The Underwater Menace
When the TARDIS lands on a volcanic island in the middle of the Pacific,
the Doctor, Polly, Ben and Jamie soon find a passageway down to the lost
city of Atlantis. There, the Doctor meets the famous scientist Professor
Zaroff, who has concocted a mad plan to raise Atlantis by draining the
ocean waters down into the Earth's core, destroying the planet. It is up
to Ben and Jamie to raise a revolution amongst the Atlantean Fish
People... before Polly is transformed into one herself.
Veteran writer Geoffrey Orme had gotten his start in film in the
mid-Thirties before eventually migrating to television in the Fifties. His
small-screen credits included The Avengers and Ivanhoe.
Around the start of 1966, he submitted a story idea called “The Evil
Eye” to the Doctor Who production office. This was rejected
by story editor Gerry Davis on April 4th, but dialogue continued between
the two and on August 16th, a new serial entitled “Under The
Sea” was commissioned. It was planned that this would be the second
story to feature Patrick Troughton's new Doctor, immediately following The Power Of The Daleks.
The director originally assigned to “Under The Sea” was Hugh
David. In October, however, David complained that the story would be
impossible to make on a standard Doctor Who budget. It was
therefore decided that David would instead direct The
Highlanders, previously the third Troughton serial, which would
take “Under The Sea”'s spot in the schedule. “The
Imps”, by Galaxy 4 writer William Emms,
was commissioned on October 17th and positioned in the spot formerly
occupied by The Highlanders as Serial GG.
“Under The Sea” was dropped off the schedule entirely,
although Orme would continue to work on it.
When William Emms fell ill, The
Imps was delayed and The Underwater
Menace took its place
The director assigned to “The Imps” was Julia Smith, who had
helmed The Smugglers at the end of the
previous recording block. Emms worked quickly on his scripts, but fell ill
during mid-November and was unable to complete necessary rewrites. With
“The Imps” intended to go into production in a month's time,
Davis and producer Innes Lloyd realised that there was little likelihood
that Emms would have enough time to finish work on the serial. They
therefore elected to move “The Imps” back one slot and return
Orme's story to the schedule in its place: it was now called “The
Fish People”, having also borne the title “Atlanta”.
A key change that now had to be made to Orme's scripts was the inclusion
of Jamie McCrimmon, a new companion introduced in The
Highlanders whose permanent addition to the regular crew was not
confirmed until late November. (Hines' option on “The Fish
People” was officially taken up on December 13th.) Davis also
contributed to the rewrites. Some details of the storyline were altered or
deleted: Zaroff's insanity was originally caused by the death of his wife
and children in an automobile accident, while Ara's role was expanded by
merging her with another character called Ebon (the excision of Nola was
also contemplated for the same reason). Zaroff was at one point assisted
by a female scientist called Steen.
It was around this time that Lloyd decided to write Ben and Polly out of
the series. He and Davis felt that Polly was not working well, and did not
believe that Ben would succeed without her. Additionally, they found that
Jamie was proving to be the more interesting of the three companions.
Another change which the production team planned to effect was to the
opening titles, which had been unchanged since Doctor Who debuted
in November 1963. The introduction of the new title sequence was
contemplated for “The Fish People”, but was eventually delayed
for two stories until The Macra Terror.
By the time location filming began on Serial GG, it had acquired its final
title of The Underwater Menace. Establishing shots of the volcanic
island were captured on December 12th at Windspit Caverns near Worth
Matravers in Dorset, and the series' regulars were present there the next
day to record the story's opening and closing sequences. From the 14th to
the 16th, cast and crew repaired to the Ealing Television Film Studios for
more filming. The centerpiece here was a variety of scenes requiring the
facility's water tank, including most material involving the Fish People
plus the drowning of Zaroff.
Precariously, Doctor Who was
now being taped just one week ahead of transmission
Because of the late completion of Orme's scripts, a planned New Year's Eve
start date for the studio recording of The Underwater Menace was
pushed back a week, to January 7th. The result was that Doctor Who
was now being taped just one week ahead of transmission, an undeniably
precarious situation which permitted the production team little room for
error. As usual, The Underwater Menace was recorded on consecutive
Saturdays in Riverside Studio 1.
The broadcast of this episode on January 14th sparked an angry letter the
following Monday from Mrs N Safford of the National Society for the
Welfare of Children in Hospitals. Safford was concerned that the sight of
Polly undergoing an operation to turn her into a Fish Person would scare
children with upcoming surgeries, who might think that they also risked
waking up to find themselves transformed into monsters. Lloyd refuted this
argument, noting that the fantastical nature of The Underwater
Menace made it clear to viewers that the story's events were not
The normal recording of part four on January 28th was, unusually, prefaced
by the taping of its very last scene: out-of-order recording was still a
rarity for Doctor Who. This episode also featured the last
appearance of the Doctor's stovepipe hat -- the more overtly clownish
elements of Troughton's costume had been gradually reined in since his
debut in The Power Of The Daleks.
The Underwater Menace was the last Doctor Who serial
directed by Smith. She continued to direct for programmes including Z
Cars and Dr Finlay's Casebook before stepping up into the
producer's chair in the Seventies, subsequently taking the reins of such
shows as Angels and EastEnders. Meanwhile, because of the
difficulties posed by The Underwater Menace, Davis did not ask Orme
for additional story ideas. The writer was now winding down his
scriptwriting career anyway, his major concern thereafter being a series
of biographical audio tapes. Orme died in 1978.
- Doctor Who: The Handbook: The Second Doctor by David J Howe,
Mark Stammers and Stephen James Walker (1997), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 0
426 20516 2.
- Doctor Who: The Sixties by David J Howe, Mark Stammers and
Stephen James Walker (1992), Virgin Publishing, ISBN 1 85227 420 4.
- Doctor Who Magazine #209, 16th February 1994, “Archive:
The Underwater Menace” by Andrew Pixley, Marvel Comics UK Ltd.
- Doctor Who Magazine Special Edition #4, 4th June 2003,
“Good Vibrations” by Andrew Pixley, Panini Publishing
||14th Jan 1967
||21st Jan 1967
||28th Jan 1967
||4th Feb 1967
|Title music by|
|Ron Grainer and|
|the BBC Radiophonic Workshop|
|Incidental Music by|
|Fights arranged by|
|Episodes 1, 4|
|Episode 1 (0'14" in 1 clip)|
|Episode 4 (0'03" in 1 clip)|
|Episodes 1, 4|
|Under The Sea|
|The Fish People|