“A Surfeit of H2O” Review

I do love this episode. The concept of weather as a weapon of war is intriguing, and the factory full of top scientists ostensibly fermenting vegetable wines while the locals preach of a vengeful god whilst building an ark – it’s magnificent. However, this is an instance of where even with the massive advances in production quality in season 4, limits are pushed. For example, the storm clouds gathering in the opening look like stock footage, and the supposedly omnipresent cloud over the factory is conveyed more through dialogue than through any decent shots of it. In fact, generally, the cracks show throughout in terms of conveying the proximity of locations (eg. that field is visible from the factory window, or the room next door is full of rain). It is ambitious stuff, but seeing someone apparently overpowered by shower looks a bit implausible.

Steed claims to be a partner in a wine merchant “Steed Steed Steed Steed Steed and Jaques.” When he tastes the buttercup wine: “I always wondered why cows had that contented look. Thought it must have something to do with bulls. Obviously the buttercups.”

Jonah, who is building an ark, argues with Mrs Peel about science:

“Science cannot avert the advancing doom.”

“At least it can help us prepare for it.”

The science itself, I’m not sure about. Is 67.8% humidity really that ridiculous? And my (limited) understanding is that silver iodide can affect how much precipitation falls from a cloud – but can’t create the cloud (and the humidity) itself….

Emma is tortured using the wine press. She mutters at the gloating Dr. Sturm “You diabolical mastermind, you” The most wonderful moment in the episode is when Steed releases her, with only a few moments to master the controls which could just as easily crush her to death. He does his best not to show his uncertainty and fear – and Emma does her best not to show her lack of faith. Their relief when he gets it right is almost equal: “did you know what you were doing, or was I just lucky?” It encapsulates the absolute trust and affection in their relationship, and it’s perhaps the best moment between them of the whole series.

Geoffrey Palmer returns for a fourth and final time. Talfryn Thomas is a splendid crackpot, Noel Purcel is even better as Jonah, crying ‘hallelujah’ all through the final fight which takes place in an artificial rain storm.

An absolute classic.

About Simon Wood

Lecturer in medical education, lapsed mathematician, Doctor Who fan and garden railway builder. See simonwood.info for more...

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