AUDIO DRAMA
Doctor Who
The Underwater Menace

Starring: Patrick Troughton
BBC Audio
RRP 13.99
ISBN 0 563 53506 7
Available 07 February 2005


The TARDIS materialises on an extinct volcanic island, beneath which lies the lost city of Atlantis! A scientist, Professor Zaroff, has persuaded the Atlanteans that he can raise their city above the waves, but the Doctor realises the professor's plan could trigger the destruction of the entire planet. Meanwhile, Ben and Jamie are put to work in the mines, while Polly looks set to be transformed into a water-breathing Fish Person...

This is the final substantial Doctor Who release from BBC Audio (everything else on the drawing board has already been released in one form or another). Sadly they haven't saved the best for last. I doubt that The Underwater Menace is regarded as a classic in anyone's book. From the sequinned, goggle-eyed Fish People to the OTT performance of Joseph Furst as Professor Zaroff, this is all rather silly. Zaroff wants to destroy the world because... well, just because he can and he's insane.

Still, at least we can't actually see the dodgy visuals, as soundman Mark Ayres and narrator Anneke Wills concede during their 20-minute interview at the end of the second CD. Adding considerable value to the product, this interview contains a few surprising revelations, including the admission that the regular cast did not get on at all well with director Julia Smith (who went on to create EastEnders).

Judging by the one episode that exists in the BBC archives, Episode 3 (which can be seen - should you wish to - in the Lost in Time DVD collection), this story probably works better on audio that it would have done on video. One long Fish People sequence from Episode 3 is rendered as nearly two minutes of nothing but music on the audio version, but count your blessings that you are spared so much "swimming" about on Kirby wires.

As usual, the performances of the regular cast, Pat Troughton, Michael Craze (Ben), Anneke Wills (Polly) and Frazer Hines (Jamie), are well worth listening to. Joseph "Nozink in ze vorld can stop me now" Furst is also good fun as the very mad scientist.

In case you were wondering how the Atlantis depicted here ties in with the Atlantis of the Jon Pertwee serial The Time Monster (You weren't? Oh well, I'll tell you anyway!) I favour the assumption that the Atlanteans of The Underwater Menace are a small colony of survivors from the destruction witnessed in The Time Monster. The cultural upheaval of the decimated population could easily explain their turning to a new deity, the goddess Amdo, in the centuries that elapse between Monster and Menace.

This double CD is worth buying for two hours of undemanding fun, so long as you don't expect high drama.

Richard McGinlay

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