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25 July 2013
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Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 206: Fury From the Deep, Episode Two

Dear diary,

There are times that I really wish I were coming to the 'classic' series as a complete novice, without all that 'fan baggage' which means I know, for instance, that Fury From the Deep is the last story to feature Victoria. Or that it's the only story of the 1960s that uses one title to cover all its episodes without beginning with 'the'. Or, and this is the big one for today's episode, that the enemy is a big, writing mass of seaweed.

Imagine coming to this story completely free of all that knowledge. Watching the series from the start and not having a clue what was to happen at any given time. No idea that this is Victoria's last appearance (and there's no indication at this stage in the narrative that it might be - indeed she makes a point in today's episode of letting everyone know how much she wouldn't like living in a place like this!) and crucially, not knowing what all this seaweed has to do with anything.

When Victoria is explaining the attack she suffered in yesterday's episode, she describes the creature as being 'all covered in seaweed', hinting that there could be something hidden away underneath. It's heavily implied that she's been imagining it (although we know she hasn't). The entire setting of the story is based around a place mining gas, and then there's that ominous heartbeat echoing through the pipes…

There was a moment today when even I wondered if the Macra might be behind all this. It wouldn't be completely out of the blue - the Yeti have just joined the Cybermen and the Daleks in the ranks of 'creatures the Doctor has fought more than once', and all the trappings are certainly in place for it to be just such a showdown. Having remembered that they're not the villains in question, I was a little disappointed (I love Macra, even if there are no such things), but I love the thought of hearing this story thinking that they really could be controlling things on the rigs behind the scenes.

My main problem with Fury From the Deep, though, was summed up best by Nick Mellish in a conversation we had earlier this afternoon - “Like much of Season 5, works slightly better when listened to in isolation (i.e. not with the other Season 5 stories).” There's lots going on which, really, I should be lapping up, but we've seen it all before. Even worse - we've seen it all before this season. This is the kind of fatigue that I'd worried about when approaching Season Five (I knew from the start that this was likely to be the hardest of the 1960s seasons), though I guess I should be thankful that it hasn't set in until the penultimate story of the year.

June Murphy turns in a great performance as Maggie Harris, and plays the possession by the seaweed at just the right level of creepiness… but we've already seen people brainwashed by the enemy plenty of times this season, most prominently in the two Yeti tales, in which it's a key plot point. Robson is a perfectly good leader of the base, determined to keep to his own programme in the face of mounting evidence that it's the wrong decision… but he's not given the same amount of character that Clent had during The Ice Warriors.

In yesterday's episode, we had mysterious gloved hands creeping into shot to tamper with vital things, but the same thing was used for at least half of The Web of Fear, and it's only been a few days since I watched that one! Stretching back a little further to the end of Season Four, all those parallels that point toward the Macra are just as valid - this is an example of Doctor Who doing things very well, but things that it just does too often. Frankly, it feels like I've already watched this episode several times over…

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