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|“||(Stephen Powell: No, I was right the first time, it is going. Do you want it out now?) When it definitely sinks and stops moving. I thought I'd made it clear the other day, what the precise moment of removal should be. (Stephen Powell: But you don't want it to drown, do you? If it...) No! It's nothing to do with want! It's not intended to drown. Not this time, anyway; and I think probably not the next time either, depending on results of course.||„|
|~ Dr. Boycott arguing with Stephen Powell while testing Rowf's endurance.|
Dr. James Robert Boycott, or better known as Dr. Boycott, is the main antagonist of the 1977 Richard Adams book The Plague Dogs, and its 1982 animated film adaptation of the same name by Martin Rosen. He is a callous and unsympathetic scientist who runs the A.R.S.E. and tortures animals for experiments, particularly two dogs named Rowf and Snitter.
Dr. Boycott is a senior researcher at A.R.S.E. in charge of the experimental program which involved Rowf. He is callous and arrogant, with no remorse for either the animals in his experiments or his subordinate, Stephen Powell. His inept handling of the situation arising from the dogs' escape serves both to antagonize the local farmers, who are losing sheep to the dogs, and to provide grist to Digby Driver's mill despite his efforts to do the opposite. He considers Powell's concern for experimental animals unprofessional and "emotional", which he considers has no place in science. Throughout the plot, he uses a monkey for a pointless deprivation experiment by confining it in an isolated cylinder until Powell quits his job and takes the monkey with him, while Dr. Boycott plans to replace Rowf with another dog for his water immersion experiments.
|“||He was a qualified expert, initiative was expected of him, his subjects had no legal rights; and intellectual curiosity is, after all, a desire like any other. Besides, who in his senses could reasonably expect Dr. Boycott to ask himself, on behalf of the human race, not "How much knowledge can I discover?" but "How much knowledge am I justified in seeking?". Experimental science is the last flower of asceticism and Dr. Boycott was indeed an ascetic, an observer of events upon which he passed no value judgements. He represented, in fact, a most ingenious paradox, noble in reason, express and admirable in action, his undemonstrative heart committed with the utmost detachment to the benefit of humanity. Something too much of this.||„|
|~ The Narrator describing Dr. Boycott's motivations.|
After Ann Moss sold Snitter to their lab, he has then done numerous unethical vivisection experiments on him, due to her claims that Snitter had a vicious nature. He also uses electrodes on monkeys for invasive brain research and locks up one of them in a confined cylinder for a pointless sensory deprivation experiment. He also does experiments on rabbits by dripping amounts of hairspray into their eyes to see how long it takes for them to go blind. He also covers cats' eyes and ears with hoods to see what happens to them for that exact purpose. He does not show any sympathy for his subordinate, Stephen Powell as well and his disgust for emotions is what caused Powell to be somewhat fearful of him. This eventually leads to Powell quitting his job and taking the cylinder-confined monkey with him, so he can look for a new career and save his sick daughter from a mysterious disease.
One of his assistants named Dr. Goodner is obsessed with studying the bubonic plague and plans on using it as a secret bioweapon for the Ministry of Defense. This leads to the belief that the dogs are infected with the plague after their escape and Digby Driver uses that to publish false rumors about the dogs carrying the plague and sell his newspapers. In spite of the situation of the dogs attacking livestock, he decided to keep it a secret from the local farmers and didn't care about the other chaos the dogs have caused, from scavenging the Dawsons' dustbins to invading Geoffrey Westcott's groceries. It is implied by William Harbottle that he kept it a secret in order to avoid the increasing risk of giving rise to public anxiety about the plague-carrying dogs. In the film, he hired a bounty hunter named Ackland to take down Rowf and Snitter and wanted to get involved with the hunt, so he wouldn't be an embarrassment and not be dropped out of his job. When the Under Secretary called him, he overhears that he should suspend his job and he reluctantly agrees.
