Doctor Who – The Underwater Menace

It is the end, as the Doctor once put it, but sadly it hasn’t been prepared for. This, unless there’s a major discovery of lost episodes, is it. The last release of available material from the classic series of Doctor Who. For a while, it looked like it wasn’t going to be released at all, but after much complaining and campaigning, the people who make the decisions decided they should probably let it out into the world, if only to stop the complaints. It’s unfortunate that the final release in a long line of DVDs should be so grudgingly released, and indeed given what is, I’m sad to say, a singularly shoddy release. But more of that later.

What we have here is a four-part story from early in the Patrick Troughton era. The Doctor is accompanied by Ben and Polly, together with the newly acquired highlander Jamie[1], and in the usual uncontrolled manner of the time, they arrive at a strange location, Odd things are, of course, going on. There’s a Mad Scientist who’d give the Master or Davros a run for their money, very strange fishy people, and err, Atlantis. Which is going to be risen.

It’s not one of the high points of the series, really. Patrick Troughton is just getting into his stride and developing his portrayal, and the companions work together well, with the expected 60s level of screaming from Polly.

But the main issue here is that it’s not all here. Rather than recreate the missing episodes one and four in animation as has been done in the past, what we’re given here is the soundtrack (fortunately complete) and a series of “telesnaps” – low quality photographs taken of a TV screen at time of transmission. There aren’t enough of these to really show what’s going on a lot of the time, and it has to be said that it’s not a good way of presenting the story.

The other let-down is in the extra features. The ever-popular production subtitles? Naaah, none of that. A triumphant round-up of the massive project of releasing all those DVDs? Don’t be silly. There is a fairly average “making of” documentary, with surviving cast and crew recalling the production, and the second part of the documentary about the relationship between the series and BBC Television Centre[2]. Oh, and a couple of short clips that were cut from episodes one and four for broadcast in Australia, which don’t add that much to the experience.

And all that probably explains why it’s taken me so long to get around to watching this DVD.

Summary: a missed opportunity and a sad end to a generally excellent release programme.

[1] So newly acquired that he had to be allocated bits of dialogue intended for Ben…
[2] The first part was on the Special Edition release of The Visitation.

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  1. Pingback: Doctor Who – The Power of the Daleks | Losing it

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