As a pre-birthday present to myself, I bought a handful of classic Doctor Who DVDs, and watched the first one tonight.
Underworld is a four-part adventure featuring the Fourth Doctor, Leela, and K-9, and it begins with a strong-opening episode. Arriving at the very edge of the Universe, the TARDIS is forced to make an emergency landing on a passing spaceship, a spaceship that has been travelling for 100,000 years. Although the spaceship special effects are as bad as anything from this era of Doctor who, the actual ship itself is a fantastic little model.
After a brief misunderstanding, the Doctor quickly gains the trust of the surviving crew and becomes involved in the final stage of their great quest that has seen them voyage from one side of the universe to the other. Very early on, it is apparent that the writers have drawn heavily on Greek mythology for their inspiration. In a nice touch, the crew wear bronze space suits and carry ‘sheild-guns’, which gives them a slightly hoplite appearance.
Unfortunately, the remaining three episodes fail to live up to the promise set by the first. A majority of the next two episodes are spent in a series of confused and mostly pointless chase scenes, with occasional gun fights. This might not have been so bad if the sets had been better, but even on a show known for its wobbly sets, these were awful. I’ll take an abandoned quarry any day over ‘caves’ built from papier-mâché. To make matters worse, several characters actions seem badly contrived to push the plot forward.
The final episode does redeem the adventure a bit. The bad guys actually do something clever. The Doctor, of course, does something slightly more clever, and our heroes escape in the nick of time.
In the final verdict, Underworld is a fun watch, with some nice moments, and Tom Baker’s clearly having a good time. It is just unfortunate that an opening episode that seemed filled with so much promise, proved the high point of the adventure.