Doctor Who #200: Fury from the Deep Part 1

"This sound. At first I thought it was something to do with the pumps, but it isn't. Most peculiar sound. A sort of regular thumping, pulsating... like a heartbeat."TECHNICAL SPECS: Aside from a brief clip of the TARDIS landing in the sea, this episode, like the rest of the story, is missing from the archives. A reconstruction was available. First aired Mar.16 1968.

IN THIS ONE... The TARDIS crew are caught snooping around a pipeline by gas harvesters who don't know it yet, but they're about to face dangerous foaming seaweed. Also: First appearance of the sonic screwdriver!

REVIEW: It begins with a crazy landing sequence that has the TARDIS physically land on the water from the air. The police box is flying and that's a first (though the guest cast saw it "landing" in Tomb of the Cybermen as well). Rather strange in the context of the series, but why COULDN'T it materialize in the air and have to find solid ground (or buoyant water, in this case)? That odd beginning leads to the TARDISeers going ashore by rowboat, and then playing around in mysterious foam. Look kids! Pollution! Yay! Is it me or is Troughton the Doctor that has spent the most time at the beach? Not only is it yet another shoreline arrival (his third), but yes, it's going to be another base under siege story, with another hardass bureaucrat in charge of a slightly international team of technicians. The sting is taken out of the repetition by having the characters knowingly talk about the show's clichés as Jamie meta-textually complains that they're always landing in England. Maybe he's right, and it's got a switch stuck or something (though he's of course over-stating, since they've already been to Tibet and Australia this year).

Also of interest is the first appearance of the sonic screwdriver, which the Doctor must have built very recently even if he claims it "never fails". (Because the previous story doesn't immediately lead into this one, it's entirely possible to fit its construction - and other adventures - in between them.) We've seen a lot of sonic technology lately, most notably used by Ice Warriors, so it's entirely probable the Doctor was inspired to make his own, non-weaponized, version. Is it taken by the security staff though? Because their escape attempt hinges on Victoria unlocking the door with a hairpin. And that is, of course, a lot more interesting than using the sonic, which is surely a sign of things to come. Not only does it give her something to do - which every story has not managed - but we have Jamie wriggling through a window over the door at the same time, and getting his thunder stolen when she succeeds. It's a nice bit of comedy, and it makes me wish they would have allowed Victoria to grow this way before. Now it almost seems too late...

As for the threat du jour, the foaming, pulsing seaweed is essentially faceless, but there's nothing implicitly wrong with the Doctor fighting forces of nature. Writer Victor Pemberton is almost treating the base as a living organism under attack by a virus. It has "high blood pressure" and a noticeable "heartbeat", both symptoms of fear. And that's what this monster represents, I think. Pure FEAR. I can't wait to see if the story is worthy of its reputation in that regard. As the scream queen, Victoria is going to be the one whose tolerance for fear is truly put to the test. In a single episode, she's been sniped, gassed, and foamed. How much can she take? Of course, there's got to be a mysterious enemy stealing files to keep the pipeline working no matter what, and trying to murder the TARDIS crew. That's par for the course. Not really played as a whodunit yet - the characters we've met seem to have alibis - which is good, because frankly, we've just been through that in The Web of Fear.

REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Just a beginning - one that threatens to test your base-under-siege fatigue - but a solid one. The threat is unusual even if the people and environment are not.

2 comments:

Toby'c said...

"Also of interest is the first appearance of the sonic screwdriver, which the Doctor must have built very recently even if he claims it "never fails". (Because the previous story doesn't immediately lead into this one, it's entirely possible to fit its construction - and other adventures - in between them.)"

Leaves me wanting to see a book or a Companion Chronicle set around this time written by Moffat, to tie it in with certain lines in The Doctor Dances and A Christmas Carol.

Siskoid said...

Looking at extra-canonical sources, I find there was a Missing Adventure (Venusian Lullaby) in which the 1st Doctor used the sonic. I don't like this because there's no reason the tool would disappear for so long afterward.

There are various references in Who about it being Time Lord technology, but it doesn't mean the Doctor didn't build his and perfected it.

 

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