If a nation is founded on Christian principles and consists of individuals bound by a confession and taught a creed, they are unlikely to be swayed by a story, a film or a piece of music that contravenes those standards. The English surrender to the Arts appeared as Christian belief declined. It has produced a society that is susceptible to be influenced through artistic channels, as expounded in Music Mania.
In Germany, society was controlled by music. In France, by paintings. The English have a most particular weakness for stories. And this weakness was deliberately exploited through Dr. Finlay's Casebook (1962-1971). The programme was well-developed before the propaganda started. The characters were well-known and eminently likeable. Dr. Finlay, hot-headed, impetuous, always learning something. Dr. Cameron, wise, loveable, trustworthy, always inclined to drink something. And Janet, so faithful, so safe and pure, as the housekeeper.
Belle: A Call for Legalised Abortion
Things changed in 1965 with an episode called Belle by Rosemary Hill. It was a deliberate attempt by the BBC to promote the need for legalised abortion, 2 years before the law in England was changed. Belle is a back street abortionist, who lures desperate women to her rooms and treats them abominably in return for money (not that doctors work for free!). Some of the women are badly injured in her hands, some die. The doctors are left shaking their heads and given the words (in paraphrase):
What are we supposed to do? The women come to us and we can do nothing to help them? Our hands are tied. So they seek help from someone who can do something. But what a mess. If only the law could be changed!
The young women are treated as victims of circumstance. Their condition is nothing to do with them. They are as innocent as if they had all been raped.
Happy Release: A Call for Legalised Euthanasia
In 1967 there is Happy Release by N. J. Crisp. This time we are treated to euthanasia. A man, who once was a chemist, is looking after a wife with terminal cancer. She is in such pain. She wants to die. Can he not help her? Is there no way? The lady dies far quicker than expected and the doctors are thrust into a moral dilemma:
She is dead. Her suffering is over. If her husband had helped her die, then it was only a mercy. Poor woman. She was so brave. It would not have been anything other than an act of love if her husband had killed her. Who could blame him? Who cares? Perhaps if a doctor could help. Who knows?
Suicide or murder. Neither would have a stigma. The only possible judgment would be on someone who did nothing and thereby was complicit in causing her agony.
The Conscience Clause: A Call for Compulsory Vaccination
The intention to propagandise was confirmed by the third episode in this style: the 1968 episode The Conscience Clause by Elaine Morgan. Dr. Finlay vaccinates a child against smallpox. She did not want her child vaccinated as she had listened to a local lawyer who is not pro-vaccination (he had been vaccinated as a child and then caught the disease badly). Dr. Finlay persuades her to have the injection. The little baby girl is the beloved first child for the couple. Her father is away at sea and looking forward to meeting her. But before he returns, the child has died in a gruesome, gangrenous way - not fit to be seen - only a few days after the vaccination was administered. Dr. Finlay reproaches himself throughout the episode. Dr. Cameron's character is vehemently pro-vaccination. He expresses little concern for the bereaved parents or for the suffering of the baby. He wants to vindicate the necessity of vaccination through a post-mortem. So, the writer pulls a rabbit out of the hat. It was congenital syphillis. What do you know? The vaccination was just a coincidence. It was all the parent's fault, anyway:
Bernard Shaw says that vaccinations are dangerous.
What medical qualifications does he have, Doctor?
None at all, man.
Then how can he know more than you, Doctor?
How indeed, man!
It is not that other episodes of Dr. Finlay's casebook are without problems. The premise of Dr. Finlay's world is insidiously subversive because we have all the trappings of a sweet old Scottish town without the Church. Oh, there is from time to time a minister. He is sometimes a cross man who beats his daughter, other times he's an idiot. He is never a respectable, admirable man. And that leaves a void for the doctors to fill. Time and time again, the doctors face a moral dilemma in the lives of their patients. In reality - in the 1920s - the Church was central and the ministers would have known everyone in their parish. They would have been involved in the lives of the people and available to support, advise and counsel. In their absence, the doctors offer a ministry of medicine. They do not always know the answers, but what would we do without them? The legacy of such shows is a nation that adores the NHS to the point of aggressive idolatry today.
