C032 The Underwater Menace



Browse Classic Who reviews

 

The lost city of Atlantis, fish people, and a mad scientist who ISN’T The Doctor



The Second Doctor and his companions – Polly, Ben and Jamie – materialise on a volcanic island mere moments before, against all odds, they’re kidnapped.

They’re brought down far below the surface to what turns out to be the lost city of Atlantis. Once a great civilisation, or so we’re lead to believe, Atlantis has turned into a terrifying, cultist hellhole, where marooned sailors and undesirables are operated upon against their will, being human-centipede’d into so-called fish people and forced to harvest plankton for the regular Atlantean bipeds.

Working in his laboratory in the heart of Atlantis is Professor Zaroff, a crazy bonkers mad scientist who’s famous for being able to refine plankton… into food… or something. He claims to be able to raise Atlantis from the bottom of the ocean, but in reality his scientific aspirations are aimed in a different direction entirely. Instead, he intends to blow up the Earth!

#DoctorWho #DrWho #ClassicWho

Here's what we think

Ponken

@ponken

3.8

Here's what you think

6 Responses to “C032 The Underwater Menace”

  1. Steven | @sgamer82

    A companion’s first TARDIS adventure is always something special, and The Underwater Menace gives us Jamie McCrimmon wondering too late just what he’s gotten himself into. He holds up well in his first adventure, working well with Ben and Polly as they help the Doctor defeat the mad scientist Professor Zaroff. I don’t think he truly starts to come into his own yet, as he seems mostly content to follow the lead of his fellow travellers, though I did enjoy his moment at the very end when he says he enjoyed the adventure (particularly the part where it’s over and they’re safe in the TARDIS).

    Zaroff is the true highlight of this serial as the hamtastic proto-Davros out to destroy the world just to prove he can. My favorite moment with him and the Doctor is when the Doctor calls Zaroff’s bluff about the project going on without him. Zaroff acts cool and in control until the Doctor makes the weakness of his ego clear, at which point he abandons all pretence. As purely human villains go, Zaroff is definitely one of the top contenders.

    I also particularly liked Ara the serving girl. While she seems far more determined to help the Doctor and company at first for what’s basically a moment’s kindness, she is a vital part of the effort against Zaroff, as the troupe’s guide in the Atlantean tunnels.

    On the other hand, I don’t feel much was done with the Fish People. It was an interesting concept but other than as a threat to Polly and a means to distract Zaroff’s efforts, they didn’t have much to do with the plot. Going by an interview with Anneke Wills that was at the end of the audiobook version I had, the cast felt much the same. Also, entertaining though it was, the “kidnap Zaroff” subplot in episode 3 mostly felt like stalling to fill an episode until the climax.

    On the whole, I’m rating this episode a 3.8. Its biggest weakness to me story-wise being the lack of use for the Fish People plot. There was also a religion vs science subplot that could’ve been handled better, given that at the end Damon blamed their religion for everything Zaroff’s science did.

    Finally, a few little trivia bits to round off this review:
    * The addition of Frazer Hines as Jamie was a last minute decision within the show. This is part of the reason for my comment that “he hasn’t come into his own” yet, and also why the next serial, “The Moonbase” will have Jamie doing what he does in the first episode or so.
    * Joseph Furst used his actual accent when performing as Professor Zaroff.
    * At the time she recorded the audiobook featuring her, Anneke Wills (Polly) lived in a cottage not far from where they did location shooting for The Underwater Menace. From the little interview with her in the audiobook, the locals recognized Wills but she had a hard time remembering just what she’d filmed there until she recorded the actual audio book.

    Reply
  2. Trenton Bless (Wrestlemania489)

    Well, I may not have a mini review for this serial overall, I have a review of this serial on DVD!

    So, I recently purchased the DVD, and I must say, though the restoration of Episode 2 is stunningly beautiful, the recons for episodes 1 and 4 are pretty bad. They just have still images (they don’t use the censor clips at all.) for every scene, even the title sequence! From what I understand the episodes were supposed to be animated, “Moonbase” style. But that never happened becaue the animation studio suddenly went kaput and left BBC Worldwide stuck in a jam. At one point the release was cancelled entirely! But, back in December 2015 the DVD suddenly appeared in the UK and all was right in the world. Sadly, that triumph turned sour when we found out what they had done. They just mashed together what images they had and put the censor clips in as bonus features rather than in the recons. Soon, the DVD was to be released in America. It was originally going to happen in January. Then it was pushed back a month. And then it was pushed to May 24th, 2016. I recently visited my local shop (on the hunt for a different piece of merch that was recently released) when I saw it. It was discounted, and I thought “meh, why not. Gives me a good excuse to buy two DVDs”. I mean, I was happy that I finally had it, but I was disappointed by how bad the recons were.

