Sunday, 10 April 2016

The Doombolt Chase

'The Doombolt Chase'  was an adventure serial for kids with a science fiction bent produced by HTV in early 1978 that tells of three teenagers, Richard, Lucy & Pete, as they rampage around the Bristol Channel and the Brecon Beacons in an attempt to establish the truth about Richard's Naval Commander fathers court martial.

The teens are played, with varying degrees of success, by three young actors (Andrew Ashby, Shelley Crowhurst & Richard Willis) who seem to have all faded into obscurity immediately following their 6 episodes of fame.  Each though makes the most of what they have and attack their roles with gusto with particular kudos going to Shelley Crowhurst who as Lucy has to endure some very dodgy gender politics and comes through it all not only as probably the action hero of the piece but with her strident west country accent and matter of fact manners as the comic relief also.

The trio are surrounded by a number of familiar faces on British TV of the time including a small role for Simon MacCorkindale - a year away from his tussles with the Planet People in Quatermass - Frederick Jaeger - a Doctor Who regular, most notably as K9's creator, Professor Marius -  Peter Vaughan - Porridge's Harry Grout - and Wyrd Britain TV legend, John Woodnutt - who appeared in four Doctor Who serials, The Tomorrow People, The Boy From Space & Children of the Stones.

The series was written by another regular in these pages, Don Houghton, who had already written scripts for 'Ace of Wands', Doctor Who ('Inferno' & 'Mind of Evil'), several early 70s Hammer movies and would later go on to co-write Assignment 5 of Sapphire & Steel (the one that looks like a Poirot story).  Here he revisits the military themed science fiction of his Third Doctor stories, particularly 'Mind of Evil',  in a story that sends our intrepid trio scurrying around the South West of England and the Brecon Beacons searching for a missing weapons system that allows the producers to make use of lots of cheap locations and save their money to invest in an impressive final act.

'The Doombolt Chase'  is as the title states pretty much entirely made up of 6 episodes of 3 teens chasing from one location to the next as various adults stand around back at base worrying and others are outwitted by our three plucky heroes.  As I've mentioned the three leads are more that a little wooden, few of the characters are given much in the way of opportunity to develop and there are several, let's call them, narrative glitches such as the blatant difference between the demonstrated use of the weapon and it's stated purpose.  As much as I love the stories of the psychic and the supernatural that were so much in vogue through the decade it is a refreshing change of pace to experience a story with it's ambitions so firmly planted on the ground it does though have a distinct charm and I really warmed to Richard, Pete and, in particular, Lucy and by the end I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

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