The Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and his companions Polly (Anneke Wills), Ben Jackson (Michael Craze), and Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) find themselves captured by a maniacal scientist named Zaroff (Joseph Furst) who intends to raise Atlantis with the help of the surviving Atlanteans. The raising of Atlantis is possible, but it could destroy the Earth in the process. The Doctor, Polly, Ben, and Jamie must stop Zaroff’s plans before it is too late!
Doctor Who: The Underwater Menace is part of the fourth season of the long running BBC series Doctor Who. The serial was broadcast in four episodes from January 14, 1967 to February 4, 1967. Following the missing Doctor Who: The Highlanders, the second episode of the serial is the earliest existing episode featuring Patrick Troughton with his long running companion Jamie McCrimmon. Doctor Who: The Underwater Menace was collected as part of The Patrick Troughton Years as Story #32 (using audio and stills to restore episodes #1 and #4).
Much of Patrick Troughton’s run on Doctor Who was the victim of the BBC’s policy to tape over their older episodes. Before many of these episodes were lost forever, they were also sent out other countries to air…it is this hope that Whovians have that episodes like the missing episodes of Doctor Who: The Underwater Menace will someday resurface…until then, we have collections like this.
I’m not saying I don’t like being able to see the Doctor Who episodes that have been lost, but I don’t understand how the BBC decides which episodes they’ll animate and which they’ll restore with existing still images (originally this was announced to be animated). Episodes one and four of this series are kind of hard to watch. The audio exists, but the still images don’t do a very good job telling the story…if it had been a middle piece of the story that had been missing, this might have worked a bit better, but it is the beginning and the end (leaving you a little lost).
The real loser in this serial are the Doctor’s companions. While Polly and Ben are a bit more established, Jamie (one of the most popular companions of all time) is new. Without being able to see his origin episode, I had hoped for a more satisfying presentation of his second serial.
As a whole, The Underwater Menace isn’t a very interesting story as well. The story features a mad scientist and a plan to raise Atlantis by destroying the oceans. The story has creepy fish people (converted humans mean to harvest food for Atlantis), but I felt that the writers didn’t do enough to incorporate them since they were effective in their appearance. Furst plays a good mad scientist, but he also is a bit too mad…I don’t see even the Atlanteans believing his claims.
Doctor Who: The Underwater Menace doesn’t give you much insight to the mysterious Second Doctor who unfortunately has so few episodes existing. I like what I’ve seen of Troughton, but this serial doesn’t give you much of a feel for him. Jamie is developing alright in this entry, but it is too bad that his appearances are also among the missing Doctor Who. Doctor Who: The Underwater Menace is followed by Doctor Who: The Moonbase (Story #33) which features the return of one of the Doctor’s big enemies.