Arc of Infinity

It’s too late! Omega controls the Matrix!

The Fifth Doctor

Synopsis

The Doctor finds himself called back to Gallifrey as Omega makes another attempt to re-enter the universe from his anti-matter exile. Meanwhile, Tegan’s cousin goes missing in Amsterdam.

Review

Stories which see the Doctor return to Gallifrey are always a bit mixed bag, and sadly Arc of Infinity is one of the poorer ones and ultimately provides a disappointing start to the 20th anniversary season. There is a feeling that certain choices have been made simply on a whim of John Nathan-Turner and there are references to the show’s past, for instance, Romana and Leela get name dropped, however, it feels ultimately badly handled. I don’t think that the Gallifrey and Amsterdam plots stitch together perfectly and whilst I like the idea and the returning antagonist, I feel it could have been tightened up a bit.

I would like to talk a bit about the appearance of Gallifrey here, and why stories like this one probably lead to Russell T Davies taking the Doctor’s home planet off the table when he brought the show back. Gallifrey looks drab; almost like a mix between a coffee shop and a sofa salesroom. In the two previous visits to the planet of the Time Lords with Tom Baker, through directors, set design and locations, Gallifrey has at least looked interesting and alien. Here, it seems grey and lifeless. The Time Lords themselves are also pretty non-descript and their ridiculous collars just mean that the majority of their performances seem very stilted, which is probably not entirely down to the actors. It is easy to see, therefore, why Russell T Davies took Gallifrey off the board early on in the revival, why Steven Moffat, despite bringing it back from its fate in the Time War, did very little with it and Chris Chibnall has destroyed it all over again: it is very difficult to do something interesting with Gallifrey. Arguably, the last writer to achieve it was Robert Holmes in The Deadly Assassin.

The story also seems very disjointed between the sections set on Gallifrey and those set in Amsterdam. I don’t understand why the Earth based section of this story has to be set in Amsterdam and I think this was probably John Nathan-Turner just doing it because he felt he could get away with it. Unfortunately, it forces the writer Johnny Byrne into trying to make it relevant in some way, as opposed to the show’s first foray abroad in City of Death, where it feels much more organic for the Doctor and Romana to be in Paris. The titular arc, important to the return of Omega from the anti-matter universe, feels like an afterthought which just so happens to placed in Amsterdam. The return of Janet Fielding as Tegan feels much in the same vein, rendering her departure from the TARDIS at the end of the previous season ultimately pretty pointless. Time has obviously passed, as Tegan has managed to lose her job that she was so keen to get back to for the entirety of the last season, and the Doctor and Nyssa seem perfectly comfortable travelling with just the two of them. The Doctor’s face at the end of the story when Tegan announces that she will be travelling with them again probably summed up the feelings of a lot of the viewers of the time. The decision to bring back Omega is probably the best one as it manages to flesh him out a bit more, and I particularly like the scenes of him walking through Amsterdam like Frankenstein’s Monster. That being said, Omega only has one real motivation – to return to our universe – and this story doesn’t really add anything to this.

Amongst the central cast, Nyssa really stands out. Given some perhaps uncharacteristically aggressive moments, it might be that this is more in keeping with what Byrne, who also wrote her debut story, The Keeper of Traaken had in mind in her creation. It does have to be said that these actions might also be down to the fact that Louise Jameson was unavailable to reprise her role as Leela. Davison is okay here, more exasperated at the Time Lords than angry like some successive incarnations would be seen to be. Amongst the guests, Ian Collier does a passable Omega, but plaudits really go to Elspet Gray who really elevates some of the worst written scenes. Michael Gough is good here too, though having grown up with the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher helmed Batman films, seeing Alfred go head to head with the Doctor was conflicting for me! The less said about the ropey acting of Colin and Robin is probably best!

Verdict: Arc of Infinity is a bit of a mixed bag – a good idea that fails in execution and feels as though it could have done with another rewrite. 4/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Leonard Sachs (President Borusa), Elspet Gray (Chancellor Thalia), Councillor Hedin (Michael Gough), Paul Jerricho (The Castellan), Max Harvey (Cardinal Zorac), Colin Baker (Commander Maxil), Ian Collier (Omega), Neil Dalglish (Damon), John D Collins (Talor), Alastair Cumming (Colin Frazer), Andrew Boxer (Robin Stuart), Maya Woolfe (Hotel Receptionist), Malcolm Harvey (The Egron) & Guy Groen (Second Receptionist).