    So, overall, I’d give the DVD a 2.0/5. It’s just so bad. It’s only saving graces are the bonus features, the restored version of episode 2, restored audio for the missing episodes (gonna use those to make my own recon. I could do it better myself, I bet!) and the cover art looks really cool. So yeah. If you haven’t already, I suggest avoiding the DVD release and buy Episode 2 on iTunes if you can. (Only available in the UK and Australia, sorry US listeners) It’s worth it to watch it in a higher quality, especially since it may be the last Classic Who release until more missing episodes are found.

    Reply
    • Ponken

      Nice one, dude! And best of luck with making your own recon!!

      Reply
      • Trenton Bless (Wrestlemania489)

        Thank you. Might try to sync the restored audio to the Loose Canon recons first to see how that works. If it doesn’t go well, I’ll go to Plan B

        Reply
  3. Peter Zunitch

    The issue I find with this story is that I always forget most of it a week after I watch it. Unfortunately it’s been more than a few months since I’ve watched it last, so this review will be rather sparse. It bored me the first two times I watched it. The newer versions of the recons help a bit, but there are some definite missed opportunities. The fish people, while silly looking are lumped into one long scene that should have been broken up throughout the story. They were totally underutilized. They should have been the key to the story, not a breakaway from it. Likewise the religious subplot made it seem like a small bunch of fanatics who gained some power rather than a driving sociopolitical force that held true influence in the minds and hearts of the people.
    Oh and did anyone besides me think Zaroff was played by Gene Wilder for much of the story? That would have been awesome (not that this guy wasn’t great). The flooding chaos at the end was exciting, but I wish some of the earlier fluff would have been taken out to make room for more of it. This weeks most missed footage goes to the Zaroff death scene. 2.3

    Reply
  4. Paul Fauber @wordsmithpaul

    Because Jamie had just joined the TARDIS crew, Ben and Polly explained the haphazard nature of their travels as the Doctor piloted them to a volcanic island. Exploring, they were all captured and taken far below sea level to recover from the nitrogen encountered during their descent and eat a meal of plankton. The Doctor realized Professor Zaroff, who had disappeared from both the East and the West, was responsible for their feast, which would their last meal He and his companions were to be sacrificed to a pagan goddess, Amdo. Zaroff, though, wanted to learn the “vital secret”, about which the Doctor had sent him a note, before his party was taken away to die. Much to presiding priest, Ramo’s annoyance, Zaroff interrupted the sacrifice and the Doctor refused to say anything until his companions were spared. Safe, he told Zaroff there was no vital secret, which impressed the scientist. Zaroff helped the Doctor realize they were in Atlantis while Jamie and Ben were sent to the mines. Polly was shown the fish people, who gathered food for the lost civilization. She and the Doctor were horrified to learn she was about to undergo an operation to get gills, thus becoming a fish person.

    The operating room’s lights flickered, prompting the surgeon to complain to Zaroff, who showed the man he was wrong and dismissed him. The Doctor praised the scientist’s lab and shut off the lights in the operating room, apologized for his “clumsiness”. Meanwhile, a servant girl, Ara, freed Polly. At the mine, Jacko and Sean gave Jamie a compass to hide if from the guards until their new ally stole a lantern with which the three of them took Ben and escaped. They subsequently found Polly in the temple of Amdo, where Ara had left her. The Doctor tlearned Zaroff loved the power his promise to raise Atlantis from the sea provided and he planned to drain the ocean into a fissure where a shaft would be drilled to the molten magma of the Earth’s core. Upon escaping, the Doctor donned a wetsuit and discovered Ramo, didn’t trust Zarroff. He demonstrated Zaroff’s method of raising Atlantis, to prove superheated steam would blow up the world and convinced Ramo to take him to see Thous, the leader of Atlantis. The Doctor told Thous Zaroff was mad and examining his eyes when he described his solution would prove it. Thous said he needed to consider the revelation, but betrayed the Doctor and Ramo, turning them over to Zaroff.

