Day 101 — April 11th 2021

Fury From the Deep Episodes One and Two

Let’s do the obvious thing first — I think anyone writing about Fury From the Deep is contractually obligated to mention that it’s the only Troughton story title which doesn’t begin with ‘The’. And now I’ve got that out of the way…

During my last marathon, I found Fury From the Deep to be a fairly bitter dissapointment. It’s another one of those missing stories with a stellar reputation — and the last story for which there’s no surviving episodes. I’d never experienced this one before and I’d been looking forward to it as a sort of ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’d been dreading Season Five last time around. So many six parters! So many missing episodes! Fury From the Deep isn’t the last example of either of those things — and it’s not the last story of Season Five — but somehow in my head it had become a kind of goal. If I could make it to this point then I’d survived what I expected to be the trickiest part of the whole run.

The story undeniably had lots of great ideas and moments, but it felt like I’d seen them all before. It was almost a ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation of the stories from Season Four and Five, with mysterious heartbeats in pipes (The Macra Terror), larking about on beaches and lots of action in helicopters (The Enemy of the World), a base controller who gets more and more stressed and obstructive as the story goes on (take your pick, really)… I’m sure there’s more examples but these are the ones which immediately spring to mind.

I said at the time that it was a story which I’d probably rate a lot higher if I were to revisit it out of context — that it was actively harmed by being viewed after all the other Troughton stories to far. I made a point of planning to listen again when I’d finished the marathon, but as is so often the way I never found the time, so I’m doing it for a second time… back in context with all the other stories again! Whoops!

It’s not quite the same as last time, though. In the eight years since my previous marathon the experience of Season Five has changed quite a bit. In 2013 the season had a stretch of 36 episodes from which only a quarter survived. Now that number has gone up to half, and it’s hard to understate what a difference that makes. Of course, I discovered that I really loved listening to the Narrated Soundtracks, too, so it wasn’t such a hardship to go through the missing ones.

But on top of the 9 missing episodes which were recovered the last five years have seen lots of other missing stories animated, meaning that the two missing episodes of The Ice Warriors can be plugged, as can all of Fury From the Deep, with The Web of Fear Episode Three already confirmed, and The Abominable Snowmen rumoured for down the line. I’ve also said before on this blog that I’m not a big fan of the animations, despite several very talented friends having a hand in them. I think I enjoy the Narrated Soundtracks so much that the animations haven’t ever appealed, and I’ve not bought any of the ‘modern’ ones released since 2016.

I thought it was only fair that I gave one a go for this marathon, though, and as Fury was a story which fell flat before, and is the most recently released of the animations, this seemed like the perfect choice. And… oh, I tried. I really did. I even found it oddly exciting to buy a ‘new’ Doctor Who release after so many years. But the animations still aren’t for me, it has to be said.

One of the reasons I’ve not tried the animation for The Macra Terror, in spite of that being one of my favourite stories, is because the shots I’ve seen of it look so unlike the original TV serial. The same is true for elements of this story, but producer Gary Russell talks about that in the sleeve notes for the release;

‘My philosophy regarding the animating of missing Doctor Who stories is that there’s little point in slavishly trying to recreate frame-by-frame what was seen in the 1960s. The budgets, the studio space, the limitations of technology etc. certainly added to the flair and glory of those productions, but to mimic that today would be doing a disservice to the opportunities animation provides.’

I can’t fault his reasoning there, and I think he’s probably right. It’s in the stories best interest to present them in the best way possible, and sometimes that means not sticking to the limitations of 1968. And there’s moments of the animation which really work, like the shot of Doctor Who laying in the sand surrounded by seaweed. That’s a gorgeous shot, and you just know it didn’t look that impressive in the original episode.

But there’s other areas where I found myself really distracted by the animation. There’s a weird trend throughout where the proportions of almost every character are bizarrely wrong. Arms that are miles too long (or too short), heads that appear too small for their bodies… I found the whole thing more than a little distracting, and I’ll admit I was tempted to switch over to the soundtrack more than once.

