Written by Geoffrey Orme
Directed by Julia Smith
On the whole, I’m a pretty big fan of worker uprisings. They don’t always end well, but the result is usually an improvement compared to what there was before, unless it fails, and then nothing much seems to change. It not surprising then that in my view the strongest point of The Underwater Menace is that the Doctor defeats the villains by starting a workers revolt. In doing so, he inadvertently overthrows a whole government. This is becoming a bit of a habit for him.
The Underwater Menace does not have the best reputation among fans. Mark Ayres has said, quite correctly, that it benefits from being one of the missing episodes since it means that you can’t see the somewhat dodgy costumes and sets. I’ve not managed to track down the second episode yet, only finding this clip on the BBC website, but it is scheduled for DVD release sometime this year, so hopefully I’ll be able to see it soon. The third episode, however, lives up to its reputation as a bit of a clunker. The sets and costumes are indeed both a bit shit, and Joseph Furst’s performance as Zaroff is definitely on the hammy side.
The blame for this poor quality is usually leveled at first time director, Julia Smith. I’m not particularly familiar with Smith’s other work, but I do know that she created Eastenders. Much as I can’t stand Eastenders, because its a heap of shit, it is very popular, suggesting that Smith does have some talent somewhere, but it doesn’t appear to be at making Doctor Who.
Poor production values aside (and to be fair, as Polly actor Anneke Wills pointed out, Smith probably only has 2d, 6p to work with) the story has moments of quality in it. The aforementioned worker’s uprising is a high point, and, in audio form at least, the destruction of Atlantis is quite dramatic. Its not one of the best of the audio stories, but its not the worst either.
Jamie seems to take the whole concept of time travel in his stride. Not surprising really, when you realise that the producers only added him to the TARDIS crew at the last minute, and so most of his dialogue is pinched from either Ben or Polly, who were used to the idea by this point. He does get a bit of his own dialogue from time to time though, using words so Scottish that the only other person I’ve heard use them is my grandmother.
So far only two villains in Doctor Who had made a return. The Daleks, of course, had made a number of appearances, and that troublesome carry-oner, the Monk, had come back for some more. It was about time that a new recurring villain appeared, to save the Daleks from further badass decay, if nothing else. There was only really one choice, afterall, they were the only bad guys tough enough to force the Doctor to regenerate, and they’d be back next time, in the Moon Base.