Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 182: The Abominable Snowmen, Episode Two
As much as I've been enjoying listening to the soundtracks over the last couple of months (it's become a way of life, and having an episode on during my walk home each day has become something of a routine), it really does help when there's an actual, surviving episode to go on. I think I was rather spoiled by having all of The Tomb of the Cybermen to watch, so it felt like a bit of a step backwards to have little to base yesterday's episode on than tele snaps and location photos.
I've found myself far more drawn to this episode of the story than I did yesterday. In part, it's possibly because there's a bit more going on today than we had yesterday, but it doesn't hurt that if we do encounter a less interesting part of the story, it's got some lovely direction to fall back on. This is Gerald Blake's first time directing on Doctor Who (and he won't be back until The Invasion of Time!), but he's off to a great start, really injecting the story with some atmosphere.
The dark corridors of the monastery really are the perfect setting for a Doctor Who tale, and the rest of the building holds up in its design, too. There's a section of narration on the soundtrack to Episode One where Frazer Hines describes the Doctor looking up at a large statue of a Buddah, and I vaguely pictured something of a manageable size… but there really is a massive statue at the back of one set!
Equally, the location footage looks great. The story gets a lot of stick for using the mountains of North Wales as a stand in for the Himalayas and while, no, it doesn't quite work, I'm ready to admit that it gives it a good shot, and it certainly looks impressive enough anyway. I seem to say this a lot as the shoe continues to broaden out into more varied (and lengthier) location shooting, but it really does have a feel of being completely unlike any other place we've seen before in the series. Mind you, doesn't Victoria say something about footprints in the snow in the first episode?
And then you've got the Yeti themselves. Often called out for being quite cute (which, yes, they are) they still come across as pretty impressive here. The cliffhanger reprise gives us a chance to see one of them lumbering into the cave towards Jamie and Victoria, and it looks as good as I could have hoped it might from picturing it yesterday. Admittedly, they look a little less imposing when they stand around outside the monastery and watch their friend be trapped, but they still look quite good. It's a pity that we've never had that action figure of them - I'd snap one up.
The Yeti's spheres are pretty impressive, too, perhaps even more so than the creatures themselves. We get to see a couple of instances of them moving here without any apparent outside help, and it works well both times. I'm not sure if it's more impressive to see that it actually can move through the thick mud (K9 would wince at the idea!) or the shot of it rolling along the edge of the Buddah statue, at some speed. I'm guessing the story would see more of this going on in the later (missing) episodes, so I'm glad we get to see at least a few brief snippets of it happening in the part that survives: at least it shows me that they could do it well!
Because I've been a fan for several years, I'm more than well aware that the omnipresent voice echoing through the inner sanctum of the monastery is that of the Great Intelligence, but it doesn't take anything away from it - it genuinely is quite imposing. 'Do not be afraid,' it booms at one point, when it's hard to be anything else! Having just gone through the most recent series of Doctor Who, I keep expecting Richard E Gran't face to appear in the smoke from the candles at some point. Maybe as an anniversary treat, they could have him re-dub all of the Great Intelligence's lines?