‘PHANTOMS OF THE DEEP’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Going Underwater with the Fourth Doctor, Romana and K-9
Having the Fourth Doctor meet the Borg Queen from ‘Star Trek’ would’ve been fantastic! 😀
‘Phantoms of the Deep’ is the second contribution by Jonathan Morris given to this season of ‘Doctor Who’ audios by Big Finish featuring Tom Baker and Mary Tamm. The first was ‘The Auntie Matter’. I enjoy Jonny Morris’ writing in ‘Doctor Who’ and he’s clearly into the Fourth Doctor era. 😀
I like it when ‘Doctor Who’ tries to do something different other than an outer-space adventure and a historical drama on Earth. In ‘Phantoms of the Deep’, Jonny Morris takes us on a trip to the depths of the ocean. This is ‘Doctor Who’ doing ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’ as far as I’m concerned. 🙂
Unlike ‘The Auntie Matter’ which had a more comedic edge, ‘Phantoms of the Deep’ takes a more gripping, grittier and darker tone. It’s still a fun adventure, but you can feel the suspense throughout this two-parter and it was an experience to hear this audio underwater with scuba-diving outfits on.
In the story, the TARDIS lands on the seabed somewhere in the ocean. It gets picked up by the deep sea vessel called Erebus that is on a mission to explore the Mariana Trench. The Doctor, Romana and K-9 come out to greet the crew and help in their mission to find new life at the bottom of the ocean.
But it’s a mission that becomes deadly when super-intelligent squid-like creatures begin attacking and the crew experience hallucinations of a sort. K-9 also gets possessed by something when deep down in the ocean. Can the Doctor and Romana rescue the Erebus crew with their Time Lord minds?
It was intriguing to read from Jonny Morris’ writer’s notes in the CD sleeve notes how he did his research about the ocean, finding it extraordinary. He mentions the creatures that live in the ocean including the fanfin seadevil; the football fish; the cute dumbo and the glowing sucker octopuses. 😀
He also mentions about the book by Claire Nouvian called ‘The Deep’, which he has read and I haven’t. I think ‘Phantoms of the Deep’ as well as many earlier ‘Fourth Doctor Adventures’ by Big Finish could’ve been benefited in being four-parters instead of two-parters to allow ideas to flourish.
It’s also clear to me that Jonny Morris is a fan of the Fourth Doctor era, especially when writing for Tom Baker’s Doctor, Mary Tamm’s Romana and K-9 voiced by John Leeson. He captures the atmosphere of Season 16 in this adventure with hints of Douglas Adams-esque humour throughout.
It’s also intriguing in hearing the CD extras from people like Mary Tamm and John Leeson how challenging this story would’ve been had it been made on a TV budget. I don’t think ‘Phantoms of the Deep’ would’ve worked as a TV story. It would have required a massive movie budget to make it.
If anything, ‘Phantoms of the Deep’ could probably end up being ‘Warriors of the Deep’ for all I know with cheapy seats and overlit studio lighting. Thankfully the Big Finish audios allow you to expand your mind and picture stories as having film-styled budgets in the new series rather than the classic.
I also like how the Doctor, Romana and K-9 are easily welcomed as allies by the Erebus crew led by Dr. Patricia Saywer. They aren’t treated with suspicion so much since that’s usually the case in certain ‘Doctor Who’ stories. The suspense factor gets into play very well throughout this adventure.
I’m not sure what the alien force is throughout this adventure when it’s creating supernatural illusions for our crew members to react. The squid have something to do with it, whether they’d be alien or not. But it provides tense, gripping drama especially as our heroes venture into these events.
Tom Baker exudes ‘bonkers’ enthusiasm throughout this adventure as the Doctor. It was quite surreal to think of Tom Baker in a diving suit and having to venture into dangerous territory underwater. He still manages to make witty remarks during tricky times; stop evil and rescue people.
I enjoyed the interaction Tom Baker has with Alice Krige’s Dr. Sawyer, especially when they share scientific interest and when one of them makes a huge sacrifice at the end. Tom’s Doctor also continues to share great chemistry with Mary Tamm’s Romana as well as K-9 in some big tight spots.
It was lovely to hear the late Mary Tamm as Romana in this audio adventure. I don’t think Romana has a standout role throughout ‘Phantoms of the Deep’. At one point, Romana and Terri McCulloch get sucked out into the ocean by K-9 at the end of ‘Part One’. They’re still alive in ‘Part Two’ though.
It’s good that Romana kept calm and cool when she and Terri were away and out in dangerous territory from the Erebus. It’s interesting when Romana and the Doctor couldn’t see the phantoms that people saw and when they had higher brain functions compared to everyone who made telepathic contact here.
K-9 voiced by the wonderful John Leeson was fun to listen to again in this audio adventure. He seems to have recovered following his ‘crushed’ state in ‘The Sands of Life’. 😀 I liked the scene where K-9 is introduced to everyone by the Doctor. Chris Fleming seems pretty amused by his name.
It was tense when K-9 got possessed by the strange alien outside and almost killed Romana and Terri. Not sure how that alien force was able to control K-9 considering he’s a robot dog. Thankfully, when K-9’s not possessed, he becomes helpful to the Doctor and the others in stopping the menace.
It was great to hear Alice Krige as Dr. Patricia Sawyer in this audio adventure. As I implied at the beginning, Alice Krige is well-known in ‘Star Trek’ circles for playing the Borg Queen in ‘Star Trek: First Contact’ as well as the final episode of ‘Star Trek: Voyager’. She was also in 2007’s ‘Persuasion’.
Patricia Sawyer seems a nice character and a controlled leader among her group aboard the Erebus. She maintains command despite having a nice rapport with the Doctor. Patricia and the Doctor venture out into danger on a safety line. It was amazing that she self-sacrificed herself at the end. 😐
The guest cast also includes John Albasiny (who was in ‘Thin Ice’ and ‘Crime of the Century’ with Sylvester McCoy) as Chris Fleming. There’s also Charlie Norfolk as Terri McCulloch as well as Gwilym Lee as Jack Hodges, a WWII sailor who somehow managed to survive for one hundred years.
I enjoyed ‘Phantoms of the Deep’ by Jonathan Morris. I don’t think it’s as good as ‘The Auntie Matter’, but it was fun to hear Tom Baker’s Doctor, Mary Tamm’s Romana and K-9 voiced by John Leeson going underwater for an adventure this time. It was also nice to hear Alice Krige in this story.
The CD extras are as follows. At the end of the disc, there are some behind-the-scenes interviews with the cast and crew. These include with Tom Baker, Mary Tamm, John Leeson, Alice Krige, writer Jonathan Morris, etc. There’s also a trailer for the next story with the Fourth Doctor, Romana and K-9 called ‘The Dalek Contract’.
‘Phantoms From The Deep’ rating – 8/10
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