Saturday, 10 December 2011

42: Fury From The Deep - Troughton's Greatest Loss Or Just Another Base-Under-Siege?

Written by: Victor Pemberton
Companions: The Doctor, Jamie McCrimmon, Victoria Waterfield.
Monsters/Villains: Weed Creature.
Brief Synopsis: At the Euro Sea Gas Refinery on the British coastline, something is stirring in the depths. 
Rating: 10/10.

I'm back and ready give you my full report on Fury From The Deep. Now I have to start by saying this one is a toughie. On one hand this story is heralded as one of Troughton's best, but on the other hand only a few clips of it remain so can we really say that? On the other hand, on listening it sounds great and really flies by for a six-parter. So, how to deal with this three handed monster? Read on and find out.

The TARDIS slowly glides down through the air and lands on the water near the coast of England. The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria don life-savers and row a dingy to shore where they find some foam and have a play fight. This is a really lovely memorable moment. The gang find a large pipe inscribed Euro Sea Gas and for the first time the Doctor produces his Sonic Screw Driver and uses it to open a small section of the pipe to investigate a strange noise they've heard. 

The Doctor uses a stethoscope and makes out the faint noise of what sounds like a massive heartbeat. Nearby, someone is watching them through the scope of a sniper riffle. A shot hits the Doctor and he falls. Then rapidly, Victoria and Jamie are shot down too.

Our three travelers awake to two armed guards. Now I know everyone has had some form of horror story involving being over charged or stiffed by British Gas or the like, but at least they weren't packing heat. Our heroes meet the man in charge, Robson who thinks they're saboteurs. We learn that the refinery has lost contact with one of it's rigs out at sea. The Doctor tries to tell Robson that he thinks there is something living in the pipes but Robson dismisses him ordering Harris, the second in command to take them to be locked up.

Harris and Robson.
We then learn an important fact that a large amount of the plot will lean on throughout most of the story, the flow of gas in the pipes has never been shut off since Robson took over as commander; a fact of which he is extremely proud. Victor Maddern's portrayal of Robson is one of the weaker points to this story. He starts out angry and distrusting of everyone and has no where to go performance-wise. He's not doing a bad job of it, it just doesn't give the character any room for progression or change.

Harris tries to show Robson a report he has compiled showing a worrying fall in pressure in the pipes. An unseen white gloved hand removes something from Harris' case. Harris goes for the file but it isn't there, he asks his wife, Maggie to get the file from their house. She returns home and finds the file, but inside she unearths some seaweed which stings her hand. She throws the seaweed onto the patio, where unseen it starts to bubble and writhe. 

Strangely the Harrises are the first ever married couple (not including the King and Queen of Hearts in the Celestial Toymaker) and domestic family we have seen in Doctor Who up to this point. This seems so very odd, especially when compared with new Who where Rose Tyler has a mother and a boyfriend and currently the Doctor actually travels with a married couple in the form of Amy and Rory. It's a rarity at this point in the programme's development, whereas in it's modern incarnation showing a companion's family gives us a relatable perspective as an audience. 

Maggie and Harris, our first ever married couple in DW history.
In the control room Van Lutyens, an advisor from the Dutch government, tries to offer Robson his advise, but his help is refused. Jamie removes a grill from their cell and climbs through to escape, but Victoria works the lock with a hair pin and just walks out. Jamie and the Doctor go to explore leaving Victoria  behind but she goes off to do some investigating of her own.

The brilliant John Abineri as Van Lutyens.
Someone wearing white gloves and a gas mask is fiddling with some valves in the Oxygen room when Victoria enters and catches of glimpse of the stranger. The person quickly exits locking her in the room. Victoria can hear a bubbling popping sound, she spins around and foam bursts in and there's something within the foam. Victoria screams and frantically presses herself against the door, as from the foam tendrils of seaweed emerge and reach for her. At this point I couldn't help but realise that nothing in this whole first episode has actually happened to explain why this should be scary, we just have to understand it is because the formula of Doctor Who says so.

The Doctor and Jamie find Victoria and pull her out of the room. Robson, Van Lutyens and the Chief Engineer arrive to find no creature and some broken oxygen cylinders. Harris goes to his quarters to find his wife is feeling unwell and confused. The seaweed on the patio is now surrounded by a mass of foam. It's activity seems to have a direct effect on Maggie. She screams and slams the door, cut off from the weed's influence. Harris asks for the Doctors medical help for his wife, and Robson begrudgingly gives them one hour.

Mr Quill and Mr. Oak.
Two almost comical figures arrive on Maggie's door step, they claim to be maintenance controllers wanting to speak to Harris, here for an inspection of their kitchen. Mr. Oak and Mr. Quill enter and inspect the gas cooker. Tendrils of weed are visible around Mr. Oak's sleeves. Smiling, he puts on a pair of white gloves like Mr. Quill. They open the patio door and the foam spills into the house. 

