UNDERWORLD

Part One

Sue: It’s the Bristol Boys.

I’ve been schooling Sue between stories because the experiment is the…

Sue: They were responsible for the giant prawn, weren’t they? I don’t like the Bristol Boys very much.
Nicol: What are you talking about?

UnderworldYes, I persuaded Nicol to join us for Underworld; let’s call it payback for overcooking my chips last night. Anyway, the episode begins with a stunning vista that features a cornucopia of stars and planets. But as the camera pans right, we’re left facing darkness.

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 (Sue: “Is she allowed to do that?”) while the Doctor is off painting something. Sue reckons it’s a ceiling, whereas Nicol opts for some still life. I couldn’t care less.

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.

A frustrated Leela gives K9 a slap.

Sue: Hey! That wasn’t a great message for 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.

The ship is crewed by Jackson, Herrick, Tala and Orfe (aka the Minyans of Minyos).

UnderworldSue: A lot of thought has gone into their costumes. Their spacesuits look very practical.

If only she was impressed with the costume’s contents.

Sue: He isn’t very good. The Welsh one. He’s too hammy. He looks like Peter Gordeno. If Peter Gordeno had let himself go.

The Doctor and Leela arrive on the Minyans’ ship and 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 managed this incredible feat by constantly regenerating.

UnderworldSue: Now that’s what I call botox. So the Mignons…
Me: Minyans.
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 probably get boring after a while, especially if you looked like a rough Peter Gordeno.

Sue is perplexed by the symbols which adorn the ship’s floor.

Sue: Have they been playing Scrabble 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 connects K9 to the ship’s navigation systems, which causes the robot dog to yelp.

Nicol: Does K9 ever go, “Woof”?
Me: Only if you pour petrol over him and set fire to him.

The ship enters a spiral nebula, and then – get this – it begins to turn into a planet.

Me: Is that feasible, Nicol?
Nicol: Is what feasible?
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 undivided attention. The experiment is the…
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.

The credits roll.

Sue: Well, I liked it.
Nicol: Mother!
Sue: Seriously, Nicol, this isn’t that bad. Hang on, who’s Anthony Read when he’s at home? And where has Robert Holmes gone?

 

Part Two

Nicol is on her phone again.

UnderworldNicol: According to a poll of 200 stories in Doctor Who Magazine
Sue: 200!? You told me we were over halfway through this ages ago, Neil.
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.
Me: (Under my breath) Generous.
Nicol: So why are you making me watch it, Neil?
Sue: Hey, it’s not that bad. I’ve seen a lot worse. And I didn’t vote in that poll.

Meteorites start to cling to the Minyans ship (Sue: “Like a deadly honey nut cluster”), but when they blast their way free, they end up on a collision course with a planet.

Sue: They don’t have any seatbelts. They haven’t got a hope in hell.

The crash landing is cushioned by 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 they 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 nobody uses that phrase any more. Not even Pete Tong.

Nicol: That character just walked straight through a rock.

Two mysterious figures, dressed from head to toe in black, are monitoring events from a control room.

UnderworldSue: 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 little holes? They must be sweating like pigs.
Sue: This story is so cheap, they’re replaying shots of the same crappy CSO effect. That is not good, Neil. 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 left. It was this or nothing.
Nicol: They should have gone with nothing.
Sue: I suppose you have to admire them for trying. It doesn’t look that bad, sometimes. Oh, wait… No, that isn’t good.

And that’s when Nicol walked out.

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 chromakey backgrounds. It was supposed to be set in a service station and it took us forever to set the cameras up.
Me: What did it look like?
Sue: Shit. Like this looks like shit. And we tried it 20 years after this was made. What were they thinking?

The Doctor and Leela explore the virtual caves.

UnderworldSue: What you save on cost, you lose on pace. You can’t move the camera without it being a big faff, so everything is static and boring. I can see why this came 197th in that poll. Hang on… That means there are three stories even worse than this one. Have we seen them yet? Please tell me 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 sorely tested when the guards fail to notice our heroes’ pathetic attempts at subterfuge.

Sue: Maybe if the guards didn’t have those stupid masks on, they’d actually hear them banging about. This is ****ing terrible. Please make it stop, Neil.

Herrick deflects a guard’s weapon fire with a gun that doubles up as a shield.

Sue: He’s like Captain America. If Captain America looked like Peter Gordeno and was a bit shit.

The guards finally take their masks off (BBC Health and Safety probably stepped in).

Sue: Why wear them in the first place? I’m surprised they don’t faint when they’re on duty. The sweat is pouring off them.

The Doctor and Leela rescue a man named Idas. Sue doesn’t understand why they bothered.

Sue: He’s as memorable as a kitten fart.

The guards fumigate the caves, which means the fake CSO background now has fake gas superimposed all over it.

Sue: This isn’t exactly Genesis of the Daleks, is it?

The Doctor tries to reverse the polarity of the gas. “Whatever blows can be sucked!” he declares.

Sue: This story blows and sucks, mate.

We are then treated to one of Doctor Who’s most drawn-out cliffhangers, as the Doctor tries – and seemingly fails – to do something clever with his screwdriver.

Sue: And it started so well, too.

 

Part Three

UnderworldIt’s Monday evening and Nicol has joined us again. She must like it, secretly.

Nicol: Did Tom Baker fall asleep during the last cliffhanger?

When the gas has been safely pumped away, the Doctor shares his delight with the audience watching at home.

Sue: There’s no such thing as a fourth wall as far as Tom Baker is concerned. They should have docked his wages every time he broke it. That would have stopped him.

K9 returns to the fray.

