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Fury from the Deep. Scream and Scream Again.

June 6, 2016

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Hardly anything of this one left.  Only a tiny scrap that’s survived because of antipodean censorship.  They cut out the Oak and Quill attack and then sent the remaining reels back to Blighty to be wiped.  To enjoy this story (and enjoy it after a fashion you can) you need to rely on the reconstruction – still photos and soundtrack.

The Oak and Quill attack is the scariest thing to happen in 1960s Doctor Who.  It may have been the scariest bit of television from the 1960s.  Just looking at those faces, rendered so intent and inhuman and implacable represents a kind of pinnacle of well crafted terror.  This is what good lighting, sincere acting, make up and odd noises can do in the right hands.

As for the story?  Well, there are strange thingies living in the North Sea, but the shouty boss in charge of gas extraction won’t listen to the Doctor until it’s almost too late.  These strange thingies can colonise human bodies and sabotage our attempts to defend ourselves.  Until it’s almost too late.  The one weapon that finally works is a sonic weapon – specifically screaming – specifically Victoria screaming.

But the acting is great and the script is passable and the staging is tight and claustrophobic and effective.  Dudley Simpson (before he got into his 1970s groove) wrote a number of scores that were quite spiky and electronic and effective.  This is one of them.

The Doctor gets to fly a helicopter in this one.  One generally associates a Mr Toad like compulsion to seize things that are fast and shiny and run off with them with the Third rather than the Second Doctor.  This little Doctor has clearly never had a flying lesson in his life, and his blithely optimistic belief that he’ll “get the hang of it” is certainly not shared by Jamie, who is in a sour mood for much of this adventure.

And we say goodbye to Victoria.  I sometimes weary of Victoria as a bit of a screamer.  So it was appropriate that her very screaming proves crucial to the survival of the human race. The goodbye is somewhat protracted and serious, akin to the long and sad goodbye that the Third Doctor said (and left unsaid) to Jo Grant.  The difference is that the Doctor himself was the generous but bereaved party when Jo Grant left, whereas the one who really feels for Victoria is poor Jamie, who is losing someone his own age.  It’s not that the Doctor is indifferent to Victoria’s departure – it’s just that he knows in his hearts of hearts that she’s better off staying where she is.

When Victoria explains her decision to leave the Tardis crew, her reasons are terrifying in their obviousness.  She is just fed up with being scared out of her wits on a regular basis. In what we’re pleased to call “real life” or if so-called “real life” standards applied to Doctor Who companions, then all companions would be Victorias – or rather, they’d be Victorias far sooner.  Human beings can only withstand so many near death experiences in close succession.  The repeated perils experienced by long running companions such as Sarah Jane or Tegan or Clara do not correlate with what we know that real people are likely to withstand.  There’s such a thing as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Nothing in Victoria’s time and space traveling career became her like the leaving of it.  For making everything just a bit more real – we should thank her.

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One Comment
  1. Reblogged this on conradbrunstrom and commented:

    RIP Debbie Watling. No companion ever left The Doctor more movingly.

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