Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...
Day 184: The Abominable Snowmen, Episode Four
I'm wondering if the lack of incidental music in this story might be one of the things that's putting me off it? So much of the tale is confined to just the soundtrack and it sounds very bare without any musical cues to help set the tone. There's nothing wrong with the sound effects we are getting (the sound of the Yeti control spheres beeping away is perfect for listening to through headphones) but it's all just feeling a bit… empty.
The one place that they have worked quite well is in the sounds of the 'Himalayan' mountain sides. Today has seen me in the unusual position of listening to the story in more-or-less the same setting it was filmed in. I heard today's episode on a train headed up towards the Brecans. While it's still a little more south than the filming took place, the landscape is broadly similar, and it really did help set the scene when I could gaze out the window at various peaks and valleys, keeping my eyes peeled for the slightest hint of a Yeti claw. I didn't see any sadly. The soundtrack accompanying these images was a rather nice experience, so I suppose I can't complain too much.
Otherwise, though, much of this episode has been made for me simply by giving the Doctor and Jamie some time to bounce off each other again. As the pair of them watch over a rock at a Yeti guarding the TARDIS, our companion asks, 'have you got a plan, Doctor?' 'Yes I have,' he replies, 'I'm going to bung a rock at it'. I know of this quote, but I couldn't have told you it came from this story or this moment, so I was left to simply laugh out loud at it (other passengers in the carriage thought I was having a fit, I suspect). There's a later moment when Jamie struggles to hold onto a control sphere as it makes its way back to the chest cavity of the dormant Yeti, and the Doctor has to impose himself between the sphere and the beast. Since the episode's missing, we can't actually see exactly how the scene played out, but I've little doubt that it would have been absolutely brilliant with Troughton's skill for physical comedy. The tele snaps for this moment aren't too revealing - there's a good chance that it could have looked either terrifying or hilarious. We'd need the moving imaged to find out.
What the tele snaps are clear on, at least for me, is that these Yeti really do work as monsters. I've mentioned already their reputation for being 'cute', but there's a shot of one striding across the monastery, with the monks pointing spears up at it where I'm completely sold on the idea. For a start, the creature is huge, and when it's striding at the pace it appears to be here, there's no denying just how well they work.
Elsewhere, the Great Intelligence is finally gaining some kind of physical embodiment… in the form of that Troughton classic: foam. I've always thought of this as being something that crops up a lot in the Troughton era (and it will!) so it seems strange that we've only just had our first proper appearance from the foam machine in the series. I will admit that I had to listen to this section twice, because I'd sort of lost track of things, but I'm hoping things will be cleared up as I watch on.
I did, however, really enjoy the story of the Holy Ghanta being given to a 'stranger' for safe keeping when the monastery was in a time of danger. Victoria's subsequent piecing of the facts together to explain that the stranger and the Doctor are one and the same is lovely, too. I'd like to imagine that this was one of those adventures that the Doctor has while his companions are asleep (there's several scenes on the Series Six DVD in this vein). The implication is that it takes place a long time ago for the Doctor, but I think I prefer to imagine it being an early-Season Four version of the Second Doctor, having an adventure while Ben, Polly, and Jamie are asleep in the TARDIS somewhere.
On the whole, though, there's still something about The Abominable Snowmen that just sin't sitting right with me. I know it's got quite a good reputation, and there's a lot of mementoes I'm really enjoying, but it's just not for me. Scanning through the tele snaps we've got here, I can't help but feel that I'd enjoy it more if I could actually watch it…