It’s all Greek to me…
Sue: It’s the Bristol Boys.
I’ve been schooling Sue between stories. After all, the experiment is the -
Sue: They were responsible for the giant prawn. I don’t like the Bristol Boys.
Nicol: What on Earth are you talking about?
Yes, I persuaded Nicol to join us for Underworld. Let’s just call it payback for overcooking my chips the other night.
The episode begins with a stunning vista that features a cornucopia of stars and planets. But as the camera pans right, we are left facing empty blackness.
Sue: Did they run out of stars or is it supposed to look like that?
Leela is flying the TARDIS through this area of empty space (“Is she allowed to do that?”) while the Doctor is off painting somewhere. Sue reckons he’s painting a ceiling while Nicol opts for some still life. I don’t care.
Sue: I’ve never noticed this before, but the thing that moves up and down in the middle of his TARDIS -
Me: The time rotor.
Sue: Yes, well it’s a bit wonky, isn’t it? Shouldn’t it go up and down in a straight line?
Me: We can but dream.
Suddenly, a frustrated Leela slaps K9.
Sue: Hey! That’s not a great message to send to any kids who have pets. Who’s idea was that? She kicked him last week.
Even the Doctor tells K9 to shut his trap.
Nicol: Why are they so nasty to K9? What has he done to upset them? I love K9. Leave him alone.
Meanwhile, on a spaceship piloted by an elderly woman…
Sue: It’s a Saga cruise liner. In space.
Once she has acclimatised to this new location and its characters – Jackson, Herrick, Tala and Orfe – Sue is ready to pronounce judgement on the Minyans of Minyos:
Sue: A lot of thought has gone into their costumes. Their spacesuits look very practical.
If only she was impressed with what was stuffed inside them…
Sue: This bloke isn’t very good. The Welsh one. He’s too hammy. He looks like Peter Gordeno, if Peter Gordeno let himself go.
The Doctor and Leela arrive on the Minyans’ ship and they discover that the crew have been searching for their sister ship – the P7E – for 100,000 years.
Sue: How did they last this long without killing each other?
Nicol: I’ve been on this ship five minutes and I’m bored already.
The crew have managed this incredible feat by constantly regenerating themselves, a fact that is demonstrated to us when Tala transforms herself into a much younger version of her former self.
Sue: Now that’s what I call botox. So the Mignons -
Sue: Whatever. They must be more advanced than the Time Lords. They can regenerate thousands of times and they don’t have to go through the rigmarole of changing their faces and personalities, although that would get boring after a while, especially if you looked like a rough Peter Gordeno.
Sue is perplexed by the letters and symbols that cover the ship’s floor:
Sue: Have they been playing Scrabble on that floor to pass the time? At least they have some comfortable leather sofas to lounge around on. That must have helped. Actually, the more I think about this, the more insane it seems.
The Doctor hooks K9 up to the ship’s navigation systems, which causes the robot dog to yelp.
Nicol: Does K9 ever go “Woof”?
Me: He does if you pour petrol over him and set him on fire.
The ship enters a spiral nebula. Once inside, it begins to turn into a planet…
Me: Is that feasible, Nicol?
Me: The physics. Is it feasible?
Nicol: I’m sorry, I wasn’t paying attention. I was trying to figure out where I’d seen that blonde woman before. She was in Fawlty Towers, you know.
Me: Put your bloody phone down.
Nicol: But this is rubbish.
Me: You promised to watch it with us. You said you’d give it your full attention. The experiment is the ex-
Nicol: Did you know that Peter Gordeno’s son is in Depeche Mode?
Me: Yes, but Peter Gordeno isn’t in this.
Nicol: Oh. Sorry.
Sue is left to watch the credits alone.
Sue: Well, I liked it.
Sue: Seriously, Nicol, this isn’t that bad. Hang on, who is Anthony Read when he’s at home? And where has Robert Holmes gone?top
Nicol is on her phone again…
Nicol: According to a poll of 200 stories in Doctor Who Magazine -
Sue: 200!? You told me we over halfway through this ages ago.
Me: That number includes the new series. We’re not doing that, remember?
Sue: We’ll see about that…
Nicol: Anyway, according to this poll, Underworld is rated 197th out of 200 stories.
Me: (under my breath) Generous.
Nicol: So why are you making me watch this one, Neil?
Sue: Hey, it’s not that bad. I’ve seen a lot worse. And I didn’t vote in that poll.
The Minyans’ blast their way free of the meteorites that have formed around them (“Like a deadly honey nut cluster”), but the ship ends up on a collision course with another planet. The Doctor tells the crew to brace for impact.
Sue: They don’t have any seat belts. They haven’t got a hope in hell.
The ship crashes into the planet’s liquid surface.
Sue: If this planet is still forming, shouldn’t it be boiling hot? Shouldn’t they be roasted alive?
