In The Underwater Menace the TARDIS crew are almost sacrificed to the local goddess, Amdo, turning up at just the right time for a ritual sacrifice (which can only happen to the TARDIS crew), and then, when the Doctor seems to be able to stop that from happening, Ben and Jamie are sent to work in mines, and Polly is about to be given gills so that she can join the fish people to collect food from the oceans for the inhabitants, and this is all in the first episode.
We learn a fair bit in this story about where they have landed, and the customs of the people they get involved with, which we do not always get in a lot of stories such as the food that they eat, where they get it from, how they get it and also. This marks it apart from the colony of Vulcan from only a couple of stories ago where we learned pretty much nothing about the colony itself.
We also meet a human scientist who appears, at first at least, to be helping the local inhabitants and seems to have the leader of the place wrapped around his little finger.
Polly doesn’t get a great deal to do after her exploits in the past four episodes and Ben and Jamie get a little bit more to do in the episode than then Polly, but at least they aren’t almost turned into a fish.
The people in general are very much a primitive race of people fearful of the wrath of their god and are easily led.
In the second episode the Doctor realises where they are and Zaroff tells him of his plans and the Doctor realises that he is stark raving bonkers and has two episodes to try and stop him from blowing up the planet!
The Underwater Menace is like the previous adventure in that is is very much of a certain type. This is quite like a 1950s b movie, and a second rate one at that that. Zaroff starts of seeming quite normal but as the story goes on he ends up a raving madman and, as a result, a great villain for a story of this type.
The end of episode three where Zaroff proclaims that nothing in the world can stop him showed that the character has well and truly lost his marbles and you sort of believed that he was probably right.
I thought that Joseph First was great in the role. Yes, he was gnawing and chewing the scenery but it was a very large than life role and he was a lot of fun to watch.
He probably could have dialled it down a bit and been a bit more menacing, but it probably would not have been as much fun to watch. Would it have been better with a more subdued performance? We will never know.
I thought that the scenes with the fish people in episode three was very unnerving and not like something that I had seen before in Doctor Who and must have been very weird for the viewers of the time and that, for me, is one of the best things about the episode other than the performance of Furst as Zaroff. Quite what they says about the story itself though is open to interpretation.
I quite liked the set of the temple of Amdo with the giant carved face in pride of place and thought that looked pretty decent.
I am not so sure about the fish people costumes to be honest, although I do think that Polly looked good in her Atlantean outfit.
The stars of this story are undoubtably Patrick Troughton and Joseph Furst and they have some great scenes together.
The other actors do decent enough jobs with what they have to do. There are quite a lot of characters though what with Colin Jeavon’s very bushy eyebrowed medic Damon who is pretty good when he appears; Ara the resourceful Atlantean girl and the only other major female presence in the story who befriends the Doctor and Polly fulfilling a similar role to that of Kirsty in the previous adventure; Sean and Jacko the miners who befriend Ben and Jamie; Paul Anil as Jacko was a good example of a decent role for a person of colour for the sixties at least; Lolem the devout High Priest; Ramo a priest who is not convinced by Zaroff and supreme leader Thous who is totally taken in by Zaroff and wont have a bad word said about him.
Troughton is really good in this story and he is at centre stage throughout and, when he is on camera, you cannot really take your eyes off him. He is on top form, as usual, in a story which has a lot of problems, and is probably remembered for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps if it has been complete then people might have been more kindly towards it, but probably not. I