A classic Doctor Who story whose original video footage has been lost to time resurfaces from the depths in animated form.
Originally aired in six weekly episodes from March through April, 1968, the Doctor Who story Fury From The Deep hails from the original show’s fifth season, forever enshrined by fandom as “the monster season” – a stretch of the show that was bookended by two Cybermen stories, included two battles with the Yeti and the Great Intelligence, and introduced the Ice Warriors.
And then there was Fury From The Deep, which introduced its own monster in the form of a malignant species of seaweed that could take over human bodies to do its bidding on dry land.
In many ways, Fury hews closely to the traditional trope of the Doctor Who “base-under-siege” story, a frequent-flyer story outline of the time (and one that continues to crop up even in modern Doctor Who) that makes a virtue of production economy: if the characters are stuck in one place with danger encroaching from outside, you don’t have to build many sets, and you get to concentrate instead on casting some decent guest stars who can ratchet up the tension. But perhaps more than anything else in the show’s fifth season, Fury From The Deep is a little six-part horror film unto itself.
And, of course, like many a great B&W Doctor Who story, it’s missing from the BBC archives. There are a handful of surviving clips (literally found on the cutting room floor where they were left when censors at the Australian network that bought Doctor Who in syndication felt that some scenes were simply too much for audiences down under). Those clips…amount to less than five minutes. Here is literally all that’s left of Fury From The Deep.
The rest of the story is gone – which not only deprives us of one of the fifth season’s most disturbing installments, but also deprives us of the departure of Victoria Waterfield, a companion from Earth’s past who traveled with the Doctor for this season only. Played by Deborah Watling, Victoria is a companion seriously impacted by the BBC’s practice of wiping “old shows” for which it saw no future use (keep in mind that, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was no home video market to give already-broadcast TV an afterlife). At one point, the only surviving record of Watling’s season on the show was the season opener, Tomb Of The Cybermen, which itself was once considered lost forever until tapes were recovered in 1992. Since then, The Enemy Of The World and all but one episode of The Web Of Fear, both of them six-part stories, miraculously resurfaced in north Africa in 2013, while four episodes of the six-part The Ice Warriors have also been recovered. Fury From The Deep is Victoria’s (and Watling’s) exit from the series.
Previously, Fury From The Deep was available in audio form – a 1990s cassette release narrated by Tom Baker (in character as the fourth Doctor relating a story from one of his previous lives), and remastered for CD release in the 2000s with new third-person narration by Frazer Hines (who played TARDIS traveler Jamie McCrimmon in the original story). But now the BBC is reviving the entire story, in animated form, on DVD and Blu-Ray.
The BBC has animated several classic Patrick Troughton stories already, either in their entirety to revive stories almost completely lost from the archives (The Macra Terror, The Faceless Ones, The Underwater Menace, and Troughton’s first appearance as the Doctor, Power Of The Daleks), or in hybrid releases with some existing surviving episodes and animated episodes taking the place of lost material (The Invasion, The Moonbase, The Reign Of Terror). Though the animation is sometimes about as limited as early ’70s Filmation animation, original production photos and directorial notes are consulted to make the results as faithful to the original missing episodes as possible.
Reanimating the episodes from scratch also handily solves the problem of the fact that the original footage wasn’t shot in anything remotely resembling high definition; as usual, both color and B&W versions of the animated episodes are included. The three-disc package also has audio commentaries, and features on the making of both the original 1968 story and its 21st century animated revival.
Speaking of 21st century revivals…do Mr. Oak and Mr. Quill (in the first YouTube clip included in this article) remind you of something or someone from a much more recent episode? Maybe they should…
Though no one on screen ever makes the connection, I wonder if one can’t connect the dots and assume that the deadly “alien” seaweed from Fury Of The Deep might be ordinary Earthly seaweed that somehow came into contact with The Waters Of Mars?
Perhaps the bonus features on the new release of Fury From The Deep can shed some light on this? Fury is released on DVD and Blu-Ray in the UK on September 14th; a North American release date has not been announced yet.