Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Story 42 - Fury From The Deep

In which the TARDIS materialises in mid-air above the sea, a few hundred yards from an English beach. The ship comes down to settle on the surface of the water, and the Doctor and his companions resort to a dinghy to get to dry land. Exploring, they come upon a pipeline which runs up the beach from the sea. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to open an inspection hatch. It is a gas pipeline, and the Doctor hears a strange heartbeat sound. They are suddenly shot down by a sniper who fires tranquillising darts, and wake later to find themselves in the Euro Sea Gas Refinery complex. Chief Robson explains that they were on a restricted stretch of beach. Deputy Chief Frank Harris tells them that they have recently lost contact with one of their gas pumping rigs, and they have been plagued with unexplained pressure drops in the pipelines. The Doctor tries to warn about the noise he heard, but is ignored. Robson will not shut down production to investigate. Victoria sees a pulsating mass of seaweed and foam emerge from a ventilation grille. This same substance attacks Harris' wife, Maggie, at her home nearby. Two employees from the refinery - Oak and Quill - turn up and breath a toxic gas from their mouths which overpowers her.

The Doctor gets a sample of the weed and he and his companions return to the TARDIS to investigate it further. It is alive. Victoria sees an image of a weed creature in an old book of sea legends. Robson is also attacked by the weed creature. He later meets Maggie on the beach and watches as she walks into the sea. Both are under the mental control of the seaweed creature. A Dutch technical expert named Van Lutyens calls in his boss, Megan Jones. More rigs fall silent. A helicopter sent to investigate finds them covered in dense foam. The Doctor deduces that the weed creature exudes this and uses it to travel around.

The weed then uses the pipelines to attack the refinery. It is a parasitical creature which can take people over. Oak and Quill attack Jamie, and Victoria screams. The two men collapse. Jamie assumes it was his physical prowess  - but the Doctor suspects something else. Robson abducts Victoria in order to force the Doctor to join with the creature - taking her to one of the rigs. Victoria's screams are found to affect the creature. The Doctor takes his companions back to the refinery by helicopter, where they record Victoria screaming. When amplified, this is broadcast throughout the refinery and through the pipes to the rigs - destroying the weed creature. Everyone infected by it is freed. Victoria has been increasingly unsettled of late, never having been happy with the hazardous situations which travel with the Doctor and Jamie have plunged her into. She decides to stay behind. Frank and Maggie Harris will look after her.

This six part adventure was written by Victor Pemberton, and was broadcast between 16th March and 20th April, 1968. No episodes exist in the archives though we do have the soundtrack and telesnaps to enjoy. One clip - that of the TARDIS landing - survives as it was reused  in Episode 10 of The War Games, and there are a couple of brief Australian censor clips - including the creepy attack on Maggie Harris by Oak and Quill. There are also a number of film trims and some behind the scenes footage from the climax to the story. These have been edited together and coupled with the soundtrack on the Lost In Time DVD set.
The story is significant for the departure of Victoria Waterfield - actress Debbie Watling moving on to other work - and for the introduction of a certain useful tool...
Pemberton took a radio play he had written - The Slide - as the basis for this story. In this, it is an intelligent mud slime which threatens humanity. He had, of course, already acted in Doctor Who (as an infected crewman in The Moonbase) and had story edited The Tomb of the Cybermen.

This story is often referred to as a lost classic, and it is certainly a very impressive production. The monster is not clearly seen much - usually shrouded in foam and in the dark - which makes it all the more effective. The "Laurel and Hardy" like Messrs Oak and Quill make for one of the programme's most unsettling villains - with black lips and malicious smiles as they go about the weed creatures' business. They are played by John Gill and Bill Burridge.
Performances from the regulars and guest cast are uniformly strong throughout. As Debbie Watling has said before, she screamed her way onto the programme and she screamed her way out. It is a nice idea to have the female companion's screaming actually intrinsic to the resolution of the plot.
These days, the Doctor can turn his hand to anything, and in this he has to pilot a helicopter. It's refreshing to see him struggle with the task - having to be guided by radio.
Robson is played  by the versatile Victor Maddern - equally at home in TV comedy (such as his work with Dick Emery) as he was in serious drama. Van Lutyens marks John Abineri's first appearance in the programme. He will return as General Carrington in The Ambassadors of Death, Railton in Death to the Daleks, and as Ranquin in The Power of Kroll. Megan Jones is played by the late Margaret John - who was the faceless granny in The Idiot's Lantern and is most famous as Barry Island neighbour Doris in Gavin & Stacey.
Episode endings for this adventure are:

  1. Alone in a store room, Victoria sees foam pour from a grille. Within can be seen fronds of seaweed thrashing about.
  2. Van Lutyens tries to convince Robson to stop the gas supply - claiming there is something alive, waiting in the darkness...
  3. Robson watches as Maggie Harris walks calmly into the sea.
  4. The Doctor observes the weed creature writhing in an observation pipe - the advance guard...
  5. On the rig, the Doctor and Jamie enter the control room and see Robson standing amidst the foam.
  6. The Doctor and Jamie observe Victoria recede from view on the TARDIS scanner.

Overall, a story for which that phrase "lost classic" can be used without any hint of hyperbole. Tense, atmospheric and unnerving - and yet no-one dies. As base-under-siege tales go, this is one of the best.
Things you might like to know:
  • Despite futuristic trappings, this story appears to be set in the 1960's, as Robson mentions pre-decimal currency.
  • Jamie mentions at the start that the TARDIS always seems to land on Earth. He's right, you know. Episode 6 of Fury From The Deep marks the 30th consecutive Earthbound episode.
  • The original story title was The Colony of Devils. The hypersensitive BBC didn't want a mention of anything remotely religious, so it was changed.
  • This is Victor Pemberton's only story for the programme - though he did later write the Tom Baker / Lis Sladen audio adventure The Pescatons.
  • As well as its rather unorthodox landing, the TARDIS appears to take off like a rocket at the end - judging by the way Victoria is looking up at it on the scanner, and is seen to recede.
  • These days, the sonic screwdriver would be the thing that generates the noise to destroy the weed creatures. In this, it just undoes screws.
  • Debbie Watling went on to become a regular in the ITV series Danger UXB - about an army bomb disposal unit in WW2. She also featured in movies alongside pop stars Cliff Richard and David Essex. If you want to know what Victoria might have got up to later - check out the unofficial video production Downtime. Directed by Christopher Barry, this forms a sequel to the two Yeti stories. In 1995, Victoria is Vice Chancellor of  The New World University - a cult-ish high tech college which is really under the control of the Great Intelligence. As well as Debbie Watling reprising her role as Victoria, Downtime features Nicholas Courtney as the Brigadier, Jack Watling reprising Prof. Edward Travers, and Lis Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith. The Brigadier's daughter also appears - named Kate...

No comments:

Post a Comment