On January 18th, 1967, the first blockbuster spaghetti western 'A Fistful of Dollars' was finally released in the US. It's hard to credit that this coincided with, of all things, The Underwater Menace. Sergio Leone had succeeded in resurrecting the moribund format of The Western in a harsh modern light but, as if to exemplify the gulf of expectation, the BBC showed that in spite of producing near-miraculous TV in some adversity week after week, they could still come up with baffling flights of fancy that just didn't work.
As an audio experience, TUM starts well, with some sparkling dialogue and the now familiar old chestnut of a new companion doing the "gosh" and "golly" routine. Yet as soon as the need for a plot arises, the script degenerates into ponderous cliché. (Zaroff is of course "the greatest scientific genius since Leonardo". Forgive The Second Doctor's deliberate hyperbole but how many scientific geniuses does that ignore?) The regulars are superb; it's just that everyone else is not. As a one-off entertainment for youngsters, there was surely enough feeling for The Doctor and his chums (whom Ben describes as "our lot") to maintain interest and the single surviving episode is surprisingly watchable but as a whole, it's a duffer. Over the top and corny, though not without a certain retro-charm.
Dr Who's most obvious B-Movie.
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