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Fury from the Deep

By Chris Andersen

Fury from the Deep is one of a small number of stories for which no episodes are held by the BBC archives. Off-air audio recordings of all six episodes do however exist, as does a set of off-screen photographs, termed 'telesnaps', which were taken by professional photographer John Cura in the sixties. This review assesses the story using these two mediums.

Fury from the Deep was Victor Pemberton's first and last script for televised Doctor Who. This is a pity as it is considered one of the ground-breaking, momentous classic stories of the sixties.

At the beginning there is the mystery concerning the pulsating emanation from the pipelines, which is of course, as with many Doctor Who stories, initially dismissed. The atmosphere of uncertainty was immediately established up with the loss of communication with the surrounding rigs, the attack on Mrs Harris and the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria being knocked out by hit men. Brilliant stuff. The pulsating heartbeat and seething foam and seaweed was an extremely well executed sound effect, which led to a genuinely strong climax to episode one with Victoria in the oxygen room.

Victor Pemberton's story was exceptionally original but the most surprising thing was the strong scripting and effort put in by the guest cast. The actors were well selected and acted to their full potential. The acting alone on audio makes up for the absence of the film prints at the archives.

Mr Robson was particularly unlikable. He was arrogant and his total disregard to everyone else's opinions made the viewer wonder about his contribution to the story and mystery in general. However his character changed dramatically and the dazed, withdrawn influence that took over later was quite surprising from such a strong self-opinionated person. Victor Maddern's portrayal of this disagreeable character was without a doubt one of the key elements in the success of this story.

Roy Spencer's Mr Harris was a total contrast to Mr Robson; someone who started off overshadowed by others but later shone through. As the pressure piled on, Mr Harris failed to crack unlike other characters.

Oak and Quill's appearance was unexpected and their involvement in the story was never really fully explained. The harmonious, rhyming speech of Oak was unnerving. Jon Gill's portrayal of this character deserves mention. He didn't express the signs of being controlled on audio, until of course the weed turned up. His infection however was visible in the telesnaps taken by John Cura. Mr Quill's performance is of course impossible to judge, as he never spoke. But if Bill Burridge's acting were anything like Gill's he would have been an interesting character.

John Abineri as Van Lutyens was a breath of fresh air as his character resisted Robson's already overpowering mental domination and as Robson cracked, he became a pillar of strength. I was disappointed that he was written out so quickly, and had very little to do with the proceedings until the end. Finally June Murphy as Maggie Harris shouldn't go unmentioned. Her brilliant emotional/withdrawn acting made a superb addition to the atmosphere.

Patrick Troughton was at his all-time best and brought several humorous elements to the show. His dark, foreboding character of Season Four had now mellowed considerably. Fraser Hines was sadly left chasing after the Doctor and Victoria so there wasn't much plot dedicated to his character. Of course as this was Deborah Watling's last stint as Victoria Waterfield, thankfully she was given a brilliant part to play in the plot. Her constant references to screaming and being scared signalled her departure and finally giving it her all, she left the show perfectly.

Dudley Simpson's music suited the story well, and in places sounded like the score from The Seeds of Death. The 'dum de dum de dum' rhythm added a comic element, but overall the score fitted perfectly and gave a generally mysterious feeling to the story. The music didn't interrupt the action; perhaps a downfall of other stories in the Troughton era.

The telesnaps make it possible to assess the story's design. The Impeller Control Room set is impressive for the time. The only problem this story suffers from is the sometimes unenthusiastic lack of effort and originality in the sets, for instance, the Harris's off-the-wall psychedelic looking kitchen or prop-less, plain corridors; a minor gripe considering this is an audio story. It is fortunate that there wasn't too much chasing down corridors (that I picked up on anyway).

Intricate pieces of plot are introduced which unfortunately seem to tie up all too quickly. The story has some of the best cliffhangers in the show's history, including such psychological build-ups as:

'Down there, in the darkness, in the pipeline... Waiting.'

'It's begun... The battle of the giants!'
'Come in Doctor ... We've been waiting for you!'

If the episodes are found, scenes that will be of particular interest include Van Lutyens being engulfed in the pipeline, the Doctor and Jamie escaping the weed and the takeover of the rigs and control centre.

The production standards and quality are high, and the cast excelled in their performances. The original ideas and concepts were always entertaining and well considered and very few flaws if any passed through to the finished programme. To top it all off the seeping and pulsating of the foam (a brilliant effect), acting and music leave me wishing there was more to see. Fury from the Deep has always been thought of as one of the 'all-time classics', and I tend to agree.

This item appeared in TSV 46 (January 1996).

Index nodes: Fury from the Deep