During Snitter's life with his owner, Alan Wood, Snitter is being chased by an approaching truck. His owner pushes him out of the way and is hit by the truck. His sister, Ann Moss argues that Snitter killed him and sells him to the A.R.S.E., leaving Snitter to believe that he killed his master.
Dr. Boycott and his reluctant assistant, Stephen Powell have done numerous experiments on Snitter with vivisection, while they repeatedly drowned Rowf by systematically locking him in a tank of water to measure his endurance. Rowf and Snitter's friend named Kiff was taken away by Dr. Boycott and was sentenced to death by cumulative electrocution. One day, the janitor, Harry Tyson, accidentally leaves Rowf's door open after returning him to his pen. The following evening, Snitter squeezes into Rowf's cage and they discover that the door is unlatched. They explore the facility in order to escape while discovering other animals who were having horrible experiments done on them until they sneak into an incinerator. When the dogs wake up, Snitter senses another opening as Tyson prepares the incinerator. They narrowly escape as the incinerator starts, leaving them to roam the countryside.
While the dogs are out looking for a new master, they stumble across a driver. The driver notices Snitter's green collar and decides to take him back to A.R.S.E., but Rowf scares him away. Meanwhile, Dr. Boycott and Powell are concerned about their lost dogs and figure that they must be chasing sheep.
When the farmers learn about the dogs killing sheep, Dr. Boycott and Stephen Powell discuss their experiments on guinea pigs with tobacco tar condensates. Stephen asks if he considers using anaesthetics like Dr. Walters said, to which he replies that it's expensive and that he's in charge of the experiment.
When the farmers raid the Tod's area with hunting dogs, the Tod comes back to warn the dogs about their presence. Rowf considers giving himself in for the whitecoats, but Snitter convinces him that it's crazy and dogs weren't meant to be abused. The farmers arrive at the mine, but discover that the dogs have already fled. Dennis Williamson calls the facility and inquires if they lost any dogs, but Stephen refuses to give a straight answer. Dr. Boycott decides to hide the truth about the dogs from the farmers and thinks that it's unlikely that they would sue them otherwise.
In the film, Boycott phones the experimental station and hires a bounty hunter named Ackland to take down the dogs after Snitter accidentally kills a Jewish businessman named David Ephraim. Ackland finds the derelict area the dogs have been sleeping, but finds nothing.
When the two dogs scavenge the Dawsons' dustbins, the women drive Rowf away and lock Snitter in a shed before phoning the police. Rowf warns the Tod about Snitter and they head out to rescue him. When the police and Stephen Powell arrive, the Tod manages to help Snitter escape before the police could catch him. Meanwhile, a reporter named Digby Driver arrives and takes Stephen back to the Research Station, while Stephen chats about Dr. Goodner's defense work.
Upon returning to the station, Boycott tells Stephen to not go with the police, because they would reveal their involvement in the hunt. It is implied that he was planning on destroying the two dogs and burning their corpses in the incinerator once they've gotten them back. At the station, Digby Driver blackmails Dr. Goodner about his defense work and publishes an article about the two dogs carrying the bubonic plague.
Boycott is suspicious about the media reporting the dogs carrying the plague and Stephen claims that he didn't know anything about Goodner's work on the plague. Boycott says that the dogs couldn't be carrying the plague and the Under Secretary thinks it's unlikely.
Later, Stephen falls ill while trying to get the dogs out of their tanks and is forced to suspend his job. Digby Driver receives the news and heads over to visit the Research Station. Digby Driver meets up with Dr. Boycott and he informs Driver that Powell will return the next day. Powell eventually returns and they continue their experiments on the dogs, while Dr. Boycott tells Powell the news about the dogs raiding Geoffrey Westcott's car. Dr. Boycott asks Stephen about how the Assistant Secretary knew about the plague-carrying dogs and he assures him that he didn't reveal any secrets, because they're scientists and don't get mixed up with politics. Stephen asks Dr. Boycott about hiring someone else and he cries as he realizes that he can't be a part of science.
