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Altruism versus personal gain is a recurring conflict. By placing a discovery of vast potential value to humanity in the hands of two morally and materially deprived people, one might expect to see altruism defeated. In "The Little Black Bag" it is. But not before the conflict has brought the murder of one and the involuntary suicide of the other.

The discovery is medical - the shape of a miraculous do-it-yourself doctor's bag time-travelled back from 2065. It falls into the hands of the disbarred and drunken Dr. Full and an enterprising female racketeer, Angie. Teaming up, they open a clinic for cosmetic surgery. Thanks to the non-scar-forming instruments capable of removing subcutaneous deposits and firming fatty flesh, business is soon flourishing.

But the doctor is dissatisfied. Cured by the bag of his alcoholism, he begins to fret over the wasteful way they are exploiting it. His first tentative experiments with curing warts and minor infections soon progress to major surgical therapy of malignant tumours and tubercular lungs. And the more magical his cures, the more his conscience troubles him.

Not so Angie. To her the bag is the road to Eldorado. As she says of one flabby widow: "We could go over her inch by inch at two-hundred guineas a throw, and be millionaires by the time we'd finished." And when Full finally agrees with Harley Street to suspend his practice pending official tests of the bag, Angie goes berserk. Seizing the amputation knife, she murders him - then brazenly prepares to take over the treatment of his patients.

Meanwhile, ahead in the year 2065, the makers have been keeping a check on the bag. When warning lights flash that it has been put to the anti-social use of murder, they decide to destroy it.

They do so at the precise moment that Angie is demonstrating the "absolute safety" of an operating knife by slashing it across her throat . . . . . . . .

Written by C.M. Kornbluth
Dramatised by Julian Bond
Directed by Eric Hills

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