Fury from the Deep ★★★★

A terrifying seaweed monster breaks out at a gas refinery – and Victoria leaves the series

71

Season 5 – Story 42

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“It’s down there, in the darkness, in the pipeline… waiting” – Van Lutyens

Storyline
When the Tardis splash-lands in the North Sea off the coast of England, the travellers row to shore, only to be captured by guards for trespassing in a gas refinery’s restricted area. Taken to the Euro Sea Gas headquarters, they learn of the problems that are plaguing drilling operations. These are later sourced to a parasitic form of seaweed that can emit poisonous vapour, or produce mind-controlling foam. The Doctor discovers that Victoria’s screams somehow subdue the weed creatures, and is thus able to thwart their planned invasion by amplifying the noise. Jamie and the Doctor are saddened by Victoria’s decision to stay with a couple who work for the refinery.

First transmissions
Episode 1 – Saturday 16 March 1968
Episode 2 – Saturday 23 March 1968
Episode 3 – Saturday 30 March 1968
Episode 4 – Saturday 6 April 1968
Episode 5 – Saturday 13 April 1968
Episode 6 – Saturday 20 April 1968

Production
Location filming: February 1968 at Red Sands Fort, Thames estuary; Botany Bay, Margate, Kent; Denham, Bucks
Filming: February 1968 at Ealing Studios
Studio recording: February/March 1968 in Lime Grove D (eps 1-5) and March 1968 in TC1 (ep 6)

Cast
Doctor Who – Patrick Troughton
Jamie McCrimmon – Frazer Hines
Victoria Waterfield – Deborah Watling
Chief John Robson – Victor Maddern
Van Lutyens – John Abineri
Harris – Roy Spencer
Maggie Harris – June Murphy
Megan Jones – Margaret John
Price – Graham Leaman
Oak – John Gill
Quill – Bill Burridge
Perkins – Brian Cullingford
Carney – John Garvin
Chief Baxter – Richard Mayes
Chief engineer – Hubert Rees

Crew
Writer – Victor Pemberton
Incidental music – Dudley Simpson
Designer – Peter Kindred
Story editor – Derrick Sherwin
Producer – Peter Bryant
Director – Hugh David

RT Review by Mark Braxton
I wonder if writer Victor Pemberton lives by the maxim that worse things happen at sea. They certainly do in this six-part thrill-ride, containing rigs under siege, staff under pressure, a bizarre yet everyday threat and a dangerously mad leader – with a chopper chase and an outgoing companion added for good measure. It’s a rollercoaster ride of tone, too, from a sense of mischief and fun, through tense, sweaty horror of the unknown, to a gnawing sense of loss when Victoria decides to end her travels.

You can find at least one great moment in every single Doctor Who story. Fury from the Deep features arguably the greatest number and biggest variety of scary scenes, among them: the cadaverous, pop-eyed Quill unleashing his catastrophic halitosis; Van Lutyens being sucked into a foamy bog; Maggie’s terrifyingly long, slow walk into the waves; and Robson’s “Come in, Doctor, we’ve been waiting for you,” beckoning his nemesis into the bubbles like some Vosene-addicted Blofeld. But there are so many more.

It has to be said that the science is a little, well, shaky. What really is the connection between natural resources, thrashing tendrils, heartbeats, mountains of suds and gas-breath? It’s just like the famous Russell T Davies shopping list of ingredients, but in this case we never get the satisfactory flow chart that connects them all.

And you sense that, beneath all the surging froth there’s a strident eco-message thrashing to get out. The RT featurette coinciding with episode one hinted that this was rich territory for just such a treatment. But environmental concerns aren’t overt in the way that they would be in, say, 1970’s Inferno (in many ways a re-tread of Fury), or in 1973’s The Green Death.

Not that any of this matters. Pemberton seems much more interested in a straightforward, chill-filled escapade. And Fury has fathoms of fright, wiping all memory of The Underwater Menace and its soggy inanities, and paving the way for other successful marine adventures (The Sea Devils, Terror of the Zygons etc).

It also contains one of the most telegraphed departures in the show. Consider these early warnings from Victoria: “I don’t really like being scared out of my wits every second”; “Why can’t we go anywhere pleasant, where there’s no fighting, just peace and happiness?”; “I’m tired of one crisis on top of another”. She’s even given a night to think it over, so when she tells the Doctor and Jamie she’s staying, they – and we – are more than prepared.

Deborah Watling looks back on the story with fondness, especially the foam fight at the beginning. As she once told me, “Pat and Frazer got into the middle of the foam. They’re having a wonderful time. All of a sudden they stop, look at each other and then look at me, walk towards me and drag me into the foam and I come out like a foam monster. A lot of the public were there and they just thought it was wonderfully impressive.”

Not that the winter shoot in Margate was a picnic, as Frazer Hines told me: “It was freezing. The wind was so cold that by the time we got ashore [on a dinghy] my knees were blue. I was going out with Susan George at the time and she had to massage the colour back into them!”

Two other reasons the story stands out are the fact that both male and female characters are well drawn, from Victor Maddern’s hilariously belligerent but superbly acted Chief Robson (“What are you staring at?”) to Margaret John’s impressively sure-footed Megan Jones (“Pull yourself together, man!”), which was one of the show’s best guest roles for a woman.

The use of sound is enterprising, too, with radiophonic rumble and splurge dovetailing nicely with Dudley Simpson’s piano reverb and cold synths.

Fury from the Deep may not be especially deep, but it’s indubitably furious. Horror is pushed to the fore – and yet there’s not a single death. “Everybody lives!”

But we’ll leave the last thoughts to Deborah Watling, then Frazer Hines.

DW: “I remember having to say goodbye to Doctor Who and Jamie. I adored Pat and he adored me, and Frazer was like a brother – a naughty brother.”

FH: “We all loved Deborah and were very sorry to see her go.”

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Radio Times archive material

Fury feature
Fury billings 1-3
Fury billings 4-6

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[Soundtrack available on BBC Audio CD]