on insects.  Ms Lincoln is convinced that an infected tsetse fly escaped from the lab and bit Marion, thereby causing her death.

The smooth running of Geoff’s preparation for his appearance at the inquest is rather derailed after shots are fired at Dr Fane’s lab and Geoff finds himself laid up in hospital, with Bradley called on to deputise for him.

The Inquest is another Doomwatch episode with a strong hook in the pre-credits sequence.  After a couple of shots are fired, Dr Fane finds Geoff senseless on the floor – although since he was clutching his shoulder it’s clearly not a fatal wound.  The post-credits meeting between Quist and Bradley is also memorable, as Quist casually mentions that Geoff’s been shot and he therefore needs to hop on a train and take over his work.  Quist’s seemingly unfeeling and cold nature is again highlighted here – although it appears to be more that he knew that Geoff was fine (with only a superficial scratch) and had therefore had mentally moved onto more pressing matters.

With both Simon Oates and Jean Trend absent, this is that rarest of beasts – a Bradley-centric episode.  Joby Blanshard naturally seems to relish having more to do then simply react to the others.  Bradley’s a key participant at the inquest, although when he expresses the opinion that all dogs within a five mile radius should be shot he doesn’t find many supporters amongst the villagers!

It’s an interesting twist that for once there’s no twist.  Since we’ve become so used to seeing Doomwatch stories where a death that appears to have been caused by x was actually caused by y, it’s a neat trick when it’s revealed that a rabid dog was responsible after all.

This follows lengthy and passionate arguments from Ms Lincoln at the inquest, who remained insistent that Dr Fane’s tsetse flies were responsible – to the growing exasperation of the coroner (very well played by Edward Evans).  The revelation that it was just a dog does take the wind out of her sails, but Dr Fane is still culpable (the infected dog had been released from his lab) but he’s not the only one.

It was the landlord of the local pub who obtained the dogs for Fane – and with the money that Fane was offering he wasn’t too choosy about where they came from.  The long arm of coincidence comes into play when it’s established that the landlord’s son Harry was responsible for tending to the released animals (and also was the one who took a pot-shot at Geoff).  Like Marion, Harry’s been bitten, and the episode ends with the boy taken to hospital and it’s left open as to whether he’ll live or die.

The nature of the story means that this is a static, wordy episode.  The scientific content is pretty low – although Bradley goes into considerable detail about why he believes tsetse flies couldn’t be responsible for carrying the rabies virus, since that whole part of the plot was a red herring it doesn’t really matter either way.

Judith Furse is excellent as the animal loving Ms Lincoln and the ever-reliable Frederick Treves is equally as good as her implacable enemy Dr Fane.  Given that Fane has a licence for animal experiments, it’s never made clear why he should have gone to such extreme measures to obtain potentially dangerous dogs (unless he needed infected animals for his experiments?)  It’s also never explicitly stated, but it seems probable that Ms Lincoln released the dogs, if so then she must take part of the blame for the child’s death.

Quist keeps a fairly low profile, although he pops up at the end of the inquest (rather stealing Bradley’s thunder!)  And even though he gets shot, Geoff is still something of a third wheel, although the absence of both Ridge and Fay means that he does get a few more lines than usual.

Scripted by Robert Holmes, The Inquest is a well-written character piece.

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