As for the propaganda to promote abortion, euthanasia and vaccination, that was a deliberate subversion. A story may be set up in such a way that the characters can only reach the conclusion designed by the writer: that is the point. Back people into a corner so that they will conform to a new standard, as influenced by the television, until they enforce one another into believing righteousness is error and principle is cruelty. Cut off from a Biblical worldview, separated from the Church, and divorced from the law of God. Damned.
Postscript: 8th September 2018
It is interesting to note that the final (8th) series of Dr, Finlay's Casebook was a total disaster. Some of the writers are otherwise competent, if not brilliant, in their craft, but it could not have been worse if they had each produced their scripts while under the influence and the Script Editor had gone shopping. The programme loses all sight of the medical emphasis in favour of soap opera style melodrama. The writers change the characters in order to serve their own script, often contradicting traits which had been well-established in the series.
1. A Late Spring by Donald Bull
This is the most successful of the stories in the final series because the romance of Finlay's father is self-contained and both neatly handled and acted. The audience might have hoped instead for some resolution to Finlay's everlasting boyhood, not least because the actor (Bill Simpson) is looking his age and it is ridiculous to have him still posing as the young doctor.
2. Comin' thro' the Rye by Anthony Steven
This is a strange story concerning sickness associated with a mill. While ergot's poisoning is well documented, the writer used it as an excuse to do what he wanted. So some of the people poisoned are bed-bound, with an old lady taken very poorly. One young man thinks he can fly. Dr. Cameron, meanwhile, thinks he is 17 again. Such dramatic expediency is embarrassing and illogical. The denouement is not with the miller who had caused the contamination by being criminal. No, it is with the baker whose wife had used the contaminated flour and thought it looked funny, but had still told her to use it. So Cameron lets the baker think that he has eaten scones baked with the same flour. It is unbecoming in Dr. Cameron and out of all proportion to punish the baker for his poor judgment.
3. Not Qualified by John Pennington
This is absolutely the most depressing episode of Dr. Finlay's Casebook to survive. It concerns a couple who live in an isolated cottage. He is very possessive. She is inclined to hypochondria. Finlay interferes and there is nothing wrong with that because the series relies on him getting out of his depth. But in this case he precipitates a crisis in a relationship that was unhappy but stable. By his interference, the woman tries to leave the man (who is not really her husband). He pursues her and after a long chase, kills her quite savagely. The doctors visit him back at the cottage. He is calmer than they have ever known him to be and acts as though his "wife" is still alive. He has lost his mind completely, a long shadow from his war experiences perhaps. But they are left looking for a body, having done nothing but harm their patients.
4. Dorrity by Owen Holder
This is a most unwatchable piece of television. It concerns a wild young woman called Dorrity, whose father dies in the wilderness of Scotland. Dr. Cameron had visited him and the scenes of his journey there are hard to endure, as the actor is too old to be put through such rough terrain. (Perhaps it was intended to be Dr. Finlay's role and Simpson's drinking was causing a problem?) In any case, Dr. Cameron will not leave the orphaned young woman alone and takes her back to his home and he puts her to bed. The housekeeper, Janet's confusion at this situation is understandable. What then follows is not. Dorrity is a free-spirit whose name should not be mispronounced as Dorothy because she is not a gift of God. She does not believe in God. She does not believe in wearing decent clothes, or eating meat, or behaving with propriety. In fact, she is everything two bachelor doctors should hate. But they do not. They come to believe that she has the power to heal by touch and they want her to train as a doctor. Although she has only had a rough education, they secure her a place and the funds to train! Then she is deposited back home by a fellow-student because she does not fit. She had argued with every professor and learned nothing. Instead of being cross that they had been played / stupid, the doctors just shake their heads that Dorrity is too wonderful for words. She is not. She is an untamed and uncivilised woman, unfit for society and unwilling to learn, right in her own eyes. It is unbelievable that Dr. Finlay the arch-sceptic should fall for a faith healer or that Dr. Cameron, with his years of wisdom and experience, should surrender his house and love to a woman of no charms whatsoever.
