‘The Underwater Menace’ (TV)

Underwater

‘THE UNDERWATER MENACE’

Please feel free to comment on my review.

Atlantis with the Doctor, Jamie, Ben and Polly

I had this ‘Doctor Who’ DVD for Christmas in 2015!

‘The Underwater Menace’ stars Patrick Troughton as the Doctor with Michael Craze as Ben; Anneke Wills as Polly and Frazer Hines as Jamie. It’s a four-part story by Geoffrey Orme that was mostly missing with ‘Episode 3’ for some time. That was until the recovery of ‘Episode 2’ of the tale in 2011.

The story was released on DVD in 2015 with the two surviving episodes in it. Sadly ‘Episodes 1 and 4’ are still missing and were presented as tele-snaps with the audio soundtrack in the background on the DVD. This is a shame as I would’ve liked to have seen those missing episodes animated on DVD.

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Before I had ‘The Underwater Menace’ DVD for Christmas 2015, I’d seen ‘Episode 2’ at the ‘Pandorica 2015’ convention in Bristol, September 2015. The episode was being commentated upon by Anneke Wills at the convention and I did enjoy seeing what I saw of the episode for the first time.

I was looking forward to seeing ‘The Underwater Menace’ story in its entirety on DVD. However, I don’t think ‘The Underwater Menace’ is as good as many other ‘Doctor Who’ DVDs I’ve seen. The surviving two episodes were great to watch and it was good to see the Doctor, Jamie, Polly and Ben.

But as for the tele-snap episodes themselves, they were static and uninteresting. Now I admire photographer John Cura’s acquisition of the stills from those two missing episodes of the story. But I had to put the subtitles on for the two tele-snap episodes in order to hear what the characters said.

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For this review, I purchased the audio soundtrack of ‘The Underwater Menace’ as a download on Audible. This was to help with understanding what was going on in the missing episodes with the linking narration provided by lovely Anneke Wills. This helped to watch the tele-snaps, but not much.

It didn’t end the main range of classic ‘Doctor Who’ DVDs on a high for me. As a fan and I’m sure for others, I had to wait a year for ‘The Underwater Menace’ to be released on DVD following the announcement of it via the ‘coming soon’ trailer on ‘The Moonbase’ DVD. So this was disappointing.

I feel the tele-snap ‘Episode Three’ of ‘The Web of Fear’ was better than the tele-snap episodes of ‘The Underwater Menace’ DVD. I wish that ‘Episodes 1 and 4’ of this story were animated to satisfy the fans’ enjoyment of this DVD, though the tele-snap episodes were better than nothing I suppose.

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As for the story itself, it was pretty average indeed. I heard that it wasn’t one of the top favourite ‘Doctor Who’ stories by the fans (the opposite in fact). But I found it enjoyable and it was interesting how they did a ‘cartoon’-style tale with such an unbelievably over-the-top villain in Professor Zaroff.

In the story, the TARDIS arrives on a beach on Earth. The Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie step out and eventually enter a cave where they go down deep under the earth and find the lost city of Atlantis. There, Professor Zaroff is intending to penetrate the Earth’s crust so that he can blow up the world.

I presume this is the Doctor’s first official visit to Atlantis in ‘Doctor Who’ since he would later revisit that kingdom in ‘The Time Monster’ with Jon Pertwee. It was intriguing to see how the Doctor visits Atlantis for the first time, though it does seem a very hair-brained and unusual adventure for him.

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I did find this story a bit of a muddle and it seemed to be all over the place in terms of structure and plot. There are lots of ideas and concepts going on through this story, but they don’t seem to co-ordinate with each other. Also some of the set designs; costumes and performances of the cast were unusual.

There were also behind-the-scenes problems with how this story was made in terms of scheduling and changes of directors. There was also the director Julia Smith who makes a bold attempt with making this fantasy story, although she didn’t get on well with the cast including Patrick Troughton.

Patrick Troughton is very good as the Doctor in this TV adventure. I feel that Patrick is getting confident in his role as the Doctor by this point in the series. He enjoys playing his recorder and getting to dress up, disguised as a seller man in the Altantian market as well as with stopping Zaroff.

