The Escape Of RD7
BBC 1961
Out Of Hand
TX : 21st November 1961

Publicity : The Escape Of R.D.7 - Roger Croucher as Peter Warner and Barbara Murray as Doctor Anna Hastings in a new adventure serial with a scientific background: Suppose a scientist working on a large-scale medical research project stumbles on to something which suggests an exciting, entirely different line of research. Suppose she becomes obsessed with the idea and works on it in secret in the laboratory, her awareness of danger blunted by her single-minded pursuit of a discovery which could be invaluable to mankind … Such a scientist is Doctor Ann Hastings, whose strange story begins tonight in a new adventure series: The Escape Of R.D.7. Anna believes she is on the point of developing a virus like myxomatosis, which only a few years ago virtually wiped out the world's rabbit population. But her virus has a wider significance, for it is fatal to rats - and so could be decisive in the constant battle to kill off the carriers of plague. Success could bring her worldwide recognition, and when her almost fanatical devotion to her project brings her up against orthodox authority and a threatened end to her experiments, she rebels and continues on her own, heedless of the inherent risks of virus R.D.7. This unusual five-part serial has a markedly realistic flavour. James Ormerod, a young freelance producer who joined the BBC for The Escape of R.D.7, was himself involved in scientific research toward the end of the war. "Many scientists," he says, "have a private bee in their bonnet - and research people do often have an astonishingly single-minded attitude". Author Thomas Clarke has written two plays for BBC Television - A Game Of Eskimos and Nothing Is Forever - and lately he has been a script associate on the Berkely Mather series, You Can't Win. "Originally, Doctor Hastings was to have been a man," he says, "but when I visited research laboratories to check the background, I found that many of the research workers were women, and that the ones working in this field were mostly young and glamorous. So Doctor Hastings became a woman". Barbara Murray, playing Anna, heads a large cast which includes Jennifer Wright, Ellen Pollock and Derek Waring - with Roger Croucher as Warner, the young laboratory assistant who becomes the key to the R.D.7 experiment. (Radio Times, November 16, 1961).

Synopsis :
Doctor Ann Hastings leaves the door of her laboratory unlocked. An intruder is bitten by a laboratory animal and the project to which Anna had dedicated her career is in jeopardy.

Notes :
Episodes were originally transmitted 8:30pm to 9:15pm on BBC 1. Music for the series was composed and conducted by Eric Spear. This episode attracted 6.7 million viewers and was ranked the fifth most popular programme of the week.

The Glass Is Shattered
TX : 28th November 1961

Publicity : Barbara Murray and Jennifer Wright in the second episode of The Escape of R.D.7: Experimenting secretly in the laboratory where she was officially working on medical research, Doctor Anna Hastings has discovered a myxomatosis-like virus, R.D.7, which she believes could be a decisive weapon in the world-wide battle against plague-bearing viruses. Ordered to stop her experiments when Warner, a young laboratory cleaner, blundered into her room and was bitten by a virus-infected rat, Anna rebelled and determined to continue on her own. Drugging Warner, she has taken him to a remote boathouse on the Essex marshes … In tonight's second episode of this exciting new adventure serial, Anna's chief at the laboratory discovers that rats and apparatus are missing, and the police become interested at the disappearance of Warner. To Anna the vital question is: will he react to the rat bite? Will the virus turn out to be fatal to human beings? For Barbara Murray, the part of Anna Hastings is a departure after a series of comedy roles. (She was last seen on BBC Television in Man And Superman). Playing a scientist for the first time, she visited several research laboratories to study the background. But while she learned to handle hypodermics and test tubes with conviction, she remains less than enthusiastic about the large rats which play so important a part in the life of Doctor Anna. On-screen, she deals with them with casual efficiency, but away from the studio: "I'm terrified of the things. They make my flesh creep!". (Radio Times, November 23, 1961).

Twice Bitten
TX : 5th December 1961

Synopsis :
Peter Warner, accidentally infected by R.D.7, panicked when he discovered how dangerous the virus was. Anna, to win his trust and help with her experiments, has infected herself.

