Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Review: Doctor Who: The Underwater Menace (1967)

And so it comes to pass that every one of the known-to-exist Doctor Who episodes - with perhaps the sole exception of The Web of Fear Episode 3, which seemed to exist when Phil Morris discovered them, but which had strangely vanished when the episodes were eventually returned - has been released on DVD.

I lost count a long time ago as to how many DVDs there have been, but as far as I can tell, the first DVD to be released was The Five Doctors in November 1999 (not counting a could-be-dodgy DVD of the TV Movie which was available from Fox Video in Japan in 1996) and now, in October 2015, 16 years later, we have the final release. Of course, we thought we'd reached the end some time back anyway, but then Phil Morris discovered all six episodes of Enemy of the World and five of the six episodes of The Web of Fear, and those were also released ...

A fishy tale!
But what of The Underwater Menace ... it's not the best loved Doctor Who adventure, and it's easy to see why. Pat Troughton is still settling into the role of the Doctor (this was his third story in the role) and there are occasional flashes of the brilliance that his Doctor will come to embody. Frazer Hines' Jamie is also sidelined, this being because he joined the cast as a late decision, and so he had to somehow be shoe-horned into this story and the next (The Moonbase) before he really started to come into his own ... The main problem though are the guest actors, who are almost uniformly awful. In particular Joseph Furst as Professor Zaroff, who chews the scenery and  does his best, but the script doesn't really support him. Likewise the High Priest Lolem comes over as a very camp Christopher Biggins-type character as played by Peter Stephens (interesting that he also played Cyril in The Celestial Toymaker story), and poor Colin Jeavons as Damon has the most crazy eyebrows to contend with. Rounding out the ineffectual is Noel Johnson as King Thous, who doesn't really get to do much. There's also P G Stephens and Paul Anil as a likely couple of chancers, Catherine Howe as an Atlantean girl, as well as fish people ... it's a story with aspirations way beyond what could possibly be done on Doctor Who's budget at the time ... but at least it tried, and it does all make sense ...

'Nozzink in se Verld ken stop me now!'
The DVD extras include a Making-Of documentary where several people involved in the show recount their memories, and also, inexplicably, present-day writer Robert Shearman is also on hand ... not sure why he's there as he seems to hate the production, but there you go ... There's also the existing two censor cuts from Australia for parts 1 and 4, and those still-missing episodes are represented by a soundtrack accompanied by some of the Tele-snaps taken from the show by John Cura on transmission ... Personally I prefer these to the animations, far better to get the sense of the actual production.

Overall it's lovely to have this disk to round out the collection ... and it's interesting to note that it includes episode 2, recovered in December 2011, which was the last existing episode which had never recieved any DVD release ... so we're complete!
Phil Morris ... it's over to you :)


Rob Shearman said...

I didn't even remotely hate the production, David. Troughton is by far my favourite Doctor, and I was happy to talk about that. Why was I invited on to the DVD? I don't know, but I was delighted to accept, because I enjoy paying tribute to a series I love. You'd have to ask them.

David said...

Really glad to hear it Rob! UNDERWATER MENACE has lots going for it :)