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24 September 2014

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The Underwater Menace

Production Code: GG

First Transmitted

1 - 14/01/1967 17:50

2 - 21/01/1967 17:50

3 - 28/01/1967 17:50

4 - 04/02/1967 17:50


The TARDIS arrives on a 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 manage to persuade the Fish People to rebel and stop work. The Doctor eventually manages to foil Zaroff's plan, but only by breaking down the sea walls and flooding the city. Zaroff drowns, but everyone else escapes.

Episode Endings

The struggling Polly is held down on an operating table as the Atlantean scientist Damon tells her that after she is injected she will know nothing more until her conversion into a Fish Person is complete. He advances on her with a syringe...

King Thous tells the Doctor and the priest Ramo that he has given much thought to their words and come to a decision. His attendants open the doors and Zaroff enters with a group of guards. Thous tells Zaroff that he can do what he likes with the two men.

Zaroff shoots Thous and has his guards do likewise to the King's attendants. Triumphant, he announces 'Nothing in the world can stop me now!'

As the Doctor attempts to materialise on Mars, the TARDIS suddenly goes out of control.


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

Conan Doyle's The Maracot Deep.

Burroughs' Pellucidar books.

Flash Gordon.

The Republic serial.

Undersea Kingdom.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

The Island of Dr Moreau.

Dr. No.

Robert Burns is quoted in the opening scene.

Dialogue Triumphs

Zaroff : "So you're just a little man after all, Doctor, like all the rest. You disappoint me."

The Doctor : "You disappoint me, Professor. I didn't think that a man of science needed the backing of thugs!"

The Doctor : "Let's not say goodbye Professor. We'll be seeing each other again."

Zaroff : "Not in this world, Doctor!"

The Doctor : "Zaroff, I think you ought to know the sea has broken through and is about to overwhelm us here."

Zaroff : [To his assistants.] "Don't listen to him! The man lies!"

The Doctor : "Then perhaps the distant roaring that we can hear is just the goddess Amdo with indigestion."

Ben : [On the Doctor] "Look at him - he ain't normal, is he?"

Dialogue Disasters

Polly : "Urgh, saltwater!"

The Doctor : "Well, this is Atlantis..."

Zaroff : [Plea to Polly] "Help me to stand at your sides so I may feel ze aura of your goodness!"

Zaroff : "Nothing in ze vorld can stop me now!"

Double Entendre

"I get a queer feeling."

"They share everything with me."

"Oh, have I dropped a brick?"

"Some people get most upset when they find they're to have the operation."

Zaroff : "So, you're just a little man after all, Doctor, like all ze rest. You disappoint me!"


Atlantis is located near an extinct volcanic island, its people eking out a living from the sea (they eat plankton). Their god is Amdo, and they are about to celebrate the Vernal Equinox. Most Fish People came to live in the waters after the city sank 'centuries ago', but others are artificially augmented humans.

As they land, Polly hopes it is 1966 Chelsea, Ben wants to avoid the Daleks, and the Doctor wishes to see prehistoric monsters. The Doctor carries a magnifying glass.


The Doctor's Name

A Short History of Atlantis


Atlantis, south of the Azores on the Atlantic ridge, close to 21 March, some time after 1968 (a commemorative vase of the Mexico Olympics is found).



In the opening TARDIS scene, Polly, Ben and the Doctor are each heard 'thinking' about where they would like to land next. (Polly hopes for Chelsea in 1966, Ben wants not to meet the Daleks and the Doctor relishes the idea of encountering prehistoric monsters.) This was achieved by prerecording the actors' voices and playing them back during the making of the episode.

Noel Johnson, appearing here as King Thous, was better known as the voice of Dick Barton in the famous radio serial Dick Barton: Special Agent. He would later play Grover in the season eleven story Invasion of the Dinosaurs.

Zaroff has a pet octopus!

Zaroff is described as 'the greatest living scientist since Leonardo'.

In Orme's original draft scripts, Zaroff's motivation was explained as being a sort of warped revenge for the deaths of his wife and children in a car crash. This was edited out before recording.


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


Zaroff has a 'plunger' with which he intends to destroy the world.


At the start of episode three the director can be heard.

Polly hits Zaroff with an enormous boulder and he goes 'Ooh!'

Fashion Victim

The Doctor impersonates a gypsy wearing cool 60s shades.

