DOCTOR WHO UNDER THE SEA & THE FISH PEOPLE
'THE UNDERWATER MENACE' DVD (BBCDVD3691)
RELEASED IN OCTOBER 2015.
When the TARDIS lands on a deserted volcanic island the Doctor and his companions find themselves kidnapped by primitive sea-people. Taken into the bowels of the earth they discover they are in the lost kingdom of Atlantis.
Offered as sacrifices to the fish-goddess, Amdo, the Doctor and his companions are rescued from the jaws of death by the famous scientist, Zaroff.
But they are still not safe and nor are the people of Atlantis. For Zaroff has a plan, a plan that will make him the greatest scientist of all time - he will raise Atlantis above the waves - even if it means destroying the world...
EPISODES ONE AND FOUR ARE MISSING.
14TH JANUARY 1967 - 4TH FEBRUARY 1967
Most great seasons of television harbour at least one clanger, and Doctor Who’s near-perfect fourth season is no exception to the rule. Of the nine serials that make up the series’ fourth run, Geoffrey Orme’s Underwater Menace is the worst, and it’s the worst by a clear mile. In a way it’s really quite tragic that the earliest surviving Patrick Troughton episode is one of this serial’s – it’s hardly the greatest showcase for his era.
To be fair to Troughton, there’s nothing wrong with his performance here, nor with those of his companions; quite the opposite, in fact. The newly-regenerated Doctor is incredibly entertaining, and even Frazer Hines makes the best of a bad situation, his character clearly having been hastily pencilled in at the last minute. The problem is that the preposterous story in which they find themselves trapped only threatens to be compelling if squinted at through forgiving, “perhaps it’s a profound pastiche” spectacles.
“Why do you want to blow up the world?”
The TARDIS lands on an extinct volcanic rock surrounded by sea, circa 1970, which turns out to be the lost kingdom of Atlantis. Living there is a mad scientist by the name of Zaroff who, for no apparent reason, wants to blow up the world. Okay - initially Zaroff claims that he wants to raise Atlantis from the depths of the ocean, but as the narrative progresses and he descends further and further into madness (and Joseph Furst becomes more and more of a ham) it becomes clear that the man has no motive; he’s just completely insane in an almost comic ‘Dr Evil’ sort of way.
“Nothing in the world can stop me now!”
At its very best, The Underwater Menace is the worst of James Bond; an unintentionally hilarious hackwork enlivened by the stellar performances of the regulars. At its worst it’s a farcically overdramatic misstep, blighted by the histrionic stage performances of the supporting players and a complete failure to grasp the basic tenets of the series. “Doctor W” indeed.
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
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