The Trap
TX : 12th December 1961

Synopsis :
Anna Hastings has fallen ill, virus R.D.7 the suspected cause. Because of a scandal she must leave her own laboratory and is forced to ask for the help of a sinister financier operating on the fringe of medicine. She is about to start tests on the cause of her illness when she learns she may not be the only one infected.

A Matter Of Business
TX : 19th December 1961

Synopsis :
Anna Hastings is tortured by the suspicion that she is the cause of a nationwide epidemic. Rejected by the medical profession, deserted by her friend Peter Warner, she accepts the dubious assistance of Patrice Constantine.

Portrayed By
Doctor Anna Hastings
Barbara Murray
Peggy Butler
Jennifer Wright
Doctor Mary Carter
Ellen Pollock
David Cardossa
Derek Waring
Peter Warner
Roger Croucher
Eddie Malin
The Waiter
John Devaut
Head Waiter
Frank Littlewood
Mrs Warner
Joan Newell
The Barman
John Caesar
Alan Fry
Basil Beale
George Warner
Victor Platt
Cafe Proprietor
Noel Luscombe
Nigel Arkwright
Tony Bronte
Police Constable Hanley
Patrick Connor
The Police Sergeant
Bernard Goldman
Tucker's Assistant
John Moore
David's Secretary
Monica Evans
The Laboratory Clerk
Ian Gardiner
Raymond Hodge
Detective Sergeant Brady
Michael Collins
Police Constable Crabtree
Robin Wentworth
Ticket Collector
Arthur Skinner
The First Passenger
Fred Rawlings
The Second Passenger
Fred Hugh
Doctor Blekinsop
Philip Holles
Ted Glover
Hamilyn Benson
The Photographer
Terence Brook
The Newspaper Editor
Frank Sieman
The Secretary
Soraya Rafat
Michael Rabinovitz
Paul Eddington
Doctor Kent
George McGrath
Sir Charles Delman
Austin Trevor
Mr Bannard
Alec Ross
The Messenger
John Lewis
The Porter
John Moore

The series was written by Thomas Clarke. The series was produced and directed by James Ormerod. The series was designed by Stephen Bundy.

Exploring the fears resident in the British public - particularly during the tensions inherent in the cold war - of a large-scale viral plague infection which poses a real and imminent threat to the nation was the essential basis from which The Escape Of R.D.7 launched itself in Autumn 1961. Scripwriter Thomas Clarke devised a storyline which took, at its heart, that the means justify the ends - and from a scientific point of view this can lead to the most deadly of outcomes.

Doctor Anna Hastings (Barbara Murray), a single-minded and determined scientist with a vision to develop a strand of myxomatosis which would prove lethal to rats and other plague-carrying vermin, is a classically-flawed professional who is determined to accomplish her task at any price. When a laboratory assistant is bitten by an infected rat and falls into a comatose state, the project she is working on comes under threat and she has to act decisively.

Spiriting the injured assistant off to a deserted boathouse in the Essex marshes where she wants to observe his degenerative state whilst continuing with her experiments (despite being officially ordered to cease all work and allow an investigative team to sift through the evidence of the circumstances surrounding the assistant's infection). In order to ensure that the assistant, Peter Warner (Roger Croucher) does not panic and rush from her captivity, she infects herself with the same virus to placate him and also assure him that she is determined to find a cure.

However, when she too falls ill from the infection and is prevented from continuing her work in the laboratory, she is forced to pursue the dubious path of seeking financial assistance from a questionable source - a source who can recognise the lucrative potential of a cure for a viral epidemic.

As local villagers and residents nearby the laboratory also being to exhibit symptoms of the infection, Doctor Hastings realises that she has indirectly become responsible for the epidemic in her pursuit of virus R.D.7, and that only a cure will secure her redemption. A potent exercise in exploiting the fears of people with regard to infectious viruses, The Escape Of R.D.7 was a remarkably diverting five-part drama serial which scored highly with viewers (the first episode ranking as the fifth most popular programme of the week).

The series, which explored issues of scientific blindness, determination and the dangers of failing to see "the bigger picture", featured notable supporting performances from the likes of Jennifer Wright, Derek Waring, Victor Platt and Paul Eddington, and was produced and directed by newcomer James Ormerod. The serial was never exported nor commercially released.

Text © Matthew Lee , 2004.