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7. 1 + 1 = 1.5

The year 2020, and Britain has retrieved supremacy in at least one field: Population Control. And the focus of this achievement is Rural 79B where the computer-calculated target of one-point-five children per married couple has now been achieved. Rural 79B's Population Officer Henry Beldon duly receives a Ministerial Commendation First Class in recognition. But his glory evaporates with the discovery that is wife Mary is expecting a second and unscheduled child. What now of his finely maintained average? What now of Rural 79B is the news leaks out that one of its couple has beaten the F (for fertility) factor? And worse, that the husband presumably responsible was the Population Officer no less. Only he and Medical Officer Stewart were privy to the secret of the F-factor: yet, had he done so? Or had Mary, bored and love-starved, somehow achieved her unlicensed condition through maternal devices of her own?

To M.O. Stewart, the latter seems the more likely. Either this or Beldon has suddenly become super-fertile - a possibility which also occurs (and appeals) to various of their female colleagues.

The public response when the news does break is "a classical case of mass repression triggered into action." The official response, however, is far more forbidding - particular for Beldon. Facing banishment to the under-populated Arctic he turns in despair to Mary. The secret of her pregnancy - has she no idea? Remorseful at last at the threat to her husband's career, Mary confesses. She had found it in her ancient herbal diary: "For those who, though hot for the bearing of childer[sic], come not in season ......" But is even her explanation right?

If so it makes a mockery of M.O. Stewart's modern methods of compulsory contraception ...

It requires a chance remark and Stewart's diligence finally to solve the foetal mystery. And even then, how to appease the Computer and restore Rural 79B to its cherished average of one-point-five?

Written by Brian Hayles
Directed by Michael Ferguson


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