Cast & Crew


The Doctor - Patrick Troughton

Ben Jackson - Michael Craze

Jamie - Frazer Hines

Polly - Anneke Wills

Ara - Catherine Howe

Damon - Colin Jeavons

Damon's assistant - Gerald Taylor

Jacko - Paul Anil

Lolem - Peter Stephens

Nola - Roma Woodnutt

Overseer - Graham Ashley

Ramo - Tom Watson

Sean - P G Stephens

Thous - Noel Johnson

Zaroff - Joseph Furst

Zaroff's guard - Tony Handy


Director - Julia Smith

Assistant Floor Manager - Gareth Gwenlan

Costumes - Sandra Reid

Costumes - Juanita Waterson

Designer - Jack Robinson

Fight Arranger - Derek Ware

Film Cameraman - Alan Jonas

Film Editor - Eddie Wallstab

Incidental Music - Dudley Simpson

Make-Up - Gillian James

Producer - Innes Lloyd

Production Assistant - Norman Stewart

Special Sounds - Brian Hodgson

Story Editor - Gerry Davis

Studio Lighting - George Summers

Studio Sound - Bryan Forgham

Title Music - Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, arranged by Delia Derbyshire

Writer - Geoffrey Orme

Bottom Line - from The Discontinuity Guide

'I could feed you to my pet octopus yes? I, too, have a sense of humour!' The Doctor Who equivalent of Plan 9 from Outer Space. At least Joe Orton got a kick out of watching Frazer Hines in episode four of this story.

Analysis - from Doctor Who, the Television Companion

The Underwater Menace has a number of points in its favour. Geoffrey Orme gives his characters some reasonable and often amusing, if generally rather hackneyed, dialogue; there are a few charming and well-executed location scenes; Dudley Simpson's incidental music is quite pleasant; and Jack Robinson's studio sets are also effective, in some cases appearing surprisingly large-scale.

In addition, the effects work by way of which the final destruction of Atlantis is realised is excellent. Otherwise, however, it is very difficult to find anything good to say about this story, which is undoubtedly the weakest of the second Doctor's era, if not of the sixties as a whole.

The plot is tedious and clichéd; the guest characters are all one-dimensional; the companions get a very raw deal (particularly poor Polly, who seems to spend most of her time crying, whimpering and screaming); and the overall production is simply not up to the series' usual standard, the scripts' demands clearly far exceeding the resources available to meet them. The costumes and make-up are particularly unimpressive.

While this may perhaps be partly excused by the fact that the story, having originally been dropped during scripting, was resurrected as an emergency measure when another one - The Imps by William Emms - had to be abandoned after the writer fell ill, it has to be said that it makes for less than satisfying viewing.

The Fish People are perhaps the most poorly realised 'monsters' in the series' entire history, and their presence is made all the more painful by the thought that they need not have been included at all. 'Surprisingly, as guest "monsters" for the serial, the Fish People are a little superfluous,' noted Tim Robins in Doctor Who - An Adventure in Space and Time in 1983. 'The most violent action on their part is throwing shells at the taunts of the Irishman, Sean. Episode 3 contains an underwater "ballet" which seems largely unnecessary - despite being the only long scene featuring them... On the whole they are rather drippy as "monsters", and their revolt is due more to outside manipulation than any revolutionary fervour.'

To be fair, it should be noted that the Fish People's 'ballet', if somewhat pointless, is at least well staged.

The standard of acting on display from the guest cast leaves a lot to be desired. Most disappointing in this regard is Joseph Furst's Zaroff. 'Furst has to be one of the most monumentally awful actors ever to grace Doctor Who,' asserted Nick Cooper in Star Begotten Vol. 4 No. 1, dated May 1990. 'Indeed, he wouldn't have looked out of place as the stock loony in a late Roger Moore James Bond as he takes manic glee in ranting every line.' Furst is actually a distinguished and accomplished actor whose performances in other productions are generally admirable; on this occasion however he is certainly very much over the top.

All in all, The Underwater Menace is reminiscent of nothing so much as a poorly-scripted, uninspired and low-budget B-movie.

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This episode guide is made up of the text of The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping, and Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker.

The Discontinuity Guide © Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping 1995.
Doctor Who: The Television Companion © David J Howe and Stephen James Walker 1998, 2003.

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