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Frazer Hines is equally good as Jamie in this story. Jamie has joined the TARDIS following ‘The Highlanders’ and this is his first adventure in the TARDIS. He doesn’t have a major part to the story as he was shoehorned in recently in this series. But he comes across as very likely and a good friend.

Anneke Wills is lovely as Polly, but I’m afraid her character is wasted in this. Geoffrey Orme didn’t know how to write for Polly and she comes across as squeamish and not-in-character. It was quite frightening when she was going to be experimented on as a fish. “You’re not turning me into a fish!”

Michael Craze is very good as Ben in this story. Like Jamie, I don’t think he has a major part to play in this story, but he does get very resourceful and motivates people like Sean and Jacko when escaping the mines. I liked it when Ben gets to be the voice of Amdo in order to rescue the Doctor and Ramo.

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Joseph Fürst guest stars as Professor Zaroff in this story. Fürst’s performance as Zaroff in this story is way, way over-the-top. I can’t see why Zaroff would want to blow up the world for scientific achievement as it’s so ridiculous and he’s completely flipped. He’s well-known for his immortal line:

“NOTHING IN THE WORLD CAN STOP ME NOW!!!!!”

Catherine Howe guest stars as Ara, an Atlantian slave girl who helps the Doctor, Jamie, Polly and Ben when they’re in trouble from Zaroff and the others in Atlantis. Ara’s a lovely girl and would have made a good companion, since she seems to be rushing around a lot in this very unusual adventure.

Tom Watson guest stars as Ramo, one of the priests of Atlantis in this story. Ramo doesn’t trust Zaroff’s word that he will rise Atlantis up from the waters for the people. The Doctor gains Ramo’s confidence as he helps him with stopping Zaroff. It’s a shock when Ramo is being attacked by Zaroff.

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Colin Jeavons guest stars as Damon, one of the scientists who nearly turned Polly into one of the fish people. I can’t see why Damon would be so willing to make the Atlantian people into fish people, although they are meant to work as slaves for them and find the food supplies needed for Atlantis.

There’s also Paul Anil as Jacko and P.G. Stephens as Sean who work in the mines when Jamie and Ben meet them. Those mine sequences in this story are somehow unusual and weird for me. There’s also Noel Johnson as King Thous of Atlantis, who disbelieves the Doctor’s allegations against Zaroff.

The fish people in ‘The Underwater Menace’ were pretty disappointing for me. They look spectacular in the underwater sequences in ‘Episode 3’ when they go on strike. But I’m afraid they just didn’t do anything for me and the costumes and make-up looked terrible when I watched them.

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The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the making-of documentary ‘A Fishy Tale’ with cast and crew interviews. There’s also ‘The Television Centre of the Universe – Part 2’ documentary with Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Mark Strickson, guided by ‘Blue Peter’ presenter Yvette Fielding (‘Part 1’ is on ‘The Visitation – Special Edition’ DVD). Wrong DVD to put ‘Part 2’ of this documentary!

There are also some censor clips, the only surviving footage of ‘Episodes 1 and 4’ of this story. Why these clips weren’t included with the tele-snap versions of the episodes of this DVD, I don’t know! There’s also a photo gallery of this story.

There’s a commentary on the tele-snap ‘Episode 1’ featuring ‘Part Two’ of an interview with Patrick Troughton’s son, Michael Troughton (‘Part One’ is on ‘The Ice Warriors’ DVD).

There’s also a commentary on ‘Episodes 2 and 3’ with Anneke Wills, Frazer Hines, Catherine Howe, special sounds supervisor Brian Hodgson and floor assistant Quentin Mann, moderated by Toby Hadoke.

And there’s a commentary on the tele-snap ‘Episode 4’ featuring archive material from Patrick Troughton, directors Julia Smith and Hugh David and producer Innes Lloyd.

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‘The Underwater Menace’ has been a very disappointing ‘Doctor Who’ DVD release for me. Somehow this story still feels incomplete for me, despite the tele-snap episodes to fill in the gaps. I wish ‘Episodes 1 and 4’ were animated, but I did enjoy the recovered ‘Episode 2’ of the tale so much.

‘The Underwater Menace’ rating – 5/10


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