5. The Honeypot by Stanley Price
Continuing with the theme of the doctors not actually doing anything medical and no longer being under any pressure to look after patients at all hours of the day and night, this episode's distraction is an American who calls round to buy Arden House, the doctors' residence. He offers a lot of money for the property and says that he wants to ship it brick-by-brick back home to the states as it was his ancestral home. The doctors are indecisive. Meanwhile, two warring sides of the a family try to get the American to buy their homes, on a similar basis. They patch up their differences long enough to make a concerted effort. The dumb-Yank-abroad act is spoiled by the fact that he is really a con-man, who is spreading the rumour of his wealth just long enough to get a local businessman to give him £500. Then he leaves town. It has nothing at all to do with the main characters or medicine. It is a filler at best.
6. A Good Prospect by David Hopkins
This is a story about boxing. The doctors reveal that it had never occurred to them that boxing could result in brain injuries! We are braced for something significant to happen in this regard, as we watch the up-and-coming boxer choose to fight against the wishes of his fiancee. Family quarrels ensue. He does not want to be like his father (who actually seems a very nice old man and his words - in front of his father - seem cruel in the extreme). He meets an experienced boxer who has lost a few marbles. There is a sub-plot involving two established characters who are against gambling and then become compulsive gamblers in connection to boxing. It makes no sense. Dr. Cameron gets a cameo looking at an injured fighter and Dr. Finlay takes on the unlikely role of boxing trainer. But it is essentially a story about boxing and as boring as that sounds to those for whom it holds no interest at all.
7. Responsibilities by John Pennington
This episode is about a father and son. The mother died 6 weeks after the boy was born, but she had already dedicated him to become a doctor. He is now on the verge of going to study. He has a secret girlfriend and his father a secret fiancee. The father will not tell his son about his step-mother-to-be in case it distracts him from getting the gold medal in his medical training. But of course it comes out and the son is soon ill. Very ill. His girlfriend visits. All secrets are in the open. Dr. Finlay believes the sickness is very serious. So Dr. Cameron calls with his own gold medal and lets the boy hold it, like you would with a three year old. The young man dies and his father is superstitious enough to believe that it was because of the stress of finding out his father was going to marry. The wedding is cancelled. Then, in the last scene, he is kind to the lady again. The end. If the boy's mother had died in childbirth, then her husband might have blamed himself for her death and it could have cast a long shadow of guilt that has become focused on the son becoming a doctor and his mind snaps at the disaster of his son's sickness. But nothing so coherent. The characters behave irrationally and it is unsatisfying to watch.
8. A Question of Values by Martin Worth
This story sets rich vs. poor. In the poor family we have a sick daughter who has either asthma or emphysema, depending on the scene. She needs good food and fresh air. Her brother wants a revolution. Her father needs a job. Dr. Finlay is called from the rich family's party to attend to the sick daughter in the poor family. When he returns to the party he has lost his appetite, gets drunk and behaves boorishly to his hosts for being rich. It transpires that the poor father inherited a broken clock that he loves. It is worth a fortune. Will he sell it to the rich man in order to give his family a better life? He will not because he loves the clock and would rather be poor with it and have life worth living. His son leaves in disgust, so there is no income coming in at all. The poor man gets a job with the rich man and then, for no real reason, lets him buy the clock. We finish with a charity auction at which the rich woman manipulates her friends to help the poor, although she does not like the poor in person. The poor man has bought his family a better house and has £30 left which he uses to buy a violin made by Dr. Cameron. So the poor family have material comfort, and a father scraping a violin upstairs. That's it. Another tale in which Dr. Finlay and Dr. Cameron are bit-players in a false drama, where characters say and do what is necessary to reach the end point, however implausible and unenjoyable it is to watch.
Such poor writing is not accidental. The actors were good, but they cannot do anything with the material. The series which had become a tool of propaganda ended by not being able to tell a simple story any more.