Doctor Who #178: The Abominable Snowmen Part 3

"Harsh words are like blunted arrows. It is the truth that makes them sharp."
TECHNICAL SPECS: Missing from the archives, so another reconstruction it is! First aired Oct.14 1967.

IN THIS ONE... The Doctor figures out spheres are Yeti brains. The monks babysit Victoria. And Padma explains his plan to make the Great Intelligence flesh.

REVIEW: If you enjoy beeping, this is the best episode for you since Galaxy 4. It's also much more than that, thankfully. What is striking here is the oh-so-Whovian juxtaposition of science fiction and mysticism. Robotic Yeti piloted by metal spheres that are so light, they must be empty. Are there ethereal souls in there? The captured Yeti in chained inside a Tibetan ghost trap, and the master, Padmasambhava, reveals his plan to make something called the Great Intelligence, floating in space, a physical form here on Earth through what amounts to pyramid power. He controls the Yeti robots using small figures, not control panels. This is the kind of science Clarke told us about, that was so advanced it looked like magic. Clarke or Lovecraft...

Six-parters set in a single location are rather slow, but when done right, they breathe out atmosphere. The monks in the story have time to debate elements of their faith, for example, and their language is filled with zen wisdom. Padma continues to intrigue with his two distinct voices, and by this point, he's actually answering himself! The Yeti are no closer to becoming scary though, and lines about their getting their ball back once again put in mind of great big sports mascots.

If there are longueurs in Part 3, it's probably because the regulars don't get up to much though. The Doctor and Jamie-as-accessory follow Travers up a mountain to witness the villain's plans in motion, while Victoria is being babysit by young Thomni, whom she keeps escaping. Putting our eggs in Victoria's basket won't yield much results however, because she never really goes anywhere with her brief moments of freedom.

THEORIES: Virgin's New Adventures series of novels explored the idea that Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos was real in the Whoniverse. David McIntee was first in White Darkness, but Andy Lane soon followed suit in All-Consuming Fire, where the author also named various Doctor Who entities as Lovecraftian gods. The Great Intelligence, for example, was really Yog-Sothoth; the Animus from The Web Planet was the Lloigor; and Fenric will be Hastur. That Lovecraft would have been inspired by real monsters - or at any rate, have had psychic access to these monstrosities - isn't outside the realm of Doctor Who idiom at all. There's a strong tradition in Who of showing writers or artists inspired by events in the Doctor's life they might have shared. And the above-named monsters, the High Intelligence perhaps most of all, are all science fiction beings who seem to use magic, mind control and madness as tools, just like Lovecraft's. It's an interesting connection, one worth exploring, whether Doctor Who writers were influenced by Lovecraft or they were inspired by some of the same things he was.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Things are proceeding apace and we find out about the villains' plans, but this is definitely one for the guest cast to show who they are.

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