Nicol: I didn’t know K9 could hover over the ground like that.
Sue: He can’t. That’s bad CSO, love.

K9 prints out a map for the Doctor to follow.

Sue: What a clever boy. Who’s a clever boy, then?
Me: Please, Sue. Don’t.

Idas is worried about fire-breathing dragons.

Sue: Don’t worry, mate, the BBC can’t stretch to dragons, never mind fire-breathing ones. It can’t even stretch to a real set. You’ll be fine.

UnderworldOur heroes reach the planet’s lower levels via a zero gravity elevator.

Nicol: Bad physics, bad acting, bad special effects and bad music. All in the same scene.
Sue: I can’t argue with that. This is terrible. They should have called this Underpants.

I bury my head in my notebook when Tom Baker starts flapping his arms up and down. That way I can pretend it never happened.

Nicol: I’m sorry, but this is pathetic. And I’ve seen Twilight.
Sue: Can’t we play the DVD at double-speed? We could get it over with in half the time.

I’m sorely tempted.

Me: The one good thing about Underworld is the episodes are relatively short.
Sue: You must be kidding. They feel like they’re double the usual length. So how does that work?

Herrick and Jackson shoot their way past some guards.

UnderworldNicol: 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 are introduced to the slaves who are mining this planet.

Sue: Doctor Who is obsessed with mining. Mind control and mining. They can’t get enough of it. It’ll be mind-controlled miners next.

Herrick is questioned by the mysterious seers.

Sue: They’re 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’re delivered to a waiting crusher.

Sue: Another terrible cliffhanger. Has this director ever seen Doctor Who before?

Nicol doesn’t comment. She’s too busy playing with her phone.

 

Part Four

Sue has had it with Idas.

Sue: He had better not be the next companion. He’s more suited to a consumer affairs programme like That’s Life!, or This Is Shit!.

And then…

Sue: They shouldn’t have broadcast this story, Neil. You know, quality control. I mean, look – Leela’s leg just disappeared again.
Nicol: Does anybody know what’s going on?
Sue: Not a clue, Nic. Neil?
Me: Don’t look at me. 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.
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.

UnderworldThe seers hand the race banks over to Herrick.

Sue: Aw, that was nice of them.

According to Herrick, the quest is over.

Sue: Thank **** for that.
Nicol: There are 10 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 will ****ing kill you.

K9 tells the Doctor the race banks are clever fakes, and they’re actually fission grenades in disguise.

Sue: So the bad guys made these grenades on the off-chance this lot would come looking for the real ones, and they wouldn’t bother checking to see if they were fake before they left? Well, it almost worked, I suppose.

The Doctor ushers the 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 for any sets.

UnderworldJackson doesn’t want this rabble on his ship, even when the Doctor points out that the refugees are his own people.

Sue: Finally, a decent scene. That was quite interesting, actually. But it doesn’t make up for the rest of it. Not by a long chalk.

The Doctor swaps the fission grenades for the data banks, duping the seers in the process. Their mad supercomputer, the Oracle, tells them to get rid of the grenades immediately.

Sue: Flush them down the loo!

The grenades go off.

Sue: Worst villains in Doctor Who. Ever.

The Minyans can’t wait to take the race banks back to Minyos II. It won’t take them long – 370 years, give or take.

Sue: Just enough time for one more game of Scrabble!
Nicol: I wonder which word they’ll make with the letter Q?

UnderworldThe Doctor is suddenly reminded of 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 rubbish doesn’t even have a real cave!

K9 isn’t convinced, either.

K9: Negative.
Sue: That reminds me, am I allowed to give negative scores?

 

The Score

Sue: What can I say? I liked K9.

1/10

 

112

Comments

  1. Dave Sanders  July 3, 2012

    “Faster! Imperative story must move faster!”

  2. Carson  July 3, 2012

    Oh man. I wish Sue and Nicol had enjoyed “Underworld” half as much as I enjoyed their commentary!
    I wonder whether it would’ve made a difference if they hadn’t seen those DWM poll results…? Ach, probably not a jot. Still, I really love one of those three bottom-dwelling stories (although I’m not holding out much hope that Sue will agree with me…)

    • encyclops  July 3, 2012

      I enjoyed two of them when I was a kid and watched them over and over, but I did that with lots of Doctor Who episodes back then, and have no reason to believe I’d enjoy them now. There are lots of the bottom 50 I’d disagree with, though, so I know where you’re coming from. I find it almost impossible to compare new Who with classic Who on an equal footing; I don’t know how people manage it.

  3. Paul Gibbs  July 3, 2012

    I have tried to watch Underworld a total of twice, Both times I ended up following Nicol’s lead and playing on my phone then bodily rippping the damned disc from my player at the end of episode one. The rest are three episodes I feel no need to ever bother with. In fact,…

    Opens Ebay, clicks on ‘sell’.

  4. Lewis Christian  July 3, 2012

    I love that the production code for this was “4Y”.

    Y indeed.

    • Lewis Christian  July 3, 2012

      Never mind Underworld or Underpants, shoulda called it OverBudget.

      • Dave Sanders  July 3, 2012

        Or UnderDuress.

        • Lewis Christian  July 3, 2012

          UnderPressure!

          (I like this game.)

          • Lewis Christian  July 3, 2012

            BlunderWorld.

          • Philip Ayres  July 3, 2012

            UnderWhelmed?

            Forget Flash Gordon! The seers look like Wordy from Look & Read. They aren’t the last monster to either.

            Remind me which 3 finished beneath this in the big 200 poll.

