Underworld (1977)

Underworld is a story that until it’s release on DVD, was the only Doctor Who story that I had never watched all the way through. That’s because it’s a story that is all over the place and that surprising considering the writers. This was Bob Baker and Dave Martin’s sixth story and their track record was very strong but unfortunately that perennial problem of money put a spanner into the works. This story is forever known as the one with the CSO. Apart from the spaceship set the story is entirely a CSO story which sees the actors trying to imagine where things are and this story pushes the boundries of what can be achieved with CSO.

The story starts off really well. We meet a group of people who seem to be on a long quest for something and have the ability to regenerate just like the Timelords. However after episode one the story starts to fall down as we find outselves in the middle of the planet. I was quite surprised to see that there was a civilisation in a world than until only a few moments ago didn’t exist.

Tom Baker and Louise Jameson do a reasonable job however neither of them are given anything memorable or major to do. Credit must go to all the actors (including the extras) who managed to work under very pressurised circumstances. When I was watching the DVD extras and they talk about having to film against CSO, you can appreciate just how much work and effort went into just making the damn thing ready for transmission. It’s not difficult now to film something entirely but for the very limited Doctor Who budget its something that hasn’t aged well and doesn’t look entirely convincing. Now with the benefit of hindsight, the thing I would have done would be to just use a minimal amount of CSO and use the remaining sets to tell the story. Ok it would have required some tweaking in the script but I think it would have been far better than Underwrodl.

Once you get past the CSO then its down to the story and sadly it is very dull indeed. Essentitally there is a lot of running around with some people in strange looking costumes and masks covering their face. To be honest I could try and talk about the plot but the problem is that its just not very interesting and I don’t like saying that about a Baker and Martin script but the truth is that even there was a budget for this then it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Underworld is a story that isnt very good but you have to watch it just to see how sheer determination and hard work manage to get something this ambitious to screen. Sadly the plot is very boring and doesnt really work.


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