The Abominable Snowmen

Doctor WhoThe Doctor, Jamie and Victoria discover that the TARDIS has brought them to present-day Tibet, high in the Himalayas, which the Doctor sees as a perfect opportunity to return a holy relic to the Det-Sen Monastery – an item that has been in his possession since the 1600s. He decides to step outside to explore, leaving Jamie and Victoria in the safety of the TARDIS to find the misplaced relic, and discovers a mangled rifle, a dead body, and enormous footprints. The Doctor returns to his timeship to collect the relic and return it to the monks at Det-Sen personally, but tells his companions that he thinks it best that they remain in the TARDIS. After he leaves again, Victoria’s curiosity gets the best of her and she goes outside to look around, and Jamie’s chivalry gets the best of him and he goes along to protect her. They’re exploring a cave when a huge furry beast traps them inside, and they find a collection of silver spheres there. At the monastery, the Doctor doesn’t get the reception he’s been expecting, and the warrior monks who protect their more peaceful brethren accuse him of murder; Professor Travers, who is searching the mountainside for signs of the legendary Yeti, witnesses his partner’s death and thinks the Doctor is responsible, thinking him to be the leader of a rival expedition. It turns out that Yeti are on the move, but not the reclusive creatures of lore – when they appear and attack the monastery, the Doctor discovers that they are robotic in nature, each containing a cavity custom-made for the spheres discovered by Jamie and Victoria. But the Yeti are being controlled by something else, somewhere – and they may be the greatest challenge ever faced by the Det-Sen monks and even the Doctor himself.

Order this story on audio CDwritten by Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln
directed by Gerald Blake
music from stock music library

Guest Cast: Jack Watling (Professor Travers), Norman Jones (Khrisong), David Spencer (Thonmi), David Grey (Rinchen), Raymond Llewellyn (Sapan), Charles Morgan (Songsten), Wolfe Morris (Padmasambhava), David Baron (Ralpachan), Reg Whitehead, Tony Harwood, Richard Kerley, John Hogan (Yeti)

Notes: Though The Sensorites showed the Doctor and Susan to have mental abilities beyond those of mere humans, The Abominable Snowmen is the first Doctor Who adventure to make it clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Doctor’s psi powers are quite formidable, as he holds the Great Intelligence at bay. The Yeti would be seen again in The Web Of Fear, and fleetingly in The Five Doctors; they also appear in the fan-made video production Downtime, which chronicles a third attempt by the Great Intelligence to sieze Earth as its new homeworld. Incidentally, the sound of the Yeti roar is a flushing toilet, slowed down and played backward.

Broadcast from September 30 through November 4, 1967

LogBook entry & review by Earl Green

Review: Though on the surface it would appear to suffer from the same “confined space full of humans under siege from an outside force”plotline as a great many other second Doctor adventures, The Abominable Snowmen was afforded a great deal of extra scope via location filming. Though the location in question was obviously not something one would ever mistake for the real Himalayas, it’s also not somewhere just down the highway from the BBC’s London base of operations, so it works quite well. The whole six-part adventure is dripping with atmosphere, mystery and menace – if The Abominable Snowmen existed in whole, rather than a single orphaned episode and five episodes worth of audio, it might well be remembered and revered much, much more than Tomb Of The Cybermen.

As with most disembodied menaces faced by the Doctor down through the years, it’s all down to vocal performances here, and even in the majority of the story that’s represented only by audio recordings, the voice of monastery master Padmasambhava and the malevolent tones of the Great Intelligence are striking. I listened to this entire story in broad daylight, wide awake, and found myself unnerved by these voice artists. Great stuff. This story also shows Victoria at her best – it may well be that character’s best appearance, as she’s inquisitive and yet fearful at the same time. But when push comes to shove and her friends are at stake, Victoria isn’t too scared to explore further. (But as is typical with female sidekicks from Troughton’s era, she’s also unashamed to let rip with a shrill scream when confronted by a Yeti. But then, most of us probably would be doing the same.) And while Victoria soars in this story, Jamie suffers a bit, spending much of the latter half of the proceedings being preoccupied with worrying about Victoria, who in the meantime is getting by just fine, apart from the whole bit about being hypnotized by the Great Intelligence.

The Abominable Snowmen may well be the height of the Troughton era, and it’s an adventure on an unusually large canvas for this budget-conscious era of the show. When I listen to the stories that exist either entirely or mostly in audio form, I tend to picture them in black & white, on BBC sets, with BBC props and makeup jobs. As I listened to this one, I found myself picturing it in color, in widescreen, in even granded and more forbidding settings – because it’s such a great story that it just inspires that kind of imagination. If we can find no other Troughton adventures complete, we must find this one in its entirety.