On the whole it was an interesting experiment to give one of the animations a go, and it’s undeniable that a lot of work and care has gone into their production. There’s also something a little bit wonderful about these ‘lost’ stories being made available to a wider audience in a whole new format. But I think this has just confirmed that the animations really aren’t my cup of tea. I was planning to do the whole of Fury From the Deep in this format, but I honestly can’t quite stomach the idea of another five episodes with those arms, so I’ll be switching back to the soundtracks for the remainder of the story.

As for the episode itself, there’s some nice ideas on show here. I’d completely forgotten that the TARDIS actually lands above the ocean and then comes to rest on top of the waves. In my head I think it was moved ashore almost right away. It’s a lovely visual, and it makes the ship seem somewhat more magical than scientific, and that’s no bad thing.

There’s some great behind the scenes photographs which show the model TARDIS built for The Rescue being ‘flown’ above the sea by a helicopter, and I wish these images existed in better resolution, as they’re almost as magical as the idea itself!

We’ve also — finally — got the first appearance of the Sonic Screwdriver. I’ve been tracking the evolution of the idea for a few stories now, as this incarnation is inordinately fond of using a screwdriver, but it’s nice to see the real thing show up finally.

I think there’s been some debate down the years as to exactly what was used as the prop for this device in this story. General consensus now is that Troughton used the whistle from one of the life jackets — possibly having lost the intended prop earlier in the day.

Some of the photos from location clearly show Troughton holding just a regular screwdriver, and I wonder if it’s the very tip of that which you can see poking into shot in the tele-snaps from this scene. Partly because, well, that’s what it looks like, and partly because I love the idea that the first Sonic Screwdriver might have just been any old screwdriver! There’s something very Doctor Who about that.

My one issue with the Sonic here is that it’s introduced so clearly in this first episode as a device which operates using sonic waves… but I’m fairly sure it doesn’t crop up again, even when the story’s solution hinges on needing something which does just that!

I suspect the reason for that is down to the Sonic being almost entirely absent from the script — no matter how much of a fuss Victor Pemberton likes to kick up about having invented the device. The script merely describes ‘something which looks like [Doctor Who’s] own version of a screwdriver’, but doens’t elaborate. There’s none of the dialogue about it being sonic, no indication that we see the screws move of their own accord, and it merely cuts away to the trio managing to have opened the box.

It’s not a bad opening to the story, but it’s hard to say whether I’d have liked it more or less had I done just the soundtrack. For now I’m going to give it a 7/10.

Mr Oak and Mr Quill are another one of those totally Doctor Who ideas; a camp couple of men who are secretly monsters in disguise. Some of my favourite parts of Doctor Who are when it gets silly and camp, so I’m totally on board with this. And there’s something genuinely scary about the pair, too. So much so that we can actually see them in action thanks to the Australian censors. The bit that really spooked me listening today, though, was described as follows by Frazer Hines’ narration;

‘Their white coveralls are anonymous-looking, but tendrils of weed are visible around the cuffs of Mr Oak’s sleeves, trailing down his arms. Smiling, Mr Oak produces a pair of white gloves — like those that Mr Quill is wearing — and puts them on.’

There’s something oddly sinister about that moment, and you can imagine my delight when the tele-snaps for this episode revealed it to look just as creepy on screen as it sounded. I seem to recall that these two don’t have a lot to do as the story goes on, and I think that’s a shame as they’re my favourite part of this episode, and one of the scariest things we’ve seen in a while.

And it doesn’t hurt that John Gill — as Mr Oak — bears an uncanny resemblance to Grandpa Munster, which has amused me no end.

Also brilliant in this episode is the closing line, spoken by Van Lutyens;

‘It’s down there, in the darkness, in the pipeline, waiting.’

I think that sells the horror of the story far better than pretty much anything else, and it’s a brilliant delivery by John Abineri. Overall, though the episode’s not done a great deal for me. It’s fine, but it’s nothing overly special. 6/10.

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Will Brooks

English Boy in Wales. Freelance Writer and Designer. Doctor Who Art for Big Finish, Titan Comics, Cubicle 7. TARDIS Fan. Pinstripe Counter.