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The Quest is the Quest
The second ‘Myths and Legends’ story, ‘Underworld’, is a four-part adventure by Bob Baker and Dave Martin. It features the Fourth Doctor, Leela and K-9, as they encounter the Minyans of Minyos.
For me, this is the weakest story out of the ‘Myths and Legends’ DVD collection of ‘Doctor Who’. Not because the story isn’t great, but because the production values are so poor and on the cheap side.
‘Underworld’ takes place during Season 15 of ‘Doctor Who’. It’s an intriguing sci-fi tale based on the Greek legend of ‘Jason and the Argonauts’. This could just well be called ‘Jason and the Astronauts’.
In the story, the TARDIS lands on the Minyan ship called the R1C, captained by Jackson of Minyos. Jackson and his band of heroes are on a quest to recover the Minyan race banks from the P7E ship.
The Doctor, Leela and K-9 help out in the quest that Jackson and his group embark on, as they find the P7E inside a planet-like structure. But recovering the Minyan race banks is not as easy as seems.
Bob Baker and Dave Martin wrote this story to win the approval of script editor Anthony Read, who was into Greek mythology. Anthony Read loved the story and commissioned it from the two writers.
I enjoyed the sci-fi take on ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ throughout this story. In all fairness, this has the makings of a great ‘Doctor Who’ story. It’s educational for those unfamiliar with the Greek story.
But unfortunately this story suffered a troubled production, as the story is mostly filmed in one set used for two locations. The spaceship set is used for the R1C as well as for the P7E during the story.
The rest of the story is set inside cave structures. This required the use of CSO (Colour Separation Overlay) to be employed, as the actors acted against a blue screen with a model effects added later.
The CSO method was used in ‘Doctor Who’ before, especially in the Jon Pertwee era under producer Barry Letts. It had also been used for 1973’s ‘Alice Through The Looking Glass’, starring Sarah Sutton.
The usage of the method was very time-consuming and hard work for the actors. It was a brave experiment to employ in a ‘Doctor Who’ story, but it wasn’t without its problems and hardships in it.
Tom Baker delivers a superb performance as the Doctor in this adventure. I don’t know how he coped with the pressures of working on a CSO production, but he seemed to cope rather well in this.
Louise Jameson is equally good as Leela in this adventure. I did get a sense that this isn’t one of Leela’s strongest outings in the TV series, but she had moments where she was so feisty and gun-ho.
K-9 (voiced by John Leeson) is good in this story. He gets to navigate the R1C ship when journeying through a spiral nebula and asteroids crushing them. He also has his moments in using his nose laser.
James Maxwell guest stars as Jackson, the leader of the Minyans aboard the R1C ship. Jackson is clearly based on Jason from the ‘Argonauts’ story. The Doctor calls Jackson ‘Jason’ at the story’s end.
Alan Lake guest stars as Herrick. Herrick is based on Heracles from the ‘Argonauts’ story. He’s a very interesting member of Jackson’s crew, as he’s very eager for battle and he gets to defend to the last.
Jonathan Newth guest stars as Orfe. Orfe is based on Orpheus from the ‘Argonauts’ story. In ‘Part One’, Orfe shines this peace-inducing light onto Leela and Herrick to stop them becoming aggressive.
The guest cast also includes the Trogs, slave-like natives of the P7E planet, based on the Troglodytes in Greek mythology. Norman Tipton guest stars as Idas, a Trog who helps the Doctor, Leela and K-9.
The P7E ship has a megalomaniac computer aboard called the Oracle (voiced by Christine Pollon). The Oracle holds the race banks for the Minyans. Will the Oracle be willing to give them to Jackson?
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the ‘Into the Unknown’ making-of documentary with behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews. There’s also ‘Underworld – In Studio’ which features behind-the-scenes footage of the making of ‘Underworld’ including the CSO studio filming.
There’s a photo gallery of the story and there’s a commentary with Tom Baker, Louise Jameson and co-writer Bob Baker. There’s an info-text commentary option to enjoy and PDF materials including a ‘Radio Times Listings’ of the story.
There’s a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Creature From The Pit’ with Tom Baker, Lalla Ward and K-9.
‘Underworld’ is a brave experiment of a story, based on ‘Jason and the Argonauts’. I found it intriguing, but was dissatisfied by the mundane use of CSO to achieve the visual effects of the story.
‘Underworld’ rating – 5/10
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