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Doctor Who V:29-30: Fury from the Deep, episodes 1 and 2

June 8th, 2011 (10:19 pm)

I acquired the reconstruction of this story from Loose Cannon a few months ago, but have taken my time in watching it. Two episodes in, Fury from the Deep is living up to expectations. Safe at unconsequential teatime, Victor Pemberton's writing digs at the contradictions in the series format at this time while making the most of its limitations. This base under siege is threatened from within and without, and headed by the most credibly ill-tempered of a series of commanders. Robson's aggression would have been very familiar to the post-war generation; a member of one elite, the practical men who had worked their way up to the top by hard work and applied experience, fearing that he would be undermined and eclipsed by the new officer class of university men, issuing with schoolroom learning from an ever-expanding sector to take up places in the technocracy. As if this wasn't enough, Robson's authority is compromised by diplomatic exigencies: Euro Sea Gas is not simply a British exercise, and Robson has to cope with the interventions of the Dutch representative Van Lutyens. The craggy-featured Victor Maddern, a veteran of merchant and royal navies, looks as if he knows the type well.

Fury from the Deep is a ghost story for the technological age. There is knocking in the pipes; friends not seen for a long time make contact, but talk in whispers like ghosts. In a series where possession is usually instantaneous, Maggie Harris's battle with the seaweed's influence has some power, and her subjection by technicians from her husbands' employers is subversive for children (if Laurel and Hardy, of whom Pemberton is a fan, were as familiar to children in 1968 as they were in the 1970s) and their parents, accustomed to having engineers visit (as Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles note in volume two of About Time) from the gas boards to install or upgrade supply; the model society envisaged by futurologists of the time may well have included regular intervention by gadget-wielding engineers from benevolent authorities.

Juxtaposed against the intelligent, responsible professionals, from the aggressive to the conciliatory to the doggedly diligent, are the three regulars: wide-eyed children set among the grown-ups to ask the questions which have been socialised out of the guest characters' brains, and necessarily so. The threat of the foam is softened by having Jamie and the Doctor throw Victoria into it early on, but I expect most of those watching soon forgot that scene, particularly after the three playmates were shot by the gas project's security devices. Victoria does not do too badly; she proves a dab hand with a hairpin, despite Jamie's mocking, and it's not her fault the next lock she meets is beyond her.


Posted by: elegaer (elegaer)
Posted at: June 9th, 2011 07:11 pm (UTC)

I do like Fury from the Deep. ONe day, I want to write something about Dr Who's use of the oil industry and the changing interpretations and biases against / towards oil / energy usage in the North Sea.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 9th, 2011 07:35 pm (UTC)

That would be an excellent idea. As well as Fury, there's The Sea Devils and Terror of the Zygons to think of for starters. Did the television series go back after that at all? The Power of Kroll is probably worth considering, though, as a parallel, intermingled with commentary about colonialism. Have the books/audios returned to the oil rig setting?

Posted by: elegaer (elegaer)
Posted at: June 9th, 2011 08:06 pm (UTC)

There's Dr Who adn the Loch Ness MOnster which is the book adaptation of Terror of the Zygons, and I'm sure there's another TV one talking about oil though for the life of me I can't remember which. I know I was talking to Jason about them though, maybe he'll remember.

I do find it interesting that even when North Sea oil was the next greatest thing in the 1970s that Dr Who seemed to take a more cautious view.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 9th, 2011 08:09 pm (UTC)

Have you read the novelization of The Sea Devils? It has a paragraph or so of background on North Sea oil/gas.

I was thinking more of the Virgin and BBC Books and the Big Finish audios - I'd be suprised if there wasn't something there. TV Comic did an oil rig-related story or two in the 1970s too.

Posted by: elegaer (elegaer)
Posted at: June 9th, 2011 08:15 pm (UTC)

No, I'd like to, though.

There's definitely one tie-in in Big Finish and that's the Zygon in Lake Windermere, I think it does mention previous events, and there's also that comic book thing recently that has oil related story. Invincible QUest? Infinite Quest? Something Quest!

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 9th, 2011 08:19 pm (UTC)

The cartoon for Totally Doctor Who was The Infinite Quest.

There's definitely a 'disturb-the-ecosystem-at-your-peril' theme to Fury from the Deep, which is interwoven with its technological ghost story feel. I don't think this is as strong in Terror of the Zygons, but it's certainly present in The Sea Devils.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: June 9th, 2011 11:41 pm (UTC)

I think this is a story that works better in isolation than seen in the context of five other base under siege stories in season five.

I agree that the class warfare between Robson and Harris is good and that Victoria is used well.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 9th, 2011 11:50 pm (UTC)

I should really watch all of them in a row and see how obvious the setting is. I'm more impressed by Fury than I am by The Ice Warriors, for example; though I feel I know The Abominable Snowmen least of all.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: June 10th, 2011 12:44 pm (UTC)

I have argued that 'base under siege' is a fan-inspired term and that the audience at the time would have paid more attention to the different settings (Cyber tombs, Tibetan monastery, Georgian stately home in the future etc.).

That said, when I watched Doctor Who in order, I began my review of Fury by noting that "by this stage in season five, almost all the points of interest have appeared and been noted in my reviews" and ended up criticising the plot holes and lapses in characterization.

I prefer The Ice Warriors to Fury, as I find the characters in the former more interesting and fleshed out better and like the presence of additional sub-plots. Plus the Ice Warriors themselves are one of my favourite monster costumes.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 10th, 2011 01:20 pm (UTC)

'Base under siege' is certainly a fan-inspired term. Gerry Davis, when interviewed, saw the base-set stories as budget-conserving devices more than storytelling ones, and on reflection I think that fan criticism has forced some stories into the 'base under siege' mould when they don't actually fit it well.

Posted by: daniel_saunders (daniel_saunders)
Posted at: June 10th, 2011 01:24 pm (UTC)

I think that fan criticism has forced some stories into the 'base under siege' mould when they don't actually fit it well.

I'd agree in some cases. I've certainly seen The Macra Terror and The Faceless Ones described as base under siege stories when I don't think they are.

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: June 10th, 2011 01:32 pm (UTC)

Agreed with those two, certainly.