The Underwater Menace

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032 – The Underwater Menace
Doctor Who serial
Underwater Menace.jpg
The Doctor, Jamie and Ben in disguise in the market of the lost city of Atlantis
Writer Geoffrey Orme
Director Julia Smith
Script editor Gerry Davis
Producer Innes Lloyd
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Dudley Simpson
Production code GG
Series Season 4
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Episode(s) missing 2 episodes (1 and 4)
Date started 14 January 1967
Date ended 4 February 1967
← Preceded by Followed by →
The Highlanders The Moonbase

The Underwater Menace is the partly missing fifth serial of the fourth season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from 14 January 1967 to 4 February 1967. The story constitutes Jamie McCrimmon's first journey with the Doctor as a travelling companion. Only two of the four episodes are held in the BBC archives; two remain missing. Episode 2 is the earliest surviving episode to feature both Patrick Troughton as the Second Doctor and Frazer Hines as companion Jamie McCrimmon.


The TARDIS lands on a deserted volcanic island. The Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie are captured and taken in a lift down a shaft below the seabed. They become prisoners of the survivors of Atlantis. Their High Priest, Lolem, declares they are to be sacrificed to the great god Amdo. As they are about to be fed to a pool of sharks Professor Zaroff arrives. He is a renegade scientist who has devised the technology from which the plankton food the Atlantians live on has been refined. The Doctor persuades the Professor to hire him for his scientific staff. Zaroff has a plan to raise Atlantis from the sea.

Jamie and Ben are sent to work in a mine, while Polly is marked out by scientist Damon for conversion-surgery into a Fish Person, one of a band of altered amphibians that farm plankton for the city. The Doctor interrupts the electricity supply, postponing the conversion operation. Damon blames Zaroff. Zaroff is planning to drain the sea into the Earth's core to restore the landmass to the surface. This will generate vast amounts of steam, which will crack the Earth's core and destroy the planet. Zaroff tells the Doctor that this is his ultimate aim. Polly is freed by a servant girl named Ara, and the Doctor escapes from the laboratory.

Ben and Jamie meet two shipwrecked sailors similarly confined, Sean and Jacko. All four escape using a secret mine shaft which emerges in the temple of Amdo—where Polly is hiding. Ara protects them, providing food and hiding them from the guards. The Doctor meets a priest named Ramo who is resistant to the influence of Zaroff on the Atlantean court, he warns him that Zaroff really means to destroy Atlantis. Ramo smuggles the Doctor before Thous, King of Atlantis, so that he can voice his warning. The King believes in Zaroff and hands the Doctor and Ramo over to him as prisoners. The Doctor and Ramo are taken for execution at the Temple of Amdo where Lolem is given the opportunity to make another sacrifice. However, a ruse by Polly and the others convinces the priests that a statue of Amdo has found voice. The Doctor and Ramo are spirited away into a secret room behind the statue while Lolem believes his god has swallowed the offering. When Lolem reports this miracle at court, Zaroff denounces it, insulting Amdo and sowing seeds of doubt in the mind of King Thous.

The Doctor decides to cause a revolution by creating a food shortage. He realises the plankton-based food will not last long before perishing, so decides to cause its farmers to stop supply. Sean and Jacko are sent to persuade the Fish People to revolt. They succeed in causing a production strike relatively easily. The Doctor and his friends head off to tackle Zaroff himself. The Doctor disguises himself as a gypsy soothsayer at the Atlantean market and helps trigger a ruse to separate Zaroff from his guards. Zaroff is captured by the Doctor's party and taken to the secret room behind the statue, where the crazed man boasts that his plan is unstoppable. Having faked a seizure, Zaroff manages to get hold of a trident and stabs Ramo, who has been left to guard him. Ramo survives, but is badly wounded, while Zaroff escapes. The megalomaniac has found his loyal guards and returns to the royal court mob-handed, where he confronts Thous. The King is aggrieved by the strike among the Fish People and has lost his faith in Zaroff to raise Atlantis from the sea. Zaroff responds by shooting Thous, while his guards take on the royal protectors in pitched combat. In Zaroff's own words, "Nothing in the world can stop me now!"

With Zaroff gone, the Doctor finds Thous bleeding but alive in the throne room and has him taken to the secret chamber for safety. He then determines to flood the lower portion of Atlantis so that the reactor and Zaroff's laboratory are destroyed. Sean and Jacko are told to alert the Atlantean populace to flee to the higher levels, while the Doctor and Ben head to the generator station to put the plan in motion. Once there, they cut through cables to render the reactor unstable. All over the lower portions of Atlantis the sea walls start to perish. Jamie and Polly are caught in the flow but succeed in swimming to safety. Sean, Jacko, Thous and a penitent Damon are also fleeing the lower reaches of the city, though Lolem is missing, presumed dead.

Zaroff has now become totally mad, obsessed with his scheme to destroy the Earth. Ben and the Doctor confront him and, with the city in ruins, his guards and technicians all flee. With the water level in Zaroff's lab rising, Ben succeeds in trapping the madman behind a grille to prevent him from reaching the detonation controls. Zaroff drowns while the Doctor and Ben flee, unable to help him. After a long slog, they make it to the surface and are there reunited with Jamie and Polly. Knowing that some of the Atlanteans—including Thous, Sean and Jacko—will have survived, the quartet return to the TARDIS and the Doctor operates the controls. They are only just taking off, however, when an external force seizes the craft and hurls them uncontrollably around the console room.


