The Abominable Snowmen

Dr Who Big Finish Abominable Snowmen

Dr Who Abominable Snowmen Radio Times

When it comes to the Yeti stories and their standing in fandom’s affections, you can’t deny that The Abominable Snowmen is nothing more than the prequel to The Web of Fear. It’s not exactly the most exciting BUS story the show has ever given us and suffers, I think, from a complete lack of atmosphere due to having no incidental music, meaning a lot of potentially creepy moments, such as the scenes with Paddy Sam Bahvah, tend to fall a bit flat.

So, in order to improve things in that department, and also just for the sheer creative challenge of it, this edit gets augmented by some suitably atmospheric music, in this case from the soundtrack to the horror movie Witching & Bitching by Joan Valent, Witching and Bitching OSTwhich, whilst good and appropriate for the story being edited here, always puts me in mind of the superior score to Hansel & Gretel – Witch Hunters, which Whoflix highly recommends you check out if you’re also the kind of person who likes soundtrack music.

The cuts start in the very first Tardis scene, where Pat is way too excited over seeing Det-Sen again. As for when he acquired the Ghanta in the first place, at first listen I thought it might be Hartnell & Susan who picked it up, given how long it’s been, so the Dr says, since he last saw it. That seemed much more likely to me than it happening in a Story Gap between Power of the Daleks and The Highlanders.

complete-history-20However, come Part Five Paddy recognises Pat’s face and says so, which can only mean that the Doctor’s initial trip to Det-Sen, which gets mentioned in Part Two as being in 1630, must have taken place in the aforesaid Story Gap with Ben & Polly. And, given that the Doctor says in Part One that he hasn’t seen the bell for years, that implies that the Story Gap must be quite a large one…

Once the Doctor gets himself to the monastery and banged up in his cell we stick with Jamie and Victoria as they uncover the glass pyramid in the cave and the Yeti, only cutting back to Pat after resolving the climax to Part One.

There seems to be some confusion as to how to pronounce “Tomni” as both Frazer Hines in the narration and Paddy Sam Bahvah in the ep call him “Tonmi” instead. And I’m sure one of the other monks calls him “Thomni” at one point as well. Either way, “Tommy” gets the bell to Paddy Sam Bahvah, puts Pat in the clear and by the time Jamie bags the Dr a Yeti, we’re at 24m in, meaning we’ve condensed the first two eps into the equivalent of one.

The Abominable Snowmen by Adrian Salmon

Given that we now know that, chronologically, The Snowmen predates both this and Web, it does seem a bit strange that the Intelligence should end up in Tibet of all places after its initial Victorian encounter with Dr Smiffy. Paddy was the Big Boss Monk back in 1630 when the 2nd Doctor, Ben & Polly turned up and he entrusted them with the Ghanta, to keep it safe during an attack by – presumably – the Chinese. The 1630 date is the only one we can be sure of, as Thomni confirms that was when the Ghanta was “lost” ie entrusted to the Doctor for safe keeping…

DOCTOR: That attack in 1630, what was the outcome?
THOMNI: You know something of our history?
DOCTOR: Yes, a little.
THOMNI: That was also a dark period. It was then our holy Ghanta was taken from us.

That 1630 date has important implications for the UNIT Dating Controversy that’s coming further down the line. Since the Doctor, in Part Five, says that the original, unseen-on-TV 1630 historical adventure – let’s call it Terror In Tibet – was three hundred years ago, that means that The Abominable Snowmen takes place in1930, if the Doctor’s memory isn’t at fault…

THOMNI: She was certain that Padmasambhava would recognise the Doctor.
JAMIE: Recognise the Doctor?
THOMNI: Yes he has been here before.
DOCTOR: But that was three hundred years ago!

But, three stories later, in The Web of Fear, the dialogue indicates a different date altogether…

VICTORIA: (To Travers.) I’m Victoria Waterfield… and that’s Jamie McCrimmon!
TRAVERS: But it… it can’t be… Why that’s… that’s over… forty years ago!

