Years ago, when The Orkney News was starting, one of the shows I would often go to for my science fiction reviews was Classic Doctor Who. Readers may have noticed I’ve not reviewed a story in a long time. Readers who read my articles about first the start of the Chibnall era and later more damning my article about the retcon can guess why. I won’t rant here as I’ve got two whole articles on that but, yes because of that terrible retcon I have not been watching even Classic Dr Who. This was the ONE exception. I had wanted to see this episode brought to life for so long, that even my stance of not watching Dr Who until the retcon was undone, with it having now been animated, I sat down and watched it.
The Abominable Snowmen is a 6-part story in the 5th season of Doctor Who. The story after Tomb of the Cybermen and before the Ice Warriors. The story is set in the 1930s in Tibet starring the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton best companion ever Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling). It sees the Doctor arriving at a Monastery he had once been to returning a bell he had been given. However, an anthropologist Professor Edward Travers, after his companion was attacked and killed, accuses the Doctor of being the murderer thinking he was yet another reporter there to belittle his claims about Yeti and wanted to take the credit for the discovery.
The story takes a base under siege style story with the Monastery working as a base and a strange danger threatening them, (a common story type in the second Doctor era… to the point it’s joked about… it’s even more common than the second Doctor’s ultimate nemesis FOAM!)
The story works exceedingly well as it it has a continuous progression of danger and threat throughout the whole tale. For while the Yeti are seemingly the danger it begins to unfold that the monastery is not as safe as it first seems and there is something far more dangerous at work. (No, it’s not the Daleks, they had stopped appearing for now until the 3rd Doctor’s run with Day of the Daleks and that’s a good number of years off.) It’s also notable that characters grow throughout the story. People that at first were aggressive and untrusting of the Doctor come to his side and defence as the story continues having been humbled by events and won over by his actions, while some who were more passive become more suspicious.
Because this is an animated version it was able to make a few welcome changes. This can mainly be seen with the people living at the monastery, this was made in the 60s after all so. Let’s just say they weren’t played or even really looked like people from Tibet and leave it at that. This was changed thanks to the animation and it’s quite welcome. Also, while I can’t be sure, judging from some telesnaps I saw it seems the final confrontation is also changed to be able to show more of the power of the antagonist in the story. I definitely recommend watching this story. Professor Travers ends up being one of the first examples of a non-companion returning to the show as the story “The Web of Fear” is a sequel to this one, and that one introduced Lethbridge Stewart. While the Yeti don’t look too scary a threat (in fact I want a soft toy of one) the main villain is portrayed very well as the threat it is.