Sunday, 7 June 2009

Doctor Who: The Underwater Menace

Part One

"I've never seen him go for food like this before- it's usually hats."

Nice to see Jamie getting a proper introduction to the TARDIS, even if it's nothing special. I liked the Robert Burns timey wimey stuff, but a minute in it's clear that the dialogue is being pitched at a much younger audience- the audible thoughts of the characters are like something from Scooby Doo.

The TARDISeers seem surprised their captors speak English- a little awkward continuity-wise in the light of later stories. And unfortunately our heroes spend most of the story in captivity where they can't do a lot- this episode is rather dull, with even the moments of peril feeling half-hearted.

I didn't catch how the Doctor was aware of the presence of Professor Zaroff. But it's alarming how he signs his note "Dr W"- there's been a lot of alluding to the name "Doctor Who" of late, perhaps a bit too much to easily dismiss. Still, as Davros will later say, it will be difficult but it will be done.

So, German mad scientist stereotype, Atlantis under the sea, Polly having an operation to give her gills? Oh dear, this feels like a 1930s movie serial so far, and a particularly half-arsed one at that. I hope things improve...

Part Two

"Just a small question. Why do you want to blow up the world?"

Oh dear, Zaroff's plan is quite absurd. And on top of this Joseph Furst has no charisma in the role. Zaroff is a silly mad scientist stereotype and no more- he's already annoying me and it's only the start of part two.

I think the point at which I learn that survivors from shipwrecks are being converted to fish people is where I give up entirely on taking the story seriously. The thing is, it doesn't even entertain in a so-bad-it's-good way. In fact, the scene with the Doctor suddenly dropping the test tube to release some gas is pretty much the only good bit. We also get another disguise and some more recorder playing- this new Doctor is showing few signs of settling down yet.

Oh dear, the Doctor convinces Rana that Zaroff's a bid dodgy by means of what can only be described as a school science experiment...

Part Three

"Nothing in the world can stop me now!"

Of all the episodes in all the world to be the earliest existing Patrick Troughton episodes it had to be this one! I must admit that visually it's actually quite well done, and by this point I've almost started to enjoy the silliness- Lolem is the campest high priest ever. The long scene with the fish people swimming looks good, although unfortunately it's balanced by the ridiculous scene where the Fish People have to be persuaded to go on strike. let me get this straight: they control the food supply, which cannot be stockpiled, and the idea of going on strike has never before occurred to a single Fish Person?

Another disguise for the Doctor as our heroes suddenly set out to kidnap Zaroff. This story just feels made up as it goes along; there's little structure to the overall story at all. And I'm sure we were all t6otally surprised when Zaroff turned out to be feigning his heart attack.

Part Four

"How do I know he's a wanted man?"

"Well, blimey, look at him. He ain't normal, is he?"

The plot takes another right turn as the Doctor suddenly decides to flood Atlantis. This episode is a mad rush and I have trouble following large swathes of it: I'm not entirely clear on how it can be that most Atlanteans survive to rebuild their civilisation somewhere else (where/).

On a positive note, much of this sounds very expensive as the caverns are gradually flooded, but in a bad story for all three companions Polly's moment near the end where she just seems to give up is a particularly low point in her characterisation.

It's a very odd end for the Atlanteans: we get lines like "No! No more temples" and "A new Atlantis, without gods and without fish people". Apparently all it takes is a casual chat from two members of the ruling elite to entirely do away with the Atlantean religion.

It's nice to see Jamie's successful initiation into TARDISeering alluded to in the final scene, although he seems to have enjoyed his Atlantean jaunt more than I have...

Oh dear. What a mess. Plotless, devoid of decent characterisation for either the gust characters or the regulars and giving me no reason to care about the society itt's depicting, this is the low point so far for me. It says a lot that the best bit of the story is a scene of Fish People swimming about. 1/5.

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