Within the pantheon of Doctor Who‘s missing episodes, Fury From the Deep is a story held in very high-esteem by fandom, regardless of its absence from the archives. Junked by the BBC in the early 70’s, the continued love for this missing six-parter is somewhat a leap of faith on most fan’s part, considering the full episodes were destroyed after only one broadcast. Could it really be as good as people say it was? Well, now thanks to the wonders of animation, we have the ability to watch Fury in finished form at long last – and immediately, it’s apparent why the story left such an impression on those watching it back in 1968!
There was never really any doubt though, when the set-up on paper alone sounds so good. Here, the Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and companions Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling) wash up on the shores of East England in 1975, only to discover a gas refinery under siege from a mysterious parasitic seaweed. Bizarre as it may sound, the actual end result is a tense and thrilling bit of teatime horror, which ekes out every bit of fear and dread that it can muster.
Victor Pemberton‘s superb script plays out in proper B-movie fashion, filled to bursting with chilling moments of genuine eeriness and full-on body horror, which have all remained as effective and intact even in animated form. Good, well-paced Doctor Who six-parters can be a rare beast, but Pemberton (a former story editor on the show) manages to skilfully keep several plates spinning across the serial. Throughout, creeping menaces and mysterious disappearances rub shoulders with helicopter chases, strange possessions and even a companion’s sad departure, but it all coalesces together immensely well, resulting in a tight and enjoyable narrative from start to finish.
As expected in a Patrick Troughton story, the performances are superb. Troughton himself is at his mesmeric best as the Doctor here, whilst Hines and Watling get some wonderful bittersweet scenes together in-and-among all the action and screaming. Victor Maddern casts a commanding but vulnerable presence in his guest appearance as the stern, antagonistic Robson, whilst there are some truly unsettling moments performed with gusto by June Murphy, John Gill and Bill Burridge (as the possessed Maggie Harris, Mr. Oak and Mr. Quill respectively).
Much of this is bolstered by the animation, which restores (and occasionally enhances) the episodes in inventive ways. Animation directors Gary Russell, Chloe Grech and Luke Marcatili have worked hard to keep to the spirit of director Hugh David‘s original production, yet have simultaneously bought it up to date for a modern audience. Utilising animation and the freedom it provides for design and scale, the overall product appears considerably slicker then it would have in 1968 – not a bad thing by any stretch. A particular action sequence – newly added for this animated version – is a perfect example of such thought, imbuing a rather comedic and inconsequential moment into a high stakes set-piece without losing any of the fun that was originally intended. Simply put, this new version of Fury is a triumph in every respect!
As expected with Classic Doctor Who releases, bonus features are plentiful, with new documentaries, packed cast and crew commentaries, and even a telesnap reconstruction of the serial spread across the three discs. Of particular note is Chris Chapman‘s new documentary The Cruel Sea (38 mins), an entertaining and thorough making-of, which revisits the original locations and reunites cast and crew to discuss the filming of the serial. The animated episodes also get the ‘making-of’ treatment in the aptly named Animating Fury From the Deep (21 mins), which is equally fascinating.
If watching the The Cruel Sea leaves you longing to see more of the original episodes, then thankfully you’re in luck, as the few surviving clips and off-air footage that still exist have been collated here in full (4 mins). There’s also some great 8mm cine film footage (4 mins), shot on the set at Ealing Film Studios in 1968, which offers a further glimpse of the original production’s climax, as well as a rare peek behind the scenes on a 60’s Who set.
Fury From the Deep was already a rightful classic, despite its absence from the archives, but now its place in many a Whovian’s ‘best-of’ list is guaranteed, thanks to the stunning efforts of the animators involved. The original’s foreboding atmosphere and disturbing set-pieces remain intact, the performances are better then ever, and at long last, we can all agree one thing – it really is as good as people say it was!