Doctor Who: The Abominable Snowmen (1967)

UK, 30 September -4 November 1967
average 25m each, videotape, black and white, 4:3
mono, English
Previous Serial: Doctor Who: The Tomb of the Cybermen (1967)
Next Serial: Doctor Who: The Ice Warriors (1967)
Series: Doctor Who (1963-1989) – series 5, episodes 5-19

A British television science fiction serial directed by Gerald Blake. Only one of the six episodes is known to survive in the BBC archives. An animated version was released in 2022.

Plot Summary

travels to Tibet in 1935 to return a sacred bell, the ghants, to a monastery. He meets the explorer Travers who is searching for the fabled Yeti. But they both get more than they bargained for when the Yeti not only turn out to be very real, but deployed by the Great Intelligence which has possessed the High Lama.

Credits

* = uncredited

Crew
Directed by: Gerald Blake
BBC TV
Producer: Innes Lloyd
Script: Mervyn Haisman, Henry Lincoln
Story Editor: Peter Bryant
Studio Lighting: Howard King
Film Cameramen: Peter Bartlett, Ken Westbury
Film Editor: Philip Barnikel
Title Music by: Ron Grainer and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Title Music Arranged by: Delia Derbyshire *
Studio Sound: Norman Bennett, Alan Edmonds
Special Sound: Brian Hodgson
Costumes: Martin Baugh
Make-up: Sylvia James
Visual Effects: Ron Oates, Ulrich Grosser
Designer: Malcolm Middleton
Production Assistant: Marjorie Yorke
Assistant Floor Manager: Roselyn Parker
Locations: Rhaeadr Ogwen, Gwynedd, Wales, UK [locations]

Cast
Episode 1
Patrick Troughton (Dr Who)
Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon)
Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield)
Jack Watling (Professor Edward Travers)
Norman Jones (Krisong)
David Spenser (Thonmi)
David Grey (Rinchen)
Raymond Llewellyn (Sapan)
Reg Whithead (Yeti)

Episode 2
Patrick Troughton (Dr Who)
Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon)
Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield)
Jack Watling (Professor Edward Travers)
Norman Jones (Krisong)
David Spenser (Thonmi)
David Grey (Rinchen)
Raymond Llewellyn (Sapan)
Reg Whithead, Tony Harwood, Richard Kerley (Yeti)
Charles Morgan (Songsten)
Wolfe Morris (Padmasambhava)
David Baron (Ralpachan)

Episode 3
Patrick Troughton (Dr Who)
Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon)
Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield)
Jack Watling (Professor Edward Travers)
Norman Jones (Krisong)
David Spenser (Thonmi)
David Grey (Rinchen)
Raymond Llewellyn (Sapan)
Reg Whithead, Tony Harwood, Richard Kerley, John Hogan (Yeti)
Charles Morgan (Songsten)
Wolfe Morris (Padmasambhava)
David Baron (Ralpachan)

Episode 4
Patrick Troughton (Dr Who)
Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon)
Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield)
Jack Watling (Professor Edward Travers)
Norman Jones (Krisong)
David Spenser (Thonmi)
David Grey (Rinchen)
Raymond Llewellyn (Sapan)
Reg Whithead, Tony Harwood, Richard Kerley, John Hogan (Yeti)
Charles Morgan (Songsten)
Wolfe Morris (Padmasambhava)
David Baron (Ralpachan)

Episode 5
Patrick Troughton (Dr Who)
Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon)
Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield)
Jack Watling (Professor Edward Travers)
Norman Jones (Krisong)
David Spenser (Thonmi)
David Grey (Rinchen)
Raymond Llewellyn (Sapan)
Reg Whithead, Tony Harwood, Richard Kerley, John Hogan (Yeti)
Charles Morgan (Songsten)
Wolfe Morris (Padmasambhava)
David Baron (Ralpachan)

Episode 6
Patrick Troughton (Dr Who)
Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon)
Deborah Watling (Victoria Waterfield)
Jack Watling (Professor Edward Travers)
Norman Jones (Krisong)
David Spenser (Thonmi)
Raymond Llewellyn (Sapan)
Reg Whithead, Tony Harwood, Richard Kerley (Yeti)
Charles Morgan (Songsten)
Wolfe Morris (Padmasambhava)
David Baron (Ralpachan)

Uncredited
Wolfe Morris [voice of the Great Intelligence]
Richard Atherton, Bobby Beaumont, Roger Bowdler, Charles Finch, Terry Nelson, Jack Rowland [Lamas]
Antonio de Maggio, Barry Du Pre, Michael Durham, Pat Gorman, Richard King, Crawford Lyle [warrior monks]

Production Notes

In 1963, the actors Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln had appeared together in Scaremonger, an episode of the popular ITV crime drama series No Hiding Place (1959-1967). Both men were looking to move into scriptwriting and struck up a friendship, agreeing to work together on future projects. By chance, a few years later Lincoln bumped into his old friend Patrick Troughton who bemoaned the fact that his Doctor hadn't yet had many adventures set on modern-day Earth. This struck a chord with Lincoln who persuaded Haisman to write a spec script for based on a popular modern legend. They briefly considered a story about the Loch Ness Monster (which would eventually turn up in Doctor Who in Terror of the Zygons (1975)) but eventually settled on a story about the yeti. In 1960, explorer Sir Edmund Hilary had mounted an expedition to search for the fabled creature and public interest in the legend was at its peak.

