Sunday, 7 June 2009

Doctor Who: Fury From the Deep

Part One

"You always seem to land on this planet."

"Aye, and it's always England."

Another Joint Venture recon, and so another BBC globe at the beginning, which is a nice touch. And the last story with all its episodes missing, I'm pleased to say!

So, the TARDIS lands from the sky. I don't think we've ever seen it do that before! And the other first is, of course, the sonic screwdriver, which, er, unscrews a screw with sonics. It may be a nicely understated introduction, but it still gives me a fannish thrill to hear the words. And, of course, it foreshadows the end of the story.

The obligatory tiresome bit where the TARDISeers fall under suspicion is mercifully not dwelt on, but it's immediately apparent that Robson is the most abrasive base commander yet to come under siege. Oh, and there's John Abineri!

Part Two

"There's something active in the pipeline. Down there. In the darkness. Waiting..."

My, Victoria's screaming at the start of this episode is truly magnificent! But things are indeed a bit scary, and the heartbeat in particular helps to make things very atmospheric. Another interesting sound effect is from the main refinery computer, which sounds exactly like WOTAN!

The footage with Oak and Quill is simply incredible, and makes me wonder exactly what visual treats we're missing. With nothing more than good direction and good sound effects, two men just opening their mouths is the single scariest thing yet to be seen in Doctor Who.

Part Three

"Oh, I'm not so sure. I don't really like being scared out of my wits every second."

I love the scene of the TARDISeers all doing chemistry together! It's a shame this doesn't survive- if there's one scene to perfectly illustrate this TARDIS team, this is possibly it.

Meanwhile, the tension is being ratcheted up nicely, and Robson is cracking up believably. It's done with a lightness of touch, but all the guest characters are believable, a testament to Victor Pemberton's writing.

I love the fact that Oak and Quill have their own signature tune! The tune and the pair's appearance together give the oddly sinister impression of an evil Laurel and Hardy.

It's hugely impressive how the build-up to Victoria's departure starts as early as the third episode. And although characterisation from story to story has never quite been the same since the end of Season Two, in the context of recent episodes the idea of Victoria being fed up with being scared is believable.

I wasn't sure what happened with Maggie at the end as my recon didn't make it clear- did she walk into the sea?

Part Four

"We don't know where we're going to land from one place to the next. That's the fun, isn't it."

"Is it?"

The conversations between Jamie and Victoria, and then Victoria and the Doctor, are wonderful, again foreshadowing Victoria's exit but good character development for both her and Jamie. And, of course, from another standpoint the fact that Victoria's so scared means we are too. For all that this excellently atmospheric tale succeeds mainly by atmospheric horror (in fact, this entire story is not really sci-fi at all, but horror), the characterisation is uniformly excellent.

Part Five

"Jamie, we're already in the lion's den..."

It's nice to get an explanation of who Oak and Quill are: the first two people to be taken over. But the explanations we get ion this episode aren't mere exposition- the situation seems all the more hopeless as our heroes have no idea where the Weed's nerve centre is.

I love the scene where Megan Jones confronts Robson- it's a shame she didn't become a therapist as she clearly has talents in that direction "Pull yourself together, man!". I like the character, mind. She's sceptical of the Doctor at first, but not long enough to annoy, and soon proves herself to be a capable, no nonsense leader.

Robson's infected hand looks great, and things are clearly gearing up to a climax as he kidnaps Victoria and steals Victoria. I love the bit where the Doctor talks to him in the helicopter- once again, it's clear that mind control and brainwashing is a particular bugbear of his.

Part Six

"Victoria, I want you to scream!"

The Doctor's confrontation with the weed-controlled Robson at the start drills home once again the Doctor's aversion to mind control. And then we get a very long helicopter scene with no dialogue and lots of screaming, which isn't ideal on audio!

It's a wonderfully postmodern moment when we realise that Victoria's screaming is what will defeat the monster- it's here that I completely fall in love with this script! The weed's defeat is suitably dramatic and scary, but is over with surprisingly early. For good reason, though- what follows is no less good as drama. It's nice that the TARDISeers and their new friends have time for a nice post-victory meal for once, which sounds most convivial and fuelled by good wine. There's a great exchange between Robson and the Doctor: "To think I wanted to keep you locked up, Doctor!" "Lots of people have tried..."

But the icing on the cake is the way Victoria's departure is dealt with- sensitively, not rushed, and surely the best companion departure since Susan. Dammit, I actually cried when Victoria and Jamie hugged for the last time. but it feels realistic that she's have had enough of the constant terror of travelling with the Doctor, and as she says it's appropriate for her to leave at this time period as she wouldn't find things easy as an "odd woman" in Victorian times.

Overall- well, I know I tend to give 5/5s out easily, but I mean them all. But this story really is exceptional, second only to The Massacre for me.

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