I reposted my Hartnell stuff from Timelash II pretty much as it originally appeared. I’ve rejigged the following Troughton stuff a fair bit, however, so you’d better read it all over again very carefully, in case you miss a syllable of my searing insight and sage wisdom.
‘The Underwater Menace’
I could easily tear this story to pieces, yes? And feed the pieces to my pet octopus, yes??? But this story has sense of humour! I too have sense of humour!!!! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!
Look, if you think this story is any more silly than any other Doctor Who story… well, it isn’t.
Look at the amount of thought that went into the costumes and sets. Polly spends a lot of the story with a detail from a doric column on her head! Look at the detail in which Atlantean society is depicted. There’s a throne room, a temple, a lab, a hospital, a market… there are priests and acolytes, beggers and traders, slaves and workers, guards and orderlies… there are intimations of popular dislike for the forces of the state… Look at the variations in the personalities. Look at the way people change – from the king to the sadistic doctor to the disillusioned priest… And our heroes team up with two marooned sailors and a brave servant girl to form a little multi-ethnic band of rebels who instill industrial action… a strike that wins! And helps to bring down the government!
Yeah, I know… it’s daft. But it’s no dafter, fundamentally, than ‘The Caves of Androzani’. Yes, ‘Caves’ is infinitely better in many ways… but that’s not the point.
This has been called the Doctor Who version of Plan 9 From Outer Space… which is wrong, wrong, wrongarama. We laugh at Ed Wood movies because they’re badly made. This isn’t badly made. Actually – if you look at the verve and pace of Episode Three, the detailing of the designs and costumes, the wit of the dialogue, and the technical achievements – it’s rather superbly made!
The great underwater strike ballot ballet is amazing for the time, given that they probably made it in the cupboard at Lime Grove in 14 minutes on a budget of 2 shillings and fourpence. Yeah, you can see the strings a couple of times… but so what? Would you’ve thought it was all real but for those glimpses of wire? Is it really – I’m saying REALLY – any more fake looking than the CGI in most Hollywood blockbusters? Does that really – I’m saying REALLY – look REAL? Nope, of course not. And in addition to looking unreal it looks plastic, computery, synthetic… whereas the fish people’s underwater stuff looks physical, looks touchable, looks human. It’s like Ray Harryhausen animation. It’s obviously fake, but it has a beauty and a reality that goes beyond mere realism. It looks like its happening underwater! There are even bubbles! Yeah, they’re some form of obvious effect – but they look fantastic anyway!…