Fifty years ago today, a Saturday, viewers watching BBC1 were introduced to a strange alien device that buzzed a bit and used sound waves to undo, well, screws. Having set ashore on the English Coast, the time travelling Doctor (as played by Patrick Troughton) opened up a control box on a gas pipeline using a phallic object that made a screw rotate out of its holding.
No fancy scans, just straight sonic powered DIY tool gadgetry. And wasn’t it fantastic.? Simple! Snazzy! Didn’t you want your own sonic screwdriver before it succumbed to infinite magic wandium? The first time was the best time.
Unfortunately, bar a few clips and still photos, sound is all we have left of the adventure that included this epic moment. Some surviving scenes only exist because Australian censors cut them out. Go figure.
Victor Pemberton’s 1968 six-part adventure The Fury of the Deep was the sixth serial in the fifth season of Doctor Who. It was also the swansong for Victoria Waterfield as played by the late Deborah Watling.
There’s a touch of the Quatermass about Fury in that it takes something everyday and gives it a little twist, exploiting a common fear or irritation. Around the time of broadcast, the UK was switching from coal-produced gas to natural gas, popularly styled as North Sea Gas (which is where it came from). Homes underwent a mass conversion of replacement of gas appliances which wasn’t entirely welcome. It was intrusive, the new gas didn’t smell right. etc.
So The Doctor and his friends walk into an industrial complex where things are going wrong, there is something nasty in the pipes, creeping poisonous seaweed and deadly foam, strange deaths, a short sighted bureaucrat in charge, and some rather peculiar henchmen who exhale noxious gas. Scared the willies out of me. Victoria too. She decides to leave the TARDIS crew to live with a couple who have been working at the refinery.
Although the visuals have been lost, the audio remains and has been released twice. The original has narration by Tom Baker, the subsequent release by Frazer Hines who played Jamie. Hines has also read Pemberton’s novelisation of the story, which steps outside the usual bounds of the Target books. He also made some alterations to the story which may or may not be satisfying.