Writer: Johnny Byrne

Director: Ron Jones

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • This story started the 20th Anniversary Season, which saw each story bring back a component from the show’s past. Omega had previously faced off against the first three Doctors in The Three Doctors. Stephen Thorne, who played the character in that story was replaced by Ian Collier.
  • Tegan becomes the first companion to rejoin the Doctor after having left the TARDIS.
  • John Nathan-Turner appears in Part 4, trying to keep passers-by out of shot.
  • To keep the return of Omega a secret, Ian Collier was credited as the Renegade for the first two episodes. Despite Peter Davison also playing Omega in the final part, Davison is only ever credited as playing The Doctor.
  • It was originally intended for Leela to return in this story, however, Louise Jameson was unavailable to reprise the role. A hasty rewrite was done, with some of Leela’s actions being given to Nyssa.
  • Of all the stories shot outside of the UK in the classic era, this is the only one to open a season.

Cast Notes

  • Colin Baker, playing Commander Maxil here, would go on to play the Sixth incarnation of the Doctor. He is the first actor to play an another character on the show prior to his casting as the Doctor.
  • Michael Gough previously appeared in The Celestial Toymaker.
  • Leonard Sachs previously appeared in The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew’s Eve.
  • Ian Collier previously appeared in The Time Monster.
  • Paul Jerricho would reprise his role as the Castellan in The Five Doctors.

Best Moment

Best Quote

You know how it is; you put things off for a day and next thing you know, it’s a hundred years later.

The Fifth Doctor

Previous Fifth Doctor review: Time-Flight

Time-Flight

Time-Flight - Doctor

The illusion is always one of normality.

The Doctor

Synopsis

When a Concorde disappears through a crack in time, the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan take another Concorde to follow, unaware that a mysterious conjuror Kalid is waiting for them.

Review

After the explosive climax to Earthshock, the conclusion to Peter Davison’s first season as the Doctor is difficult to describe as anything other than a letdown.  Time-Flight has a reputation that certainly precedes it – I was certainly aware that this was not a great story before watching this story – and it is frustrating to see Davison’s Doctor hampered by stories like this and Black Orchid.

This is certainly an example of the show having ambition well in advance of its meagre budget.  Aspects like the landscape of pre-historic Earth and the prop Concorde landing gear look laughable and very much like a set in front of a matt painting.  Additionally, filming onboard Concorde itself seems to, like a lot of the John Nathan-Turner era, have been done for reasons of generating publicity rather than considering the practicalities of it.  The scenes shot in the cabin and the flight deck of Concorde look very claustrophobic and not easy to work in – there is one scene with the Doctor talking to the flight crew which feels as though the camera is literally right behind Peter Davison.  The one thing that does look like money has been spent on it is the Master’s disguise as Kalid, which does look rather impressive, even though it is only used for the first two parts.  Given the scope of the story and the cast and production team’s seeming antipathy towards this serial, it is perhaps surprising that one of the script editors or John Nathan-Turner suggested holding it over to the next season in order to do this story full justice.

Time-Flight Kalid and the TARDIS

Peter Grimwade’s story is certainly ambitious, however, it is safe to say that his writing is not as good as his direction, and the narrative is full of characters that feel superfluous.  I do feel that this is not entirely his fault though, as this story is unfortunate to follow Earthshock and doesn’t entirely deal with the death of Adric satisfactorily.  This isn’t a problem exclusive to Doctor Who.  For those of you unfamiliar with your James Bond films, Blofeld kills Bond’s new bride in the closing minutes of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, yet when James Bond returned in Diamonds Are Forever, he acts as though the worst thing Blofeld has ever done is park in his space.  The story does certainly start with a sombre tone, picking up straight after the Doctor has dropped off the survivors of the encounter with the Cybermen, but this does get quite rapidly dropped as a plot element.  I’ve heard that the Master originally was not supposed to feature and was a late addition and this certainly makes quite a lot of sense.  His appearance here does seem quite derivative of his earlier appearance in Castrovalva, especially considering that he spent most of his time in disguise in that story too.  Grimwade’s story does have some interesting ideas, like the Xeraphin and the Jekyll and Hyde style relationship that seems to dog their race, however, there are too many other things going on here to go into it in further details.

