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Saturday, 13 April 2013

Fury from the Deep - Reconstruction


It’s always very hard to know where to start when reviewing something that has been created solely for love, and also for a, by definition, limited fan market.

DOCTOR WHO fans have been spoilt over the years with the sheer number of excellent quality videos and books which delve deeply into the history of the show. One of the key aspects of putting together any project is to know what to leave out, and this is, I think, the greatest failing of the documentary looking at the making of FURY FROM THE DEEP.

It’s 50 minutes long, but Richard Bignell has managed to cram into that time just about everything known about the story. It’s like watching a video version of one of Andrew Pixley’s DOCTOR WHO Magazine Archives. And this is also its problem: facts and figures about recording dates and times are fine on paper where you can skim past them but know they’re there if ever you wanted to refer back, but on video they’re just dull. Viewers can’t remember them as they are reeled off, and, in the final balance, what is the purpose of including them at all. This complaint goes right through the video: the technical detail is accurate, but does it need to be there?

Another area that I disliked was the use of video captions and spinning/moving photographs. I felt that this just looked amateurish and compared badly with the rest of the tape: the culprits come during the sequences on THE SLIDE, Victor Pemberton’s 1966 radio play which bears uncanny similarities to FURY FROM THE DEEP, and THE PESCATONS, Victor Pemberton’s 1976 record drama which, again, treads some of the same ideas.

My final gripe is that the story’s author Victor Pemberton does not appear. Now this may be because he didn’t want to – I’d be very surprised if Richard had not approached him – but the lack of his comments is fairly apparent, and is a shame.

Anyone who has read down this far, will probably have got the idea that I hated this making-of documentary. Let me put you straight. Despite all the things I’ve mentioned so far, it is engrossing and entertaining, as well as being informative and extremely imaginatively put together and edited. It’s certainly the best video documentary relating to DOCTOR WHO that I have seen, treating its subject with respect and making sure that all the facts are right along the way.

As mentioned, FURY FROM THE DEEP has its origins back in 1964 when Pemberton submitted the idea to the DOCTOR WHO office, and also to BBC Radio. DOCTOR WHO turned it down, but Peter Bryant in BBC Radio liked it and commissioned a six-part radio drama called THE SLIDE. The Making-Of tape spends quite a bit of time on THE SLIDE, featuring lengthy extracts and detailing just how similar it is to FURY FROM THE DEEP.

We then follow the development of the scripts for FURY FROM THE DEEP and highlight some of the changes made for transmission. The use of footage of the location Thames Estuary platforms taken from a DANGER MAN episode is inspired and, given that there is a helicopter in that episode as well, really gives the idea of what FURY FROM THE DEEP’s location footage might have been like. There are also many brilliant and new photographs illustrating different aspects of the story from the model TARDIS used on location to Peter Day getting into costume as the eerie Weed Creature. Not to mention the 8mm studio film footage from Ealing which gives us a glimpse in colour of the aforementioned Creature, but also the foam machine, Troughton, and many other aspects of the production … and the Australian censor footage which shows key moments from the story … and footage of the locations as they are now … and the fact that Victoria’s scream at the end was not by Deborah Watling at all, but by … well you’ll have to get the tape for that one (I do find it very amusing though that Watling’s reputation as a great screamer was, at least in this story, built on miming to someone else’s screams.)

Not convinced yet? Well what about audio reminiscences and anecdotes from Director Hugh David, Production Assistant Michael Briant, Assistant Floor Manager Margot Hayhoe, Effects designer Peter Day, and actors John Abineri and Roy Spencer?

This is a very well thought out and edited documentary looking at the making of a single story. Yes it has faults, but some of these are down to personal preference, and some are because I perhaps would like the documentary to be of a standard to see a commercial release or transmission. Whichever, Richard is to be applauded for this neat idea and slick execution: a reconstructed documentary on the making of a story which you can also watch and enjoy in reconstructed form.

Just one final question: at the end of the documentary, it is said that the final image of Victoria is her standing alone on the beach as the camera zoomed away. And this effect is achieved with a very neat little effect. However in the reconstruction of FURY FROM THE DEEP, the image of the end is not of Victoria on her own, and does not work half as well as Richard’s. Has the reconstruction got it wrong … I think we should be told.

David J Howe