Fury From The Deep

Written by:
Victor Pemberton
Directed by: Hugh David
Starring: Patrick Troughton
Year: 1968
Video Availability (Oak and Quill Clip Only): Try Amazon

With slightly less than a third of the season five episodes still in existence, it's pretty much guesswork which is the best story of the period. Yeah, The Tomb of the Cybermen exists, and the majority of The Ice Warriors does, but while fine stories neither of them quite qualify. If I had to pick one then I'd say Fury From The Deep possibly gets the honour. The most decimated story, while none of its instalments are currently known to be in existence, what does remain is absolutely first rate.

A major tease in this opening instalment is the Tardis landing from the skies and landing on water. There's also a superb example of postmodernism where they discuss the fact that the Tardis always seems to land in England. Sadly, we do follow this up with some questionable foam slapstick and Dudley Simpson's nightmare fairground music. Then there's the famous introduction of the laziest plot device until Paul McGann used the Tardis to bring the dead back to life: the Sonic Screwdriver.

As I'm watching this on one of the earliest reconstructions (from Joint Venture Productions) then it's harder to tell what's going on with the lower grade photographic reproduction and no subtitles. With audio only it can't help but feel ever so mildly padded, but I'd love to see the episodes for real. Finally, as Fury only has a bit of foam, then it does make it strange that five is still somewhat derisively known as "The Monster Season". The fact is, almost half of the seasons that followed could completely be described as a "Monster Season", with no breaks for Mexican dictators or esoteric stories that just happen to involve the first Yetis or seaweed.
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What's contained in this episode is simply one of my favourite bits of Who ever and the scariest scene of all time: Oak and Quill. It actually acts as a masterclass in incidentals, because turn the sound down and it just ain't scary. But turn it up and the increased heartbeat effect causes you to unconsciously mimic it. Blended with jarring, distorted electronic music this is disturbing in itself. Yet in combining the unnatural - Bill Burridge's startling expression, poisonous gas from the human body, some of the scene being shot through a mirror - with the shockingly familiar - Mrs. Harris's femininity, combing her hair, juxtaposed with the imposing masculine presence of Oak and Quill, making the viewer aware of the threat of rape - pushes this into a psychological territory where Doctor Who rarely, if ever, went again. This regular usage of blending the familiar with the unnatural often stood the Troughton era in good stead, and is what produces so many chills even when the monsters in themselves no longer scare. You can - and should - download this particular clip from The Official BBC Doctor Who Website. 54 seconds of absolute brilliance, and for all Dudley Simpson's many sins in 70s Who - and believe me, there are many - I can forgive them all for his score here.

The rest of it? Well, with no pictures Maggie Harris sounds like she's having an orgasm for most of the opening of the episode and Deborah Watling charts even further reaches of absolute awfulness as the thoroughly wet Victoria. Meanwhile, The Mighty Trout takes a relatively background seat to events, though even for that scene alone I have to award it full marks…
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Difficult to judge, this one. The killer seaweed would really have to be seen to gouge just how well it works, it's the sort of thing that's totally impossible to garner from audio. If it looks reasonable, then it works. If it looks poor, then it doesn't. It's a shallow judgement, but in placing so much of the episode's success on a prop then it relies upon it.

The rest of the instalment is pretty much the same as before, with some of the dialogue even seemingly repeated. Victor Maddern's controller cracks up even further, though plays it more as macho rage rather than nervous anxiety. There's also a small speech from Victoria in this short episode - just 20'29 minutes - that is contrived towards her leaving in three weeks' time. To be honest, though, because so much of this one relies upon visual elements I'll have to be fair and give it just average marks as I have no real idea what the real thing would score…
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"Mr. Robson is being controlled by some force that emanates from this weed." I was going to make a "well, it was the 60s after all" remark to join with that, but then I realised how stupid and reactionary that would be. End of the pier stuff. Anyway, nearly the first five minutes of this is dedicated to more Victoria moaning about their troubles, including talking about all the monsters they meet, such as Daleks, Cybermen… "And Yeti" adds the Doctor, helpfully. I don't mind this sort of thing in essence, it's just that it would have been preferable if a bit of script-editing had been done to earlier stories to show a gradual change in Victoria's attitude. Okay, she's had a bad time of it since losing her father to the Daleks, but one minute she's a fellow traveller with the Doctor, suddenly she can't wait to walk away. It ends the same way too, with her moaning again. Look, you know where the door is - just sod off. As for a mark, again it's too hard to call, as too much is visual. I'll throw the towel in again and give it average:
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People are remarkably credible of the Doctor's theories at the start of this one, particularly as those theories involve telepathic seaweed that grew at the bottom of the ocean. In terms of subplots and subtext this one doesn't really stray too far from its A to B path, though Oak and Quill show how to really do a double act in Who. Dudley's music, particularly in this episode, seems to suggest a psychotic Laurel and Hardy.

"Victoria, you're not going to start again, are you?" Even Jamie's sick of her moaning. Mind you, he must be getting bored as he's had bugger all to do all story, apart from talking about getting "the willies". Actually, this quieter, more loyal side to Jamie recalls his brief peak, sometime between the point when his "Scottish" accent changed from just ropy instead of extremely ropy, and before he and Pat became a slapstick duo.

Actually, I might change my tack on this one and dare to suggest that Fury From The Deep might well be rubbish. Oak and Quill do their thing again this episode, though it's (apparently) less effective, and open to decreasing returns. I guess that's what the story comes down to, really - unlike, say, Inferno, there's no real environmental motivation, and it seems to run out of ideas beyond offering back its initial scenarios for repeated use.
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Like most six parters, Fury From The Deep is probably overlong, and one of those middle episodes could easily have been hacked out with no damaging effect. Anyway, we're at the end now, and to be honest I don't think Victor Maddern has the acting chops to be the big confrontational baddie. What really makes it all fall flat is that for such a lauded story, it has the most pathetic, childish resolution to possibly any Who tale ever: Victoria kills the weed creature by screaming at it. In a land of total "we've completely run out of plot" the Doctor spends over three minutes flying around in a helicopter (badly) while Watling lets off that piercing shriek of hers again. That questionable comedy could be substituted in favour of a dramatic concluding instalment shows how potentially dodgy this whole enterprise is. Victoria gets arguably the best leaving scene since Susan, but as it's a silly girlish character you never really care about it seems to matter little. Having said that, Jamie's boyishly hurt feelings are touching, even if nothing else in the episode is.
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Probably the hardest thing I've had to review, while I've rated other stories with no complete episodes - Marco Polo, Galaxy 4, Mission To The Unknown, The Myth Makers, The Massacre, The Savages, The Smugglers, The Power of the Daleks, The Highlanders and The Macra Terror - none of them were as hard to tie down. I'm not sure why this is. Maybe it's because Fury From The Deep could well look ridiculous if it was ever found, and smash its hyped reputation to the ground. On the other hand, it could also flag up just how cautious I've been in this review. What does exist, as I've said, is magnificent, but would the rest of it match up? Fury From The Deep gets four stars from me, though I could just as easily give it full marks, or even less… this really is just the best estimate I can give, no more.
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