“It’s a sonic screwdriver. Never fails.”
What’s the Story?
The TARDIS lands the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria off the coast of England, where the ESGO complex is drawing natural gas from under the North Sea via a huge network of pipes and off-shore rigs. However something is interfering with the gas flow and there’s a strange sound, pulsating like a heartbeat, inside the pipes. Something ancient has awoken in the sea and this time the Doctor may not be able to stop it, but perhaps Victoria can? Regardless, soon the TARDIS team will be facing the fury from the deep!
Season 5 of the classic era is one of my personal favourites in the show’s long history. Not only does it feature a TARDIS team quite close to my heart, with Patrick Troughton’s mischievous Doctor paired up with the ever-loyal Jamie and the sweet Victoria, but it also happens to be the ‘Base Under Siege’ season. Now a ‘Base Under Siege’ is a story archetype found throughout Doctor Who and it’s fairly self explanatory, the Doctor and co find themselves in some sort of facility or structure, a base if you will, and it’s under siege from some invading force. The majority of Season 5 is made up of stories like this and while they can be a little formulaic , they can also be the best of Doctor Who. They’re perfect for that teatime terror the show is so good at, throwing the characters into a pressure cooker and turning up the tension and unease.
Fury from the Deep is one such story, and it’s married with another of Doctor Who’s favourite tricks, taking something innocuous and making it creepy. In this case simple seaweed and foam suddenly turns into a writhing monster that could doom the whole human race! (Have I mentioned how much I love this show enough yet?). This story also gets points for being the first time that the Doctor uses his signature tool, the Sonic Screwdriver, and he uses it to actually unscrew something!
Before we get into the story though, let’s talk about the animation. We get a change in art style with this release and I’m not the biggest fan. It might just be a case of taking some time to get used to it, there’s nothing really that bad about designs themselves but the arms really bug me. They’re too long and thin, in some shots they look alright, but in others they look really exaggerated and off putting. Add on to that a couple of awkward movements and some shots were characters are a little too still as they stand around and it feels like the quality’s regressed. I’ve no doubt that this being made during the pandemic has impacted it, so I’m willing to cut it some slack, but it’s still a little disappointing.
That brings me to the story itself and while it sticks pretty closely to the formula of a base under siege, it’s well written with a good escalation of the tension and some nice bits of character and dialogue throughout. There are also some nice little inversions to keep things fresh. For example we’ve got Robson, the man in charge who trusts in his own practical experience, to point where he blatantly ignores anything else. I’m so used to seeing some by-the-book snob in charge who refuses to listen to anything practical that it’s nice to see it the other way around for once. It’s also nice that the story clearly shows that Robson does know what he’s doing under normal circumstances and he has the respect of his employees. The problem is that this is an entirely new situation and his blinkered, narrow-minded way of looking at things can’t bend enough to be able to cope. It’s little wonder that he starts ranting like a lunatic.
Let’s get to the TARDIS team though and out of all of Patrick Troughton’s run, his adventures with Jamie and Victoria have always been my favourite. Maybe it’s nostalgia talking, the very first black and white Doctor Who story I ever saw was Tomb of the Cybermen featuring these three, but I love their dynamic. The gentle way that the Doctor and Victoria interact, and the unspoken romantic tension between Victoria and Jamie, there’s a lot that can be gotten out of this team and Fury from the Deep does its best to show that. The best scenes in this release are the quieter moments with Victoria. She’s tired of the endless danger and adventure that the Doctor and Jamie get so much of a kick out of. You can tell it’s not an easy thing for Victoria to admit, she loves the Doctor and Jamie, but she wants something else and it’s a great performance by Deborah Watling.
All in all it’s a really well done companion exit, unlike the Faceless Ones where we only got a goodbye scene with Ben and Polly, here there are moments throughout the story where we see Victoria coming to the conclusion to leave. I genuinely wish more companion exits had been handled like this where they get more focus throughout the story rather than just at the end. Also bonus points for not just introducing some guy for her to settle down with as often happened to female companions in Classic Who, instead Victoria gets a place where she can have some peace with a welcoming couple. Extra special bonus points are also earned for taking the stereotype of the screaming female companion and using it against the monster. Victoria isn’t the most egregious example of the trope, but she can sometimes fall into it. By the time the last set of credits roll I’m sad to see Victoria go, but I’m glad she got such a good story to exit on.
In the end, Fury from the Deep, is a classic episode for many reasons. Not only does it introduce the sonic screwdriver, but we see a companion depart and a showcase of one of the series’ core story archetypes, a base under siege. Dark corridors and creepy tendrils of seaweed evoke an eerie atmosphere and when matched with the quieter, more characterful moments it makes an effective story. This story has been missing from the archives for more than half a century and, while the animation may not stand up to other releases, I’m still overjoyed that these episodes are back for people to see at last. After all, that’s the whole point of these recreations.
I hope everyone is having a wonderful Christmas so far, thank you for taking the time to read this silly little review. Here’s to the New Year, may it be everything we need after the disaster that was 2020. Merry Christmas.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.