Characterizations are particularly bland this time around. No attempt is made to really introduce the time travellers, or to demonstrate the TARDIS properly - the fan's funny bone is aimed for once again, and the results look positively silly this time with the police box dangling down towards the sea on a string like a thirsty spider climbing down on his own web-tether. Much too far out of materialization-character for the time-machine.
Of the guest characters, Robson is scripted as perhaps the most one-dimensional of antagonistic base-leaders. Where Clent of "The Ice Warriors" (story no. 39) would explore his own issues, Robson merely blasts others down and pushes single-mindedly to maintain his gas-flow record. You'd think his safety-record would be of comparable importance as well. At any rate, despite whatever talents touted actor Victor Maddern brought to the role, his character is not at all interesting, and by the middle of episode three, his pig-headed attitude has used up every last shred of dramatic potential that his character has. We have only the weed to thank for saving us from more of this.
Second-in-command Harris and his wife Maggie are equally bland. Harris at least is polite enough to be given dialogue that actually works during the introduction of the base personnel to the Doctor and his friends, but Harris goes wife-happy in a very single-minded way soon after, incapable of balancing his character with the other concerns he is responsible for. Maggie, when not totally, sleepily spaced-out, is such a perfect typical house-wife that one must wonder if she has any character at all. This lot is just begging for something nasty to barge in to give their lives a stir - which is not a healthy way to write quality science fiction. It all too easily breeds an attitude in fans that beastliness is the only source of excitement in life, or at least, in a good sci-fi story.
We get some better characters in Megan Jones, Hubert Rees' Chief Engineer, and especially Van Lutyens, whom John Abineri brought to life with a little help from a passable Dutch accent. Van Lutyens is the one with the ability to get hot under the collar, and yet still pull back, notice his own character issues, make progress, and allow the plot to move forward.
The story's main monster is a lot of weed and foam, but that's only half of the troubles at the sea base. Also on hand are the Laurel and Hardy of horror, turning innocent situations into horrific ones like the clowns of "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy" (story no. 155) or any other good candy-horror villains. As the numbers of the base-personnel decrease, the number of weed-creatures increases - an excellent tactic for monster-story scripts. Growing threats are much more suspenseful.
Although painfully run-of-the-mill at first, "Fury From the Deep" gains momentum by the third episode, when things really start happening. Tensions among the rig crews come to a boil and lead somewhere, while the Doctor and his friends have many great scenes confronting and investigating the weed and its mysteries, not least of which includes a return to the well-equipped laboratories inside the TARDIS. An excellent logical move too often overlooked by other Who writers. Also of note is the very emotional story element of Victoria's growing discomfort with the Doctor and Jamie's lifestyle. The guest characters may not be able to look at their own issues objectively, but through Victoria the "Fury From the Deep" story manages to confront its own issue of "formulaic-ness", and that of the monster-season, objectively on its own. Terrific stuff. Victoria hits the nail on the head, and drives the point further home with each episode. With continuity links being so tight between stories all through the season, no room has been left for off-screen stories of the Doctor taking his friends to more enlightening, peaceful places. Too much steady terror for Victoria's taste, and with no end in sight, it has taken its toll.
Episodes four and five continue to work well, with many effective, suspenseful story-beats typical of a good horror/terror story. Kudos must go to episode six's structure, where a clue-revealing rescue is followed by a hair-raising helicopter ride showcasing the humorous side of Troughton's Doctor, before the final satisfying confrontation with the weed is played out. Harris and Megan Jones both prove most unreasonably single-minded and obstructive, which at this late point in the story only goes to show how poor a character environment we have been provided for the adventure. Harris argues too strongly against a plan that could save the wife he fawned over so much earlier on, which really strains credulity, and doesn't make for a great scene either. They may teach that conflict is the essence of a good script in screen-writing class, but the same unreasonable line of bullheadedness heard over and over just becomes irritating. Better devices for allowing the Doctor to explain his plan could have been used. If that isn't enough, the old cliché about female companions spending all their time screaming is exploiting in this story, then neatly turned on its head in the end. Sonic inventiveness is the order of the day.
After packing in all of that, the main plot resolves itself quickly, wisely leaving plenty of screen-time to confront the other, equally interesting sub-plot concerning Victoria's departure. The hero's formulaic quick-exit is put to the side in a manner that makes one sit up and take notice. The Doctor and Jamie actually stay an extra day in a peaceful, friendly, monster-less setting, as deeper feelings amongst the travellers are explored. Victoria thus gets the most emotionally wrenching exit of any Doctor Who character yet, with the sole exception of William Hartnell's Doctor.
Yet another unexpected distinction for this story is that it can be included in that small elite group of Doctor Who stories in which no one dies. A horror/terror story with no deaths? Yes, believe it, here it is! What better way to elevate the fear of the unknown than by removing any evidence of what actually happens to the weed's victims throughout the story? ....until the relief at the very end, of course. Even the prime weed creature itself only retreats and shrinks at the end. Death just isn't on the menu today. Nice touch.
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