    The Professor gave the Doctor and Ramo to the High Priest Lolem who prepared to behead them in the temple of Amdo. Polly spoke through a speaker claiming to be Amdo and ordered everyone to bow low and not look as the sacrifice took place. Unseen, the Doctor and Ramo headed for a secret room behind the temple’s idol, which the companions had discovred and Doctor proposed to use as a base. When Lolem reported the Doctor and Ramo’s miraculous disappearance, Thous was impressed. Zaroff scoffed and ordered his guards to hunt the Doctor and his companions before saying he would raise Atlantis in two days. Jacko and Sea, meanwhile, went to convince the fish people to stop harvesting food. The Doctor hoped enough would go bad in a couple hours if not consumed to discredit Zaroff. He also decided to capture Zaroff at the market, where Scooby Dooing led to the mad scientist’s capture. The Doctor suggested Zaroff was beaten and would not begin the destruction of the world without being there to touch it off. Zaroff said he had put his project in motion already and it couldn’t be stopped. The Doctor decided to check and Ben and Jamie wanted to come along. Ramo volunteered to stay with Polly to guard Zaroff, who suffered an attack as soon as he and his guards were alone. The Doctor, Ben, and Jamie had to wait for a service to Amdo to end. As they waited, Zaroff attacked Ramo and wounded him before taking Polly as a hostage. After the service and before he died, Ramo told the Doctor, Ben, and Jamie about Polly’s capture. Jamie went after Polly while the Doctor took Ben to Zaroff’s lab. Zaroff escaped as Jamie rescued Polly. They went to find Ara, who knew the way to the lab. Zaroff rejoined Thous, who needed to deal with the fish people to fix the food shortage. Zaroff assured him he and his guards would deal with the problem by killing anyone who didn’t cooperate. The proposed massacre began with Thous.

    The Doctor and Ben discovered Thous and took him to the temple to join everyone except Jamie and Polly, who went to meet the Doctor and Ben at Zaroff’s lab. The Doctor told Jacko and Sean to tell the people to head for higher ground because he planned to flood Atlantis to stop Zaroff’s mad plan. He and Ben bluffed their way into a generating station and sabotaged it. Power fluctuations in his lab enraged Zaroff as his workers abandoned their jobs to look for food. Arriving, the Doctor revealed Zaroff’s plan to many workers dismay. Zaroff isolated himself to conclude his experiment and invited the Dcotor to stay and die watching. Flooding didn’t halt Zaroff’s operation, but Ben drew him out, separating him from his submerging controls. Everyone except Zaroff fled and the survivors decided to make changes when their civilization started over. The Doctor and Ben reunited with Jamie and Polly. Aboard the TARDIS, the Doctor tried to pilot the ship to Mars, but lost control.

    This ambitious story was filmed at Riverside studios, employing good, atmospheric sets and a water tank for scenes of the fish people, which must be seen to be believed. Actor Joseph Furst’s over the top performance brought Professor Zaroff, the story’s best character, to life as he carried out his mad plan. He had a tremendous, Cold War back story which the tale completely ignored after the Doctor related it introducing his antagonist. Jamie was too new to the show to fare especially well, being worked into the script at the last minute and getting lines originally intended for Ben. They might have saved money and given him more to do by eliminating Jacko or Shawn while having the new pair serve the story in the same way. The entire production was rushed, having been scrapped and brought back when writer William Emms fell ill and could not deliver scripts for the serial intended to replace it, ‘The Imps”. Maybe the hurried nature of the story’s production explains why Jon Pertwee’s Doctor revisited the fate of Atlantis twice. Patrick Troughton’s performance was as zany as his other early work, employing disguises as he ran around to executing the clever, evolving plans he constantly concocted.

    The BBC Archives hold only the middle two episodes of this serial. The third, with its infamous conclusion, Zaroff exclaiming, “Nothing in the world can stop me now!” has been around for decades, but the second was recovered much more recently. Both were released on DVD with telesnaps comprising the missing episodes. Without narration to fill in the action around the dialogue at the climax, it’s hard to know what happened before Zaroff was left in his flooding lab. Anneke Wills, who played Polly, provided such narration of the BBC Audio CD and Nigel Robinson wrote the novelization of writer Geoffrey Orme’s only contribution to DOCTOR WHO.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>