By Tim Robins
Fans of Classic Doctor Who will be excited to hear that the Season Five story Fury from the Deep will return as a wholly animated adventure in 2020. The story sees The Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Victoria (Deborah Watling) and Jamie (Frazer Hines) encounter a malevolent weed creature that has been unleashed from the depths by ‘Euro Sea Gas’, whose drilling operations result in a gas rig providing an unwitting home to the thrashing foam and weed creature.
First aired as six episodes from 16th March to 20th April 1968, the story by Victor Pemberton, is a creepy take on what had, in the 1960s, become a sign of ‘air-headed’ frivolity. A foam party’s first on-screen appearance was in the 1932 short A Rhapsody in Blue, which sees Louis Armstrong perform in an area of soap bubbles. Foam parties, at which party-goers dance amid several feet of soapy suds, dispensed from a foam machine, became an iconic part of the Swinging Sixties, as evidenced in the Peter Sellers movie The Party. Typically, Doctor Who used foam for more sinister effect.
Fury from the Deep provided the BBC Visual Effects Department opportunity to use its foam machine, after persuading the BBC to green light the purchase. Since the device was quite an expense at the time, the department were under pressure to justify the equipment. Foam featured in the TV drama Adam Adamant Lives, while Doctor Who used the machine in The Web of Fear, as a weapon wielded by The Yeti under the control of product of the Great Intelligence, and in The Seeds of Death, as an oxygen-eating fungus used by the Ice Warriors to terraform Earth. But it was in Fury from the Deep that foam really came into its own, producing one of the show’s most memorable monsters.
Fury From the Deep is much loved by those, like me, who saw the story when first broadcast, although I only recall a few scenes, such as Victoria being confronted by Robson, a gas refiner who falls under the control of the sentient weed creature, and a climactic set piece in which the Doctor must persuade Victoria to scream so her amplified voice can be used to defeat the creature which begins pouring through an air-vent.
The story is Victoria’s last as a companion. It also sees the first use of The Doctor’s sonic screw driver.
My friends and I would often rush out into our close to play Doctor Who after an episode finished. I have no memory of the scary scenes with Mr Quill and Mr Oak, who are possessed by the weed. However, I do remember taking leaves off our fir tree and sticking them partially up the sleeves of my shirt so as to mimic the way the weed infected characters looked with weed covering the backs of their hands. Like those characters, I also used to emit a noxious gas (but that was unrelated to anything in Doctor Who).
Not everyone was enamoured by the foaming weed monster, as the fan-made documentary The Making of Fury from the Deep revealed, noting Francis Hope’s comments in the New Statesman, after episode one first aired: “The strains of constant production are beginning to tell. Last week, some rather fierce seaweed gushed out of a ventilator and advanced on the captive Victoria Waterfield. It was only three weeks ago, a similar ventilator emitted billowing clouds of a sinister fungus choking London’s Underground. Fungus to seaweed is not the widest gamut in the world.”
No episodes of Fury from the Deep are known to survive, although a few clips exist (these and colour behind-the-scenes footage were available on VHS, as part of the “Missing Years” documentary, and on DVD, as part of the 2004 Lost in Time box set). But the story has been preserved in other forms, including the original scripts, off screen photos and the sound track.
The story was novelised in 1986 by Victor Pemberton, Loose Cannon recreated the series from existing photographs and, as mentioned above, 1999 saw the release of an excellent fan made documentary, The Making of Fury from the Deep.
Animating missing Doctor Who episodes and even entire stories has been broadly welcomed by fans. However, the results have been criticised for the limited nature of the animation and for interpreting the original scenes, rather than flowing shots as directed and broadcast. For example, the recent release of The Macra Terror represented the monsters as more crab-like and mobile than the original Macra prop. While much has been made of the difficulties of the original prop, the scampering animated Macra are not remotely as terrifying as the monsters as they appeared on TV.
While Fury from the Deep is welcome, the scenes shown in the trailer for the DVD have raised some eyebrows in fan circles. The concern has been focussed on the way the foam has been illustrated. Indeed the monster, in one scene, resembles melting scoops of Mr Whippy ice cream. This is certainly one occasion where artistic licence could have been taken to convey the foam as a menacing threat. I watched with dismay as one of my favourite Doctor Who monsters was reduced to little more than white fluffy clouds.
Foam parties regained popularity in the 1990s and were a feature at the Amnesia night club in Ibiza. If you want to celebrate the release of Fury from the Deep, foam machines can be bought or hired on-line. But beware. In April 2017, a young woman was killed when melted wires connected with liquid from a foam pool in which she was splashing around. Foam parties were also banned for a year in Thailand in the interests of public safety.
It seems real foam can be as dangerous as it was in Fury from the Deep.
Doctor Who – The Making of Fury from the Deep – from Nothing at the End of the Lane
The Making of Fury from the Deep is an amateur documentary put together in 1999. It features contributions by Michael Briant (Production Assistant), Margot Hayhoe (Assistant Floor Manager), Peter Day (Visual Effects), John Abineri (Van Lutyens), Roy Spencer (Harris) and an archive interview with director, Hugh David
Loose Cannon: Doctor Who – Fury from the Deep Recreation
• Doctor Who: Fury from the Deep on AmazonUK (Affiliate Link)
A freelance journalist and Doctor Who fanzine editor since 1978, Tim Robins has written on comics, films, books and TV programmes for a wide range of publications including Starburst, Interzone, Primetime and TV Guide.
His brief flirtation with comics includes ghost inking a 2000AD strip and co-writing a Doctor Who strip. He reviewed comics and films in posts and podcasts for The Mindless Ones until he became a net diva and forgot to name check the rest of the team at a San Diego Comic Con panel. The Mindless Ones gave him the nickname ‘Tymbus’