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  1. #1
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    Default Going Underworld

    Gathering dust on my DVD shelf for nearly three years, is Underworld. It remains the only Tom Baker story I have no recollection of at all! From the time, I can remember watching Who from the very end of The Hand of Fear onwards - very vaguely at first of course, as I was only a Time Tot, but with more 'clarity' from 1979 onwards.

    Since those heady days, I've caught most of Tom's stories again - either on video or DVD or, in a couple of cases, through repeats on BBC Four or the Horror Channel. There are two exceptions.

    One if The Invisible Enemy, which through no particular planning I've not watched since it was transmitted. But I do remember watching it - from its initial showing, I remember having to miss episode two which, given how part one ends with the Doctor about to shoot Leela, and part three starts with the action having moved to an entirely different location and with lots of new characters, was rather annoying. I also, though, vaguely recall finally getting to watch part two at my Aunt's house when it was repeated.

    Of season 15, then, I can remember snatches of Horror of Fang Rock from when it was shown - Invisible Enemy of course - certainly The Sunmakers (part one and three's cliffhangers, and especially the shrinking Usurian certainly lodged in my brain) - and even The Invasion of Time (although my main memory there is of watching the last episode but somehow totally missing the last few moments - until I finally saw it again on video, I was convinced Terrance Dicks had made up the whole 'K9 Mark II' bit for the book!) Image of the Fendahl failed to make an impression, but I've now seen that on both video and DVD...

    ...all of which leaves poor old Underworld. Partly inspired by Jonno's rewatching of Blakes 7 to tie in with its 40th anniversary, I think the time is right to take Underworld off the shelf, dust it down, and (on the occasion of its 40th anniversary - today!) give it a spin.

    I'll be watching part 1 today... although I know that every review of Underworld ever written seems to begin with "part 1 was OK, but..."

    So it's back to being 6 and a half, to Tom being superb, and to Underworld!

  2. #2
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    I'll be interested to read your thoughts having only seen Underworld the once about 15 years ago back in the days of UK Gold.
    Ken and I are still a couple of months away from reaching the Tom era but we should eventually get to Underworld later in the year all being well.

  3. #3
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    First surprise, before the opening titles had even finished - I'd always thought Underworld was written by Anthony Read. Turns out (as I'm sure everybody else already knew) it's Bob Baker & Dave Martin!

    Some random thoughts:
    The companion is written very generically. Luckily, Louise is too good an actress and she manages to make it work as far as she's able - so, for example, in the opening TARDIS scene although she's operating the controls, she's doing it in a very anxious and uncertain, trepidatious sort of way.

    K9! I knew he was in it, but hadn't realised he'd be so involved. Not at all hard to see from this why he was such an immediate hit!

    A slightly curious episode in that there's no enemy, and in fact there aren't even two strands of plot going on after the initial arrival of the Doctor on the flight deck.

    Very nice for the Doctor and Leela to be able to take the weight off and have a comfy chair for the cliffhanger.

    Very impressive effects, especially for the time I would have thought - lovely opening spacescape (quite similar in style to Invasion of Time, I think) and nicely-detailed spaceship.

    Tom's scarf looks especially wide and bright, I'm liking that very much!

    So, in other words: Part 1 was OK, but...

  4. #4
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    ...Part 2 is not so good.

    Obviously I wasn't surprised by the presence of a lot of CSO caves. On the other hand, I was occasionally surprised that it worked OK. Just not enough of the time. There's also too many moments where the CSO background is the same for (I think) different locations, which confuses - have Jackson and Herrick gone back to the ship so they can come around the corner again, or is it a different corner?

    But I have to admit, I don't think the CaveSO are the big problem, it's more the script. Naff moments like Edas briefly attacking the Doctor when the gas comes in; the Doctor actually getting to say "what can blow can suck" just before the cliffhanger - which sort of robs it of any tension because I presume I can guess what happens next. Too little happens between the start and the end of part two, which is a shame.

    Also odd (again) is Leela's very dramatic "we're going to crash" at the start (was this the original part 1 cliffhanger I wonder) before they then all sit around casually waiting to crash. And was Dick Mills on holiday, or did some idiot think they could save a bit of money by not employing him? Buttons pressed make no noise, and most obviously the sonic screwdriver is silent. It just goes to show that what might seem a small difference, actually makes a big difference to the show.

    So, OK, not as bad as I might have expected, and in fact with a slightly better script, and better production values, and better guest actors, it might have been really good!

  5. #5
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    I might move this down the list on stories to watch Andrew! Next for me for a re-watch is Masque of Mandragora!

  6. #6
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    I developed a bit of a law of thumb concerning Tom's stories - being the ones I grew up, down, outwards and sideways watching - that was somewhat proven when the videos started coming out, eg. the more I could remember of a story, the better it tended to be. Underworld is one of my very least favourite Tom stories, being one I have trouble remembering bits from after having seen the video and DVD, let alone having no memories at all from first broadcast.

    Very little happens after the first episode - so part 1 was ok but... There are no memorable performances except from Richard Shaw and Alan Lake, and not for reasons you might expect: the latter only because of who he became and his tragic end; the former because he was so much better in his other two performances in Who - the best things in two other fairly poor stories.

    It's ridiculous the amount of times people end up walking through rocks in the story, although to be fair it's happening nowhere near as many times as other people will have you believe. Episode one is at least worth watching for the modelwork and the setup, but yes, well, it's better to have it than not, in the same way that it's better that any Doctor Who story survives than not, regardless. Just not one I'd go out of my way to watch.

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