Nicol: Not necessarily…
She isn’t convinced with Nicol’s explanation (I dozed off myself), but at least Sue and her daughter can agree on one thing:
Sue: What the ****?
Nicol: What the hell?
Yes, we have landed on the planet Chromakey…
Sue: It’s all gone a bit Pete Tong.
I haven’t the heart to tell her that no one uses that phrase anymore. Not even Pete Tong.
Nicol: The blue screen work is terrible. That character just walked straight through a rock.
Blue screen work. Kids today, eh?
We cut to a control room where two figures dressed in black are monitoring events.
Sue: That look is very S&M.
Me: They look like something out of a Hostel film. Or a random Saturday night in Sitges.
Nicol: How can they see anything out of those tiny holes? They must be sweating like pigs.
Sue: This story is so cheap, they are replaying shots of the same crappy CSO effect, now. That is not good. That is not good at all.
Me: You’d better get used to it.
Sue: You must be joking.
Me: They didn’t have any money. It was this or nothing.
Nicol: They should have gone with nothing.
Sue: I suppose you have to admire them for trying. Sometimes, it doesn’t look that bad… Oh, wait… no, that’s not good.
Nicol chooses this moment to walk out. She doesn’t come back.
Sue: This reminds me of the time our boss thought it would be a good idea to run a TV drama module where the whole thing was shot in the studio with chroma backgrounds. It was supposed to be set in a service station and it took us forever to set-up the cameras.
Me: What did it look like?
Sue: It was shit. Just like this is shit. And we tried to do it twenty years after this was made. What were they thinking?
The Doctor and Leela decide to explore the virtual cave system…
Sue: What you save on cost, you lose on pace. You can’t move the camera without a big faff on, so everything is static and boring. Oh, this is very poor. I can see why this would come 197th in that poll. (pause). Hang on… that means there are three stories even worse than this. Have we seen them yet? Please tell me that we’ve already seen them.
Me: I’ll kill Nicol when I find her.
The Doctor and Leela hide in a mining cart and Sue’s patience is tested further when guards fail to notice our heroes pathetic attempts at subterfuge.
Sue: Maybe if the guards didn’t have those stupid masks on, they’d hear them banging about. This is ****ing terrible. Please make it stop.
Meanwhile, Herrick is attacked by another guard. Thankfully, Herrick manages to deflect the weapon fire with a gun that doubles as a shield.
Sue: He’s like Captain America. If Captain America looked like Peter Gordeno and was a bit shit.
In the control room, the guards have finally taken their masks off (Health and Safety probably stepped in).
Sue: Why wear the masks in the first place? I’m surprised they don’t faint when they are on duty. The sweat is pouring off them.
The Doctor and Leela rescue a man named Idas, but this character’s presence doesn’t do anything for Sue:
Sue: He’s as memorable as a kitten fart.
The guards fumigate the caves with gas and Tom Baker is forced to walk across a fake CSO background with fake fumes superimposed over it.
Sue: It isn’t Genesis of the Daleks, is it?
The Doctor tries to reverse the polarity of the gas.
The Doctor: Whatever blows can be sucked!
Sue: This story blows and sucks, mate.
We are then treated to one of the most drawn-out cliffhangers ever witnessed in this programme, as the Doctor tries – and seemingly fails – to do something clever with his screwdriver.
Sue: And it started so well…top
It’s Monday evening and Nicol has been persuaded to join us again. She must secretly like it.
Nicol: Did Tom Baker fall asleep during the last cliffhanger?
But no, the gas is suddenly pumped away, and the Doctor shares his delight with the audience watching at home.
Sue: As far as Tom Baker is concerned, there’s no such thing as a fourth wall. They should have docked his wages every time he broke it. That might have stopped him.
K9 returns to the fray; Nicol and Sue are delighted.
Nicol: I didn’t know that K9 could hover over the ground like that.
Sue: He can’t – that’s just bad CSO, love.
K9 prints out a map for the Doctor to follow.
Sue: How did K9 manage that? He’s a very clever boy. Who’s a clever boy, then?
Me: Please, don’t.
Idas is worried about fire-breathing dragons.
Sue: Don’t worry, mate, the plot can’t stretch to dragons, never mind fire-breathing ones. It can’t even stretch to a real set half the time. You’ll be fine.
Our heroes descend to the lower levels of the planet with the aid of a zero gravity elevator…
Nicol: Bad physics, bad acting, bad special effects and bad music, all rolled into the same scene.
Sue: I can’t really argue with that. This is terrible. They should have called it Underpants.
I bury my head in my notebook whenever Tom Baker flaps his arms up and down. If I do this, I can pretend that it never happened.
On the bridge of the P7E, Idas’ father is being prepared as the centrepiece of a ritualistic sacrifice.
Sue: This story isn’t in any hurry, is it? And that knife would have trouble cutting its way through butter. It will bounce off the old man’s stomach when it drops.
Nicol: I’m sorry, but this is pathetic. And I’ve seen Twilight.
