‘Fury from the Deep’ is coming to DVD! Now steady yourselves – this is only an animation, but that alone is enough to increase the heart rate of many a Whovian (myself included.) This classic Doctor Who story from 1968 is all about under siege bases and killer seaweed, and sadly no longer exists in the BBC archives. At least not in its entirety. But is it really worth buying a cartoon version of the story? Will it be a worthy addition to your DVD (or Blu-Ray) collection?
Like many missing Doctor Who stories, ‘Fury from the Deep’ is shrouded in mystery and enigma. Tantalisingly, it exists only in the form of off-air audio recordings, photos, and short film clips, all of which add to story’s mythos. Indeed, one such clip is arguably one of the most chilling in the history of Doctor Who, where two possessed men attempt to suffocate a young woman by exhaling toxic fumes. Cosy tea-time viewing this isn’t.
And actually, the reason the suffocation clip survived the BBC cull is because it was excised from the Australian cut of ‘Fury from the Deep,’ with the authorities Down Under considering it too frightening for broadcast. It was a legal requirement for such footage to be retained – to prove that the required edits had been made – and as such we still have the sequence today, in all its horrific glory.
Of course, despite the story’s gripping moments, it does arguably struggle with a problem shared by many Doctor Who serials. Its length. I mean, can you ever have too much of a good thing? Possibly, because ‘Fury from the Deep’ rattles on for six, 25 minute episodes, totalling two and a half hours of possessed seaweed. This is a long time to sit, particularly if you attempt the story in one fell swoop as I did when I devoured the audio version a few years ago. That’s not to say that you can’t have a ‘good’ long Doctor Who story (‘The Enemy of the World’ and ‘The War Games’ are excellent) but I can’t help thinking that ‘Fury’ would have worked better as a four-parter. But perhaps that’s just me.
So my advice would be to pace yourself with this epic, if you decide to purchase the DVD or Blu-Ray. But if you do, there will be plenty to enjoy. For a start, the story opens with a very impressive sequence of the TARDIS tumbling out of the sky and landing on the sea – an effect achieved by literally dangling the police box prop out of a helicopter! And even better, we can still enjoy this scene today, as it was re-used in Episode Ten of ‘The War Games’ which the BBC thankfully didn’t burn.
Similarly, ‘Fury from the Deep’ is a milestone story in that it’s the first to feature the Doctor’s infamous sonic screwdriver. Apparently, when the story was first conceived, the Doctor was simply going to produce an ordinary screwdriver from his jacket, but production assistant Michael Briant felt that they could be a little more imaginative, and devised an instrument that could unfasten screws using sound waves. Alas, Patrick Troughton forgot his prop on the day and had to use a whistle from Deborah Watling’s life jacket, but it still counts! And like the TARDIS, the Daleks, the Master, and the Time Lords, the sonic screwdriver is one of the series’ key pieces of iconography, and it’s important that we remember its humble beginnings on a beach in the very first episode of ‘Fury from the Deep’!
On the flip side, this serial also stands out for being the last to feature the Doctor’s companion Victoria Waterfield, who leaves at the end of Episode Six. She insists that she isn’t cut out for a life of time travel, and opts to remain with the Harris family – a whole century away from her birth place (as Victoria was born in Victorian Britain, having made her debut in ‘The Evil of the Daleks.’) Sadly, like many companions’ departures, Victoria’s exit isn’t exactly ‘built into the story’ and feels a tad rushed, but it is given more pathos than some, with Jamie being particularly upset about parting ways. And hey, at least Victoria had a departure; I refer you to poor Dodo Chaplet in ‘The War Machines’!
It’s unclear how much of this responsibility fell on the writer Victor Pemberton, and how much was down to the production team. (I suspect the latter.) Pemberton actually delivers a solid set of scripts, and indeed is no newbie to the Whoniverse, having previously acted in the previous year’s ‘The Moonbase.’ He was also no stranger to science fiction, having penned a (very similar!) radio drama about sentient mud titled The Slide, starring Roger Delgado no less, who would later go on to play the Doctor’s arch enemy the Master.
But that’s okay; writers are free to plagiarise themselves, and it certainly didn’t do Dalek creator Terry Nation any harm, who was notorious for re-using his own tropes.
You will also be fascinated to know that this is the first Doctor Who story title since 1966’s ‘The Savages’ not to have the word ‘the’ at the start(!) and that ‘Fury from the Deep’ Episode Five is actually the 200th in the show’s history. Not that these pieces of trivia will add to your enjoyment of the story in any way, but it may add to your appreciation of its place in the wider Doctor Who universe!
And speaking of which, there will be plenty to sink your teeth into if you decide to go for the DVD or Blu-Ray releases. Like the special edition of ‘The Power of the Daleks‘ this really is a no-expense-spared affair from the BBC, with three whole discs of ‘Fury from the Deep’ goodness – including a special ‘making of’ documentary presented by Doctor Who stalwart Toby Hadoke, audio commentaries, surviving footage, and the option to view the story in either colour or black and white. (Yes, you get both versions.) They’ve even included Pemberton’s radio drama ‘The Slide’ as one of the DVD extras – a degree of thoroughness that I find both staggering and rather fun! I look forward to listening to it.
So – will you be adding the ‘Fury from the Deep’ animation to your collection when it launches on the 14th September? And will you be opting for the DVD or the luxury Blu-Ray steelbook? Let me know in the comments below!
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