          • Dave Sanders  July 3, 2012

            Astoundingly, one of them *isn’t* Warriors On The Cheap, or there would be two that poor old Pennant Roberts got hopelessly lumbered with,

          • encyclops  July 3, 2012

            Philip: two of them start with the letters T I M E and one of them immediately follows the story that was voted top of the poll. All three, interestingly, feature That Coat.

          • Lewis Christian  July 3, 2012

            And two of them don’t deserve to be there at all.

          • encyclops  July 3, 2012

            Lewis, I’d love to know which two, and which stories you’d swap them with. It’s not a challenge; there are a lot of promising candidates, I think, starting with the only televised Doctor Who story of the 90s.

          • Lewis Christian  July 3, 2012

            Well, simply, my bottom 3 would be:

            Warriors on the Cheap, Time-Flight and Arc of Infinite Boredom 🙂

          • encyclops  July 3, 2012

            Quite reasonable choices, though I never minded Arc very much and certainly would rather watch it over a lot of other clunkers. The aforementioned 90s story is probably rock bottom for me, but I can see why other people might be more inclined to see it as a glass half full.

          • Lewis Christian  July 4, 2012

            For all its flaws and faults, The TV Movie acts as a bridge between the two ‘eras’ and I don’t think it was too bad. Get rid of a couple of dialogue lines (we all know the ones), tone down the Master a bit, and it’s actually not bad.

          • encyclops  July 4, 2012

            I’m sure we’ll have much more to say about the TV Movie if it’s part of the experiment, but for now: I think you’re basically right that the pain would be lessened with a nip and tuck here and there, but I don’t think those changes alone would enable me to enjoy what was actually broadcast. Plus I felt as though there was really nothing to the story, or else it might have been easier to forgive those lines (even The End of Time did more violence to continuity and good taste) and the scenery-chewing, and ultimately that was the bigger problem. As a pilot to an ongoing series, it might just have worked; since that’s all we got, it really didn’t amount to anything.

            So if there’s one single Doctor Who story I could remove from history without impacting what came before and after it, that’s the one it would be. But I don’t blame anyone for feeling otherwise.

          • sparklepunk  July 8, 2012

            I agree with the movie for the vote. There are other episodes I’m not keen on, but that one really was a complete disappointment to me. There were maybe one or two scenes I liked and the rest were just not to my liking at all.

    • Matt Sharp  July 5, 2012

      ‘Y indeed.’

      No, that’s ‘The Celestial Toymaker’, Sue’s only zero. Other Ys include YY ‘The Space Pirates’ (another 1, the last story to score that low, in fact) and YYY ‘The Monster of Peladon’ (a 2, the worst scoring Pertwee).

      The next one bucks the trend, though. But not the one after (it comes below this in the DWM Top 200).

      • Jazza1971  July 5, 2012

        Loving your analysis, Matt!

  5. John S. Hall  July 3, 2012

    Graham Williams’ first season is really failing to impress, innit?

    • Frankymole  July 3, 2012

      Wait until the next season – same stuff, even less humour.

      • DPC  July 3, 2012

        Season 16 is more refined, and looks like it had more money, but – yeah – 3 stories are tedious to get through… still, we might be surprised… 🙂

        • John G  July 3, 2012

          I think Season 16 is the best Williams season, overall. It manages, for at least half the time anyway, to get a good balance going between playful humour and imaginative, interesting storytelling. Just a shame it all falls apart so badly at the end…

          • John Callaghan  July 4, 2012

            A story I’m bound to tell again when it comes around: I was a bit headachy and glum. I walked past the living room where my housemate was watching Power Of Kroll, decided to watch five minutes, and came away 90 minutes later feeling refreshed and cheerful. Season 16 is in my top two series.

          • DamonD  July 4, 2012

            I agree, I think 16 holds up pretty well and it’s my favourite of his seasons as well. At least, until it all utterly collapses horribly in the last couple.

          • Thomas  July 7, 2012

            I’m currently watching 16, and like it quite a bit (just started Armageddon Factor, which is starting really well, though I dread to see where it goes given its reputation). Ribos Operation was also my very first classic episode, so it has that going for it as well.

            As for Underworld, I think it gets quite a bad rap. I mean, yeah, it’s really bad, but it’s also not “bottom ten of 200 DW stories” bad. I also find it really hard to criticize it severely given all the production problems they had with it- actually, I find it bears a lot of similarities with the following story, given that both were severely hampered by production problems, but also that both were really aiming for the stars with what they were trying to do. That they didn’t get there is sad and unfortunate, but one has to admire them trying (and in my mind puts them way above a story like The Visitation, which is very clearly a better-executed episode, but is just not trying to do anything remarkable).

  6. Lewis Christian  July 3, 2012

    “They should’ve called it Underpants” is missing from the commentary! 🙁

    • Neil Perryman  July 3, 2012

      Oh yeah, how did that happen? I’ll fix it.

      • Lewis Christian  July 3, 2012

        I don’t even know how you had the energy to type this one up. That said, the commentary is rather fantastic 🙂

        At least the next story is, at least, fun. And bonkers.

      • Charles Norton  July 3, 2012

        I hope that Sue at least gets the chance to watch Invasion of Time with the new CGI effects. I mean, six episodes of some tin-foil on string, straight after sitting through Underworld – she might just lose the will to carry on. Go on.

        • Frankymole  July 3, 2012

          Trouble is, the fuzzy CGI cotton-wool “baby bud” figurines aren’t better.

          • Charles Norton  July 3, 2012

            Well the CGI people are certainly not perfect, but they’re still better. There’s also subtle things like the lasers and display monitors, that work better too.

            You can always make arguments about replicating the authentic experience of watching in 1978, but, in all honesty are you gaining anything?

