Monday, 11 July 2011

32: The Underwater Menace - Some Fishy Goings On.

Written by: Geoffrey Orme.
Companions: The Doctor, Ben Jackson, Polly, Jamie McCrimmon.
Monsters/Villains: Professor Zaroff, Fish People.
Brief Synopsis: The TARDIS lands in the 1970's and the Doctor comes across a famous Scientist, Professor Zaroff in the underwater city of Atlantis. 
Rating: 7/10.

Well. That was interesting. I am really torn with what to give this one, rating-wise. On the one hand I though it was terribly silly, but on the other hand I thoroughly enjoyed it! It was great to get to actually see the Doctor in action; although I did have to wait until episode three. It's silly, but establishing and oddly archetypal of this era.

So, we launch in to this one with a new companion. For the first time since the original line-up, we have four people traveling in the TARDIS. Jamie has joined the team but he doesn't know what's happening. The whole time and space travel thing goes a bit past him. The TARDIS materialises and we get the inner monologue of each adventurers ideal destination. Polly hopes it's home: Chelsea 1966. Ben just hopes they don't meet the Daleks. The Doctor longs for prehistoric monsters. And Jamie doesn't know what to think. Once they venture out Polly thinks they're in Cornwall. Again. There is a real air of jollity amongst the Doctor, Ben and Polly, which aides Jamie in warming to his new surroundings.

The three companions venture off to have a look around. Polly enters a cave. Ben and Jamie go to look for her, but end up being thrust into a cage, with an already tied up Polly. The Doctor goes in search of his companions only to get bundled in to the cage too. The cage descends and all four fall unconscious, suffering decompression sickness a.k.a Caissons disease, due to compressed nitrogen. When they regain consciousness, Polly finds some pottery with the logo for the 1968 Mexico Olympiad emblazoned on it, and then our heroes are confronted by a race of trident baring people dressed in clam shells and seaweed. Quad-lingual Polly tries to get their hosts to speak and addresses them in French, German and Spanish. Jamie even tries Gaelic but to no avail.

A figure in robes enters, it's a priest called Ramo. They speak english. Apparently they've been expected and have arrived just in time for the Festival of the Vernal Equinox to exalt Amdo a woman/fish looking goddess. The Doctor is a bit peckish and eats some food and almost instantly recognises the work of the famed scientist Professor Zaroff. This nearly falters Ramo's plans to sacrifice all four of our of heroes, but he is resolute. The Doctor writes a message to give to Zaroff and along with his companions is tied to a beam to be sacrificed by being poured into a great well. The message reads: 'Vital secret will die with me. Dr. W.' Like in The War Machines this is a clear lack of understanding on the production side and certainly the closest the Doctor will ever come to referring to himself as Doctor Who. He called the Doctor not Doctor Who!

Joseph Furst as Profesor Zaroff.
Professor Zaroff arrives at the last minute and halts the sacrifice. The Doctor makes Zaroff release his friends. Joseph Furst gives an excellent star turn as Professor Zaroff, characterised with a ridiculously OTT German accent. Initially the Doctor and Zaroff behave like they're old friends. The Doctor expresses his relief that Zaroff is alive and well as he had been reported dead. The Doctor even calls him 'the greatest scientific genius since Leonardo Di Vinci.' But then Zaroff threatens the Doctor only to ultimately decide to spare him because the Doctor has a good sense of humour. However he sends Jamie and Ben to work in the mines. Damon, Zaroff's chief surgeon plans to carry out the "Fish Operation" on Polly, where she shall become one of the fish people who harvest the plankton like food the whole community survives on. 

The Doctor is determined to learn where they are. With ancient temples under the sea he deduces that they can be nowhere else but the ancient Kingdom of Atlantis. The Doctor questions that Zaroff is a scientist and doesn't seem like he'd be accepted in Atlantis, as science is in opposition to ancient temple ritual and idol worship. Zaroff reveals that he has promised to lift Atlantis from the sea.

In Damon's surgery Polly has been tied to the operating table. Damon draws a huge hypodermic needle on Polly. We can actually witness this as it was deemed to be too disturbing and was ultimately cut. These cut frames were discovered and made available on the Lost in Time DVD set. This is a really great box set. If you're a fan and you don't own this I hugely recommend it:

Fortunately the Doctor sabotages the lights so Damon can't operate. An Atlantian girl called Ara frees Polly in the confusion. Zaroff reveals that he plans to lower the water level to raise Atlantis. But the Doctor has serious concerns: Where is the ocean going to go? The water would be converted into super heated steam, the pressure would grow, crack the crust of the earth, and destroy all life. Maybe even blow the planet apart. The professor knows this but still wants to go through with it. He wants to destroy the world for the achievement. The scientist's dream of supreme power. In other words he is proper mad.

Ben and Jamie are taken to work in the mines, where they meet fellow slaves, Jacko and Sean, they pass something off to Jamie when the guards search them. The guards leave and Jamie produces a compass, which the two miners plan to use to escape. Jamie and Ben agree to go with them. The four pair off and split up. Jamie and Jacko take the high road, leaving Ben and Sean with the low road. A little Scottish humour.

Ramo the Priest.
The Doctor escapes Zaroff and hides in a cupboard. He finds a guards uniforms and tries on a guards hat (he's obsessed with Hats). He comes across Ramo, who isn't exactly Zaroff's biggest fan either, describing him as a destroyer. The Doctor tells Ramo that Zaroff wants to destroy Atlantis. Ramo helps the Doctor and gives him a disguise in the form of a cloak and a headdress, which, unsurprisingly the Doctor is particularly interested in. This Doctor has a real hat fetish.

