DVD/ Blu-ray review by Tim Robins
The BBC have continued their promotion of malevolent plant life by following last week’s release of The Day of the Triffids’ (1981) with a three-disc DVD/Blu-ray release of Fury from the Deep (1968), the animated adaptation of the last Doctor Who story to be fully wiped from the archives in the 1970s for want of storage space.
“Hindsight is 20/20 vision”, to quote Judge Judy and in today’s media marketplace where intellectual properties are being plundered for coin, the BBC’s decision to wipe the tapes now looks decidedly short-sighted.
Sadly, there is as close to zero chance as it is possible to get that Fury From the Deep will ever be seen again in its original form. The new DVD/Blu-ray contains the majority of what remains: brief snippets censored from prints sent to Australia, on-set and publicity photos, off screen telephoto grabs, memories of cast and crew – including an excellent feature in which participants return to the original locations – and a crisp, off-air audio recording of the six episodes made at the time of the story’s first and only broadcast in 1968. This audio track provides a guide for the animation which is available in black and white and colour.
Written by Victor Pemberton and inspired by his SF radio serial The Slide, Fury from the Deep sees the TARDIS land on the sea on the east coast of England where a company is using a network of rigs to drill for gas. The Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling) reach land only to find the beach mysteriously covered in large quantities of foam and the sound of a heartbeat coming from a pipeline.
The travellers investigate the strange phenomena but the Doctor barely has time to wield his sonic screwdriver before they are all shot with tranquilliser darts and carried into a nearby high security refinery.
(Incidentally, this is the sonic screwdriver’s first appearance in the show, albeit not as intended as a replacement had to be hurriedly called into service when the original prop was dropped into the foam by Troughton and quickly lost).
What follows is, in some respects, a typical “base under siege” second Doctor story but one that has more of the feel of 1970’s favourites Inferno and The Green Death (echoes of Fury from the Deep resonate, in a scene where the maggots in green slime fill up a transparent section of a pipeline).
The villain this time out is sentient seaweed with the power to possess people’s minds and bodies. Pretty soon, key figures are under the weed’s control and, realising a world conquering blobby intelligence when he sees one, the Doctor vaingloriously declares that a battle between two giants has begun!
The weed’s attacks are accompanied by often voluminous quantities of foam. The BBC effects department purchased a foam machine and put it to somewhat over use in stories such as The Seeds of Death. But make no mistake: Fury from the Deep is the Doctor Who monster foam-party story – and the best realised green blobby-thing in the series’ history.
The animation realises the weed in different ways. Although often rather one dimensional, the strands are given a bilious, green texture/colouring that makes them suitably creepy. I was worried from the trailer that the foam would look like cuddly, fluffy clouds of wool, but the whole ensemble works well and looks nothing like the Lovecraftian flock of Aardmanesque sheep that I had anticipated.
Fury from the Deep is animated in a different style to the previous three releases (The Macra Terror, The Faceless Ones (reviewed here) and the re-worked The Power of the Daleks (reviewed here). This time the animation is from Big Finish Creative Limited (in association with Digitoonz Media & Entertainment and Thaumaturgy), whose lively CD dramas have kept Doctor Who alive and kicking through fallow periods, cultivated writing talent and informed the reboot of the TV series. Their work now extends to other SF related properties including Timeslip and The Tomorrow People, all of which have developed a big fannish following.
The character animation on The Fury from the Deep is expressive, fun to watch and captures the likenesses of the cast. I was won over immediately by the scene of the Doctor rowing ashore, not least because it reminded me of Belvision Studios’ charming Herge’s Adventures of Tintin, whose cartoons used to liven up tea-time back in the 1960s. Make no mistake, this is a major step forward for Doctor Who animation.
I watched the colour version because… well, why not? I am a great advocate for the animated stories being works of creative adaptation in their own right, much as many of the popular Target novelisations were, and even when what’s seen or described is more elaborate and exciting than the broadcast story. That said, some of the changes may be controversial. There is a long scene in episode six where the animators have added giant tendrils of weed reaching up to grab a helicopter with the Doctor at the controls. But frankly, the original scene was comedy business thrown in at the wrong point of the story.
Fury from the Deep has gained an enthusiastic fan following among a generation of fans who were not even Zygon-like foetuses in their parent’s eyes. Vlogger Stubagful, gives a rare 100 per cent positive review of the story: “Fury from the Deep just works so unbelievably well that, in all honesty, it would work however it was told.” Fans of the series raving about the telesnap reconstruction note “Fury from the Deep is first and foremost, a rattling yarn”; “this is terror Who in every way”.
1968 was the year I really, intensely watched Doctor Who, and I judge that season’s stories mainly by my memories of them; which is how I came to suspect that the The Tomb of the Cybermen was not what it was highly acclaimed to be (that, and the tedious novelisation).
The first episode of Fury from the Deep clashed with one of my best friends’ birthday party, so I simply got his parents to turn the TV on.
This was also the time my friends and I would rush out after each episode and re-enact our favourite scenes. Our quiet, suburban close would ring with the sound of eight-year-olds stomping around as Yeti. For Fury from the Deep, I plucked some broad, fir tree leaves from my garden and shoved them up my sleeves to mimic being possessed by seaweed. (I also used to emit a noxious gas – but that was for unrelated reasons).
Pick up the DVD/Blu-ray, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Oh, and the sleeve is reversible with one side designed to fit in with your existing Doctor Who collection. Personally, I don’t see my copy simply gathering dust on a shelf, although my favourite version of Fury from the Deep still exists in my childhood memories.
Unboxing the Steel Box collector’s edition of ‘Fury from the Deep’:
Stubagful’s review of Fury from the Deep’s story can be found here…