Recap / Doctor Who S4 E5 "The Underwater Menace"

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Nossing in ze vorld can ztop me now!
— What many fans think Zaroff said.

Nothing in the world can stop me now!
— What Zaroff really said.

The Doctor, with Polly, Ben and Jamie in tow, lands the TARDIS on a volcanic island where they are captured and taken into a cave complex. It soon becomes clear that this tiny island is all that remains of the ancient Atlantean civilisation.

Mad scientist Professor Zaroff (played with a Large Ham by Joseph Furst) has convinced the Atlanteans that he can raise the city from the sea, but in reality he plans to drain the ocean into the Earth's core and thereby destroy the planet. Just because, OK?

Polly is taken off to be converted into an aquatic Fish Person, while the others meet two shipwrecked sailors who help them convince the Fish People to rebel. Eventually, the Doctor manages to foil Zaroff's plan by flooding the city before he can complete the drilling. Zaroff drowns, but everyone else makes it out and the Doctor and companions depart.

For a long time it was thought that only episode 3 remained, until episode 2 turned up in 2011.

Tropes

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Zaroff is only very briefly angry when he learns that the Doctor tricked him into saving his life with a blatant lie.
  • All There in the Manual: In an early draft of the story, and in the novelization, Zaroff's motivation to blow up the Earth stemmed from his wife and children dying in a car crash and driving him mad.
    • The novelisation gives Zaroff's first name as Hermann.
    • According to the novelisation, Zaroff has been missing for twenty years.
    • Zaroff created the fish people through DNA resequencing based on Atlantean legends.
    • It is stated by Ara that Zaroff walks through the market place every day to inspect the drill head, thus this is where the Doctor stages his kidnap attempt. In the television story, the only reason he goes through the market is to look for the Doctor.
    • Ara is said to be the daughter of a councillor who was killed after speaking out against Zaroff, with Nola having worked for the family.
    • It is explained by Sean that the Atlanteans do not settle on the surface because they consider their ground sacred.
    • Ara says that the grille behind Amdo's statue was set up by the original priests to control the population, and her father showed it to her before he died. It is also said that even Lolem does not know about it.
    • It is said that Zaroff saved Thous from a deadly disease thought fatal by the Atlanteans, thus why Thous trusts Zaroff more.
  • Atlantis: Or at least the last remnants of that civilization, living underground.
  • Author Filibuster: Against organized religion in part 4.
  • Broken Aesop: As noted, the Author Filibuster has the Atlanteans blame their religion for all their problems. Even though the actual culprit Zaroff didn't seem to have much of anything to do with their religion. Or that one of the few Atlanteans to see through Zaroff's deceptions and distrust him (even before the Doctor's help) was one of the priests of their religion. And the character making the Filibuster had been an antagonist who hadn't done anything good, sympathetic, or redemptive up to this point. The Filibuster was apparently supposed to be that character's redemption.
    • Also, the prophecy did come true in a way.
  • Chickification: This story is particularly extreme in depicting Polly as a Distressed Damsel with no redeeming moments of agency, to the displeasure of the actor Anneke Wills.
  • Dare to Be Badass: Sean uses this approach to persuade the Fish People to go on strike.
  • Dressed All in Rubber: Zaroff's thugs (and while impersonating them Ben and Jamie) wear rubber wetsuits.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: What Zaroff hopes to create.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Zaroff could have a Ham-to-Ham Combat with the Daleks and have a good chance of winning.
  • Fish People: Created by surgery rather than a natural species. Polly almost becomes one in some of the few clips to survive from episode 1 and in the newly-recovered episode 2.
  • For SCIENCE!: The closest Zaroff comes to an explanation of his motives in the TV story (but see the All There In The Manual entry above) is pretty much this.
    The Doctor: Just one small question. Why do you want to blow up the world?
    Zaroff: Why? You, a scientist, ask me why? The achievement, my dear Doctor. The destruction of the world. The scientist's dream of supreme power!
  • God Guise: Ben prevents the execution of the Doctor and Ramo by speaking from inside the hollow idol of Ando and pretending to be the voice of the goddess.
  • Human Sacrifice: The Atlanteans try to sacrifice the Doctor and company to the goddess Ando... using sharks.
  • I Can't Believe I'm Saying This:
    Jamie McCrimmon: You know I never thought I'd say this, but well it's great.
  • La Résistance
  • Mad Scientist: Zaroff is a classic example.
    • At the end of the Episode 2 clip on the BBC site, he sounds like a proto-Davros, on how succeeding with his omnicidal mania would be the ultimate power.
  • Made a Slave: The Atlanteans enslave all outsiders who stumble on their land, except for Zaroff.
  • Mythpunk
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: multiple times in the temple of Amdo.
  • Religion Is Wrong: The conclusion the surviving Atlanteans reach through dubious means at the end.
  • Strapped to an Operating Table: Polly, to be turned into a Fish Person. The scene is disturbing enough to have been cut in Australia and to have provoked protests from Moral Guardians that it would make children frightened of doctors.
  • Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum: Zaroff.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: It's Joseph Furst's real one, that's what.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Recap/DoctorWhoS4E5TheUnderwaterMenace