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The Underwater Menace (TV story)

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RealWorld
The Underwater Menace
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Novelised as: The Underwater Menace
Doctor: Second Doctor
Companion(s): Ben, Polly, Jamie
Main enemy: Professor Zaroff
Main setting: Atlantis, post-1968
Key crew
Writer: Geoffrey Orme
Director: Julia Smith
Producer: Innes Lloyd
Release details
Story number: 32
Number of episodes: 4
Season/series: Season 4
Premiere broadcast: 14 January - 4 February 1967
Premiere network: BBC1
Format: 4x25-minute episodes
Production code: GG
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BFI screen long missing Doctor Who episodes

The Underwater Menace was the fifth story of Season 4 of Doctor Who. As of October 2013, its second episode was the earliest surviving Second Doctor telerecording. Currently, only episodes two and three survive in full.

Synopsis Edit

The TARDIS arrives on an extinct volcanic island. Before long, the travellers are captured and taken into the depths of the Earth, where they find a hidden civilisation — the lost city of Atlantis.

The Atlanteans worship a goddess named Amdo and use fish people — men and women operated upon so that they can breathe under the sea — to farm the plankton-based food on which they survive. A deranged scientist, Professor Zaroff, has convinced them that he can raise their city from the sea, but actually he plans to drain the ocean into the Earth's molten core, so that the resultant superheated steam will cause the planet to explode.

The travellers meet up with two shipwreck survivors, Sean and Jacko, who persuade the fish people to rebel and stop work. The Doctor eventually foils Zaroff's plan, but only by breaking down the sea walls and flooding the city. Zaroff drowns, but everyone else escapes.

Plot Edit

Episode 1 Edit

Jamie is blown away by the interior and the workings of the TARDIS. The Doctor quotes Robert Burns to him - which confuses him further due to the fact that Burns wouldn't be born until ten years after Jamie was taken. The TARDIS materialises on a volcanic island.

The crew explore their surroundings; Ben, Polly and Jamie climb up a shallow hill for a better vantage whilst the Doctor begins to investigate the rocks to give him a clue as to their whereabouts.

As the three companions climb Polly thinks she sees something in the distance but Ben and Jamie say she must be imagining it. Polly decides to wait for the boys as she is running out of breath. They leave her on a ledge to return for her when they reach the top. She begins to explore and finds a bracelet that she examines very closely before beginning to explore in a nearby cave. Here she is confronted by robed figures. She screams which alerts Jamie and Ben. They return back to the cave and begin to explore. They are ambushed by the robed figures who capture them and put them in a small room where Polly is tied up. They discuss what to do until the door opens again and the Doctor is thrown in with them. Once all four are together. The room begins to descend like an elevator. The companions suffer difficulty in breathing, nausea and a strange taste in their mouth before they fall unconscious.

They awake later in a compression chamber. The Doctor wonders when they are. Polly takes a stab at the 1970s. When challenged she reveals the bracelet which is a souvenir from the 1968 Olympics in Mexico alluding to the fact that it must be some point after that. A guard armed with a spear enters. Polly and Jamie try to communicate with him but to no avail. He gesticulates with his sphere indicating that they should go down a corridor.

They are taken to a dining hall and given a dinner of plankton. The armed guard is hostile towards a serving girl called Ara who the Doctor sticks up for. Lolem, a priest, arrives and says that their goddess Amdo prophesied visitors falling from the sky before one of their festivals. He orders his guards to seize the four travellers in preparation for their sacrifice. As they are dragged away the Doctor says he has something important he needs to say. Lolem humours him and says he has five minutes whilst his friends are dragged away. The Doctor says that Professor Zaroff, whom he has deduced to be there, would be very disappointed if he heard that Lolem had killed him. When questioned as to how he knew Zaroff was there the Doctor states that only he could produce such delicious food from plankton. Lolem says that this changes nothing and that the Doctor will still die. The Doctor asks for him to send a note to Zaroff. Lolem forbids this but the Doctor smuggles the note to Ara and asks her to deliver it.

The companions have been led into a temple surrounded by a moat of shark infested water. Ben, Polly and Jamie are tied up and placed on ramps that tilt into the water. The Doctor is led into the temple who is tied up and placed on the fourth ramp. The ramps slowly begin to lift . The four victims try and cling on as best they can.