            Besides, after sitting through Underworld, ‘Invasion of the tin-foil monsters’ really isn’t the best follow-up. Surely, you want to see the show at its best – particularly if you’re trying to convince a sceptic of its merits.

  7. Adam Birch  July 3, 2012

    Underworld’s a bit of an oddity for me. I keep blanking out bits from the middle of the story, no matter how many times I’ve watched it. Could be my mind’s self-preservation instinct.

    I was 7 years old when this story aired and I hated every “cute” robot TV and cinema tried to foist on me, so K9 is a colossal pain. I was the only child at my school who refused to sign the “Save K9” petition. I still loathe the metal mutt.

    The catch with fan polls as to story credibility is that it’s all subjective. In much the same way that I sometimes agree with Sue and sometimes not, there’s a huge amount of possible variety in the polls.

    • John G  July 3, 2012

      The other problem with fan polls is that they inevitably favour stories that have been more widely circulated and seen over the years, which always puts the 60s stories, and the wiped ones in particular, at a serious disadvantage.

      • encyclops  July 3, 2012

        I’m thinking it might even out. Apparently (The?) Tomb of the Cybermen was better-loved as a novelisation and a memory than an extant story, and when it reemerged it seemed a lot dodgier than anyone had thought. Some of those missing stories might not get the credit they deserve just because fewer people have seen them, but some might also get more credit because their reputation exceeds their quality.

        I have to say, I liked Blink a lot, but I have trouble agreeing that it’s the second-best Doctor Who story of all time.

        • Jazza1971  July 3, 2012

          When the poll was carried out I would have said “Blink” was the best story since the series returned, but I still was rather thrilled to see that part of the “classic” series had beaten it to the top spot. Especially since in all such polls the most recent stories, or whatever, do disproportionately well as they are better remembered – hence you get Robbie Williams apparently having the best single of all time, and that sort of thing.

          • Dave Sanders  July 4, 2012

            I was the one critic in the whole of Britain who thought Blink had its clever head firmly up its arse.

  8. John Callaghan  July 3, 2012

    If you’re going to use models instead of sets, why not turn it into an asset and have backgrounds that couldn’t be made into full-size constructions?

    I like the Seers’ look, though, and the fact that they take off unlikely helmets to reveal unlikely heads. It’d be like a policeman taking off his helmet to reveal his head is the same shape.

    • Lewis Christian  July 3, 2012

      The Sontarans did it first :p

  9. Wholahoop  July 3, 2012

    Definitely harsh even with all it’s faults

  10. John Williams  July 3, 2012

    Another brilliant piece. Has any other actor been in so little yet left such a pervasive mark in history as Peter “Bloody” Gordeno? My mum randomly mentions him even nowadays, and he haunts UFO even though he’s in it for about 17 minutes over 20 odd episodes.

  11. Dave Sanders  July 3, 2012

    Sue didn’t comment on Idas’ so-called ‘dragons’ being invisible? Her invisible monsters well really has run dry, hasn’t it?

  12. Jazza1971  July 3, 2012

    Am I missing something? People are referring to a “commentary”, but I can only see the usual written report.

    • Neil Perryman  July 3, 2012

      It’s a written commentary, I guess.

      • Jazza1971  July 3, 2012

        Okay, I was getting confused. It must be my age or something!

  13. P.Sanders  July 3, 2012

    I admire the achievement of Underflaps a lot more since watching the DVD extras – it was the most anyone had used CSO up to that point. For me the failing of the CSO is not the quality (it actually holds up surprisingly well in places) but the fact that it saps everyone’s acting ability (as they aren’t acting in a cave set or on location but in a big featureless blue room), and as Sue says the camera has to stay static so it becomes so flat. But the real problem is a lack of imagination. The Invisible Enemy may have big production and story problems but there’s no end of ambition. Here Baker and Martin give us an epic set-up with an intriguing opening episode, and then we get another race of slaves, more caves (CSO or otherwise), another sacrifice and another megalomaniac laptop… It has such potential and there is still a fair bit to enjoy, but it is Who-by-numbers…

    Also I watched this the other night and read about Alan Lake on Wikipedia. So sad…

    • Neil Perryman  July 3, 2012

      Sue refused to watch the extras. Nicol, on the other hand, really enjoyed the studio off-cuts where Tom Baker pretends to be in a foul mood.

      • Dave Sanders  July 3, 2012

        ‘Pretends’?

        • Neil Perryman  July 3, 2012

          I got the impression that he was just having a laugh. It’s not a full-on Leisure Hive style rant.

      • DPC  July 3, 2012

        Okay, I am so going to watch the the extras this evening. 🙂

        Thx for the info!

    • Frankymole  July 3, 2012

      “The Phantom Menace” was made in a very similar way, actors working to green walls instead of sets / each other. It shows the same failings, acting-wise.

      • Cracked Polystyrene Man  July 7, 2012

        Except with THE PHANTOM MENACE George Lucas had enough time and money to let the actors do multiple takes if they weren’t happy with their performances. He just didn’t let them – much to their annoyance apparently.

  14. chris-too-old-to-watch  July 3, 2012

    It’s stories like this that give fans a bad name: I still think that the entire cast and production crew were being mind controlled by evil Trekkies trying to prove their superiority. I still can’t believe the “We’ve got no money for scenery, so we’ll use chroma key excuse”. Why couldn’t they have cut this story and use any money spent on this trash (£3.26) towards the other stories?

    • Thomas  July 7, 2012

      Because cutting a story means four weeks the show isn’t airing, and is a really bad move for a new producer to make (it tells the higher-ups that he can’t handle the position). It also might mean a cut in budget for the following year, and given that it was already slashed heavily this year, they understandably didn’t want that to happen.