They submitted the idea to the Doctor Who production office in April 1967 and producer Innes Lloyd liked the idea, and new story editor Peter Bryant commissioned a full set of scripts under the title The Abominable Snowmen (a name given to the yeti by Henry Newman who mistranslated the Tibetan name for the creature metoh-kangmi) on 2 May 1967. The scripts were worked on by Bryant (then on a trial-run as producer, in which capacity he'd produced The Abominable Snowmen) and producer-in-waiting Victor Pemberton, and Lloyd was excited by the opportunities the story offered for location work. The story would feature extensive location work at Nant Ffrancon Pass, in Snowdonia, North Wales, which would bring some unique challenges for the assigned director, Gerald Blake.

But before then, the regular cast had to be retained – The Abominable Snowmen was the first in the shooting schedule for series five of Doctor Who, though Tomb of the Cybermen, shot at the end of series four, would be held over to kick off the new run. New contracts for Frazer Hines (returning as Jamie) and Deborah Watling (Victoria) were signed and the latter suggested that her father, Jack Watling, might be interested in playing the part of anthropologist and explorer Professor Edward Travers. With cast coming together, Blake was retained as director having missed out on working on Doctor Who previously when a historical drama, The New Armada, had been abandoned.

Three days of model work was recorded from 23 August at BBC Television Film Studios in Ealing, London before the cast and crew decamped for North Wales on what would turn out to be the longest location shoot that Doctor Who had done so far. Over six days in Snowdonia, they battled torrential rain that delayed shooting by two days leaving the terrain slippery and treacherous – one of the actors inside costume designer Martin Baugh's yeti suits, made of padded foam over a bamboo frame, slipped and fell several hundred feet down a mountainside and was feared dead until they found that the costume had protected him from serious injury. Shooting in September also meant that there was no snow on the ground, disappointing the production team who had hoped for a more realistic stand-in for Tibet.

By 15 September everyone was back in the warmth and relative safety of Studio D at the BBC's Lime Grove Studios in Shepherd's Bush. London. Lloyd had disliked the pattern of recording that the show had fallen into during the latter half of series four, with episodes being recorded just a week before broadcast, leaving very little wiggle room should anything go wrong, so decided to record the first two episodes back-to-back over two days, on Friday 15 September and Saturday 16 September, giving him three weeks of breathing space before broadcast.

Episode one was broadcast on Saturday 30 September and the abominable snowmen themselves proved to be a huge hit with viewers – episode one drew in 6.3 million viewers, climbing to 7.4 million by the sixth and final episode. Lloyd and Bryant were keen to promote the monsters, adding them to the growing pantheon of threats that could return time and again, especially now that Dalek creator Terry Nation was trying to market the show's most popular monster to American television. Haisman and Lincoln were therefore commissioned to write a sequel, The Web of Fear (1968) and plans were in place for a third serial featuring the yeti again invading London. But disagreements with the BBC over another Doctor Who story they wrote, The Dominators (which they would end up signing under the joint pseudonym Norman Ashby), led to them leaving the show and putting the brakes on Lloyd and Bryant's ambitions. The invasion of London would subsequently be staged by the Cybermen in The Invasion (1968), though a yeti would appear again, briefly, in the 20th anniversary special The Five Doctors as well as showing up in several spin-off novels and the independently made video-only release Downtime (1995). The Great Intelligence, the alien force controlling the , would turn up again in the revived series episode The Snowmen (2012) albeit without the abominable snowmen themselves. The forty-four year gap between The Web of Fear and The Snowmen would be the longest gap between appearances for any Doctor Who “monster”.

All but one episode, the second, of The Abominable Snowmen were wiped by the BBC. In 2021, the BBC announced that the serial would be the next in its programme of animating missing stories though with BBC America withdrawing their share of the funding from 2022, the future of that programme was left in some doubt though the BBC continues to search for new production partners.

See also
Sylvia James in Conversation (2009)

References

Books
Doctor Who: The Handbook: The by David J. Howe, Mark Stammers, Stephen James Walker pp.103-109 – credits, synopsis, review
Doctor Who: The Television Companion by David J. Howe and Stephen James Walker pp.133-135 – credits, synopsis, review