Written by:
Bob Baker and Dave Martin
Directed by: Norman Stewart
Starring: Tom Baker
Year: 1978
Video Availability: Try sendit.com

I've been writing these episode-by-episode reviews for around two years before I uploaded them to the site, trying them out on various Who forums to gauge a reaction. Doing 'em in a largely random order, for some reason Underworld was the very first one I did. Bless!

Tom has some nice lines in this, but he seems too drunk to say 'em properly. Telling K-9 to "shut up" makes him more abrasive than usual, and his mucking around is quite irritating at times. When he tries he can be good, but most of the time he doesn't seem to care. With the heavy science, Gallifreyan references and silly costumes it's a bit more anorakky than the usual Baker story. The aliens who use Time Lord regeneration secrets reminded me of Mawydrn Undead though not THAT anal. The Minyans are a variably acted bunch (James Maxwell - pretty good, Imogen Bickford-Smith - wooden), and are one of those in-fighting, stupidly named races that populate many Who stories. They're rubbish, but no more rubbish than the other fifty times they've done it. Even at just 23 minutes this one seems padded and boring, and it actually feels more like a third episode. People were expected to tune in for three more weeks after this one?
* *

Some rubbish CSO and effects shots mark out the ship's crash (why doesn't Tom leg it back to the Tardis to avoid the impact?) but no worse than many other stories. What is bad is a shot minutes later of running citizens, their heads and limbs disappearing in a CSO blur. The acting's pretty rank, too, and it's degenerated into a highly generic Who story with no individual merit. More Star Trek than Who, it's again concerned chiefly with chases and special effects. Rather than being fun and charismatic, the character of the Doctor here is just an old fart who shouts a lot and talks about science. Tom seems like he's in another continent for this one, so distant and uninvolved is his "acting". Only his motto that "whatever blows, can be sucked" provides any amusement.
* *

Tom breaks the fourth wall at the start of this one, which stirs interest for a split second. But any race of people who are so stupid they don't realise they're underground deserve to be persecuted. There seems to be a bit more wit to this one (it's still rubbish though) and it's easily the best episode of the four. But have I missed something? Why do the blokes with the hoods persecute the Minyans? What's in it for them? They seem to be bad just because... they are, and that's it. Motivation is not a great factor in this story.
* * *

Tom seems slightly reinvigorated for this final episode, probably relived it's nearly over. I've been suffering from slight insomnia lately, and this cured it, no problem. Arguably the most boring and uninspired Tom Baker story, I can still name at least a dozen worse Doctor Who tales and it is almost mediocre at times.
* *

Almost completely lacking in charm and involvement, Underworld contains none of the "magic" of the series. If you showed this to someone who'd never seen an episode before, then there's nothing to show what makes it such a good series. There's not even a good quote. I still say the CSO ain't that bad, but as for the story... okay, I admit it, it's pretty crap, innit?
* *