Chapter 109. Doctor Who – Fury from the Deep (1986)

Synopsis: Playing on a beach near a gas refinery in the English Channel, the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are arrested for trespassing. Head of the base Robson would rather accuse the Doctor and his friends of sabotage than accept that there might be something in the gas pipes. But there is – a steady heartbeat of… something. Down there… in the dark…

Chapter Titles

  • 1. The Deadly Sound
  • 2. Something in the Pipeline
  • 3. A Pair of White Gloves
  • 4. Mr Oak and Mr Quill
  • 5. Waiting in the Dark
  • 6. The Specimen
  • 7. The Figure on the Beach
  • 8. The Impeller Shaft
  • 9. The Battle of the Giants
  • 10. The Spy Within
  • 11. The Nerve Centre
  • 12. ‘Scream, Victoria! Scream!’

Background: Victor Pemberton adapts scripts from his own 1968 serial. At 189 pages, it’s by far and away the biggest novelisation so far (and the original cover price reflected this!).

Notes: The Doctor is said to have ‘never really liked the sea. In fact, it was the only thing he really feared. It made him feel insecure, restless’ (contradicting the opening scenes of Enemy of the World – and in contrast to Patrick Troughton, who was a lieutenant in the Royal Navy during WWII). Jamie has a bizarre sneezing reaction when he comes into contact with the foam in the sea, something that later becomes an early warning of an impending weed attack. We’re reminded that Jamie grew up in ‘the Scotland of the Jacobean age’ and that Victoria misses ‘the love and protection of her dear father back in the Victorian age’; later, it’s said that she considers Jamie to be ‘a very special person, the sort of brother everyone should have’, which is just adorable. The Doctor uses ‘his own version of a screwdriver’ but it’s not specifically ‘sonic’ [Pemberton had apparently resented that he’d never received credit for inventing the Doctor’s signature device, so this is a little surprising]. When the Doctor is shot on the beach, Jamie struggles to accept that his friend might be dead:

The Doctor had survived so many attacks on his life during their travels through time and space. The Doctor was as indestructible as time itself.

Controller Robson is said to be ‘a burly-looking man, probably in his early fifties, with greying hair, a jutting jaw, and vacant grey eyes.’ The nametag on his uniform says his name is ‘ROBSON. S’, though we’re later told his name is ‘John’ so the ‘S’ name is a mystery; while it’s common for people to be addressed by a middle name, it’s a little confusing that we have that little mystery unexplained (maybe his birth name is St John?!). 

Frank Harris is a skinny young man in his late twenties, ‘weak-looking’ with ‘blue eyes, a pale face and gaunt expression, and a mop of blond, unruly hair that constantly flopped carelessly over his right eye’. Robson resents Harris for being young and educated in a ‘red-brick university’. Pieter Van Lutyens is ‘a likeable little man, dumpy, balding’ and speaks English ‘with no trace of an accent’ (so not a match for John Abineri or his performance on TV); he’s been a member of the team at the refinery since being appointed by the government two years previously. Chief Baxter is in his late-fifties and ‘one of the most experienced drilling engineers in the North Sea gas fields’. He was once in line for the role that eventually went to Robson, but was considered too important to the offshore drilling programme. All of the background details really help to explain why Robson is so paranoid and defensive towards the experts who surround him. A reflective scene reveals that Robson’s wife, Angie, died 22 years earlier in a car accident where Robson was the driver. Megan Jones is ‘an attractive middle-aged woman’ with ‘vivid red hair’; she comes from the Rhondda Valley, the daughter of a coal-miner. Megan’s secretary, Ronald Perkins, is ‘an effete young man, a devoted, ambitious civil servant, who would sooner die than contradict his superiors’. The video operator Price’s first name is ‘David’, while the chief operator of Rig D is Mick Carney.

The Doctor believes that Victoria has ‘the loudest, most terrifying scream he had ever heard’. He also surmises that Maggie Jones was transported to the rig in a cocoon created by the weed creature. The TARDIS makes a ‘grinding and grunting sound’ as it dematerialises. The seabirds return to the area now that the weed parasite has been defeated.

Cover: In front of a North Sea gas platform, a frond of seaweed emerges from the water, as realised by David McAllister.

Final Analysis: The novelisation of Fury from the Deep won the Doctor Who Magazine 25th Anniversary Poll for best Target novel ever. This shouldn’t be a surprise. As one of the infamously completely missing stories, it’s one that the Old Guard lauded as being among the very best without any evidence that younger viewers could point to for a counter-argument. By the close of 1986, many fans only knew the story from this book. It also features the departure of a companion that, for once, is ceded through the entire adventure and the novel makes great use of the space to tell a character-driven story where each individual has clear motivations, strengths and weaknesses. 

This also feels rather traditional. While he isn’t afraid of adding a little extra biographical detail to his characters or polishing a scene to heighten the tension, Pemberton largely sticks to his original plot and doesn’t try to be experimental with the narrative. He also employs an old Terrance Dicks trick of repeating descriptions to establish characters (Harris’s lock of hair, Oak and Quill’s white gloves) and especially to announce the presence of his monster, in this case ‘bubbling white foam’ – later evolving into ‘a mass of white foam’. Pemberton also gets extra points for sneaking a namecheck for the tile into the final chapter:

Down below, the mud-coloured sea was pitted with undulating swells of white spray and bubbling blobs of foam, soon to become a slave of the fury from the deep…

Robson’s transformation into a weed creature is, predictably, more horrific on the page, not quite to the degree that Ian Marter might have offered, but the slowly engulfing menace is beautifully realised, making assets out of elements that might have been weaknesses on TV (we don’t know, we can’t see it, but we can assume that a studio-bound scene involving foam during the second Doctor’s era might look like – there are a fair few of them!):

The Doctor and Jamie stared in horror as the room was flooded with light. They were in a large crew cabin, at the far end of which was a seething mass of bubbling white foam. And in the midst of that foam was a sight that would chill the blood of even the strongest of mortals. The figure of a man was standing there, half demented, his neck and hands sprouting frond-like weed formations. And out of the foam that had almost completely engulfed him, the curling tentacles of the giant Weed Creature were snaking around his lifeless body.

The deafening heartbeat sound stopped abruptly. There was a deathly silence, then the man who had become a creature himself, began to emerge from the foam, arms out-stretched, walking slowly, jerkily, straight towards the Doctor and Jamie.

‘Come in, Doctor,’ whispered the human creature. ‘We’ve been waiting for you…’

It was Robson.

Yes, it’s a much bigger book than we’re used to, but unlike a few other examples published in the same year, this never feels padded and it doesn’t add unnecessary details for the sake of it. 

So is this the best of the Target range so far?

Could be…

3 thoughts on “Chapter 109. Doctor Who – Fury from the Deep (1986)

  1. Yeah there is paddling on the beach, splashing about and making sandcastles… and there is “the Sea”. Very different things both for mariners and submariners. And then drilling…. this is a precurser for Inferno, really.

    Like

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