Oak and Quill enter Maggie's room, they bare down on her, mouths open wide like silent screams. Maggie is immobilised by the toxic vapours produced from their open mouths and she slumps to the floor. This is one of the only parts of this story that still exists. Found in Australia, this particular scene was cut as it was deemed too frightening by Australian censors. It's absolutely brilliant and certainly horrifically scary; finally something good has come out of censorship.

There is a dangerous pressure build up, but Robson refuses to switch off the flow and concludes to vent some gas which only just manages to avert disaster. The Doctor, Harris and co enter the house to find it filled with gas. They find Maggie unconscious but unharmed in some sort of coma, realising the seaweed was meant for Harris.

In the pipe room the impeller slows and stops. Van Lutyens speaks to the Chief Engineer about where the blockage could be, he tells him there must be a fault in the impeller intake at the base of the shaft. The Chief engineer and Van Lutyens examine the pipe and hear the sound of the heart beat.

Back at the TARDIS the Doctor tests the weed in a tank of natural gas. Jamie looks at the weed under a microscope and the Doctor sees that it has molecular movement. The Doctor shows Victoria a dusty old reference book, and Victoria identifies the creature she saw. The book is of legends and superstitions. The weed in the tank has grown with the gas and bursts out. Victoria screams and they manage to get the lid back on. Robson shouts more and more, he is angry at Harris for letting the Doctor go and begins to crack up.

In his quarters, Robson tries to rest but Mr. Oak locks him inside and the weed creature attacks him. Harris arrives in time, unlocks the door and let's Robson out, but he runs off. The Doctor Jamie and Victoria return to Harris's house and again Victoria picks the lock. They go inside to find themselves faced by mass amounts of foam, and the weed creature attacks. Victoria screams and the creature shies away but Jamie is marooned on the table in the kitchen. The Doctor and Victoria go up to the roof and manage to haul Jamie up through a skylight, the foam spilling up onto the roof.

Harris takes Van Lutyens to Robson's room, but the creature is gone. Van Lutyens persuades Harris to take over, contact London and call in Megan Jones, the Director of Euro Sea Gas to help. Victoria is beginning to doubt her lifestyle as she asks, "Doctor, why is it that we always land up in trouble?" He replies, "It's the spice of life." I feel like this comes down a bit short as far as an a explanation on the Doctor's part. I surpose this is one of those first, dismissive, "I'll explain later" moments, but it seems a little disparaging.

The electronic read-out of the rig.
The Doctor explains to Harris and Van Lutyens that the creature is a parasitic Seaweed, that can possess humans and give off a toxic gas to protect itself. The Doctor mentions to Harris that they have just come from his house and his wife wasn't there. On the beach a woman stands alone at the waters edge, her neck and face covered with weed, it's a possessed Maggie, Harris' wife. She is joined by Robson and commands, "There is little time, you know what you must do, you will obey." She walks off into the water, until the waves engulf her. This must have been a great image, shame it's lost.

Whilst looking for his wife on the beach Harris finds Robson, but he walks off. Van Lutyens decides to take action and go down and look at the base of the shaft, alone. At the lift controls Mr Oak and Mr. Quill lower Van Lutyens down. He steps from the lift and opens a hatch to inspect the chamber beneath. Instantly he can hear the heart beat. The pipeline is filled with sea weed, which grabs him and drags him down into the foam. The Doctor and Jamie go down after him.

Mrs. Megan Jones
Mrs. Megan Jones and her assistant Perkins arrive. Harris tells them about the seaweed creature and Jones authorises use of company helicopters to investigate the rigs. Down at the shaft the foam climbs toward the Doctor and Jamie, they press the return request button, but the lift doesn't move. The creature is nearly upon them, when they spot a ladder and begin to climb up. They reach the top of the ladder shaft to the impeller room and decide to separate to look for Victoria.

Victoria has had a really hard time since her first episode. She has lost both her parents, and elected to travel with the Doctor and Jamie, but she's not really cut out for it, or at least that's what the writers seem to think. She has to be the best example of the useless female companion, who's only role is to get captured and rescued, and generally be helpless. They do give her some lock picking skills here, although I don't know where she'd have learnt that. True, she is a Victorian lady, but why go down the stereotypical route? I surpose women's roles were still partially stuck in the submissive at this point in time. It just feels like a missed opportunity to have a companion from the past.

