The TARDIS lands on the surface of the sea, just off the east coast of England and are quickly transported to a Sea Gas refinery, where there have been a lot of unexplained problems with pressure in the feed pipes and strange noises reverberate through the pipework…
Fury from the Deep continues the strong run of stories making up Season 5. Whilst it is another base under siege story, it is beautifully tense and atmospheric and now available to watch in animated form either in black and white. It is also possibly one of the best examples of a companion exit in Doctor Who’s history, feeling much better thought out than some in the show’s history.
Victor Pemberton’s script oozes with tension and atmosphere, which means that the story retains the audience’s attention for its runtime. Despite sharing some tropes with some other Doctor Who stories of this era, I felt that it didn’t fall into the same pitfalls that it could have done. A prime example of this was the character of Robson, who could easily have just been another raging commander, determined not to listen to the Doctor. Here though he represents a battle between practical experience and theoretical learning, valuing his four years of experience higher that Van Lutyens and Harris’ joint experience. His viewpoint is valid, even if he is out of his depth in this situation and has a lack of people skills – at one point he threatens to tear up Harris into pieces and send him back to his university. Additionally, in having a main antagonist in the seaweed creature that cannot speak make it a juggernaut that the Doctor cannot reason with so has to take a more violent course of action in order to stop it. The story also benefits from being animated, which obviously helps make this story look more polished than it appeared in 1968 – the seaweed tentacles probably looked slightly cheaper and a bit rubbish, especially when they are draped around the possessed humans. The foam also cannot be easy to animate too, and I think the animation team have done a great job. Regardless, one of the creepiest moments, Quill’s screaming face as he dispenses toxic gas is creepy regardless of animation or live action footage.
Normally in these reviews I will talk about the Doctor and his companions together, but as this is Victoria’s final story as a regular, I’ll talk about her separately. This story is possibly not the strongest for her character, but she does get a chance to go and investigate on her own right at the beginning of the story, albeit immediately getting trapped in a room with the foam and the weed creature. Victoria is certainly a companion potentially renowned for her screaming and here it is the solution that ends up saving the day, but that does mean that the story calls for her to scream a lot, especially when the Doctor is flying the helicopter at the beginning of Episode 6. Maybe it’s unfair for me to single her out in that scene where all three leads are screaming. That being said, she does carry a lot of emotional weight in this story and Deborah Watling is particularly good in the quieter and more emotional moments. When she speaks to the Doctor about her fears and how she just wants to travel somewhere quiet and without menace, it is a perfectly rational response from somebody whose first two adventures with the Doctor featured the Daleks and the Cybermen. Watling’s great in these quieter moments, and her decision to leave feels really well thought out – she’s not enjoying travelling with the Doctor, so she makes the choice to stop – and the actress really makes you feel this. It is possibly one of the best handled companion departures of the original run, which contains some terrible ones too – here’s looking at you, Leela in The Invasion of Time and Ben and Polly in The Faceless Ones!
I was fond of her too, you know, Jamie.The Second Doctor
It is interesting to see the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria sidelined for the first two episodes of this story, as events start to spiral out of control. It is only when Harris leaves them unsupervised to seek medical care for his wife Maggie that the trio are allowed to explore on their own and to an extent, for the first two episodes the Doctor certainly seems to have little to no impact on the plot. Of course, as the story goes on, the Doctor grows in significance and importance and, despite not seeing Troughton’s actual performance through the animation, you can feel him controlling scenes. The Doctor doesn’t really display that he is sad when Victoria tells him that she wants to leave, but gives her an extra day to ensure that she is sure that she is making the right decision, whilst Jamie attempts to convince her to stay. It’s an interesting parallel to Ben and Polly’s departure, which seems to pass without incident for Jamie, whilst he is adamant that Victoria should stay. Otherwise, Jamie doesn’t have a lot to do but it is nice to see his complete trust in the Doctor and his willingness to follow him, when they go under the impeller. Hines is solid as usual, even if the script doesn’t give him a lot to do. I noticed with this story that the TARDIS team were kept together a lot more than in previous stories, and when they are split up they are usually reunited quite quickly. It was nice to see them having fun together at the beginning of the story, before all the screaming and fear happens.