Ara goes to Zaroff's quarters and is forbidden entry. She then asks to see someone called Damon. Damon is given the note which reads 'Vital secret will die with me. Dr. W.' Damon immediately gives the note to Zaroff who rushes out and stops the ceremony and orders the Doctor to be released. Initially his companions are to be consigned to their fate but the Doctor tells Zaroff that he will not tell his secret whilst his friends are in danger. They are sent to the labour controller. Zaroff and the Doctor speak privately. It is revealed that Zaroff faked his own death allowing the world to think he was assassinated or kidnapped in a plot between East and West Germany. The Doctor flatters him so much that when he admits that he has no secret, Zaroff praises him for his sense of humour and allows him to live.

Damon is in charge of the labour and sends Jamie and Ben to the mines. When left alone with Polly he slightly intimidates her before showing her Zaroff's plans. Outside are farmers who have been given plastic hills in order to farm food under the water. Polly marvels at this but blanches when she discovers that this is the fate that Damon has in mind for Polly.

The Doctor and Zaroff talk and the Doctor deduces that they are in the lost city of Atlantis. Zaroff reveals that in return for raising Atlantis he was allowed to practice his experiments in the city. Ara comes and informs the Doctor of Damon's plans for Polly. The Doctor tells Ara to go back to Polly, watch over her and, if she has a chance, to get her away from Damon.

However it seems too late as Polly is on the cusp of being anaesthetised by Damon.

Episode 2 Edit

Whilst being shown round a laboratory the Doctor fiddles with the lighting,  which affects  the operating room. This stalls the procedure. Damon storms up to the laboratory demanding to know why Zaroff is draining so much power. Zaroff shows Damon he has a separate generator. Whilst the two argue the Doctor fuses the generator plunging the operating room into darkness. The two doctors leave Polly to see what is going on. Ara sneaks in and frees Polly - taking her to the caves. 

Damon is furious with the Doctor and  even Zaroff agrees it is best if the Doctor stays with him. Zaroff explains his plan to the Doctor. He plans to core into the centre of the Earth and drain the water away so as to render Atlantis accessible by land. The Doctor realises it will blow the planet apart and Zaroff concedes that this is an issue, before stating that will be his final testament. 

Down in the mines, Ben and Jamie meet Sean and Jacko. They are immediately ingratiated into their gang when Jamie helps them hide a compass from the dictatorial foreman. They explain that they are going to use a compass for a break out plan. 

The Doctor discovers that Polly has been freed and escapes from Zaroff's lab by creating a chemical reaction that causes a stultifying effect on those that breathe in the fumes. 

Sean and Jacko explain that they have found an underground shaft which they will use to escape. Ben and Jamie any they will join. An alarm sounds in the mine which means the group is going to separate. The four decide to slip away in this process. 

The Doctor has snuck into the cave system. He encounters Ara who tells him Polly is safe. While they talk they overhear Ramo talking to Damon. The Doctor discovers that Ramo also mistrusts Zaroff. The Doctor asks Ara to distract Damon so he can talk to Ramo privately. Ara approaches Damon and tells him that she saw Polly in the marketplace. Damon falls for it and the Doctor approaches Ramo. He goes to call out but the Doctor convinces him that he has important information regarding Zaroff. They go somewhere private to discuss. 

The party of escapees decide to split up to find the best way through the mines. 

At the temple the Doctor shows Ramo what Zaroff intends to do using a jug and a fire as props. Ramo is convinced and says he will summon him to an audience with the supreme leader Thous but warns the Doctor that Thous is a strong advocate of Zaroffs. 

Jacko joins up with Sean and Ben to say that Jamie has slipped down a cliff edge. Sean goes on to see if there is a better means of escape while Sean and Ben go back to help Jamie. 

Back at the temple Ramo gives the Doctor some ceremonial robes in order to get him close to Thous. As soon as they leave Polly leaves from her hiding place. As she does a secret door in the temple opens and Ben, Jamie, Sean and Polly emerge. 

Once alone the Doctor and Ramo explain to Thous Zaroff's plans. He asks to be left alone to consider his options. 

Ara returns to feed the refugees but is interrupted by people entering the temple. Everyone except Ara hide in the secret compartment. 

The Doctor and Ramo are summoned to the temple. Thous hands them over to Zaroff, to do with as he wishes. 

