60s Companion Talks Doctor Who Episode Return

Sixties Doctor Who star Anneke Wills has spoken exclusively to SFX about the surprise recovery of a long-lost episode from 1967.

Wills, who played Polly alongside the Hartnell and Troughton incarnations of the Time Lord, learned of the news on Saturday, the day before episode two of “The Underwater Menace” was shown at the BFI’s Missing Believed Wiped event.

Also shown at that event was episode three of 1965 tale “Galaxy Four”, also believed lost for decades.

“I have to admit that I was whispered it,” says Wills, who was invited to attend the screening in London. “I said ‘I’d love to come up but I’m old and I’m in the middle of decorating my bathroom!’ And then this morning, on BBC Breakfast, they say another two episodes of Doctor Who have been found, and I’m just leaping around my little cottage with joy. Fantastic!”

Wills is delighted by the worldwide media interest in the episode’s recovery. “Isn’t that just wonderful? It’s wonderful to be a part of it. And the most exciting thing is that this is the earliest of Pat that we’ve got.

“It means we have two episodes of ‘The Underwater Menace’ now, so it might be brought out on DVD, which would be wonderful. What I’m very happy about is that it includes the bit which I’ve always wanted to see, where I say ‘You’re not turning me into a fish!’ [laughs]”

The missing episodes belonged to former TV engineer Terry Burnett, who bought them at a school fete in Hampshire in the 1980s.

“It’s all about people’s private collections now,” says Wills. “I believe there are people – though I don’t know any! – who don’t realise how big Doctor Who is, so they just pop it in a fete box and don’t realise that the world is waiting… These are treasures when they’re found.”

While Wills is thrilled that the episode has been found, her memories of making the story are less than fond.

“What I remember is Patrick Troughton snarling and growling about [director] Julia Smith, because he didn’t like her! It was actually our least favourite story, I have to say… We didn’t like it. We didn’t think that it was going to work very well. And we thought the costumes of the Fish People were rather hokey.

“We had to pretend that it was a massively big space, and in fact it was a very small, cramped space, so that got us irritable – we were running down corridors that were only five foot long! It was that kind of frustration. And our wonderful wardrobe people had made these outfits full of ashtrays – they sewed them all together on a leotard and it was so uncomfortable to wear, because every time I moved I’d get crunched!”

Wills still smiles at the memory of co-star Joseph Furst, who delivered a gloriously ripe turn as demented scientist Professor Zaroff.

“He gave us the laugh. There was always one person who would keep us all together with the laughter – not that he knew, because he was terribly serious about himself, which made him even funnier!

“And his wonderful line, which I’ve never forgotten from that day to this, where he says ‘Nothing in ze world can stop me now!’ And that became a catchphrase for Pat and Mike [Craze] and me for weeks afterwards! Any time we wanted to change something in the script we’d say ‘Nothing in ze world can stop me now!’”

Wills is delighted that a new generation will now have a chance to see Patrick Troughton in action once more.

“I recently read a very lovely quote from Matt Smith – ‘What makes a good Doctor? Patrick Troughton.’ And I thought that was lovely.”

Watch a clip from the recovered episode of “The Underwater Menace”.