Fury from the Deep [Classic Doctor Who]

Doctor Who has long been my favorite show, but in recent years rewatchings of old episodes have been few and far between.  But lately I decided to spend both some of my 50th birthday spending money and my Christmas spending money on some of these adventures, and enjoy them with one or two of my nerdier daughters.

(Daily Doctor Who #97)

Fury from the Deep

Starring Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor.
Companions:  Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon and Deborah Watling as Victoria Waterfield.
Written by Victor Pemberton.  Directed by Hugh David.
Animation re-creation creative director: Joshua Reh.

Format:  6 episodes, each about 25 minutes long
Originally Aired:  March-April 1968 (Episodes 29-34 of Season 5)

Back in the day, nobody knew that home media would be a big thing, and nobody knew that there would be such a market for old Doctor Who episodes. So when storage space became a bigger priority for the BBC than archiving every TV episode they ever made, a lot of Doctor Who stories were erased (as were episodes from a whole bunch of other shows). Concerted efforts have been made for years to recover these stories from other places, and there have been many successes. But one of several serials that still doesn’t exist in the archives at all is the Second Doctor adventure, Fury from the Deep. Fortunately, for some reasons, audio recordings of all of these episodes do exist, and so different eager parties have occasionally produced animated reconstructions of the missing stories. That has been done for Fury from the Deep, with the animated versions of all six episodes being released in 2020.

Spoilers Ahead!

Fury from the Deep is the first classic Doctor Who adventure that I’ve written about that I haven’t actually seen before my recent viewing, and the first one which I don’t actually own, having borrowed it from the library instead. It’s long been one of the “missing stories” that I have been the most curious about–something about the idea of a terrifying weed creature, combined with its cool title, has always gripped my interest.

In actually watching it, however, the whole thing feels like it’s not fully cooked. There are good elements–an interesting setting, a colorful cast of characters, and a legitimately horrific threat–but the story itself sort of clunks along awkwardly, with episode after episode of certain people insisting that there’s a problem and other people insisting that there isn’t. One becomes desperate for things to move along more lightly, to get to the point where the Doctor is able to actively combat the threat, but it’s well into the fourth episode before this even begins to happen.

It might have been more effective if more sense was made of Robson’s obstinacy. There are some hints about him being paranoid and an alcoholic, but it doesn’t really go far enough to justify something that is so critical to everything that happens–or doesn’t happen–in the story. Similarly, the Weed Creature’s actions are not always clear either. This may be a result of decisions made in the animation of the story (all criticisms of the story have to take into account that we’re not watching the original presentation), but the image of the various “infected” people showing up in the foam and covered with weeds at the end of the story, is just a little bit confusing.

On the other hand, as mentioned several times already, the Weed Creatures is one of the creepiest things the show has ever given us. Whether it’s just a little bit of seaweed that seems to hop around by itself and sting people, or the disturbing image of Oak and Quill exhaling poisonous gas, or people shrieking in terror as they are being dragged to their apparent doom in the foam–this is simply an extremely scary story.

It’s always fun to see the interplay between Patrick Troughton’s Doctor with Jamie and Victoria. Having Victoria’s screams become key to defeating the menace is a novel idea, and the script works hard to set up her eventual departure from the TARDIS. Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling do show a lot of affection for each other in their farewells, and though it is never said explicitly, it is see Victoria as Jamie’s great unrequited love–the “one who got away.”

Without studying the story more closely, it’s hard to judge how well the animation team have done bringing it to life. But they have created a cool sense of atmosphere with the visualization of the locale, and there is a fun Easter Egg in that there is a “Wanted” poster with Roger Delgado’s version of the Master adorning one of the walls. Still, there is a clear feeling of “incompleteness” about the presentation which is unavoidable with the lack of the full original performances and so on. But regardless, I really appreciate that this version of the story exists at all, simply because it means I can watch it and enjoy it at all.

2 thoughts on “Fury from the Deep [Classic Doctor Who]

  1. I am probably wrong as it is 50+ years ago now, but I think this is the first story where I remember the sonic screwdriver being used (to remove bolts from a pipe.)

  2. You are definitely right. It’s the first appearance of the device, one of only a couple in the Troughton era, and one of the few where it’s used as an actual screwdriver.

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