On a snowy day, the hunter follows the dogs on their trail, unaware that the Tod is following him. He finds the two dogs and takes aim, but only succeeds in shooting off Rowf's collar as the Tod jumps him, causing him to fall to his death. The dogs scavenge the hunter's corpse and the army gets involved as the police find his half-eaten corpse.
Eventually, Digby Driver returns to the Research Station and they chat about his experiments and the plague-carrying dogs causing havoc across the Lake District. Driver lashes out at Dr. Boycott for being grossly irresponsible and argues with Stephen that he revealed the information about Goodner's defence work, though Stephen denies it. Dr. Boycott then receives a call from the local authorities and learns about the incident of Geoffrey Westcott's death. Boycott couldn't deny that the green collar is one of theirs and sends someone to the station. Stephen is shocked and decides to have a talk with Dr. Boycott outside as Digby Driver leaves. Driver then posts an article about Westcott's death and how Boycott refused to comment about their missing dogs, humiliating him.
Dr. Boycott tells Stephen about not getting involved with the authorities and dicuss their experiments on kittens with tang-worm infections. Dr. Boycott asks Powell about the monkey and he begins to worry about the animal, but Dr. Boycott argues that the monkey has been fed and that it was just a deprivation experiment. Stephen then becomes emotional about why Boycott chose only him and questions the reasons to him. Dr. Boycott tells Powell about the Director and tells him about another dog to use for water immersion experiments to replace Rowf. Stephen thanks him and then leaves. He quits his job and takes the confined monkey with him to look for a new career.
When the two dogs are being chased by the army, Snitter claims to see an island and they swim out to sea to escape the army as they try to shoot them out of the water. Meanwhile, Boycott is called by the Under Secretary and is susprised as he overhears that he should suspend his job completely.
In the book, Rowf and Snitter were rescued by two naturalists named Peter Scott and Ronald Lockley and were happily reunited with Snitter's long-lost master after Digby Driver redeemed himself and helped him find them.
- Like the other humans in the film, he is barely seen and his voice is mostly heard in the background.
- His voice actor, the late Nigel Hawthorne also voiced Captain Campion from the 1978 film Watership Down, which is another movie directed by Martin Rosen and based on a book by Richard Adams.
- The film also starred John Hurt, who would go on to play General Woundwort in the Watership Down TV series.
- The scene in which Rowf and Snitter sneak out of the lab to escape shows them walking past the other animals who were having horrible experiments done on them, including monkeys with electrodes planted into their heads and rabbits being experimented on with hairspray to make them go blind. The fact that the monkeys have electrodes planted into their heads makes it unlikely they are being used for breeding, but equally horrific invasive brain research.
- In the film, Boycott hires a bounty hunter named Ackland to hunt down the dogs until he eventually falls to his death and is scavenged by the dogs. However, in the book, Ackland never existed and the hunter who fell off a cliff was a bank clerk named Geoffrey Westcott.
- In addition, the Tod was killed in a fox hunt before Westcott tried to kill Rowf and Snitter.
- One of the lab dogs seen in the film beared a resemblance to Kiff, who had black and white fur.
- In the book, Boycott is the one who calculates Rowf's endurance, but Stephen Powell does this in the film. He also leaves to do a brain surgery, while his subordinate resuscitates Rowf.
- In the extended cut of the film, Dr. Boycott is at his lab and overhears that he is forced to quit his job before the two dogs try to escape the army as the camera cuts to the monkey in the isolation chamber. In the theatrical cut, while the two dogs are being chased into the sea by the army and the helicopter, Dr. Boycott is forced to suspend his job as the two dogs swim out to find the island.
- In the book, Powell takes the monkey with him before the dogs' encounter with the army. However, the monkey is still in its confinement when Rowf and Snitter escape to the sea.
- In the film, during Boycott's conversation with Lynn Driver, she didn't confront him for his actions.
- Snitter's shout to the vulture "I hope you make sure we're properly dead before you start, old rip-beak!" is sampled in the industrial band Skinny Puppy's song/single "Testure". Both the song, whose name combines "test" and "torture", and music video equates medical experimentation on live animals as torture.
The Plague Dogs