The most obvious thing to point out about this episode is that it feels like a Hartnell throwback. The continuation directly from the end of the previous serial; the return of the mercury fluid links and malfunctioning TARDIS; the arrival in a mysterious environment, and gradual exploration; the food machine, and the Doctor’s sudden incapacitation at the end of the episode, paving the way for his absence from the second part.
This is an astonishingly strange episode. A full fifth of it consists of the Doctor mucking about trying to fly a helicopter – which presumably meant some impressive aerial stunts on screen – then after the showdown with the Weed Creature almost half the running time consists of dealing with the aftermath, including having the Doctor sit down for a celebratory dinner with the Harrises. This is the Doctor who always slips away immediately after the monsters are defeated, choosing to stay on for small talk and supper.
‘It’s begun: the battle of the giants!’ The episode starts with a dramatic recap but what follows has nothing to rival Yeti attacks in Covent Garden. Instead, it’s a lot of people standing in rooms having urgent discussions while the Weed Creature’s servants creep about in the background stealing helicopters and looking shifty.
This is exactly the kind of story that Doctor Who can almost uniquely do: a collision between different genres. This episode very much reiterates that Fury from the Deep is a boardroom drama like The Plane Makers and The Power Game, warped by the presence of a creature from legend and an alien time traveller. So you have the arrival of the briskly commanding Megan Jones, the very picture of a Barbara Castle style “White Heat” technocrat, talking about government money and wanting a political solution to what she expects is a little local difficulty coming face to face with a cosmic hobo and a sentient vegetable.
The show’s 200th episode passes by without fanfare as the story meanders along pleasantly enough, throwing in some good creepy moments. Sadly, it also includes some really odd acting choices and script oddities that are inadvertently perplexing, and tend to detract from any sense of mounting tension.
This episode is starkly split between the futuristic control rooms of the Euro Gas facility and the amazing psychedelic domesticity of the residential block. Robson stamps around control bullying Harris and bashing heads with Van Lutyens, and everyone very earnestly talks about impellers and pipelines and gas flows like this is a knock-off of The Power Game. Meanwhile, in their apartment, the Harrises talk to each other like they’re in Brief Encounter (it’s all ‘darling’).
A good chunk of this episode feels oddly familiar, like a jumble of influences plundered from other stories. The TARDIS’ arrival on a beach, where the Doctor and his friends much about before getting shot at isn’t a million miles away from The Enemy of the World, and along with the general high security paranoia and the theft of a file by an unseen saboteur suggests this might be another espionage thriller. But then there’s the relationship between Chief Robson, the governor of this base under siege, who’s a familiar General Cutler type: a gruff despot, like Clent or the Gatwick Commandant. And the idea of a monstrous something lurking hidden in the pipes, living on poison gas, is right out of The Macra Terror – with that story’s Controller, Graham Leaman appearing as Price.
In the very final analysis, this is a bit of a cop-out ending. The Doctor’s spent the last week and a half coming up with a clever plan to foil the Intelligence, but ultimately he doesn’t get to carry it our because Jamie jumps the gun, uses the hacked Yeti to attack its peers, and wreck the Intelligence’s machine. There’s a lot of chaos, a big explosion, and then it all wraps up in about three minutes as the Doctor bemoans Jamie’s actions and warns that the Intelligence is still out there: ‘It might come back.’
Intriguingly, this episode explicitly takes place in real time: near the start the possessed Travers, moving awkwardly as a puppet controlled by the Intelligence, warns the Doctor that he has 20 minutes to make up his mind whether he will give his mind to the Intelligence for the sake of all the human lives, and be forced to live as a child with Jamie and Victoria as “parents”. And then, at the halfway point Anne remarks that they have 12 minutes remaining to come up with a way to re-wire a Yeti control sphere to regain the initiative.
The episode begins with Professor Travers being dragged away from the Goodge Street base by Yeti, and concludes with his return, escorted by them. In between are some of the most visceral action sequences and gruelling horror the show has attempted to date, including the massacre of nearly all the supporting cast in a Yeti attack that shows off Camfield’s dynamic film direction and ability to make about four Yeti costumes look like a horde. Shock moments include the sight of Lane’s corpse shrouded in cobwebs, and Captain Knight’s body left, eyes wide open, where a Yeti leaves it.