on 27 February 2014
iwas always going to like this story, because I have always enjoyed it - the novelisation, the audio story. But I was never pre-ordained to love it, but the story is so good that I do!
Episode 3 is worth considering. In 'The Invasion', the animation looked good but gave me a headache, in 'The Ice Warriors' the animation felt much more natural and was fantastic in its way. But here, the use of telesnaps, harking back to the filler episodes of VHS, is actually much better, allowing the viewer to see the story, the characters, the actors as they were. Whilst this is nice for Victoria, in eye candy terms, this is also very important for Lethbridge-Stewart, Nicholas Courtney's first appearance in this role, in historical terms.
Episode 4 is therefore where we see Lethbridge-Stewart in first motion, but the telesnaps in episode 3 have established the character. Nicholas Courtney is now in command, a position he won't give up for another decade. "Let's get on with it, shall we Knight!"
Patrick Troughton is on top form in this story, his voice skills really on show both when he retells events, and in many of the exchanges. The 2nd Doctor has always been as much about the sound of his voice as the visuals, perhaps because a high percentage of my early exposure to his stories was through the audio stories on cassette in the 1990s.
Jamie and Victoria are a lovely caring duo, this story following directly on from its rescued twin 'Enemy of The World' where the relationship was cemented. Fraser Hines' Jamie is always a reliable solid character, but never a boring one, the actor always playing him with intelligence. Deborah Watling's Victoria is very pretty, and dressed in a very fetching Native American outfit, but she is given some good lines, and some serious plot developments, and is allowed to be an independent-minded character in her own right.
The Yeti on their own terms are ideal for an enclosed environment, viz the London underground. When seen on the streets of London they are paradoxically effective both at long distance and close up, but verging on the laughable in the middle distance where their body shape strikes one as odd. Given that Doctor Who monster problems would continue for the next twenty years, this is not really a problem, as the majority of the time they are seen they are very a very powerful visual image.
The web itself is a strange element. Visually it is striking, and whilst it is applied well with the pseudo-gun, it is also a bit of an anti deus ex machina, something which exists, does the dirty work of the enemy, but is not properly explained.
Travers taken over by the Intelligence is both creepy and sinister, not least because we think the visage as belonging to a slightly doddery friendly old soul. It is a nasty surprise to find he has been taken over, and extinguished. "I am only using this body", the Intelligence says, but can we believe it?
Germanium must have meant something in the 1960s, but to me it just sounds like a muddled pronunciation of 'geranium'. What a germanium circuit is, well is it germane? Who knows?!
Evans is played very well, fully to develop suspicion but always with the right words, the right strategy to seem not to be the traitor. From episode to episode one is never sure! The watcher at the time would not know it was not Lethbridge-Stewart, that is a disadvantage the fan has in watching this. "I can assure you it's not me, McCrimmon" he says when Jamie fancies him as the traitor. It would have had a greater power of the moment at the time, when the viewer was not sure.
The supporting cast are great, given that most of them are soldier types. 'Staff' Arnold is a great resilient character.
We see the Doctor playing the Skye Boat Song on his recorder, a so-called typical Second Doctor scene, for all that we rarely actually get to see and hear this happen. Seeing it is a rare treat.
There is some amusing dialogue, such as Jamie asking the Doctor
"How do I know if I've got the right one?"
"You'll soon know if you haven't got the right one"
the Doctor replies, raising a wry grin and giggle in the viewer.
I didn't really notice the lack of special features, though it would have been nice to have had some colour snaps, and colour footage made whilst filming, but if such do not exist, they cannot be included. A retrospective on the filming would have been interesting, but how many people remain alive, it must be a small number. That is the only drawback in having a classic rediscovered so late in the day!
As we come to the end of the BBC classic Doctor Who dvd range, who would have guessed that this would turn up out of the blue to be one of the last titles!! A miracle find in 2013 along with 5 episodes of the also excellent Enemy Of The World, this sees the 2nd Doctor, Jamie and Victoria land in the middle of a near deserted London in the London Underground which is under attack by the Great Intelligence and the Yeti who are trying to take over the world. Sadly episode 3 is still missing but has been recreated using the original soundtrack and telesnaps but is still a fantastic, well acted and tense 6 part episode and the Yeti are excellent monsters seen in full for the first time on dvd as their debut The Abominable Snowmen is still sadly missing apart from one episode. This may well turn out to be Patrick Troughton's best serial untill more are redisocovered and at time of writing 97 episodes of classic Doctor Who are still sadly missing but if these can be found then i say there's hope for the others. This also sees the first appearance of one Allistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart, a supporting character and mysterious Colonel here who would go on to be one of Doctor Who's best loved characters.