  15. Frankymole  July 3, 2012

    Funny that Sue mentioned the possiblilty of the lad becoming the new companion. Press material at the time stated that Kala was going to be the new companion, replacing Leela.

    Still, the same month as this went out, we had Blakes 7 to enjoy (with some of the same cast!)…

  16. Marty  July 3, 2012

    I’ve just realised how many one liners there are in Tom Baker stories; “Eldrad must live”, “Contact has been made”, “The quest is the quest”.

    The spaceship set looks nice.

    Sue’s kinda hit this one on the head.

    There are some redeeming elements of this story; all the scenes in the TARDIS are good and the model shots are fairly good. And even everything on the P7E before it lands is quite good. Maybe if the story was cut down to the scenes that take place on actual sets it might be alright.

    • Philip Ayres  July 3, 2012

      and what connects those three stories? Bob & Dave!

  17. P.Sanders  July 3, 2012

    Just been watching The Stones of Blood – make sure when you get to that one you make Sue watch the deleted scene. Nearly pished myself – “PLYMOUTH?!”

  18. encyclops  July 3, 2012

    I have “Yethterday” in my head now:

    “When the budget’s low / CSO is Graham’s decree”

    Fantastic.

    As for Underworld: I know I’ve seen it. Maybe even twice. But I was maybe 11, and even then I hated the way it looked. I don’t remember those brass heads, though; those ARE fabulous, and I don’t mind the kinky hoods either. Then there’s the mythology, by which I don’t mean the “P7E” stuff but the series mythology, where we have a race with some access to Time Lord “immortality” (see also the Sisterhood of Karn). They call that “fanwank” or “continuity porn,” I guess, which implies it’s something no one wants to admit to enjoying in public.

    None of that makes this a good production, or even a good script. I’m just relieved it didn’t beat Fendahl. I was worried there for a bit.

    • Dave Sanders  July 4, 2012

      Glad I made a good impression. So to speak. 🙂

      • encyclops  July 4, 2012

        Oh yes. I can’t wait for the sequel!

  19. SparkyMarky  July 3, 2012

    I remember being really excited about this when it was repeated on UKGold in 1990 something. It was one of the few stories that I had never seen or heard anything about….needless to say I was sorely disappointed. Although when I got the DVD last year it was better than what I remembered it being especially the first episode. Oh well onwards and upwards!

  20. Neowhovian  July 3, 2012

    Personally, I can live with the crappy CSO (though yeah -it’s crappy!). What really got my knickers in a bunch was the truly godawful “science”! Oh. My. GOD! Neil alluded to it in his first Nicol-baiting question, but really, no. Just… no.

    Bad bad bad bad BAD attempts at gravitational technobabble. URGH!

  21. Mr Toad  July 3, 2012

    Long time reader (enjoyed it lots). First time comment.

    Laughed out loud at several points, but reserved a low chuckle for ‘mind-controlled miners, that’s next’. A long time to the payoff of that line, but looking forward to what Sue makes of that one when it comes round…

  22. Tim Cook  July 3, 2012

    What I find interesting about Underworld is it’s Who at its barest and most basic, it’s as if the production team decided to make a serial with just a first-draft script and a few actors. Underworld is the only story I’ve no memory of watching as a child, leaving me rather puzzled when the novelisation appeared in the bookshops. On the other hand, the next story has one of my most fondly remembered cliffhangers ever…

  23. Bryan Simcott  July 3, 2012

    When I got my leela figure (the first one the leg fell off so it might have been an underworld edition)
    the second one had paint flaking off)

    The third one the top half is smaller than the bottom half.

    sorry are people still talking about UNDERWORLD, I`m sorry I drifted off for a moment. Theres not much to say is there

    ive run out of words…….like sets

  24. Simon Harries  July 3, 2012

    There is no way I can watch Underworld sober. Multiple tumblers of Talisker are required, both before and during, and that’s still pushing it. Earlier this year, in the lobby of a hotel in LA, I was invited to join in on a commentary podcast for Underworld, alongside various fans from the USA and Canada plus, on occasions, Gary Russell. Quite how we achieved it, I have no idea – I have not dared to listen to it since then. Who wants to hear the drunken ramblings of fans anyway, especially on the subject of Underworld?

    • Al  July 4, 2012

      As to the subject of that final sentence: I wouldn’t mind.

      • Simon Harries  July 5, 2012

        Pardon me, I should have said, “an hotel.”

        • Jazza1971  July 6, 2012

          No you shouldn’t! With the word “hotel” you pronounce the initial “h” and so the correct form is “a hotel” (so you were right the first time). Only words beginning with an “h” that isn’t pronounced (a silent “h” if you will”) should have “an” used instead of “a” – so you have “an honest decision” and not “a honest decision”. There are exceptions to this, but it is all to do with whether the accent falls on the second syllable or not and it doesn’t matter in the case of “hotel”.

          I know you were probably joking, but, well…you know…

          • Wholahoop  July 8, 2012

            BBC News used to say “an hotel” – there were letters in the Radio Times about it!!!

            The crap I remember from my childhood, sheesh

          • Jazza1971  July 8, 2012

            And rightly so! 😀

          • PolarityReversed  July 26, 2012

            Actually an acceptable old-fashioned posh way of saying it is: “an ‘otel”. Possibly a bit of an affectation towards French.

            But THERE IS ONLY ONE “h” in “aitch”! Pronounce it “haitch” and I will hunt you down with sentient tumbleweeds and hurl you down a pit to become the gimp of a giant green intergalactic knob…

  25. John G  July 3, 2012

    “K9: Personnel incomplete. Doctor and the mistress not on board.