Victoria Waterfield.
The Doctor agrees to work with Jones and tells her about the creature. Jamie finds Victoria unconscious in the pipeline room. She wakes up and tells Jamie that Quill and Oak did this to her. The group hear word that the central rig is gone and the Doctor thinks the weed will take over all the other rigs in order to cause the saturation of the British Islands and the eventually the whole planet. At the observation hatch of the pipe line weeds begin to advance through. The first part of the invasion.

The group decide that they can't destroy the rigs, as that would merely spread the menace over a wider area. The Doctor says the creature was probably drawn up by one of the drilling rigs, he notes that top priority people have been attacked first, but questions why they attacked Victoria. He deduces that as the one who attacked her was wearing a gas mask pure oxygen must be deadly to the weed. Meanwhile Oak and Quills put on gas masks and enter the oxygen room.

Robson awakes, he looks at the ventilation grill in the wall, rises to his feet, moves toward the door and attacks the man guarding him. He is covered with weed and emits a gas from his mouth which knocks out the guard.

Jones discovers that the entire oxygen store is completely empty and as they are discussing the Weed's agent, Jamie sees Oak and Quill. He makes chase, Oak escapes but when Quill tries to use his gas breath on Jamie, Victoria screams and Jamie punches him out. The weed is expanding, the pipe cracks, and the weed lashes out, and grabs an engineer and pulls him into the foam. Victoria has disappeared so once again the Doctor and Jamie separate to search out their friend, but Robson is carrying her unconscious body. He spirits her away, drags her into a helicopter and takes off.

Robson speaks to the Doctor on a radio and warns, "If you want her to live, come over to us." Harris permits the Doctor and Jamie to use a helicopter. The Doctor believes that Robson will lead them straight to the nerve centre of the Weed colony. A pilot flies the Doctor and Jamie to the control rig complex where Robson has landed. The pair climb down on a rope ladder and explore the base. They hear Victoria's voice and open a door to find Robson, waist deep in foam with fronds of weed encircling his neck and arms.

Robson tells the Doctor he will help his masters, as they need him to help with their conquest of the human planet. Victoria screams once again and it stops Robson in his tracks, leaving him weakened and in pain. They get out but can't signal the helicopter, so the Doctor gleefully elects to pilot Robson's helicopter. The Doctor's flight skills like that of the TARDIS are not the best, but the pilot of the other chopper directs him.

Finally Mrs. Jones asks Perkins to contact the Defence minister, declare a full red alert, and get as many tanks of oxygen sent there to use against the Weed. The Doctor says the man Jamie fought and more importantly Victoria screamed at is nearly completely cured, the weeds have fallen off him. It must have been the sounds of Victoria's screams that incapacitated the creature; which is wholeheartedly understandable. The Doctor asks for half an hour before they evacuate the refinery. Harris agrees and the Doctor gets an engineer to record Victoria's scream, the Doctor plans to send sound through the pipelines to destroy the creature. At first Victoria says she can't scream. Come on, they're giving Victoria this one thing before she departs but they won't allow her any bravery or dignity. She's gonna be responsible for saving the day but first she's gonna protest, "I can't scream, it's too silly!" The screams that have driven us mad throughout here tenure on the show will finally come to good use.

The Doctor plays the recording in to the pipeline creating a 'sonic laser sound beam' which kills the Weed Creature just in time as it is breaking into the control room. Victoria's scream literally saves the day, poetic irony incarnate! 

Robson and Maggie appear on a screen from the control rig. They are both fine, and everyone taken over has been released, including Van Lutyens and presumably the engineer we saw being taken. This means that through this whole story no one is actually killed at all.

Saying goodbye.
Later on Robson, Harris, Maggie, the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria all have a dinner at the Harrises. After her many allusions to it through out the story it is the Doctor that realises that Victoria doesn't want to continue on with them in the TARDIS. The writers won't even allow Victoria to make the decision to leave herself. The Doctor asks if she can stay with the Harrises for a while and they quickly except her. 

The Doctor and Jamie stay another day to allow Victoria to make up her mind. The Doctor and Jamie say their goodbyes and return to the TARDIS leaving Victoria with her new family. The Doctor asks Jamie where he'd like to go and he replies that he couldn't care less.

So there you have it. Perhaps we herald this story as being some of Troughton's best work because we can't ever have it and see it, only hear it. Perhaps it just works well on audio and if we could see it we would think the Weed Creature looked cheap and tacky. Perhaps we would delight in The Dominators as a masterpiece if we didn't have the visuals. On paper it just doesn't seem like it should be as good as it is. In sequence it could be viewed as just another base under siege story, like so many we've had before, however in some unquantifiable way The Fury From The Deep is charming and wonderful. 

Join me next time for the introduction of a new companion and the return of an old enemy in The Wheel In Space and don't forget to enter my Doctor Who Christmas Giveaway for a chance to win some excellent Doctor Who goodies this festive season.

No comments: