Entertainment Magazine

Review #3630: Classic Doctor Who: “Underworld”

Posted on the 09 August 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: John Keegan

Written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin
Directed by Norman Stewert

In the long history of “Doctor Who”, particularly the classic era, there are a number of serials with a well-worn reputation. Some are elevated above their true achievements, while others are better than the detractors might believe. And then there are the productions that really are just as terrible as their reputation would suggest. “Underworld” falls in that category.

Review #3630: Classic Doctor Who: “Underworld”

This is one of those instances where the lack of available funds contributed greatly to the overall lack of quality. Great writing can overcome just about any obstacle, when it comes to effects and directorial constraints. But when the budget forces you to use CSO techniques for just about every scene, on top of a haphazard script, it’s just never going to end well.

The intent of the writers is fairly clear. Taking more than a page from “Jason and the Argonauts”, the writers try to use the concepts therein to explore the genesis of the Time Lords’ policy of non-interference. Since the Doctor is a criminal in Time Lord society for breaking this edict, digging into the reasons for it is a sensible plot direction. The caveat is that it should be done well, and when the supporting characters are barely renamed from the source mythology, it’s a glaring sign of lack of originality.

The fact that it all boils down to another showdown with yet another artificial intelligence done rogue is another strike against it. The Minyan connection to Time Lord history is a nice backdrop, but it really doesn’t amount to very much in the end. It’s really about dealing with robots that have enslaved living beings to serve their needs. Let’s just say that one can understand why Leela’s top was straying ever further down at this point, given how much of a distraction it provided from the rest of the production!

This is also the second story in a row where the Doctor’s arrival sparks a major revolution, and yet he shuffles off without much concern over the consequences. Again, Leela is right there in front of him, a constant reminder of what can happen when he changes things haphazardly. Since the story touches on the whole non-interference thing, wouldn’t that make for a logical direction for the story to go? But it’s completely absent, which boggles the mind.

And that is, in the end, the primary sin of the story. There are great ideas and concepts here and there, but they never see the depth of treatment that they deserve. Instead, it’s a mish-mash that never comes together in any coherent form. That it also reduces Leela to a one-note character again is just another item for the list.

Writing: 1/2
Acting: 2/2
Direction: 1/2
Style: 0/4

Final Score: 4/10

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