As the Doctor, Romana and K-9 continue blazing a random trail through the universe to avoid the Black Guardian’s wrath, Romana is dismayed when the TARDIS once again lands on Earth. The Doctor, seeing that the time machine has materialized in the depths of the Marianas Trench, the deepest point on the seafloor of the Pacific Ocean, is less worried – until the TARDIS is grappled by a mid-21st century submarine on a deep sea expedition. Needless to say, the sub’s crew is astounded to discover a police box on the ocean floor, and they’re even more surprised when time travelers emerge from it. But when the sub encounters what may be a new species never before seen on Earth, the Doctor immediately senses that it is something that doesn’t come from Earth’s oceans. When the Doctor and expedition leader Patricia Sawyer pay a visit to a sunken shipwreck, they find a wide-eyed midshipman who has apparently been kept alive for a century. As they help him escape, something assumes control of K-9 and ejects Romana and another member of the sub crew into the ocean – where they miraculously survive thanks to the technology of the aliens. But who are these visitors from another world, and is their vested interest in the human race entirely benevolent?
Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Mary Tamm (Romana), John Leeson (K-9), Alice Krige (Dr. Patricia Sawyer), John Albasiny (Chris Fleming), Charlie Norfolk (Terri McCulloch), Gwilym Lee (Jack Hodges)
Notes: Guest star Alice Krige is best known to Star Trek fans as the Borg Queen, a role she played twice (1996’s feature film Star Trek: First Contact and the 2001 Star Trek: Voyager series finale Endgame.
LogBook entry and TheatEar review by Earl Green
Review: Big screen, small screen or no screen, the moment you have a deep-sea underwater odyssey in which the heroes discover alien life forms possessing organic technology, you’re setting yourself up to be compared to James Cameron’s 1989 film The Abyss (which, despite its shameless heavy-handedness, is still one of this reviewer’s favorite movies). When you go repeating scenes and dialogue from The Abyss, I will point it out. And Phantoms Of The Deep does just that. From bioluminescent jellyfish-like creatures to pockets of breathable air protected by force fields holding unimaginable volumes of water at bay, down to someone administering CPR and yelling “Breathe!” to an apparent drowning victim, this one might as well have a Target Books-style cover with the title Doctor Who And The Abyss.
The cast does a tremendous job with the story they’re given, and Phantoms is really one of Tom Baker’s least-eccentric, most-straightforward audio outings to date. A rather critical plot point – that the submarine Erebus was looking for someplace to dump atomic waste – is held back far too late, and is revealed in an almost-throwaway casual dialogue exchange, even though it could’ve helped to differentiate Phantoms from the movie that it otherwise very closely resembles. K-9 fans can take comfort in knowing that this may well be the most K-9-centric episode of the fourth Doctor/Romana audio “season”, although everyone’s favorite tin dog is behaving quite out of character in places (to find out why, you’ll have to give it a listen).
Enjoyable but a bit derivative, Phantoms Of The Deep benefits from a cast capable of making the listener buy into the oddly familiar story. Even with its source material quite obvious, it’s engrossing.