And so I moved onto this story. As hard as I try I can’t steer the TARDIS to Atlantic, but the good Doctor, Jamie and co got there alright. Down a lift shaft naturally! Finally, we see Troughton take on the persona of one who seeks what’s right and to save people from grisly fates and all that. The back drop is the most bizarrely camp story so far!
|Things area fishy with the fish people!|
I hear that episode two turned up and year and a half ago now, but still hasn’t been released anywhere sadly, so I had three episodes of reconstructions to watch along with the one surviving episode – episode three. It’s probably the best episode to survive too, full of chases and over the top characters which showcase what this story is all about.
|Joseph Furth as Zaroff|
Let’s start with the cast. Jospeh Furth is Professor Zaroff. What are your expectations for a crazy European scientist? He’s got them all covered –the accent, the shouting, the hair and the moustache! He’s given people plastic gills to become fish people. But I was confused. I think there are also real fish people as well. Some of them are wearing stockings and strange masks/makeup, where as other just have goggles. Anyways, like all good Professor Who villains, he is wearing a chemist’s top, supplemented with a cape. Perfect.
|Peter Stephens confronts Zaroff|
BUT he is not the only camp crazy dude in the story. Special mention goes to Peter Stephens who played the high Priest Lolem. He is without a doubt the campest character I have seen in Doctor Who, and unless they give a role in Doctor to who to someone like, I dunno, Paul Darrow for example, he may be the campest character throughout the series. Will have to wait and see. Graham Crowden and Richard Briers are guys who are pretty camp too, but it’s unlikely any of them will be in future ‘Who’ I expect.
The regulars are good, and I think Patrick Troughton really starts to show how good his Doctor can be, playing the confrontational serious man, the clever clown and all between when necessary. He’s magical in his own way. New companion Jamie shadows Ben for a lot of the story, with not a lot to do. Polly’s costume – the Altantan girl costume – works really well for her. Some of the costuming is very good, some is very bad.
|Anneke Wills in her Atlantan gear whilst Patrick Troughton is disguised as a gypsy.|
|The start of the recently recover Episode Two. Which I couldn't see.|
The fish people. Sigh. I imagine that this is a sore point amongst Doctor Who fans. They aren’t realised very well. Their costumes are basically stockings with bits stuck on. The faces look okay, but the bodies are clearly not wet. Dry as a bone. Some shooting took place on location in caves, and is thusly more convincing. As a viewer, I looked at the fish people and thought ‘some poor soul had to wear that costume and pretend to be part fish/part man’. I imagine when doing their CVs, all fish people may have neglected to mention this role.
The design team had to recreate a whole under-ground city, a tall ask on any budget, so I guess we can forgive them to some extent. There is a temple, a market-square, two laboratories, corridors, rock-hewn passageways, they had a lot on their plate in a small studio. The question has to be asked though, is it a bad SCRIPT?
I ask this because, well, I personally believe most bad productions are because, primarily, of the scripts. I can forgive tackiness if there’s a great story under it. Here, there isn’t. It’s not a dreadful script, it has some nice ideas, but the story is so full of stereotypes and a lot of escapes and getting captured agains. The fourth episode, after the third episode revealing to all and sundry just what a nutter Zaroff is as he declares ‘Nothing in ze vorld can shtop me now!’ is basically everyone escaping, and not a big exciting end it might had been.
Still, it’s fun to watch. It’s bad, but enjoyable bad. Episodes two and three especially are filled with hilarious over the top characters and embarrassing costumes. What more could you ask for?