Episode 3 Edit

The Doctor tries to protect Ramo by telling them that he was led astray by the a Doctor but Ramo stands up for himself and states he has always hated and mistrusted Zaroff. The Doctor and Ramo are led away to be fed to the sharks. When left alone with Thous, Zaroff promises him that the Doctor's stories were untrue. 

The Doctor and Ramo are brought by Lolem, the high priest, and the priests to the idol of Amdo, about to be beheaded as a sacrifice and fed to the sharks when a voice issues from the statue of Amdo, commanding all present to bow their heads. The Doctor, recognising the voice as Ben's, escapes with Ramo and meets up with his friends in the secret enclave in the temple. On rising from their prayer and finding the Doctor and Ramo gone Lolem claims it to be a miracle. The statue has a mouthpiece on the inside designed for people to sound like their words are emanating from the idol.   

Zaroff tells Thous that his plans will come to fruition In two days time. Lolem enters and tells Zaroff and Thous of the 'miracle'. Zaroff is scathing of Lolem's stupidity  and orders Atlantis searched despite the doubts of Thous. 

Inside the idol the Doctor makes his plans: Sean and Jacko will convince the fish people to stop supplying the perishable plankton to Atlantis, and the rest will kidnap Zaroff. The Doctor and Polly disguise themselves as regular Atlantis shoppers in the marketplace whilst Jamie and Ben disguise themselves as guards. Avoiding the real guards the four of them trick Zaroff away from his guards and into the temple where he is captured. 

Meanwhile Sean insults the fish people until they are in such a state of disarray that they agree to stop production to get back at Zaroff, the man Sean blames for their current state of servitude. 

Zaroff taunts the Doctor saying that without him the plan will still go ahead, the Doctor doubts this stating that Zaroff's egomaniacal ways would stand in the way of such a hands off approach. Zaroff becomes enraged by this and falls into a fit. The Doctor takes Ben and Jamie to the laboratory to check on Zaroff's progress while Polly and Ramo guard Zaroff. A service is going on outside so The Doctor and his companions hide until it is finished. 

Inside the idol Zaroff repents his behaviour and begs Ramo to help him up so he can pray with him. Ramo consents after convincing from Polly. This is a trick and a scuffle breaks out between the two. Eventually Zaroff stabs Ramo and disappears into the cave system with Polly as his hostage. 

Once the service has finished the Doctor decides Jamie should go back and ask Ramo for directions. As he turns back he meets the mortally injured Ramo who mutters about Polly's abduction before dying. The Doctor sends Jamie after Polly whilst he and Ben go on to the laboratory. 

Jamie catches up with Polly who overpowers Zaroff. A fight breaks out between them. Zaroff appears to have the upper hand when Sean and Jacko join the fight. Zaroff runs off into the cave system. Polly decides they need Ara to help reunite them the Doctor. 

Back at civilisation Thous is informed by Damon of the revolt of the fish people. He agrees to enter discussions with them. Zaroff enters and over rules this saying that any dissenting fish people will be killed. Thous says he has no rights to overrule him and attempts to arrest Zaroff. Zaroff shoots Thous and his guards - vowing that nothing will stop him now. 

Episode 4 Edit

The Doctor and Ben discover the bodies left by Zaroff. The guards are dead but Thous is wounded. They decide to take him back to the temple.

Jacko and Sean are unsure as to what to do - they are tempted to leave the Doctor to it. The Doctor returns with Thous and announces his plans. He informs them he is to flood Atlantis to stop Zaroff. He orders Jacko and Sean to move the people while he and Ben will begin the process.

Zaroff hears that workers are leaving their post due to the shortage of food - they are having to go and scavenge their own food.

Ben and Jamie sneak into the generating station by Ben, dressed as a guard, pretending that the Doctor is his prisoner. Once inside they knock out the scientist and make the reactor overload before heading off to Zaroff's laboratory.

Lost in the cave system Jamie and Polly see one of the cave walls glowing luminously due to the radiation. As the wall begins to degrade water begins to flood in. The pair need to make it to land however the path they go choose leads to a dead end.

Jacko and Sean hear the noise and decide its time to leave. Damon joins their gang, lamenting the ruination of his life's work. As they escape the temple is destroyed. Thous is distressed that Lolem was in there but they are forced to push on.

