The Underwater Menace (1967)

The Underwater Menace is the first adventure to feature Jamie as a proper companion and its at a point where Patrick Troughton is starting to find his feet. I had always thought of the story as a six parter for some reason but its shorter than that at four episodes. The story sees the Doctor and crew arrive on Atlantis (yes that one) which has a mixture of scientific and primitive ways of life. The main villain is Professor Zaroff who is a mad bloke. The first episode is by far the weakest as it doesn’t really feel like it belongs to the other three episodes.

The story sees Zaroff wants to blow up the world for reasons that escape me and unless I keep blacking out whilst listening to this story. It’s never made clear to me. This is changed from the original plan where he wants to raise Atlantis from the bottom of the ocean which is a noble idea but then over the course of the four episodes he starts to go mad and this leads me to one of the best things about Zaroff.
The cliffhanger for Episode 3 is one of the funniest things that I have seen in Doctor Who. Zaroff runs into the main room after three people have been killed shouts in a OTT manner “Nothing in the world can stop me now!”. Yet when we come back to him in Episode 4, clearly someone has told him to tone it down and it becomes a slightly more subdued performance. Overall, Joseph Furst does a relatively good job in being the antagonist of the piece but its just that bit that ruins it for me. Patrick Troughton is finally starting to become the Doctor that we know he will become. The story sees him continuing to perfect his balance between serious and comedy.

Frazer Hines does surprisingly well considering he’s just been taken out of 18th Century Scotland. Also when you consider that it felt like his decision to join the TARDIS crew was bolted onto The Highlanders at the very last minute, it’s like this story was six months after that story not one week. Anneke Wills and Michael Craze seem to be slipping down the chain of importance as Jamie has that fresh vibe the Ben and Polly had when they joined the show in July 1966.

The Underwater Menace is better than The Highlanders and whilst its not perfect its still a good story and it feels like the show is starting to settle down after the biggest change in the shows history at that point.


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