The Underwater Menace

The Underwater Menace is the half-missing fifth serial of the fourth season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four weekly parts from 14 January to 4 February 1967.

032 – The Underwater Menace
Doctor Who serial
Directed byJulia Smith
Written byGeoffrey Orme
Script editorGerry Davis
Produced byInnes Lloyd
Executive producer(s)None
Incidental music composerDudley Simpson
Production codeGG
SeriesSeason 4
Running time4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Episode(s) missing2 episodes (1 and 4)
First broadcast14 January 1967 (1967-01-14)
Last broadcast4 February 1967 (1967-02-04)
← Preceded by
The Highlanders
Followed by →
The Moonbase
List of Doctor Who episodes (1963–1989)

In this serial, the Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Ben (Michael Craze), Polly (Anneke Wills) and their new friend Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) arrive in the underwater city of Atlantis, where an eccentric scientist called Zaroff (Joseph Furst) plots to destroy the Earth by draining its ocean supply. This story constitutes Jamie's first journey with the Doctor as a travelling companion.

Only two of the four episodes are held in the BBC archives; two remain missing. Episode 2 is the earliest surviving episode to feature Troughton starring as the Second Doctor (he previously appeared uncredited in The Tenth Planet) and the earliest surviving episode to feature Hines as Jamie.


The Second Doctor and his companions, Polly, Ben and Jamie, are captured when they arrive on a deserted volcanic island by the survivors of Atlantis. Their high priest, Lolem, decides to sacrifice them to the great god Amdo. The Doctor is given a meal, and realises that it must have been prepared by Professor Zaroff, a missing scientist who was presumed dead. The Doctor sends Zaroff a note, which results in them being saved just in time by Zaroff, a renegade scientist from the surface world who has devised the technology the Atlanteans use to refine their food. Zaroff plans to raise Atlantis from the sea and aims to do it with the help of the Doctor and his companions. Polly is taken by Damon for conversion-surgery into a Fish Person, while Ben and Jamie are taken to work in a mine.

When the Doctor finds out Zaroff's plans for Polly, he cuts off the power, which gives her time to escape from Damon with the help of a servant girl named Ara. Zaroff tells the Doctor that he plans to drain the sea so Atlantis could come back to the surface. The Doctor immediately realises this will destroy Earth and escapes to find a solution and look for his companions. Meanwhile, in the mine, Ben and Jamie leave with two shipwrecked sailors, Sean and Jacko, in search of an escape route. This leads them to Polly's hiding place, the temple of Amdo. The Doctor finds a priest named Ramo along the way and tells him Zaroff's plans. Ramo takes the Doctor to Thous, King of Atlantis, to convince him of the danger they're in. Thous does not believe the Doctor, and takes Zaroff's side.

The Doctor and the priest are taken to be sacrificed to Lolem at the temple of Amdo. They are then saved by Ben faking the voice of the statue of Amdo and giving them a chance to escape. Although this convinces Lolem, Zaroff remains suspicious and is determined to find them. The Doctor decides to cause a revolution and comes up with a plan to kidnap Zaroff and convince the Fish People to create a food-shortage. This succeeds with the help of the Doctor's companions, Sean and Jacko, and the priest Ramo. They take Zaroff to the temple of Amdo where Ramo and Polly are left as his guards. Zaroff then fakes a seizure, stabs Ramo, and takes Polly as a hostage. Ramo survives and goes to warn the Doctor, which gives Jamie, Sean, and Jacko the chance to rescue Polly. Zaroff is able to escape and goes straight to Thous. Thous begins to worry about the strike amongst the Fish People and realises Zaroff is mad. He immediately orders him to stop his plans, but this angers Zaroff, who shoots Thous and his royal protectors.

With Zaroff out of sight, the Doctor finds Thous bleeding but alive and takes him to the temple of Amdo for safety. He plans to stop Zaroff by sinking Atlantis even further so the reactor and Zaroff's laboratory could be destroyed. The Doctor and Ben cause a radiation leak to put their plan in action while Sean and Jacko warn the Atlanteans to get to higher level. The walls of Atlantis start to crumble but Polly and Jamie are able to find a way out to the surface. When the Doctor and Ben find Zaroff, he is determined to not let anything stop him, even the flooding. They are able to trick Zaroff and lock him out of his laboratory just in time but he won't give up which results in his death by drowning. The Doctor and Ben make their way towards the surface where they reunite with Jamie and Polly. Knowing many will have survived the crisis, the Doctor and his companions flee in the TARDIS.


EpisodeTitleRun timeOriginal air dateUK viewers
(millions) [1]
Archive [2]
1"Episode 1"24:1814 January 1967 (1967-01-14)8.3Only stills and/or fragments exist
2"Episode 2"25:0021 January 1967 (1967-01-21)7.516mm t/r
3"Episode 3"24:0928 January 1967 (1967-01-28)7.116mm t/r
4"Episode 4"23:204 February 1967 (1967-02-04)7.0Only stills and/or fragments exist

