Saturday, 7 October 2017

175 The Abominable Snowmen: Episode Two

EPISODE: The Abominable Snowmen: Episode Two
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 07 October 1967
WRITER: Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln
DIRECTOR: Gerald Blake
PRODUCER: Innes Lloyd
RATINGS: 6 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Lost In Time
TELESNAPS: The Abominable Snowmen: Episode Two

"Victoria, I think this is one of those instances where discretion is the better part of valour: Jamie has an idea!"

And we're onto disc 3 of Doctor Who - Lost In Time!

Jamie knocks down the prop holding the roof up burying the Yeti. They take a sphere from the pyramid to show the Doctor but as they leave the buried Yeti starts to move. The Doctor is visited by the Monk Thomni who has been sent to take him to Khrisong. The Doctor tells him to look in the straw of the cell as Khrisong arrives to take him away. Thomni finds the Ghanta hidden there. Victoria and Jamie are chased down the mountainside by the Yeti. Khrisong verbally clashes with Rinchen & Saphan about what he plans for the Doctor. The Doctor is tied to the gate as bait for the Yeti. Thomni takes the Ghanta to Abbot Songsten, but hears another voice: Their master Padmasbhava. Padmasbhava now knows the Doctor has returned since the Ghanta has been bought back. Jamie & Victoria meet Travers on the Mountain. They get him to take them to the Monastery in return for showing him where the Yeti's cave is. Padmasbhava questions Thomni and instructs him to have The Doctor released and treated well. The unseen Padmasbhava's hypnotic tone convinces Thomni that his orders come from the Abbot and not Padmasbhava. When Thomni leaves Padmasbhava speaks in a more sinister tone to the Abbot about the Great Plan. Jamie, Victoria and Travers arrive, and Travers tells the monks that he was mistaken. Thomni arrives with the orders from the Abbot and Khrisong frees the Doctor. The sinister Padmasbhava tells the Abbot nothing must stop their preparations as there is little time left. Jamie & Victoria show the silver sphere to the Doctor who asks them about the Yeti. Travers tells them that the Yeti are shy and elusive creatures. Three Yeti are sighted from the monastery. Jamie has a plan to capture it so the Doctor & Victoria retreat into the Monastery. Jamie spreads a net on the floor at the gate: they batter the Yeti and haul the net up, suddenly noticing it has stopped moving. Buried in the mud is a bleeping & wiggling silver sphere which has fallen from the Yeti. A monk finds Jamie's sphere in the monastery and places it by the Buddha statue. The Doctor discovers the Yeti is a robot and there's something missing from inside it's chest. Outside the Monastery the buried sphere admits a bleeping call, returned by Jamie's sphere, left lying by the Buddha's statue, which starts moving....

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Episode 2 of The Abominable Snowmen may be my favourite surviving episode of sixties Doctor Who: Great location work, superb dimly lit studio sets (and we'll see much later how important decent lighting is when it all goes wrong in the 80s), good monsters, a sinister presence and even little stuff like the spheres communicating with each other and the moving one at the feet of the Buddha. The plot ticks along nicely in this episode resolving certain aspects of the first episode and introducing new elements, notably the master Padmasbhava. This episode works superbly and makes me wonder how much better episode 1 would be with the pictures.

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There appears to be an evolving running joke about Jamie's ability, or lack thereof, to predict things properly! Recall this exchange from the last episode of the previous story where he had the Cybercontroller tied up in the rejuvenating machine:

DOCTOR: I think not. I think there must be some sort of internal timing mechanism. Jamie, I hope you made those ropes secure.
JAMIE: Oh, the King of the beasties himself couldnae get out of that one.
Which is the Cybercontroller's cue to burst through the rope and the machine!
DOCTOR: Jamie, remind me to give you a lesson in tying knots sometime.
So then we have Jamie and Victoria in the cave at the start of the episode:
JAMIE: Are you all right?
VICTORIA: That horrible thing. What was it?
JAMIE: I don't know. Did you see what it did to my sword, though? Broke it like a piece of wood. No human's as strong as that.
VICTORIA: What is this place? And what are those?
JAMIE: Some sort of metal. They're all glowing.
VICTORIA: Oh, let's get away from here, Jamie.
JAMIE: Aye, if we can. I don't think that tunnel's completely blocked. Come on.
JAMIE: Oh, don't worry about that, it's quite dead.
Sure enough just at that point the Yeti trapped under the rubble starts to stir!
JAMIE: What's the matter?
Effectively these two scenes are setting up this exchange later in this episode.
JAMIE: Hey, Doctor, if you really want to capture one of these beasties, I think I have an idea which might just work.
DOCTOR: Oh. Victoria?
DOCTOR: Victoria, I think this is one of those instances where discretion is the better part of valour. Jamie has an idea. Come along.
JAMIE: No, Doctor
DOCTOR: Come along!
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Incredibly Jamie's plan does work, though it's not 100% clear why until the Doctor comes to examine the inert Yeti:

DOCTOR: You were right about one thing, Victoria. This creature certainly doesn't seem to be flesh and blood.
DOCTOR: It's not your abominable snowman either, Travers. Look. It's metal.
TRAVERS: That's incredible.
THOMNI: What is it?
KHRISONG: A devil's warrior.
DOCTOR: No, I don't think so. It's more like a robot.
TRAVERS: A robot? My dear chap, don't let your imagination run away with you.
DOCTOR: Now, why has it stopped? Wait a minute. Wait a minute.
VICTORIA: Nothing there.
DOCTOR: No, but there has been.
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And we've seen what does fit in there: one of the spheres like the one Jamie took from the cave earlier in the episode!

Unfortunately the surviving copy of episode two has a sound fault during this scene, present on all off air recordings of the story. When the Doctor says

"You were right about one thing Victoria — this creature certainly doesn't seem to be flesh and blood".
The audio is missing for the first half of the sentence until the middle of the word Victoria. The fault was disguised for the VHS release but is patched using other surviving Troughton dialogue for the CD and VHS releases.

This scene then leads to the dislodged control sphere, stuck in the mud outside the monastery, communicating with it's abandoned duplicate left lying by the Buddha statue which then starts to move!

Abominable Snowman 2 is the only episode of this story to exist. It was returned to the BBC in 1982 from a collector named Roger Stevens via Ian Levine. Stevens had bought a number of films from a former BBC employee who had "acquired" them. Levine asserted the both Snowman 2 and another episode, Invasion of the Dinosaurs 1 were missing from the archives. Levine returned the copy of Snowmen 2, but held on to Invasion of the Dinosaurs 1 for a little while longer, as a potential bargaining chip is any other sources of missing episodes emerged. That was returned to the BBC in mid 1983. See pages 195-9 of Wiped! Doctor Who's Missing Episodes by Richard Molesworth for more details.

Abominable Snowman 2 was released on video as part of Doctor Who - the Troughton Years in 1991 along with Enemy of the World 3 and Space Pirates 2. It's by some distance the best episode on the tape. A second surviving Yeti episode, The Web Of Fear 1, would have to wait many more years for it's VHS release in 2003 as part of the final Doctor Who VHS release. Both episodes can be found in the Doctor Who - Lost In Time DVD set.

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