Tuesday, 28 December 2010

The Underwater Menace


  1. After a fairly strong start to the 'new' Doctors' adventures this is a real step backweards I'm afraid, suffering from some ludicrous plotting and terribly OTT acting.

    So what's good? Troughton has a lot of fun dressing up and the 3 companions all contribute. And the episode 1 cliffhanger with Polly on the operating table is very good and scary on the audio.

    Apart from that the whole story comes across as one that should have been said no to at the production stage as the budget really is overstretched in realising an underwater world. For example some of the fish people are fully costumed and look effective but others are just wearing diving masks rather than having the full effect and your completely thrown out of the story by such inconsistencies. The less said about the plot the better but it really is typical b-movie mad scientist fare with Joseph Furst giving the ultimate scenery chewing performance as the genius Zaroff. Well I say genius but he's never found a way of preserving sea food. A fridge freezer for christmas perhaps.

    Maybe the serial suffers from the fact the one remaining episode is the worst of the four - climaxing with the immensely hammy "nothing in the world can stop me now" - but I have to give it a poor 3/10

  2. A real curate's egg, this one.

    When Zaroff delivers the line "I could feed you to my pet octopus, yes?" I found myself liking this madman already.

    And yet, let's be clear about this, the bad things about this story, of which there are many - the grindingly slow start, the co-incidence of a random escape tunnel happening to lead to the temple where Polly is about to be sacrificed, the gosh-begorrah accent (oh dear), Zaroff pretending to be ill, the fish-people-flying-ballet weirdness - grate terribly when they're on.

    But then they're replaced by spooky chanting before a human sacrifice, and a flooding Atlantis, and a don't-trust-authority message, and Polly in Shells (that last may just be me) and there's something here, something strange and weird and wonderful that I just can't put my finger on that is inexplicably Doctor Who in all its strange glory and glorious oddness.

    And then there's The Line.

    The line that condenses all that is great and terrible about this story, the wonderful, terrible, magnificent, awful, stupefying, transcendental line when Professor Zaroff declaims in front of an audience of just two or three henchmen that "Nothing in the world can stop me now!"

    And I never for a moment believed that it could stand up to the hype, that it could be as glorious and horrific as generations of Doctor Who fans before me had made it out to be.

    And yet I found myself, finger on the take-time-back-Sapphire-take-time-back button, again, and again, and again, sitting there watching it.

    I pressed that button at least thirty times, watching Professor Zaroff declaim that nothing in the world could stop him, just going back and watching him again and again, fascinated and enthralled, and I did not understand why.

    And some people may think that it's just a terrible line delivered in a hammy style, but there's something about it that calls to me, that says: This, this is the moment where you will know that you are one of the chosen, when you know that you love something that no rational person could appreciate, that is terrible and magnificent at the same time, that no other show in the world can give you.

    Something terrible and wonderful.

    Was it the delivery? The line itself? The contextual fact that he's playing it to henchmen who couldn't possibly give a damn and that it makes no sense?

    I don't know. Still don't. But something about that line - nonsensical and strange and terrible and wonderful at the same time - still echoes down the years to me now.

  3. Piers my dear old thing, I've never known anyone get so much from that line - it almost justifies it's existence you strange wonderful man

  4. New discovery excitement I am registering here as its one of the stories to benefit - I'm so happy that we have another Troughton episode to watch and really ecstatic that we get to visually experience Galaxy Four! ! ! ! Who'd think that more episodes would still be surfacing -more more MORE I say!!!!!!!

  5. I hardly know where to begin.

    It says here that, due to behind the scenes difficulties (which at one point saw this story abandoned as "impossible to make on a standard Doctor Who budget"), these episodes were recorded only a week before trasmission. When you consider that... Well, it's still a bit of a shocker really.

    And yet I can't say I didn't enjoy watching it. I enjoyed the weird underwater fish ballet, I loved some of the set design, Polly's attempted surgery (more body horror), I really liked the silly chase around the market place and say what you like about Zarroff but you can't call him boring. It's all so absurd that it keeps you entertained somehow.

    I agree totally about The Line . As you watch that delivery you would be stark raving mad to think that a normal person could sit through this.

    "...terrible and magnificent," indeed.

    Better than: Um.... Planet of the Giants
    Not as good as: Planet of the Giants