Verdict: Fury from the Deep is a high point of the Troughton era, feeling very atmospheric and creepy. Victoria also has a great departure from the show. 9/10
Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield), Victor Maddern (Robson), Roy Spencer (Harris), Graham Leaman (Price), Peter Ducrow (Guard (voice only)), June Murphy (Maggie Harris), John Garvin (Carney), Hubert Rees (Chief Engineer), John Abineri (Van Luytens), Richard Mayes (Chief Baxter), Bill Burridge (Quill), John Gill (Oak), Margaret John (Megan Jones) & Brian Cullingford (Perkins).
Writer: Victor Pemberton
Director: Hugh David (Animation produced and directed by Gary Russell and Luke Marcatili)
Behind the Scenes
- No episodes of this story exist in the BBC Archives and it is, therefore, the last completely missing Doctor Who serial. Only short clips, telesnaps and full audio are currently known to exist and the story was released as animation in 2020.
- Michael Troughton, Patrick Troughton’s son, named this as one of his father’s favourite stories in his biography. Equally, Deborah Watling named this as her favourite story and the one that she was most keen to be found again shortly before her death in 2017.
- The first story to feature the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, which was originally intended to simply be the Doctor’s variation of a normal screwdriver, however, production assistant Michael Briant suggested that it should work by using sonic waves and Troughton picked up a penlight from Visual Effects. However, in the filmed version, the screwdriver is in fact the safety whistle taken from Deborah Watling’s life preserver outfit as Troughton accidentally dropped the prop into the pipe on the day of filming. In the animated version, it is changed to match the one seen in The War Games.
- Since the start of using overarching story titles in The Savages, this is the first story not to begin with “the” in the title, something that would not happen again until Spearhead from Space. It is, therefore, the only Troughton story not to begin with the word “the”.
- The story had the working title of The Colony of Devils, however, this title was changed due to concerns at the BBC about use of the word “devils” in a programme aimed at a family audience.
- The first draft was called The Slide, a story submitted by Pemberton at approximately the same time as a radio script of the same name was submitted around the start of Season 2, which featured sentient mud rather than seaweed. The radio drama would feature David Spenser, Miriam Margolyes, Maurice Denham, Michael Kilgarriff and, perhaps most notably, Roger Delgado in what essentially became the Doctor’s role in Fury from the Deep.
- Deborah Watling’s final appearance in televised Doctor Who. She was asked to return for The Five Doctors, but turned it down to appear in The Dave Allen Show, which ultimately fell through. Watling would reprise the role of Victoria in Big Finish companion chronicles The Great Space Elevator, The Emperor of Eternity and The Story of Extinction, as well as The Black Hole and Power Play. Deborah Watling passed away in 2017.
- Writer Victor Pemberton had previously appeared in Doctor Who in The Moonbase, making him the first person to both act and write in the series, with Derrick Sherwin, Glyn Jones, Mark Gatiss and Toby Whithouse following in his footsteps. Pemberton is, to date, the only person who appeared as an actor in televised Doctor Who before writing a story.
- Roy Spencer previously appeared as Manyak in the First Doctor serial The Ark.
- This is Graham Leaman’s second appearance in the Troughton era, and his fifth appearance overall. He had previously appeared in The Macra Terror, and would go on to appear in The Seeds of Death, Colony in Space and The Three Doctors.
- June Murphy would go on to appear in The Sea Devils. She met and would go on to marry Brian Cullingford, who played Perkins in this story.
- This is the first of three appearances for Hubert Rees in Doctor Who; he would go on to play Captain Ransom in The War Games and John Stevenson in The Seeds of Doom.
- The first of four appearances for John Abineri, who would also to appear in The Ambassadors of Death, Death to the Daleks and The Power of Kroll.
- Bill Burridge also had uncredited roles in The Romans, The Savages, The Underwater Menace, The Dæmons and Frontier in Space.
- Margaret John held the record for the longest gap between appearances in Doctor Who at 38 years, appearing in The Idiot’s Lantern as Grandma Connelly.
For all the great moments evoking fear and tension, it has to be the conversation between the Doctor and Victoria in their quarters.
Why is it we always end up in trouble?
Oh, Victoria. It’s the spice of life, my dear.Victoria Waterfield and the Second Doctor
Previous Second Doctor story: The Web of Fear