Zaroff and Lolem.
Jamie, Ben, Jack and Sean, reunite and find an exit through a door in the foot of the statue, where Polly just so happens to be hiding. Ara joins forces with the miners and companions. We then meet King Thous, the ruler of Atlantis. The Doctor warns Thous that Zaroff is as mad as a hatter and that you can se it in his crazy eyes. Thous decides to consider what the Doctor has said but quickly returns with Zaroff and his guards, offering them up the Doctor and Ramo for sacrifice to Lolem the high priest.

King Thous.
We then get to episode three which is the first full episode that currently exists of Patrick Troughton's Doctor. We've seen Polly and Ben in the flesh but we haven't yet been able to actually see Troughton in action. He doesn't disappoint; however of all the episodes to have available this is definitely the oddest.

An odd, but certainly not disappointing Troughton.
Zaroff hands over the Doctor and Ramo for sacrifice. Just when they're about to be for the chop, the voice of Amdo, or should I say Ben doing an impression of Amdo intercedes. Commanding the congregation to avert their eyes, the Doctor and Ramo are able to escape and reunite with Jamie, Ben, Polly, Jacko, Sean and Ara.

Polly with Sean, Jamie and Jacko.
We then get the strangest scene in the whole story. The Doctor plans to stop Zaroff by cutting off Atlantis' supply of food. He plans to do so by getting the fish people to revolt. The Atlantians have no stocks of food as Zaroff has not found the answer to his great problem: All his sea food goes bad in a couple of hours and has to be thrown away. The voice of reason comes from Polly who queries: "What would that do for us?" To which the Doctor replies "I don't know but it's a start." Right? At this point I have to ask: If Zaroff can produce a working nuclear reactor in Atlantis, why can't he make a fridge to keep food from going off? 

The Doctor, Ben and Jamie incognito disguises.
The Doctor plans to kidnap Professor Zaroff. The gang manage to pull this off by getting him to chase the Doctor with Ben and Jamie pretending to be guards. Meanwhile Jacko and Sean go to get the fish people on side. Sean subtly plants the idea in the fish people's minds to hold back the food supply, which they agree to. There seem to be two kinds of fish people:

Snorkel ones.  
And full on scaly ones.
Zaroff pretends to faint and Polly and Ramo stay to guard him, whilst the Doctor, Ben and Jamie go to the laboratory. Zaroff attacks and kills Ramo and takes Polly captive. Ben and the Doctor 'have other fish to fry,' whilst Jamie manages to rescue Polly, but Zaroff escapes and takes over Atlantis. He orders his guards to kill Thous and his guardians and leaves us with the immortal line "nothing in 'ze world can stop me now." In summation: episode three of The Underwater Menace is bloody bonkers.

'Nothing in ze world can stop me now!'
The Doctor is forced to make a new plan: to flood the lower part of Atlantis, including Zaroff's Lab. The workers have left in search of food. The Doctor and Ben go to the generating station, playing prisoner and escort to get in. The Doctor manages to break through the sea walls and Atlantis begins to flood.

Jamie and Polly are lost in the tunnels under the city. Polly blames radiation but when Jamie asks for an explanation she says it is too difficult to explain (in other words: she doesn't know). Damon, Thous, Sean, Jacko and Ara, reach a cave high up in Atlantis where Damon creates a temporary medical station for survivors of the great flood.

The Doctor and Ben make it to Zaroff's Laboratory and warn Zaroff's scientists that he plans to destroy them all and that the sea is breaking through. They flee but Zaroff hides in a chamber with the detonator switch. Water is breaking through into the lab and Ben appears to abandon the Doctor when he refuses to leave. The Doctor turns out the lights again and Zaroff opens his chamber. Ben returns and cuts Zaroff off from the controls to activate the bomb and our two heroes escape. The Doctor wants to go back for Zaroff, but they get cut off.

Meanwhile, Polly nearly gives up, but Jamie calmly helps her and they reach safety. Zaroff is still trying to reach the detonator switch as the water rises over is head and he drowns. Similarly as with the Hypodermic needle scene this was deemed too shocking, which was 1967's loss but our gain. 

So long Professor Loony.
Thous and Damo discuss a new Atlantis, without Gods and without fish people, in honour of the Doctor for saving them. The Doctor and Ben make it out as well and joyfully reunite with Jamie and Polly. 

Back in the TARDIS Jamie has done a complete 180 and decides that he loves 'all this.' He admits he'll never know what 'makes it go.' But he feels safe in the TARDIS and finds it's the things outside that are alarming. He asks the Doctor if it's true that he can't actually control the TARDIS. The arrogant Doctor says of course he can. He has just never wanted to. All three companions chastise him for this. The Doctor decides to demonstrate his control by taking them to Mars. However, suddenly something goes wrong with the TARDIS, it's out of control...

I feel like this a perfect example of guilty pleasure Doctor Who. It's ridiculously silly but I love it anyway. Furst is excellent as Zaroff and it's great to finally get to see Troughton moving around instead of just hearing his voice. The extended cast are good too and really get in to the swing of things. I just wish more of this existed in full.

Thanks for tuning in and please do join me next time for the return of the Cybermen in The Moonbase.

Addendum: Christmas came early on Sunday 11th of December 2011, when it was announced that episode 2 of The Underwater Menace had been discovered replacing episode 3 of this story as the first episode that exists from Patrick Troughton's time as the Doctor. Click here to find out more about the discovery.

1 comment:

Chad Moore said...

Best thing about this story? Ben and Jamie in wet suits! Nuff said.