    Nicol: Leela is the Doctor’s mistress?

    Me and Sue: No!”

    I think this must rank as one of your funniest posts, but it is so often the case that a negative commentary is much more hilarious than a positive one! I think Nicol should be bribed into participating more often, as she always adds an extra dimension of humour when she does sit in. By the way, I think Sue is a little hard on the Bristol Boys at the start, as while they are responsible for the Prawn they did give us her beloved K9 too!

    Underworld is one of those stories I am completely indifferent about. I neither like it nor dislike it, it’s just there (though the CSO tunnels do get pretty hard to take). It is very unfortunate though that this was being shown at the same time Star Wars was packing them in at the cinema, as it does Who absolutely no favours in comparison. Indeed, it could be argued that the impact of Star Wars would play its part in the classic show’s eventual demise, as it did make the Beeb lose confidence in their ability to make convincing SF…

    Oh well, at least the purgatory that is Season 15 is nearly over. One more dodgy story to get through and then things do improve. For a while, anyway…

    • Thomas  July 7, 2012

      Well, Doctor Who was rarely convincing sci-fi as it was, so I honestly don’t think the release of Star Wars had much, if any impact on the show’s eventual cancellation.

      Anyone here read Sandifer’s thoughts on Star Wars and its influence on Doctor Who? Quite an interesting read, especially when he covers City of Death.

      • John G  July 7, 2012

        The thing about Star Wars is that it dramatically raised the bar for what people expected from SF in terms of production values. Obviously Who had always been low budget, but I think those limitations mattered far less before Lucas showed people what could be done. I don’t think it’s coincidence that the BBC lost interest in making SF in the decade after Star Wars, as they felt they could not compete with the big screen. I think this was an important factor, though of course by no means, the only one, in Who’s eventual demise.

        • Thomas  July 7, 2012

          Well, for one thing, Doctor Who isn’t sci-fi and can get away with not even pretending it is (That’s why we have historicals, after all). Definitely the popularity of Star Wars had a direct (and probably negative) impact on the show through at least the end of the Davison years, but the Colin Baker years definitely shook that influence off (ironically, though, that’s when the show starts going downhill).

          Who’s eventual demise I think is far more due to the writing at that point and not the visuals (which improved drastically through the 80s- never comparable to something like Star Wars, but definitely proof that Who could hold its own on a low budget).

          • John G  July 8, 2012

            You and I both know that Doctor Who is not pure sci-fi, though of course pure historical stories have been pretty thin on the ground for the last 45 years! I’m not sure that BBC high-ups in the 80s saw the programme in the same way, though. As you say there are plenty of other factors involved in the decline and fall of the classic series, which I am sure this blog will explore further as we progress.

  26. Christopher Pittard  July 3, 2012

    I’ll tell you what, though, Don DeLillo did a cracking novelisation.

    (Obligatory DeLillo joke)

  27. charles yoakum  July 3, 2012

    after the intriguing set up in the first episode, it all goes to shit very quickly. this one deserves to be at the bottom of the love/hate poll, no question. Really, what you had to consider would have been getting the director who says, “OK, we’ve no money for sets, so lets tailor the script for the blue screen.” which they clearly didn’t do. its crap and we all know it.

    the commentary is funny, however, sue and nicol are in fine form and it makes for good reading! no new effects for the next serial is my vote. lets things play out in all the aluminum colored glory as god intended.

  28. Harry  July 3, 2012

    The worst Tom Baker story by a mile, and one of the worst Who stories ever (though Part 1 was a cracking set-up, I’ve quite happily sat through that a few times yet quickly lost the will to live during Part 2. Never seen Parts 3-4!), so don’t worry, Sue, you may dislike a story in the weeks to come, but chances are you won’t find it anywhere near as boring!
    I have a soft spot for the next story, despite being able to admit that it’s no classic. It’s got at least three great cliffhangers, some fascinating ideas and some life in it compared to Underpants…

  29. BWT  July 3, 2012

    I watched this one quite recently; it was the only unwatched Who I had in the house at the time. If I had to sit through it, then so can Sue. The Quest is the Quest.

  30. BWT  July 4, 2012

    “This is ****ing terrible. Please make it stop.”

    T-shirt please…

  31. DamonD  July 4, 2012

    1/10? Generous 😉

    Really funny review, one of the best so far. Underworld ep1 is at least decent for the same reason other ep1’s are often decent, as you’re being introduced to new characters and a new situation. But by God, when it hits the mud it sticks there and doesn’t budge for the rest of the show. Tedious drudgery.

    Watch ep1, then the last 5 mins of ep4, that’s the best Underworld experience. Even then it’s not up to much, but at least it’s done in thirty minutes.

  32. Paul Mudie  July 4, 2012

    The shittier the episode, the funnier Sue’s comments get! I can’t wait for the McCoy years…

    It’s not that long since I saw Underworld on DVD, but I remember almost nothing about it, except that the CSO was embarrassing, and the whole thing felt like it was about three episodes longer than it actually was. The fact that something so shoddy could have been broadcast shows that things had gone terribly wrong behind the scenes.

  33. John S. Hall  July 4, 2012

    Wot, no comments on Tom “pantsing” the little girl Trog he’s holding in episode four as he lowers her slowly to the floor? Surely one of the most embarrassing moments in an already cringe-worthy story!?

  34. Alex Wilcock  July 4, 2012

    Blimey, this is popular! The comments, I mean, not the story. Though surely someone’s been defending it… [Looks] Oh. Oh well. I thought the shield guns were cool when I was six… But now it’s the only Tom story that’s just plain dull for me (the next one’s awful in an entirely different way, but I’ll no doubt come to that).

