Monday, 27 May 2013

The Underwater Menace (episode 2)

Originally Broadcast 21st January 1967

Written by: Geoffrey Orme

In a nutshell: The Doctor discovers Professor Zaroff’s plans as Ben and Jamie try to escape work in the mines.

Review: For the first time in forever I’m actually watching a brand new Patrick Troughton adventure and it’s fantastic! I think the fact we have a new episode has, quite rightfully, become more important than how poorly thought of this serial is. I’m glad this episode has been discovered as it shows off how brilliantly silly the whole thing is. Pat Troughton pulls his face in all directions to make his Doctor comical, without taking it too far, he plays it just right.

The early scenes between Troughton and Joseph Furst’s Zaroff is one of the best two-hander scenes in Doctor Who, the dialogue just rolls out quickly, efficiently and dramatically, it really boosts the danger level for Zaroff’s master plan to destroy the Earth.

There are a few silly things, such as when the guards search (tickle) Sean and Jacko and, of course, Professor Zaroff’s pet octopus, which he points to when saying “I’m talking to my friend here”, where he was meant to indicate the Doctor. Some of the plot points are still feeling a bit far fetched as well and too comedic such as Ben and Jamie’s escape and the Doctor disguised as a guard actually working, but for the most part these are all forgivable in the face of things.

I'm still trying to work out why there's a wardrobe in a corridor on Atlantis...
Orme, (or, quite possibly, Gerry Davis or Pat Troughton) come up with some brilliant lines of dialogue in this episode, ranging from the deadly serious “You distrust Zaroff out of instinct, I distrust him because I know the truth” to the laughable and typical Troughton respone “That’s a good question…I wish I could think of a good answer”. In fact, the two things that make this episode so enjoyable is the easy to understand and exciting dialogue and Pat’s early performance as the second Doctor, making everything about acting look so effortless.

As much as I’d love Power Of The Daleks 1 to be rediscovered, The Underwater Menace 2 is surprisingly brilliant, showing just how important the visuals are to a story. It’s just a shame when you imagine how many of Troughton’s visual abilities have been lost within the other missing episodes. This story is certainly shaping up to be a brilliant and fun serial, with a huge lump of silliness dumped on top.

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