The Doombolt Chase

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The Doombolt Chase
Written by Don Houghton
Directed by Robert Fuest
Peter Graham Scott
Starring Peter Vaughan
Frederick Jaeger
Donald Burton
Andrew Ashby
Shelley Crowhurst
Richard Willis
Ewen Solon
George Coulouris
John Woodnutt
Simon MacCorkindale
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of episodes 6
Production
Running time 30 minutes (per episode)
Release
Original network HTV
Original release 12 March 1978

The Doombolt Chase is a naval-themed British science fiction/action television series aimed at a teenage audience. It was broadcast between 12 March and 16 April 1978, as a six-episode series. It was also broadcast in Canada on TVOntario in 1978 and in Germany in 1979 under the title Geheimprojekt Doombolt ("Secret Project Doombolt").

Episodes[edit]

  1. Court Of Shame
  2. Escape To Danger
  3. Death Beacon
  4. Alarm At Gareth’s Peak
  5. Devil’s Jaws
  6. Assault on Cragfest

Plot summary[edit]

During a night-time patrol in the Bristol Channel, naval Commander David Wheeler (Donald Burton) receives a message encrypted in Spens Code, a code unknown to the Navy operators. Soon afterwards, Wheeler orders the ship to go about and deliberately rams a small fishing vessel, sinking it completely. He is immediately court-martialled, but he offers no explanations for his actions – neither to his defending counsel and friend, Commander Jeffrey Vallance (Frederick Jaeger), nor to his only son, Richard (Andrew Ashby).

Richard is of course troubled by the way things are going and decides to investigate the matter, together with his friends Lucy (Shelley Crowhurst) and Pete, the latter a junior seaman who had witnessed the incident first-hand (Richard Willis). Richard happens to know about the Spens Code and its creator: a former Naval Intelligence operative named Hugh Spencer (John Woodnutt), a friend of his father’s, who lives in Braxtet. The trio immediately set out in Wheeler’s sailing yacht, relentlessly dogged by the Navy watchdogs assigned to watch over Richard. In order to cut time, they sail through the Navy’s Forbidden Zone in the Channel, where they encounter a boat with radio-controlled operations and a strange set of aerials mounted on top – just like on the boat Wheeler had sunk.

Finally arriving at Spencer’s house, they find him missing and signs of a struggle. Piecing together the few clues left to them, they stumble upon the word “Doombolt” and a map overlay of the Bristol Channel area which has several points marked. One of these is a manor named Scudmore, where the youths suspect Spencer has been brought to. Arriving there, they find the place heavily guarded and its occupants marching around in strange silver suits and helmets, which turns out to be protective gear against ultrasonics. They also come to witness a demonstration of a new super weapon, directed by a man called Doctor Franz Bayard (George Coulouris).

The Doombolt system turns out to be a top secret advanced missile guidance system the Royal Navy has been working on. It consists of a concentrated radio beam which is meant to guide a missile unerringly to its target; by use of a special, inconspicuous sonar emission vessel, defence missiles buried in the sea bed around the British main isle are fired into the air, where the Doombolt beam takes over. However, the Navy’s design was faulty, resulting in the destruction of the transmission beacons and the subsequent self-destruction of the missiles. Bayard, a former Navy scientist, has perfected the system by basing it on a two-beam transmission, which are then collected and amplified at a central control station; but he intends to work for his own profit by selling it to a foreign power. For a demonstration, he intends to target the Fiddig Brey, a new nuclear-powered supertanker. Commander Wheeler’s actions were motivated by the need to prevent Bayard from taking over the Navy’s sonar trigger vessel (the vessel Wheeler sunk), which, however, has already been replaced by the mystery boat in the Forbidden Zone. Only a few naval officers, including Wheeler and his superior, Captain Hatfield (Peter Vaughan), were privy to the project; but there is suspicion of a mole inside the Navy’s Doombolt project. Hugh Spencer worked as an undercover spy against Bayard, but he was discovered and captured.

With this information, Richard, Lucy and Pete try to inform Navy HQ in Bristol, where they happen to run into Vallance, who offers to take them to the CEO’s cottage in the Brecon Beacons. However, during the ride Vallance lets slip some clues that suggest that he may be in cahoots with Bayard (as it turns out, he is Bayard’s mole in the Navy Doombolt project). Richard and his friends flee immediately, with Vallance and Bayard’s men, who are about to set up the first transmission beacon in the area, in pursuit. Distraught at learning that his son had just been nearby and is now in danger, Commander Wheeler asks Hatfield for permission to find his son by himself.

In the Beacons, Wheeler stumbles upon Bayard’s operation and briefly frees Spencer before they are both recaptured, and later, after a long chase through the area, Richard, Lucy and Pete are also added to the list. As the captives compare notes while the second beacon is transported to its destination (the Mendips, also called Devil’s Jaws, in the southern part of the Channel), they learn the transmission angles for the beacons. Also, the youths have left some clues behind about what they know of the Doombolt project, but even with this information the Navy is helpless: since the beacons are small, locating them in these extensive areas proves to be nearly impossible, and Bayard has taken steps to ensure that the Fiddig Brey remains ignorant to the danger.

After the second beacon is set, Bayard intends to have his captives brought to his central control as hostages. But as they are to be taken away, Lucy slips out of her bonds and flees. After a long, desperate run, she manages to contact Naval Headquarters and provide Hatfield with the necessary information to track down the Doombolt control centre: Cragfest Island, in the middle of the Channel. A company of Royal Marines is dispatched immediately to take down Bayard’s Doombolt.

Meanwhile, on Cragfest, Bayard receives his ‘guests’, gloating about his achievements in working on the Doombolt and about the demonstration he is undertaking. The final sequences are initiated when the Marines attack the island; just then Pete manages to free himself and Commander Wheeler from their bonds. With only seconds left, they attack Bayard and Vallance; the scientist fires at Wheeler with his pistol but manages to hit the Doombolt controls instead, shorting out the system before it is activated. Just before central control self-destructs, Bayard and Vallance manage to escape in a mini submarine.

The series ends with the beginning of a sailing tour on Commander Wheeler’s yacht, where Pete's reservations about having a woman on board seem justified when Lucy inadvertently causes him to land in the bay.

Adaptations[edit]

The series was broadcast in 1979 under the title "Geheimprojekt Doombolt" in Germany by the ARD.[1]

Reception[edit]

The series has become a nearly-forgotten feature in television history, although it was commented on in several recent reviews as being more enjoyable than other, more supernaturally themed HTV productions, such as Children of the Stones and King of the Castle.[2][3]

DVD releases[edit]

In December 2009, the series was released on DVD in the United Kingdom.[4]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Fernsehserien.de: Gheimprojekt Doombolt". Retrieved 2012-04-06. 
  2. ^ "Newton's Law of Television: The Doombolt Chase". 2003. Retrieved 2012-04-06. 
  3. ^ "Total Science Fiction Online: The Doombolt Chase". 2010-02-25. Retrieved 2012-04-06. 
  4. ^ "The Doombolt Chase - The Complete Series". 2010-02-19. Retrieved 2010-05-17.