    “Don’t worry, mate, the plot can’t stretch to dragons, never mind fire-breathing ones.”

    Of all the many disappointments in this story, that’s the one that got me even when I was six. If you can’t manage a dragon, don’t promise one. Small boys will hate you. Worse, the ‘dragon’ is an electrified door. And then they can’t even manage that the way the script calls for. At least The Invisible Enemy managed to come up with some weird-s**t CSO tunnels that were interesting to look at… Though after the ‘Making of’ I did feel come sympathy for the poor director and this driving him to drink.

    I did find one thing to praise about this story when I reviewed the Myths and Legends DVD – the weariness of a hundred-thousand-year-old crew who don’t get proper rebirths from their mechanical regenerations but merely endless repeats is quite powerful, along with all the empty couches of those who’ve given up along the way.

    Bit of a shame that the best idea in it’s one of the worst dramatically, too: starting the story at the point where everyone’s so bored they want to die? Good luck with that.

    But it’s absolutely dreadful for poor Leela, especially after being zapped with the cannabis ray (in just the previous story, the Doctor thought a similar pacification programme an abomination). And it takes real talent to borrow from Greek myths, The Face of Evil (another Sue fave) and Star Trek – and manage to make it far less interesting than any of them.

  35. Graeme C-G  July 4, 2012

    In the words of the milkman from Father Ted “There’s not much call for it, cause it’s shite”.

    😉

    • Dave Sanders  July 5, 2012

      I’m surprised nobody did the ‘small… far away’ joke during the start of The Robots Of Death.

  36. Alex Wilcock  July 4, 2012

    Taking another look…

    “I didn’t know that K9 could hover over the ground like that.”
    “He can’t – that’s just bad CSO, love.”
    If you watch exciting new Australian programmes, it’s now bad CGI doing it instead!

    I did enjoy
    “Stick with it, Sue. You can do it. The experiment is the –”
    “If you finish that sentence, I’ll ****ing kill you.”

    But I think Dave Sanders wins this time:
    “Faster! Imperative story must move faster!”

    I still like to imagine there’s something worth salvaging in the Minyans, but the script just can’t find it (never mind absolutely everyone on screen). Think about it:

    “How did they last this long without killing each other?”
    “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.”

    When we last watched Underworld, the Husband In Time and I agreed that the starting point for Russell T Davies would have been in the interpersonal relationships, saying ‘Well, they’ve all had each other every which way fifty thousand times and are bored to death’. So, leaving myself open for an especially big kicking, I had a go at reimagining Underworld: wouldn’t it be better to have the Doctor run into the Questors at different times in their Quest and see how they steadily lose it than start with them suicidal and then get mired for three episodes on the Planet of Fuzzy Video? Even to travel hopelessly is better than to arrive.

    • Andrew Bowman  July 4, 2012

      Talk of RTD reminds me of his assessment of this story in a Production Notes from about 4 or 5 years ago, where he suddenly finds much to enjoy in this story. I have to admit, I’ve only seen this once, possibly not in its entirety, but I certainly didn’t feel *that* disappointed in it. Maybe my 2am end of work shifts screwed with my head a little bit, and I was just staring at the screen blankly. I do remember thinking the disappearing legs and various other things unfortunate, but I most certainly would have excused it, on the grounds that they were trying something different, and everything’s got to start somewhere, in term of SFX. To be fair, I understand where a lot of the criticism comes from, but I never really pay much attention to the effects unless, as in the case mentioned above, they stand out a mile. As for the next story, it’s great fun, although I image Sue will have something to say about Leela’s departure (if that’s not a spoiler).

      • Paul Mudie  July 4, 2012

        I don’t worry about bad effects in Who if the other elements are strong enough, but in a mediocre offering like this, they’re pretty hard to overlook. A good example of the flipside is Invasion of the Dinosaurs – I’m prepared to forgive the shonky dinos because the story is consistently entertaining. Not so with Underpants. There’s nothing worse than a combination of bad effects and extreme boredom!

      • Alex Wilcock  July 4, 2012

        I’d forgotten that, Andrew – I wonder if we thought of it subconsciously when we asked the ‘what would Russell do?’ question. I’m less bothered by the effects not working perfectly the first time that sort of thing was attempted than by the simple paucity of imagination there, both in the script and the design. Though I have a lot of problems with the script of Invasion of the Dinosaurs too, following Paul’s reply, it does at least have a lot of ideas in it (it inspired me to write a much longer review!) and some actors who aren’t bored to death. Even the ones who aren’t meant to look that way do here.

        • Andrew Bowman  July 4, 2012

          As I say, I haven’t seen for a long time, so the ideas (or lack of) don’t reaIly register anymore. 🙂

        • PolarityReversed  July 5, 2012

          What would Russell do?

          Well, the P7E would be powered by farts, and the Doctor would be rendered utterly powerless halfway through ep 3, but never fear, because Leela is the most important person who has ever existed in all possible creations. She does something that spurs the Minyans into emanating stupendous great waves of boredom that magically spring him from the trap. At the end, he looks haunted and apologises.

          Or the Moffat version:

          Much the same, except that the Doctor is rendered so utterly dead by halfway through ep 3 that he never existed at all, and you have to remember a crucial moment in Masque of Madragora when he picked up Heironymous’ astrolabe left-handed. Which obviously means that we’ve been watching a mirror Doctor generated by the Helix ever since, so everything’s alright. Leela is K9’s great-uncle one removed. At the end, the Doctor explains the dodgy science with a glib biscuit metaphor.