Now, if Travers’ memory isn’t at fault, and the Doctor is right about 1930, that would put TWoF at somewhere around 1975, if it’s more than forty years since he last saw them and TAS really does take place in 1930. But then we get the scene between Anne Travers and Victoria, which we join after the latter has tried to explain things to the former…

ANNE: It flies? Through time and space?
VICTORIA: Not exactly “flies”… it’s difficult to explain.
ANNE: Not half as difficult as it is to believe!
VICTORIA: Your father believes it.
ANNE: Yes… yes, he seems to. And you met him – when was it you said? In 1935? In Tibet?

This is where the whole UNIT Dating Controversy gets started, and all based on the assumption that Victoria has got her dates right. Read Anne’s line again and you could infer that she isn’t sure that Victoria said 1935, which is why, questioning, she repeats it. If TAS really did take place in 1935, then the Doctor was wrong when he said 300 years had passed, as it’s 305 years from 1630 to 1935…

And if 1935 is right, meaning Victoria is correct and the Doctor is wrong, and if Travers is also right about how long has passed since The Abominable Snowmen, which he says is more than forty years, then The Web of Fear must take place after the 1975 date that fandom assures itself is the year in which that story is set….

Of course, none of this really matters because, at least as far as Whoflix is concerned, the B&W Troughton & Hartnell stories take place in a completely different Whoniverse to the colour Jon Pertwee/UNIT ones. In the “In Colour” universe of Pertwee, this story and TWoF still took place, only the sequel happened in 1968…

Even assuming that it’s more likely that Victoria is wrong than the Doctor, doesn’t alter the fact that TGI somehow found a way to empower Paddy, all on his own, to make four fully functioning Yeti robots, somewhere between, if Singsong Songsen is to be believed, 1730 and 1930, since he says Paddy worked at it for 200 years!

robot yeti lee sullivan dr whoGiven that it was the Twenties where the idea of the “robot” became part of the culture, via Karel Capek, whose play R.U.R debuted in 1921, and Fritz Lang, whose Metropolis came out in 1927 with it’s Machinenmensch Maria, it’s not outwith the realms of possibility that the Yeti were “made in China” in the years before WWII, but I reckon it is a bit of a stretch given there’s no Alien Tech involved. But then, as it says itself, the Intelligence is information so it’s safe to assume that it had learned all there was to know about where human tech was at through poor old Doctor Simeon, and would be able to keep track of developments through possessing others, like poor old Paddy and Singsong.

But that then begs the continuity question, if Smiffy’s The Snowmen takes place in Victorian Britain between 1842, when TGI came to Earth, and 1892, when Dr Smiffy put the mockers on it’s plans, how can TGI also be working on Paddy over in Tibet, where the poor old bugger has been building robot Yeti since 1730??? Again, the only possible answer has to be that the version of TAS that happened in the Whoniverse of the New Series was a different TAS to the original TAS that happened in the B&W Whoniverse… either that or it’s that bloody Time War again!

As for when this “original” version of TAS really takes place, for what it’s worth my money’s on it taking place just before the 1930 to 1932 Sino-Tibetan War that ended in victory for China. If the story takes place after that then you would think that Tibet’s Chinese conquerors would get a mention somewhere in the story, but they don’t. The Chinese would certainly provide an answer to Khrisong’s question about who would wish harm to the monks, but nobody suggests that the Yeti are a weapon of their occupiers and/or enemies the Chinese, so I’m inclined, for that reason, to think that this takes place just before the conflict, which started in June 1930, that way the in-story dating still holds…

dr who 5.2 abominable snowmen covers

Meanwhile, back at Det-Sen, there are a couple of bleeping spheres on the loose. It takes just 8 minutes for the sphere in the monastery to make it back to base, the main cuts being to Victoria’s repeated attempts to get into the sanctum so that in this version she makes just the one. I would have cut it altogether but the narration makes that impossible. Part Four sees the action moving to outside the monastery as we stick with the Dr & Jamie as they make for the Tardis, disable the Yeti guarding the ship, get the tracking device and head back to the monastery in the usual ten minutes. Part Five starts on roughly 41 minutes in with Songsten letting the Yeti in to attack the monastery, Victoria’s possession & hypnotism and the Dr & Travers’ investigations taking 15 minutes more. We’re at 56 minutes in by the time we start Part Six, with the Dr hynotising Singsong, sending the monks on their way and then the final confrontation with Paddy, all of which takes around 13 minutes to get through, meaning the whole adventure is done in just under an hour and ten minutes, and is all the better for it.

abominable snowmen dwm


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