PLATFORMS: DVD, BLU-RAY | RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 14TH
Broadcast just once in the UK in 1968, its tapes wiped (along with well over a hundred other early Doctor Who episodes) in the 1970s, Fury from the Deep has a special place in the affections of long-time fans of the series. Recovered censored clips from Australia – included on this new three-disc set – suggest a creepy, atmospheric story which, unusually for the series at the time, took its inspiration from events in the contemporary world.
With North Sea Gas offering plentiful supplies of cheap energy for the UK in the late 1960s, the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and his friends, Jamie (Frazer Hines)and Victoria (Deborah Watling), pitch up in timely fashion at a coastal refinery installation (giving the Doctor an opportunity to wield, for the very first time in the series, the sonic screwdriver device which would slowly, over the years, become a ‘get out of jail free’ magic wand) where the Doctor detects what sounds like a heartbeat inside a huge pipeline. The trio is quickly captured by the base’s security guards and fall foul of its short-tempered boss Robson (Victor Maddern) who is himself distracted by the fact that they have lost contact with one of the connected drilling rigs and that there is an unexplained drop in the feed line from the rigs. The Doctor discovers that the pipeline has been infiltrated by a hideous alien parasite weed creature that thrives on the emergent gas and uses it as a weapon as it prepares to overwhelm first the base and, ultimately, the world. It’s no surprise, then, that Victor Pemberton’s lively six-part serial has been selected as the latest in the BBC’s strategy of animating missing episodes from the show’s canon.
Inevitably, though, this new release is very much an interpretation of the serial rather than a recreation. Crystal clear off-air audio recordings are married to visuals that are clearly far grander and more spectacular than a 1960s BBC TV budget could manage and yet despite a few recurring animation niggles from previous releases – many characters just stand around twitching and wiggling their eyebrows – this is actually a much-improved and more assured production. Character movement is generally more fluid and naturalistic and the format allows many of the serial’s best-remembered moments - oceans of foam rolling around the base, one character walking into the sea to her apparent doom, humans infected by and sprouting patches of hostile weed – are revisited and lose none of their chill factor in animated form. A hectic helicopter escape from a sea rig is surely far more elaborate and spectacular than it ever appeared on screen, with the Doctor’s copter ducking and diving between huge tendrils of weed that rise up from the broiling sea. Fury From the Deep is classic Doctor Who in so many ways, combining the ‘base under siege’ format so popular in the era with the ‘corrupted, possessed humanity’ trope that the show has always utilised so effectively.
Previous animated releases such as ‘The Macra Terror’ and ‘The Faceless Ones’ failed to properly engage due to inferior scripts and animation that wasn’t quite able to do justice to the story or else took too many visual liberties but this is a pacey, hugely watchable realisation of one of the great 1960s Doctor Who serials which even manages to deliver a tear-jerking finale the 21st-century series itself would be proud of as the Doctor’s companion Victoria (Deborah Watling) takes her leave of the TARDIS, a moment nicely seeded throughout the serial as she continually bemoans her lot and despairs of a lifestyle composed of little else but running, screaming, and shrieking in terror. Decent extras include an interesting documentary on the making of the animation and a fun feature in which cast and crew return to the original windswept locations, even visiting the crumbling sea fort where action scenes in the last two episodes were filmed. There’s also the usual collections of commentaries and galleries with the main feature presented in colour and black-and-white for the die-hards.