Oh dear. To the non-Doctor Who fans this will be a bewildering release. A story in which the first and last episodes are missing (replaced here with still pictures and soundtrack, competently done and no doubt within budget but hardly thrilling) and which creaks along like a creaky thing. Why bother?
The answer is clear to the initiated. This is the last unreleased “missing” Doctor Who story from which any episodes are extant – part two was returned to the BBC a couple of years back. There were stories about animations of the first and last parts being scrapped due to money, then the BBC wasn’t going to release it at all and now here it is.
The problem is this: it isn’t very good. Leaving even the still pictures to one side, and they were never going to be dynamic, the rest of the story is painful to watch. Troughton, still new to the role of the Doctor, is curiously monotone – he’s going for “twinkling”, playing the recorder, stealing tools to effect a rather clunky escape; his Doctor hasn’t gelled yet. Ben and Polly remain among the most two-dimensional companions the programme has seen and Fraser Hines hasn’t settled into playing Jamie yet. Later, he and Troughton would become one of the best pairings ever in the show; it’s testament to the producers that they could see the potential.
It’s not a great plot. Furst overplays (desperately) Zaroff, a scientist who is going to blow up the world in a bid to resurrect Atlantis. He has found a race of fish people and is making more with his henchmen. No spoiler intended but the Doctor stops him.
It’s not a great premise as Zaroff would clearly be killed by his own plan. The attempts at making the fish people are endearing but sub-1930s Flash Gordon (to be fair there’s one underwater sequence into which some thought has clearly gone, but there just isn’t the cash to support the idea). The pace is as slow as any mid-1960s TV show and the lack of episode 4 makes it a rather muted curio, for completists only.
EXTRAS: Commentaries and a “making of” feature go some way to redeeming this release, as does the second part of a documentary on Television Centre. Even so, you can’t help but feel that the sound you can hear in the background is not of kids racing back behind the sofa but of a barrel being scraped. Until they find more, and we always hope they will, that’s your lot for classic Doctor Who.