Sunday, April 8, 2012

Doctor Who: 032 The Underwater Menace

The TARDIS materializes on a deserted beach near a dormant volcano, but all is not as it seems... for this is the gateway to the fabled lost continent of Atlantis, the setting for The Underwater Menace. Only one episode of this four part serial was thought to exist until late last year when a second episode was found along with an episode of the Hartnell serial Galaxy 4. Unfortunately, the newly found episodes have only been screened to a limited number of people and the rest of us have to wait to see them until they are released on DVD, probably some time next year. That is... unless you're lucky enough to be able to attend a screening of them next month in Cardiff. The rest of us can watch a clip from episode 2 on YouTube, though.

Episode 2 of this serial marks the earliest surviving footage of Jamie and the earliest complete Troughton episode (although again, episode 3 is the first I'm able to see for now). Until episode 2 is made available to the masses, we have to turn to the Loose Cannon reconstruction for episodes 1, 2, and 4 and to the Lost in Time DVD set for episode 3. I also had the Joint Venture reconstruction of this serial for comparison. As I mentioned in a previous post, it's sometimes helpful to see multiple reconstructions as they have slightly different takes on certain things.

This serial has a little bit of everything: Atlantis, a mad scientist, and fish people. :) Speaking of fish people, I've heard that Troughton and several of the production team were not very happy with the fish people, both their costumes and their method of "swimming" (in the air using wires and slow motion). Apparently this story was cancelled due to fears over the cost of implementing it, then when its replacement fell through, it was reinstated and the episodes were filmed just a week before being aired. Even though the effects might not have been superb, given what was available at the time on the budget they had and under those time constraints, I thought it worked fairly well.

The Loose Cannon reconstruction is fantastic as usual. I love the way that Loose Cannon goes the extra mile in their later reconstructions (one of the reasons they revisited some of the early ones). They attempt to add some variety to what would otherwise be just a slideshow, by using animation and clips from other sources (other parts of the same story, other stories, and sometimes even other shows or movies) where appropriate. In this serial, they used the original telesnaps, but added a layer of animation to give a little movement: examples include animating the lights in the lift, the needles on the power dial, the water dropping in the fish tank, water flooding from the idol's mouth and eyes, etc. All of these add an extra dimension to keep the viewer involved in the story and serve to give a better flavor of what the original story may have been like.

In my earlier posts, I noted how Hartnell had grown on me while watching his serials for this project. Troughton hadn't been having the same effect on me, but I wasn't sure why until I saw episode 3... I think the problem is that Troughton is a comedic actor and much of his comedy is in the expressiveness of his face, where a lot of Hartnell's expressiveness was in his voice. Either that or perhaps I had seen more of Hartnell before starting this project, so it was easier to imagine him from just his voice and limited telesnaps. Either way, Troughton seems to suffer more from having just an audio track and telesnaps than Hartnell.

At the end of this serial, Jamie comments on the TARDIS not being under the Doctor's control... The Doctor, intent to prove him wrong, decides to go to Mars. The TARDIS goes out of control (big surprise) and winds up on the Earth's Moon in 2070 where we have the Doctor's second run-in with the Cybermen this season (and ever) in The Moonbase, our topic for next time.

With 2 episodes of this serial missing, the total for season 4 goes up to 17 and the total for Troughton goes up to 12. Hopefully more of his episodes will be found and we can complete several more of his serials. There are a number of 4 and 6 part serials that are missing 2 episodes, so it wouldn't take much to complete those if the right combination of episodes were found. :)

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