Doctor Who #176: The Abominable Snowmen Part 1

"The welcome of a life time?"TECHNICAL SPECS: One of 5 episodes missing from this 6-part story. I've recently listened to the BBC's narrated audio CD, but I'm afraid we're already back to reconstructions. First aired Sep.30 1967.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS lands in Tibet, where our heroes fall afoul of Yeti and distrustful monks.

REVIEW: The story starts on screams, enjoy! Yes, there's a monster, but in Part 1, typically, we only catch a quick glimpse of it at the end. I'll leave off full comments about the Yeti for the next episode (which isn't missing, thankfully), but in this episode, they are merely an abstract threat anyway. A murder in the night, mysterious footprints, and that title "The Abominable Snowmen" looming over everything. We know they're out there. Will they come out and play? The episode's true antagonists, then, are Travers the explorer and Khrisong the warrior monk. Neither of these characters are willing to trust the Doctor, to the point where something seems off about them. Are they being manipulated in some way (using a little 20/20 hindsight here), or are they really two of those illogical characters madly obsessed with advancing the plot (à la Klieg)? At this point, Travers is ignoring the evidence before his eyes, and Khrisong is a rather bloodthirsty Buddhist, but both are in the right from their point of view.

The Doctor may be asking for it, putting on that ridiculous fur coat and getting himself mistaken for a Yeti. He didn't even get the chance to pull the holy ghanta out, an artifact he's returning to the monastery after who knows how long, a hint of past adventures. And while the Doctor is slightly over-protective of his companions - possibly due to the promise he made Waterfield, he doesn't consider young Victoria as a companion who can take care of herself - they are determined to get into trouble. Or rather, Victoria is. She's the one who gets bored and shames Jamie into accompanying her outside and then into some cave. Are these remnants of what Samantha would have been like? Were the two girls basically interchangeable at the script stage? In any case, she seems to immediately regret pushing Jamie into action, fright taking hold of her. Poor by-the-book Jamie, you should have listened to your instincts.

A few words about the feeling of place in this episode, because look, Welsh hills are trying to pass off as the Himalayas... And yet, it works, in large part because of the black and white. We can't tell those hills are green, or get enough resolution from the images to tell how far (or rather, how close) those hills/mountains really are. Throw on some coats and call it Tibet, I'm buying it. The monastery model helps create the illusion - it's way down in a mountain pass (or ledge? Hard to tell, but the Doctor's cell is supposedly 100 feet up). And the interior is also well designed, with a neat stonework Buddha greeting visitors. The chanting is charged with atmosphere as well.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Looking forward to see this story in motion, because the setting is certainly interesting and the cast continuing to showcase the fun chemistry they had in Tomb of the Cybermen.

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