^† Episode is missing

Working titles for this story include Under the Sea, Atlanta and The Fish People.[3] The history of this script is particularly troubled. After its commission, it was dropped from the production schedule, partly because of concerns that it would require a higher budget than was available. A new script by William Emms, "The Imps", was commissioned to replace it; Emms, however, subsequently fell ill. When it was realised that it was unlikely that he would be able to complete changes to the script, which was due to begin shooting in a month, the original script, now titled "The Underwater Menace", was brought back into the schedule. A further complication arose because Frazer Hines was brought on as a regular member of the cast barely a month before the serial was due to start production, and his character, Jamie, had to be worked into the script. Because of all of these problems, the individual episodes were recorded just a week before they were due to be broadcast. Recordings took place at Riverside studios in Hammersmith.[4]

In December 2011, the BBC announced that Episode 2, previously missing, had been discovered among material bought by former TV engineer Terry Burnett with only cuts from Australian censors missing. The missing frames are still held by the National Archives of Australia, and, once re-incorporated, made the episode complete for the first time since the master tape was wiped in July 1969. A brief clip of Zaroff drowning from episode 4 survives for similar censorship reasons. Brief moments from the Episode 1 cliffhanger also exist due to censorship.[5][6]

Actor Patrick Troughton was reputedly particularly unhappy about the production. He is reported to have described the show as having "ridiculous costumes and make-up of the fish people". Producer Innes Lloyd appeared to concur, admitting "it did look like something from a '50s American 'B' movie".[7]

Cast notesEdit

Colin Jeavons later appeared in the Doctor Who spin-off pilot K-9 and Company. Noel Johnson later played Sir Charles Grover in Invasion of the Dinosaurs (1974). Peter Stephens had previously appeared in The Celestial Toymaker (1966).

Commercial releasesEdit

In printEdit

The Underwater Menace
AuthorNigel Robinson
Cover artistAlister Pearson
SeriesDoctor Who book:
Target novelisations
Release number
PublisherTarget Books
Publication date
21 July 1988

A novelisation of this serial, written by Nigel Robinson, was published by Target Books in February 1988.

Home mediaEdit

As with all missing episodes, off-air recordings of the soundtrack exist due to contemporary fan efforts. In February 2005, these were released on CD, accompanied by linking narration from Anneke Wills.[8] Episode three was released on VHS in 1998, along with the documentary "The Missing Years". They were later included on the Lost in Time DVD set; several brief surviving film clips were also included.

Episode 2, which was found in December 2011, was initially prepared for release on DVD in 2014.[9] After an extended period of uncertainty, the BBC confirmed a release date of 26 October 2015.[10] The two surviving episodes are supplemented by reconstructions of the missing two episodes, using restored audio and stills from the production. They were originally due to be animated, but the project was abruptly cancelled after the studio raised its commissioning prices.[11]

On 29 May 2020, the television soundtrack, again with narration by Wills, was released on vinyl by Demon Music Group.


Doctor Who: The Television Companion's David Howe and Stephen Walker were unimpressed by the story, stating that despite reasonable dialogue, effective sets and effects it was otherwise "very difficult to find anything good to say about this story, which is undoubtedly the weakest of the second Doctor's era, if not of the sixties as a whole".[12]

Starburst's Paul Mount said the serial was "tacky, cheap and unsubtle" but partially redeemed by "a sterling performance from Patrick Troughton, rising way above often lamentable material".[13]

CultBox's Ian McArdell received the story more positively praising Troughton's "wonderfully charismatic" performance and Joseph Furst's "genuinely scary" Zaroff. He did note however that the Fish People's costumes were "frankly bizarre" and "their floating ballet sequence from Episode 3, though ambitious, fails to achieve".[14]

Den of Geek's Andrew Blair selected The Underwater Menace as one of the ten Doctor Who stories that would make great musicals.[15]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Ratings Guide". Doctor Who News. Retrieved 28 May 2017.
  2. ^ Shaun Lyon; et al. (31 March 2007). "The Underwater Menace". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 18 June 2008. Retrieved 30 August 2008.
  3. ^ "BBC – Doctor Who – Classic Series – Photonovels – The Underwater Menace".
  4. ^ "Doctor Who: two long-lost episodes uncovered".
  5. ^ "Missing Episodes Recovered!". BBC. 11 December 2011. Archived from the original on 7 January 2012. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
  6. ^ Plunkett, John (12 December 2011). "'Lost' Doctor Who episodes from 1960s returned to BBC". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 26 December 2011.
  7. ^ "Missing Doctor Who episodes discovered". BBC News. 12 December 2011.
  8. ^ "Doctor Who: The Underwater Menace (TV soundtrack)". Big Finish Productions. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
  9. ^ Foster, Chuck (3 May 2012). "DVD Update: Summer Schedule". Doctor Who News Page. Retrieved 26 April 2013.
  10. ^ "The Underwater Menace to be released on DVD". Doctor Who News. 3 September 2015. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  11. ^ "Doctor Who's Underwater Menace hits DVD". 5 October 2015.
  12. ^ BBC staff. "BBC – Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide – The Underwater Menace – Details". Doctor Who Classic Episode Guide. BBC. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  13. ^ Mount, Paul (October 2015). "DOCTOR WHO – THE UNDERWATER MENACE". Starburst. Starburst Magazine Limited. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  14. ^ McArdell, Ian (26 October 2015). "'Doctor Who' DVD review: 'The Underwater Menace'". CultBox. amillionmonkeys. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  15. ^ Blair, Andrew (28 August 2013). "Doctor Who: 10 stories that would make great musicals". Den of Geek. Dennis Publishing. Retrieved 13 April 2017.

External linksEdit

Target novelisationEdit