Doctor Who Story Number 38 – The Abominable Snowmen

Written by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln
Directed by Gerald Blake

The Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria arrive in the Himalayas and discover a monastery under siege by Yeti and a being from another plane of existence who is attempting to gain access to the Earth.

“Whatever it is, it’s nice to see it again.”
Professor Travers, an anthropologist from England, is in the Himalayas looking for the Yeti.  It seems he was ridiculed for this expedition, so he definitely has something to prove.  Matters are not helped when his traveling companion is killed.  Travers doesn’t get a good look at the creature, but he gets enough of a glimpse to determine that it is furry.  Thus, when The Doctor turns up in a fur coat, suspicion is quickly placed on the time traveler.

The Doctor had warned Jamie and Victoria to stay in the TARDIS after his preliminary scouting revealed gigantic footprints near the landing site.  These footprints were not made by Tegana and his warriors, but by the Yeti.  The Doctor knew they had just arrived in a dangerous place, and presumably he tried to make the two humans stay in the TARDIS to keep them out of danger having so recently escaped The Cybermen.  Victoria, it would seem, is a bad influence on Jamie.  They eventually discover a cave with wooden beams, leading Jamie to become more self-assured.  Our young Highlander is more afraid of wild beasts than men, it would seem.  But Jamie and Victoria are quickly trapped in the cave by a Yeti, and Jamie discovers a pyramid of stacked, metallic orbs.  Quite the eerie image.

The monks at the nearby Det-sen monastery provide some convenient exposition.  It seems that The Yeti, having once been timid and elusive, have grown more savage of late.  The creatures have killed some of the warrior monks, and Khrisong, the leader of the warriors, is itching for vengeance.  He believes that The Yetis change in behavior could be due to The Doctor.

“Victoria, I think this is one of those instances where discretion is the better part of valor.  Jamie has an idea.  Come along!”
I will admit, now that I’ve seen the Yeti in this story in action, I would have to agree that they are not the most intimidating of beasts.  They aren’t horrible, however.  And so far, this story is immensely compelling.  I love the isolated location, Travers’ expedition, the mysterious orbs, the abbot and his plans with Padmasambhava.  The mood of this story is ominous, and it is helped by both the lighting and the stark set design.

The Doctor spends much of this story attempting to win over both Travers and Khrisong.  Honestly, allies are important in this story because as we come to understand the threat, we realize that this power is unlike anything else The Doctor has faced, with the possible exception of The Animus.  Both The Animus and this story’s Great Intelligence are creatures that use mind-control as a means to devour the plane into which they manifest.  The Great Intelligence made contact with Padmasambhava while the llama was traveling the astral plane.  It invaded the human’s mind and has been using him to create both The Yeti and the control spheres.  It has kept the llama alive for over two hundred years.  Fortunately for all of humanity, The Great Intelligence has not yet encountered The Doctor and as a result, it has underestimated him.

“Bung a rock at it.”
I can see why, as Doctor Who developed in the 90s, fans began to view The Great Intelligence as a Lovecraftian alien.  Travers even comes close to having a breakdown into madness, a staple in Lovecraft’s protagonists.  As the story progresses, Padmasambhava comes to realize that The Great Intelligence will destroy the world.  As he tries to convince the monks, The Doctor, and his companions to leave, The Great Intelligence is being born into our world on the side of the mountain, originating from the control sphere pyramid in the cave.  In the end, The Doctor must pit his mind and will against The Great Intelligence while Jamie and the monk Thonmi break everything in the secret control room.  The destruction of a second sphere pyramid makes short work of the astral creature.

I love the imagination of this story. In a much darker way, it captured that feeling I loved in The Hartnell era where you had no idea what you would see from week to week.  The Great Intelligence was genuinely frightening, and The Doctor has possibly been at his most concerned and serious.  While being a bit slow in the middle, the story was interesting, had a great tone, and was a lot of fun.  I’m looking forward to the rematch in a few episode’s time.

5 thoughts on “Doctor Who Story Number 38 – The Abominable Snowmen

  1. they definitely loved those under siege stories during the Troughton era 😛 I need to hunt around for a recon of this, because I’ve only really seen the second episode (or was it part 3?) that was featured in the Lost in time collection. either that or I could get an audio……hmmmm….

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