It was on, then off, and finally arrived after a fan petition to the BBC.
The Underwater Menace has been described as the last story remaining in the BBC’s archives from Doctor Who’s original 1963-1989 run that had not been released on DVD. However, only the second and third part of this 1967 black and white story starring Patrick Troughton as the second Doctor remained. The BBC had to cook up some visuals to go with the audio recordings remaining of parts one and four. They used a series of stills from each episode, a far inferior approach to the far more expensive animation they chose for other stories with missing visual segments.
Technically there’s still 97 other segments of classic Doctor Who that could be released in the same way, although all are available on CD for the completist with bridging narration from the original cast, or on the Doctor Who: Lost in Time DVD release. Including The Lion, a 1965 episode starring William Hartnell found in New Zealand in 1999 by fans Paul Scoones and Neil Lambess.
This release, the final in the BBC’s years long classic Doctor Who schedule, was on, off, and back on following a petition from fans. It proves that big companies do listen if enough people have their say.
The TARDIS crew is captured on an extinct volcanic island and taken to the lost city of Atlantis. There they find an elaborate plankton farming operation using humans modified to breathe under water. There’s also a mad scientist with plans to destroy the world.
It’s not one of Doctor Who‘s finest hours, the story feels a little drawn out over the two hours, although Troughton’s performance as the Doctor is unfaulted.
This is pretty much a vanilla release, compared to other classic Doctor Who titles that come with hours and hours of special features. But those that are includes are worth a look.
There’s an episode commentary from surviving cast as well as the late Troughton’s actor son Michael. A short “making of” documentary called A Fishy Tale narrated by fifth Doctor Peter Davison and a second documentary called The Television Centre of the Universe – Part Two about the last days of BBC Television Centre in London. Part One was on another Doctor Who DVD. Davison and his co-stars tread the empty halls of the legendary place and reminisce about the old days.
Now the collection is complete, I’d love to see multi disc boxed sets for each of the Doctors but I doubt that will ever happen. It would, however, introduce the classic series to new generations growing up on the new look Doctor Who. If the cosplayers at the Armageddon expo are anything to go by, there’s plenty of young fans of classic Doctor Who.