Zaroff, concerned by the fluctuations caused by the Doctor, brings the mission forward. It will commence in 5 minutes. The Doctor enters and manages to explain to the technicians and guards Zaroff's true plan. They desert him. Zaroff locks himself into his laboratory saying that the Doctor and Ben will never get to him. As time passes Ben hears the sea approaching and makes to leave. In order to make life harder for Zaroff, the Doctor cuts off his light supply. Zaroff comes out from his laboratory, armed , to switch the lights back on.  Ben returns and locks Zaroff lit of his own laboratory allowing Ben and the Doctor to escape.

The Doctor wants to go back to save Zaroff but their is a rockfall blocking the way to the laboratory.

The water rises in Zaroff's laboratory. As the dial on his experiment drops to zero he descends into the water.

In the cave Polly and Jamie reach a ledge and Polly gives up but Ben convinces Polly to continue climbing up. Soon enough they reach the surface. Jamie breaks it to Polly that it is unlikely the Doctor and Ben have survived.

Also safe, Ara, Thous and Damon, think the Doctor dead. Thous wants to raise a stone for him in the new temple, but Damon says there will be no temples in the new Atlantis.

As Ben and the Doctor make their way up to the land Ben wonders if Polly has survived.

On land, Polly and Jamie sit disconsolate, until the Doctor and Ben emerge from the ground. They head to the TARDIS. As they dematerialize, Jacko and Sean look on in bemusement.

In the TARDIS Jamie admits that, without having a clue what's going on, he is enjoying himself. The crew mock the Doctor for not being able to control the TARDIS. He says that this isn't true and to prove it he will take them to Mars. He flicks a switch and the TARDIS begins to career out of control.

Cast Edit

Crew Edit

References Edit

Culture Edit

Individuals Edit

  • As they land, Polly hopes it is 1966 Chelsea, Ben wants to avoid the Daleks, and the Doctor wishes to see prehistoric monsters.
  • Jacko calls Jamie "Jock".

Story notes Edit

  • This story had the working titles of The Fish People, Doctor Who Under the Sea (also referred to as Under the Sea) and Atlanta.
  • Since Jamie isn't actually shown inside the TARDIS in The Highlanders, part one of this story has his "bigger on the inside" moment.
  • This story continues an early Second Doctor trait of assuming different identities, vaguely similar to the Master's penchant for disguise. In this adventure, he briefly dresses up as a local merchant.
  • At the end of episode three, Professor Zaroff utters the timeless line, "Nothing in the world can stop me now!" Davros and the Fifth Doctor would say similar lines in TV: Journey's End and The Caves of Androzani respectively.
  • In the opening TARDIS scene, Polly, Ben and the Doctor are each heard "thinking" about where they would like to land next in a rare example of internal monologue. This was achieved by pre-recording the actors' voices and playing them back during the making of the episode.
  • The name of the mad scientist, Zaroff, is similar to that of Dr Zarkoff, a scientist featured in the classic Flash Gordon adventures,
  • While The War Machines still remains the only time in the history of the series where the Doctor is referred to explicitly as "Doctor Who," the Doctor's note to Zaroff in the first episode is signed "Dr. W," making this the closest the Doctor has ever come to referring to himself as "Doctor Who."
  • Episode two was recovered on 19 September 2011.
  • This was the first story about the lost city Atlantis.
  • One music cue from this story exists, entitled 'The Fish People'.

Ratings Edit

  • Episode 1 - 8.3 million viewers
  • Episode 2 - 7.5 million viewers
  • Episode 3 - 7.1 million viewers
  • Episode 4 - 7.0 million viewers

Myths Edit

  • Joseph Furst adopted an outrageous East European accent in his portrayal of Zaroff. (Furst spoke in his own natural accent.)

Filming locations Edit

Production errors Edit

If you'd like to talk about narrative problems with this story — like plot holes and things that seem to contradict other stories — please go to this episode's discontinuity discussion.
  • At the start of episode three, the director's voice can be heard.
  • During the underwater scenes in episode three, the Kirby wires holding up the Fish People are clearly visible.
  • When Zaroff fires his pistol (a contemporary Beretta) at the end of episode three, there is a sound effect, but no evident smoke, recoil, or discharged cartridge.

Continuity Edit

Home video and audio releases Edit

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