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09 December 2012 @ 11:56 am
The Randomizer: Fury from the Deep  
This was another really good story from the black and white, audio only archives. It had a tendency to go on a bit long from a modern perspective, but was rescued by strong performances and genuine creepiness in places.

Oddly for Doctor Who, where it is the middle episodes that tend to drag I actually think Fury from the Deep's weakest episode is its last which suffers both from an over-extended "The Doctor attempts to fly a Helicopter" scene and from an over-extended post-story wrap-up in which Victoria makes her decision to leave the TARDIS crew. In character terms I think Victoria's departure is much better handled than, say Tegan's departure (given Tegan left for much the same reasons) but it still amounted to ten minutes in which the viewer is largely just waiting for everyone to get on with it. It probably doesn't help that Deborah Watling is not the strongest actress out there, nor to behonest is Frazer Hines as Jamie, and so the viewer isn't held simply by the dynamics of the characters and the strength of the performance.

However, elsewhere the performances are very strong. Particular praise goes to Victor Maddern as Robson. If nothing else I admire a man who can continue to play a part completely straight and with conviction while covered in foam:

It's not an easy part I think. On the page the man is the worst kind of blinkered bully. However the script shows that he's a man who inspires great loyalty and respect - both from his subordinate the Chief Engineer, and from his boss Megan Jones. I thought Maddern handled this well, assisted by the way that Roy Spencer as Frank Harris, his second in command, gave the impression that he was something of a natural victim (even when not concerned about his wife's health) and not necessarily a man you would choose to rely on. I thought it particularly interesting that towards the end, once Harris is in command, he showed signs of becoming just as dictatorial and close-minded as Robson before him had been.

Victor Pemberton, the writer, clearly wanted to talk about the class struggle here, with Robson a man who had risen through the ranks on ability alone, while Harris is the university-educated subordinate who both threatens and infuriates him by turns. I don't know anything of Pemberton's background but I wonder if there is any significance in the fact that Robson's first name is also Victor. At the end of the day I think Robson is too much of an over-the-top caricature to provide a particularly nuanced take on the subject, we really only know of his good qualities because others stand by him so steadfastly. But nevertheless it is a subject that I'm not sure I've seen tackled so overtly in Doctor Who before and it shows how a longer story with its options for a wide variety of characters (we have Robson, his subordinate Harris, his superior Megan Jones, the loyal Chief Engineer who is never named despite his prominent role in the story, and Van Lutyens the external contractor - all with slightly different perspectives upon how the refinery should react to the threat that faces it) can deal with character interactions in a way the more frenetic pace of modern who can not. That said, I accept the Wife in Space's observatoin that all this interaction involves possibly more discussion of drill shafts and impellers than is really good for audience engagement.

As a final note, I can't recommend highly enough Loose Cannon's reconstruction effort here which we stumbled across on YouTube - and I'm very unclear about whether either the YouTube uploads are in anyway officialy part of Loose Cannon, or even if Loose Cannon is still doing these reconstructions. Clearly a lot of thought and care had gone into the selection of stills to accompany the sound track, not to mention the addition of some simple special effects where possible. It was only a shame that the very last part had been taken down by the BBC, presumably because it contained more actual footage than they were prepared to allow.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/83919.html.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on December 9th, 2012 02:06 pm (UTC)
I never thought of this before, but I wonder how much of an influence the extended emotional ending was on Russell T Davies' notoriously long-winded codas. I remember Davies wrote a review of this story for a DWM special and I think parts of the article seem in retrospect like a statement of purpose for his vision of Doctor Who which arrived a few years later, although at the moment I can't be bothered to dig through the big pile of old DWMs to check exactly what he said. I do seem to recall him saying something about "strong, tragic women" which some feminist critics might interpret as him saying that women can be strong provided they are victims, not heroes.

I quite like Fury from the Deep but when watching Doctor Who in order I thought that it really suffered when viewed in context, as it comes after half a dozen stories that have been much the same. The class conflict element does raise it a bit, though, and judging by the surviving clips, it might have been better on TV than on audio. Then again, it might only be the scary bits that survive.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on December 9th, 2012 02:56 pm (UTC)
Yes, I can imagine Base under Siege wears thin if you watch the whole lot in order. I'm not sure, to be honest, I'd describe Victoria (or Maggie in this) as either strong or, to be honest, tragic though I can see how both could be viewed as such. Megan Jones is a bit of a star but manages to be strong without being remotely tragic. If Davies made such a comment it does suggest an interesting conflation of the concepts of strength and tragedy in his mind.
daniel_saunders: Eleventh Doctordaniel_saunders on December 9th, 2012 07:02 pm (UTC)
I've looked up the article and I must have been confusing it with something else, as there isn't much that reflects on Doctor Who post-2005 at all. That said, Davies does say that although he saw the original transmission, all he remembers is "two images: Maggie Harris walking into the sea, and Victoria looking up, being left behind. (Strong, tragic women: Doctor Who made me gay, discuss.)" Interesting that he links apparent suicide to strength, and rephrases Victoria choosing to leave (active) as "Victoria... being left behind" (passive).
louisedennislouisedennis on December 10th, 2012 10:29 am (UTC)
They are both arresting images, especially Maggie walking in the sea. I think the link to strength and tragedy is somewhat in the eye of the beholder though.