Sue: Couldn’t we play the DVD at double-speed? We could get it over in half the time.
I am sorely tempted.
Me: The one good thing about Underworld is that the episodes are relatively short -
Sue: You have got to be kidding me. They feel like they are double the usual length. How does that work?
Herrick and Jackson have a gun fight with the guards.
Nicol: When did Star Wars come out?
Me: In the Uk? Late December 1977. This story appeared on television a week later.
Nicol: You can tell.
Me: Don’t be silly – they didn’t have enough time to rip Star Wars off. You make it sound as if they made this programme a couple of days before it was transmitted.
Nicol: You mean they didn’t? They actually spent time on this?
The Doctor and Leela encounter some slaves who are mining the planet.
Sue: Doctor Who is obsessed with mining. Mind control and mining. They can’t get enough of it. Mind controlled miners, that’s next. I’ll bet you anything.
Herrick is captured and questioned by the mysterious seers.
Sue: They are just a couple of berks in burkas.
The seers reveal their true faces.
Sue: Oh. That actually makes sense. I quite like the design of their helmets. It reminds me of the old Flash Gordon serials. Very retro.
The Doctor, Leela and Idas hide in another mining cart, only this time they are deposited into a waiting crusher.
Sue: Another terrible cliffhanger. Has this director never seen Doctor Who before?
Nicol doesn’t comment. She’s far too busy playing with her phone.top
As soon as the mining carts appear in the episode recap, Nicol holds out her phone to play the following tune at full blast:
Sue: That takes me back.
Me: Very droll, Nicol.
Nicol: I’m sorry but this scene reminds me of Donkey Kong Country.
Idas continues to underwhelm Sue:
Sue: He’d better not be the next companion. He’s more suited to a consumer affairs programme, like That’s Life or This Is Shit.
Sue: They really shouldn’t have broadcast this story. You know, quality control and all that. Leela’s left leg just disappeared again.
Nicol: Does anybody know what’s going on?
Sue: I haven’t got a clue… Neil?
Me: Don’t look at me. Actually, I don’t think I’ve seen this episode before. I usually give up in the middle of Part Two. I probably saw it when I was eight, but If I did, I’ve blanked it from my mind.
By the time I’ve finished my excuse, Sue has moved onto other things:
Sue: The first thing Jackson will do when he gets back to his ship is regenerate. He’ll have to if he wants to stand a chance with his fit co-pilot.
The seers hand the Minyans’ race banks over to Herrick.
Sue: Aw, that was nice of them.
Herrick: The Quest in over.
Sue: Thank **** for that.
Nicol: There are ten minutes left according to my stopwatch.
Sue: Oh God.
Me: Stick with it, Sue. You can do it. The experiment is the -
Sue: If you finish that sentence, I’ll ****ing kill you.
Jackson wants to leave but K9 won’t let him.
K9: Personnel incomplete. Doctor and the mistress not on board.
Nicol: Leela is the Doctor’s mistress?
Me and Sue: No!
K9 tells the Doctor that the race banks are clever fakes. They are really cunningly disguised fission grenades.
Sue: So, the bad guys made these grenades on the off-chance that this lot would come looking for the real ones, and they wouldn’t bother checking to see if they were fake or not before they left? Right. Well, it almost worked.
The Doctor herds a group of slaves into the Minyans’ ship.
Sue: I don’t think I’ve seen this many extras in an episode of Doctor Who before. They even hired a dwarf!
Nicol: That’s where all the money went. That’s why they don’t have enough money left for any sets.
Jackson doesn’t want this rabble on his ship. The Doctor points out that the refugees are his own people.
Sue: Finally, a decent scene. That scene was quite interesting. But it doesn’t make up for the rest of it. Not by a long chalk.
The Doctor switches the fission grenades for the real data banks and the seers realise too late that they have been duped. Their mad supercomputer, the Oracle, instructs the seers to get rid of the grenades immediately.
Sue: Flush them down the loo!
The seers are powerless to stop the grenades from going off.
Sue: Worst villains in Doctor Who. Ever.
Even the Oracle agrees.
The Oracle: I have failed in my duty, and deserve destruction.
Back on the Minyans’ ship, our heroes use the blast from the exploding planet to escape from its gravity well. The crew can’t wait to take the race banks back to Minyos II: Electric Boogaloo. It won’t take them long…
Herrick: Three hundred and seventy years. That’s nothing, is it?
Sue: Just enough time for one more game of Scrabble!
Nicol: I wonder which word they’ll make with the letter Q…
Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor draws some parallels between Jackson’s quest and Jason’s mythic quest for the Golden Fleece.
Sue: Bollocks. Jason and the Argonauts was great. Jason and the Argonauts had sword fighting skeletons and scary monsters in it. This didn’t even have a real cave.
K9 isn’t convinced, either.
Sue: That reminds me, am I allowed to give negative scores?top
The Final Score
Sue: What can I say? I liked K9.
The experiment continues…top
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