The Abominable Snowmen
Anyway, enough blather. This is a beautiful little story, cleverly using only chanting monks for incidental themes, and opting for a more metaphysical element to the antagonist. In many ways this places it in the more ethereal style of Kinda, though it never got its own Snakedance to follow it. Instead, it was reworked into a less thoughtful action-adventure with Web. While this is the better story, Web gets more plaudits because the Yeti were infinitely cooler. Here they're silly cuddly teddy bears with child-bearing hips, not scary in the least. It's a sad condemnation because this has so many more levels to appreciate than just the lack of visceral thrills.
Much as I love The Mighty Trout and his crew, the lyrics they're spitting at the start of this track are a little of the self-conscious, forced humour variety. We get such end-of-the-pier laughs as the Doctor and his fur coat, plus some banter with the Doctor being afraid of Jamie using bagpipes. Victoria is a popular companion, but, apart from the fact that she's a half-witted screamer, she does seem to bring out the most complacent aspects of the Tardis crew. Probably got the nicest boobs this side of Peri, though.
Finally, on a note of trivia, the reconstruction I've used to watch this story isn't from Loose Cannon as usual, but from Change of Identity Productions.
Okay, I'll probably be sick if I hear Jamie say "beastie" just one more time, and the scenes with the Yeti are ill-at-ease with the nature of the rest of the story, but David Spenser (Thonmi), Charles Morgan (Songsten) and Wolfe Morris (Padmasambhava) all play their roles with such conviction that it more than sells the final product. If you're watching this story for rampaging monster action then it's certain to disappoint… but watch it for a well-written script that genuinely fills its duration and you'll be amply rewarded.
There seems to be no level of consistency with the accent of the monks as a whole. While I've praised three of them, and Norman Jones (Khrisong) is equally as good, Raymond Llewellyn (Sapan) seems to think that because they're in Tibet (well, Wales…) he's got to put on a "Chinese" accent, while some of the others do indeed speak with that native va-leeeee bent. Still, in all, a strong and unusual story.
There's much more to enjoy, too, such as the musings on the nature of destiny and astral existence. Padmasambhava's board of Yeti models possibly informed a similar notion in The Five Doctors, stylish wooden carvings being a far superior option to the tacky plastic models in the 80s story. (Talking of The Five Doctors, that story does of course feature Troughton against a Yeti cameo). Victoria lip-synching to Padmasambhava's words may have looked silly on screen, and the "Jamie gets inadvertently hypnotised" gag is appalling, but I'd just love the chance to find out, and see the story again.
The effects on Morris's voice are exceptional, and the way he switches back and forth from Padmasambhava the monk and his possessed alter ego is tremendous. This is a story so rich with its own characters and situations that they're able to hold the narrative without the Doctor - look at how little he appears in the first five minutes. However, when the Doctor does appear he begins to take control of events. Though discussion of the characterisation of the second Doctor is relevant here, and not just in the way Troughton usurps his RP leanings by saying "me" instead of "my". There's much hesitation in the Doctor with this story, and his language is more Earthy and regular. It's a notable downward shift in his intelligence level with this Haisman/Lincoln story, where the Doctor is an opportunist meddler rather than a masterplanner. The reason for this is probably to set up the Doctor's intellect as not being a match for that of the Intelligence ("Too small?"), yet as their second story and Yeti sequel would have him manipulating events far more actively, then we can assume that Derrick Sherwin had a far greater input into script-editing than Peter Bryant.
The conclusion, with it's Quantum Leap-like "Oh, we've just seen a real Yeti after all that!" schtick and self-serving "you never know, do you?" is beneath the series, a lazy coda to a largely first-rate story.
Virtually a classic, this is an offbeat story for the series, particularly for the era in which it was made. The Abominable Snowmen discards melodrama and spectacle in favour of a leisurely-paced, music-free story of a disembodied astral presence; pace and atmosphere a refreshing alternative to a catch-all for the lowest common denominator.
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