          In both cases, the Next Time snippet involves a cameo from Sarah Beeny pleading with the Doctor to consider the resale value of Gallifrey and urging him to stick to magnolia and MDF worktops. He ignores her advice with terrifying consequences as the Allsops suddenly materialise…

          • encyclops  July 5, 2012

            I buy all of this except the biscuit metaphor. Moffat & Eleven never explain ANYTHING.

          • Andrew Bowman  July 5, 2012

            Mr. Reversed, you makes I larf! 😀 Very good, especially like Leela being K-9’s great uncle! Cheered me up no end, that ‘as, and I wasn’t particularly miserable to begin with: good job! 🙂

          • Dave Sanders  July 5, 2012

            It’s traditional for the Doctor to rendered powerless during the typical episode three – by episode three.

          • chris-too-old-to-watch  July 5, 2012

            Only thing you’ve missed from Russell’s version is that Captain Jack would try to seduce the seers and/or oracle, and there would be lots of jokes about tunnels and boring…..oh and at least one member of the crew would be gay and/or black

          • DPC  July 5, 2012

            To be fair, RTD did tone down the overt bodily function jokes, even if he kept the warm mawkish spigot set to full.

            And the Classic era (1963-1989) sometimes went down the same road, regarding suggestive comments, but the comments to the functions were indirect rather than full obvious noises or sights. “Suggestive” lets the audience be the pervert if they choose to be. Making it direct is not just grating, it revokes the viewer of such freedom, intellectual or otherwise, to determine any ulterior meaning(s), and it’s not as fun as a result.

            As for Moffat, it’s hard to tell – apart from suggestive sex jokes but more of them and that would get stale too quickly because his brilliance with the fruit fly joke seems to have been a one-hit wonder, but he would definitely have Rory dead by ep 3… only to be revived. Again. Why didn’t he get named Kenny instead? “Kenny Williams”… Isn’t there some entertainment-related chap in real life with that name?

          • PolarityReversed  July 6, 2012

            Okay, Chris:

            ADDENDUM: K9 waggles his irresistibly cute ears and indiscriminately humps everything from ships’ consoles to cash dispensers and washing machines throughout. (Well it is the whateverth century, and even robot dogs are more liberated and get it where they can in the future.)

            Oo-err, mistress… Sorry, wrong one DPC – I’ll stop messing about.

            Works for me. Now, have we all been collecting our milk bottle tops and tinfoil ready for the next one?

  37. Wholahoop  July 6, 2012

    On a personal note I would be interested in learning how you are coping with your change in employment status as this week I was told I was going to be made redundant. Or as it was prosaically put “My position is being eliminated and my termination date will be 3rd August” Welcome to The Sunmakers is one thought that occurred to me

    • PolarityReversed  July 6, 2012

      Very sorry to hear that.
      Personally, I’ve been leading a precarious freelance existence ever since a sabbatical four years ago effectively became redundancy by any other name… It’s tough out there. All the best to you.

    • Frankymole  July 6, 2012

      Sorry to hear that Wholahoop; I hope you get a decent pay-off. The Civil Service (Sunmakers incarnate!) gave me a course on job-seeking, CVs, interviews etc and an analysis of my most likely career (artistic, weirdly)… I’ve spent the week since redundancy making sure the compansation lump sum went in and sorting out debts or loans to be paid off, tax credits etc… the ghost of Bob Holmes is hovering over my shoulder all the time… what with the rain, it feels a bit like a moon of Delta Magna here! One Doctorish thing I can’t get used to is being able to bad-mouth the Time Lords / my ex-employers with impugnity…

      • PolarityReversed  July 6, 2012

        Impugn away – you’re among friends.

        I know the sort of “training” of which you speak. You’ve spent years dealing with people, admin and corporate structures. They Myers-Briggs you to within an inch of your patience and you learn than you’re the next Beethoven, then they sit you down with a load of helpsheets (usually including friendly cartoons) while some earnest pillock with a whiteboard batters you with such gems as “it’s a good idea to wear clean clothes and smile in interviews”… A Clockwork Potato…

        Did you also get the TUPE-type crap? I have had (paraphrasing obviously): “We appreciate that you are at a certain level of experience and that your life is in London, but have you considered relocating for a job emptying the bins in our Scunthorpe division?” They honestly, hand on heart, suggested that the plunge in salary would be offset by a better quality of life…

        Um. We seem to be off-topic. Sorry.
        HR be praised!

        • Wholahoop  July 6, 2012

          Itell you PR, I was feeling quite positive about redundancy until I read the bit about being offered Myers-Briggs evaluation (will have to check exact details) – actually it made me smile so cheers for that!

          Redundancy was unexpected but as I say the phrasing, i.e. job being eliminated and my last day at work being referred to as “termination date” had probably convinced me that I am most definitely better off away from current employer.

          Frankymole, yes I will get a reasonable payoff and will not starve for a while 🙂 As ever in these situations, it’s the uncertainty that gnaws away but it is still early days yet – off to the Outplacement agency next week.

          Apologies to the blog for most definitely going off topic

  38. Professor Thascales  July 10, 2012

    I’ve read a few things about why “Underworld” turned out so badly. The cave scenes were planned to be filmed in actual caves. But the spaceship set went way, way over budget, and by the time the production team realized, it was too late to stop it. So they cut corners by using models instead of going on location. Which doesn’t make the final product any better. Or the script.

  39. Tom Wake  July 26, 2012

    The “the experiment is the -” running joke confused me. How does that sentence end, and what reference am I missing here?

    • Jazza1971  July 26, 2012

      I think it was a joke along the line of “The quest is the quest”, hence this would be “the experiment is the experiment”.