Doctor Who: Revisiting THE UNDERWATER MENACE - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Doctor Who: Revisiting THE UNDERWATER MENACE

Chris Morley dives in.

As Praxeus has so recently shown us, maybe we shouldn't ignore stirrings in the waters? But where Chris Chibnall once again preached an eco-message all over Pete McTighe's work as co-writer, let us now take a thoughtful tootle back to a pre-Chibnallian time when such concerns weren't shoved in people's faces (we're looking at you too, Orphan 55). Prepare to dive not to the bottom of the Indian Ocean, but the mythical Atlantis!

Where Praxeus had people infected by an alien pathogen, Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor was up against the ludicrously insane Professor Zaroff, attempting to graft gills & the like onto people in a possible forerunner of modern day cosmetic surgery. Luckily someone in ze vurld can shtop him! Zis ludicrous attempt at an accent ist not even ze strangest bit of ze shtory, but ve digresh. Onvards to ze real meat und bones!

For where the likes of the UNIT-introducing The Web Of Fear & The Invasion often take the credit as dry runs for what would come post Pat in the early Earth-centric Third Doctor stories, we can trace a direct line of sorts from The Underwater Menace to a post-regenerative return trip in The Time Monster. For even this early in the travels of the mop-topped little fellow (a whole three stories in fact as he's just picked up Jamie McCrimmon following a pit stop at Culloden after renewing acquaintance with the Daleks), in hindsight there's more than a whiff of what awaits the next man to take over the TARDIS after he tumbles from it! After the late great Terrance Dicks came aboard in time for Pat's swansong, budget cuts meant things would have to change. Given confinement to present day Earth was the sentence passed down by the BBC Money Lords to the programme itself off-screen in a convergence with the Doctor's fate on it, this meant often zeroing in on one of two story types - alien invasion or mad scientist!

Zaroff of course ticks both ze mad und scientist boxes! Making Jamie's first trip in the box the Doctor has called home for a number of years all the more momentous...
DOCTOR: First, let me say how glad I am to see that the reports of your death twenty years previously are a little premature.
ZAROFF: The whole world believed I had been kidnapped.
DOCTOR: The East blamed the West. The West, the East.
ZAROFF: Oh, I wish I could have been there.
DOCTOR: Now here you are, the greatest scientific genius since Leonardo, under the sea. You must have a fantastic story to tell?
Replace “fantastic” with “completely insane” at your leisure. Just how nuts the Professor is will quickly become apparent! To get himself onside with the Atlanteans he's made them the promise that he can lift their undersea residence out of the watery depths, which is quickly & quite rightly dismissed as completely unfeasible. And that grafting of gills we mentioned - Polly's next in line for the procedure...

"One tiny jab, and you'll know nothing more about it until it's all over."
This is about as far from Botox as its possible to get, though. The science of the whole thing is rather mind-boggling too!
DOCTOR: Professor, you have offered these people a very big sugar-coated pill to make them accept you, yes?
ZAROFF: I turned their dreams and prophecies to my own means.... To lift Atlantis from the ocean. Make it dry land again.
DOCTOR: Exactly. But now, how are you going to do it? Even for a genius like you .... [it's] a very large mass to lift.
ZAROFF: If I can't lift it then I must lower the water level. You see the valve there?
DOCTOR: Yes, but you haven't got a drain big enough to take an ocean.
ZAROFF: Then I will make one.
DOCTOR: You'll forgive me. I'm a little lost. The crust of the Earth is more than a hundred miles thick. Below that is believed to be a white-hot molten core. Now where is your ocean going to go?
ZAROFF: That is my secret.
DOCTOR: Oh, now you're making fun of me, Professor.
ZAROFF: No, no.
DOCTOR: Even supposing you could drill to the depth of a hundred miles.
ZAROFF: There is a place where a fissure reduces the distance to less than fifteen miles.
DOCTOR: It's still an enormous obstacle.
ZAROFF: But not insurmountable. We have been working on it for many years.
The man's clearly mad! Indeed, it's rather like another malevolent genius who arrives making big promises - the Master! He turns the head of Queen Galleia in The Time Monster & promptly threatens to spell impending doom for anyone not possessed of a beard & a certain amount of ruthless charm! It's not just the Queen who's taken in either. Religion & science collide just as they had in the early exchanges of The Underwater Menace, as the Master dangles quite the carrot before Krasis the priest in an effort to both shut him up & harness the power of Kronos the Chronovore for his own ends.

Compare & contrast with Zaroff interrupting the followers of the goddess Amdo, after the Doctor's previously foreseen moment of arrival.
“She told us you would fall from the sky in time for our festival of the vernal equinox."

A little later the Doctor will make the point that...
“Surely science is in opposition to ancient temple ritual and idol worship?”
Happily the nutty Professor is thwarted after the Doctor appeals to Ramo's better judgement - the priest taking him before Thous, ruler of this vast underwater kingdom, and the Atlantians decide enough is enough...
“No more temples. It was temples and priests and superstition that made us follow Zaroff in the first place. When the water's found it's own level, the temple will be buried forever. We shall never return to it. But we will have enough left to build a new Atlantis, without gods and without fish people. “
Troughton's successor, will in a sense revisit similar ground as trodden by the little man he'll later be forced to pair up with to thwart Omega.
DOCTOR: Give me that map, Captain Yates.
JO: Yes, here we are. Believed by many modern historians to be all that remains of Plato's metropolis of Atlantis.
DOCTOR: Of course. Of course.
YATES: Atlantis? I thought that was supposed to be in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean?
JO: You're a bit out of date. Apparently it was part of the Minoan civilisation. Oh, you know, the Minotaur and all the Cretan jazz.
YATES: It's only a legend though, isn't it?
A legend that the man who might've teased some hazy Cretan jazz out of his beloved wind instrument of choice got to see at close quarters.

It's off to The Moonbase for the next space/time adventure for the travelling foursome. No fish people to be found there, but some other silvery bodies await!

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