  • The Doctor signs a note to Professor Zaroff as "Dr. W.", apparently suggesting a surname. (See further discussion of the Doctor's name here.)
  • This is the first of three different explanations for the sinking of Atlantis in Doctor Who, the other two being in The Dæmons and The Time Monster.[1]
  • As the two preceding serials – comprising the start of Patrick Troughton's tenure as the Doctor – The Power of the Daleks and The Highlanders, are entirely missing, episode two of this serial is his earliest surviving complete episode, and also the earliest extant episode to feature Frazer Hines as Jamie McCrimmon.


Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"Episode 1" 14 January 1967 (1967-01-14) 24:18 8.3 Only stills and/or fragments exist
"Episode 2" 21 January 1967 (1967-01-21) 25:00 7.5 16mm t/r
"Episode 3" 28 January 1967 (1967-01-28) 24:09 7.1 16mm t/r
"Episode 4" 4 February 1967 (1967-02-04) 23:20 7.0 Only stills and/or fragments exist

Working titles for this story include Under the Sea, Atlanta and The Fish People.[5] The history of this script is particularly troubled. After its commission, it was dropped from the production schedule, partly because of concerns that it would require a higher budget than was available. A new script by William Emms, "The Imps", was commissioned to replace it; Emms, however, subsequently fell ill. When it was realized that it was unlikely that Emms would be able to complete changes to the script, which was due to begin shooting in a month, the original script, now titled "The Underwater Menace", was brought back into the schedule. A further complication arose because Frazer Hines was brought on as a regular member of the cast barely a month before the serial was due to start production, and his character, Jamie, had to be worked into the script. Because of all of these problems, the individual episodes were recorded just a week before they were due to be broadcast. Recordings took place at Riverside studios in Hammersmith.[6]

In December 2011, the BBC announced that Episode 2, previously missing, had been discovered among material bought by former TV engineer Terry Burnett with only cuts from Australian censors missing. The missing frames are still held by the National Archives of Australia, and once re-incorporated make the episode complete for the first time since the master tape was wiped in the 1970s.[7][8]

Actor Patrick Troughton was reputedly particularly unhappy about the production. He is reported to have described the show as having "ridiculous costumes and make-up of the fish people". Producer Innes Lloyd appeared to concur, admitting "it did look like something from a '50s American 'B' movie".[9]

Cast notes[edit]

Colin Jeavons later appeared in the Doctor Who spin-off pilot K-9 and Company. Noel Johnson later played Sir Charles Grover in Invasion of the Dinosaurs. Peter Stephens had previously appeared in The Celestial Toymaker.

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

The Underwater Menace
Doctor Who The Underwater Menace.jpg
Author Nigel Robinson
Cover artist Alister Pearson
Series Doctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
Publisher Target Books
Publication date
21 July 1988
ISBN 0-426-20326-7

A novelisation of this serial, written by Nigel Robinson, was published by Target Books in February 1988.

Home media[edit]

As with all missing episodes, off-air recordings of the soundtrack exist due to contemporary fan efforts. In February 2005, these were released on CD, accompanied by linking narration from Anneke Wills.[10] Episode three was released on VHS in 1998, along with the documentary "The Missing Years". They were later included on the Lost in Time DVD set; several brief surviving film clips were also included.

Episode 2, which was found in December 2011, was initially prepared for release on DVD in 2014.[11] After an extended period of uncertainty, the BBC confirmed a release date of 26 October 2015.[12] The two surviving episodes are supplemented by reconstructions of the missing two episodes, using restored audio and stills from the production.[13]


David Howe and Stephen Walker were unimpressed by the episode, stating that despite reasonable dialogue, effective sets and effects it was otherwise "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."[14]

Reviewing the DVD release for Starburst, Paul Mount said the serial was "tacky, cheap and unsubtle" but partially redeemed by "a sterling performance from Patrick Troughton, rising way above often lamentable material".[15]

Ian McArdell received the story more positively in a review for Cultbox, praising Troughton's "wonderfully charismatic" performance and Joseph Furst's "genuinely scary" Zaroff. He did note however that the Fish People's costumes were "frankly bizarre" and "their floating ballet sequence from Episode 3, though ambitious, fails to achieve. "[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (1995). "A Short History of Atlantis". Doctor Who: The Discontinuity Guide. London: Doctor Who Books. p. 140. ISBN 0-426-20442-5. 
  2. ^ Shaun Lyon; et al. (31 March 2007). "The Underwater Menace". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 18 June 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  3. ^ "The Underwater Menace". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  4. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (10 May 2006). "The Underwater Menace". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 30 August 2008. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Missing Episodes Recovered!". BBC. 11 December 2011. Retrieved 11 December 2011. 
  8. ^ Plunkett, John (12 December 2011). "'Lost' Doctor Who episodes from 1960s returned to BBC". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 26 December 2011. 
  9. ^ "Missing Doctor Who episodes discovered". BBC News. 12 December 2011. 
  10. ^ "Doctor Who: The Underwater Menace (TV soundtrack)". Big Finish Productions. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  11. ^ Foster, Chuck (3 May 2012). "DVD Update: Summer Schedule". Doctor Who News Page. Retrieved 26 April 2013. 
  12. ^ "The Underwater Menace to be released on DVD". Doctor Who News. 3 September 2015. Retrieved 7 September 2015. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^

External links[edit]


Target novelisation[edit]