Monday, 26 October 2015
The Underwater Menace DVD - Review
Of course, we don't have every episode that exists full stop - because we now know that part three of The Web of Fear is still out there, and there is always the chance that other lost episodes might one day come to light.
The highlight of today's release is that second episode. It is far better than the third part which we have had for a while, and which has helped to maintain a low opinion for this story overall. There is a lot more Troughton on show, and we start to see his Doctor beginning to form. Apparently this came about when he realised he couldn't top Joseph Furst (Zaroff), and so elected to take his performance down a notch. Furst fares better in this episode as well. The madness is starting to build, but he isn't chewing the scenery at this stage. Plus we get to see Colin Jeavons as Damon, and a lot more of the characters Ara and Thous.
Seeing the footage, when before all we had were some telesnaps and the audio, reveals a few visual gems. Troughton's head-knocking gesture when describing Zaroff we would never have known about. There are a couple of things we didn't need to see, though - such as Ramo's shadow lingering for ages before Tom Watson's appearance into the scene (when the Doctor is in the sou'wester). I loved Zaroff's model, which he uses to demonstrate his plans for Atlantis. Does water draining really need to be demonstrated by, er, water draining?
Am a little upset at the way in which parts 1 & 4 are presented. This release has obviously been done on the cheap - which I find more than a little insulting. There has been no effort to include proper titles, and the telesnaps tend to linger long after the dialogue has moved on. We get to hear a whole bit of dialogue between Zaroff and Ara, whilst we are presented with a picture of a shark. Then there is the lingering picture of the Doctor's back, whilst his companions can be heard getting captured on the soundtrack. It wouldn't have hurt to move some of the snaps around from other sequences to make it more visually interesting.
There is quite a nice little documentary, with someone dressed as a Fishworker on the beach at Windspit, Dorset, where the location work took place. The latest issue of DWM shows that the costume is bright orange. The latest issue of Fortean Times also happens to feature this location in one of its features "Weird Wessex" - mentioning this story's filming as well as its doubling as Skaro in Destiny of the Daleks.
The other main extra is the second half of the documentary which features on The Visitation SE DVD - The Television Centre of the Universe. Of course, this is totally out of place on this release.
I haven't listened to the commentaries yet - I'll save them for the weekend - but they promise to be interesting. Whilst the two extant episodes get regular commentaries from cast & crew, part one comes from Michael Troughton, and part four has an archive Patrick Troughton interview, plus contributions from director Julia Smith, producer Innes Lloyd, and the man who almost directed this story (and was for a time favourite to play the First Doctor) Hugh David.
As I have said, Episode 2 is certainly superior to Episode 3, but I don't think it is quite enough to redeem the story overall. The Underwater Menace was just too ambitious a production, and a work in progress for the new Doctor.