There is quite a large cast here but a lot of them aren’t given an awful lot to do, with the Master mind-controlling the majority of the passengers and crew of the first Concorde, and Nyssa and Tegan largely sidelined.  However, there are four standout performances that mean that this story isn’t absolutely dreadful.  The first is Peter Davison, who really throws himself into the story despite his personal feelings towards the story.  The second is Anthony Ainley, who, though the Master doesn’t really need to be in this story, brings a suitable sense of pantomime menace to proceedings.  The third and fourth are Richard Easton and Nigel Stock as Captain Stapley and Professor Hayter.  Richard Easton portrays such a likable character who falls completely under the spell of this energetic and youthful Doctor and is eager to help as evidenced in the scenes where he attempts to thwart the Master taking parts of the Doctor’s TARDIS.  Nigel Stock brings some cynicism and some wonderful barbs into the episode which does not really give the actors very much to work with.

Verdict: Time-Flight brings Davison’s first season as the Doctor to a somewhat lacklustre conclusion.  An ambitious story which should perhaps have been refused on grounds of practicalities, however, it does feature some good performances from Davison, Ainley, Easton and Stock. 2/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Anthony Ainley (Khalid/The Master), Richard Easton (Captain Stapley), Keith Drinkel (Flight Engineer Scobie), Michael Cashman (First Officer Bilton), Peter Dahlsen (Horton), Brian McDermott (Sheard), John Flint (Captain Urquhart), Peter Cellier (Andrews), Judith Byfield (Angela Clifford), Nigel Stock (Professor Hayter), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Hugh Hayes (Anithon) & André Winterton (Zarak).

Writer: Peter Grimwade

Director: Ron Jones

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The first part of this story was the most successful in terms of viewing figures of John Nathan-Turner’s entire era as producer.
  • Adric’s appearance served not only to fulfill Matthew Waterhouse’s contract but also to mean that his name would have to appear in the Radio Times, thus not spoiling the character’s death at the end of Earthshock.
  • This story was the first television program permitted to film at Heathrow Airport and the first to film on Concorde.
  • Although Janet Fielding leaves at the end of this story, there was never any intention to make this a permanent departure, and she reappears in Arc of Infinity.
  • Peter Davison labels this story as his most disappointing experience.
  • Anthony Ainley is credited as Leon Ny Taiy for the first episode.

Cast Notes

  • Keith Drinkel would go on to appear in the audio drama Catch-1782.

Best Moment

The scenes in Part One with the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan at Heathrow Airport are good – I especially like how quick the Doctor is to be accepted by the authorities after namedropping UNIT and the Brigadier.

Best Quote

I thought you were going with the Doctor.

So did I…

Captain Stapley and Tegan Jovanka

Earthshock

earthshock cybermen.jpg

A Time Lord.  But they’re forbidden to interfere.

This one calls himself the Doctor – and does nothing else but interfere.

Cyber Lieutenant and Cyber Leader

Synopsis

The Eart is hosting a conference to discuss battling the Cybermen, so naturally, the Cybermen are plotting to destroy the Earth and the Doctor is in the midst of it…

Review

It is perhaps a testament to the strength of Earthshock that, even now the twists are well known and settled into Doctor Who lore, the story works consistently well.  One of the main twists is revealed on purchasing the DVD, with the Cybermen appearing on the front cover, which does slightly undermine the end of the first part, whilst the death of Adric is now a well-known event.  The story benefits from a strong cast as well as some great direction from Peter Grimwade.

Earthshock Androids

The first of the two shocks is the reveal of the Cybermen.  With the surprise saved for the last minutes of the first part of the story, the main antagonists are the sinister androids who skulk around the caves beneath the Earth’s surface.  They are utterly terrifying and ruthless, however, they don’t have enough about them to be a long-lasting antagonist in a story of this kind.  This story needs a major villain for the ultimate impact and the reintroduction of the Cybermen is really well handled.  This version of the Cybermen might be my favourites from the Classic series – I love the see-through jaw piece and the vocal performance as the Cyber Leader by David Banks.  These Cybermen seem a lot more effective than they have done in previous appearances in a story, which compliments with their streamlined appearance.  Grimwade’s direction does some really iconic things with them, like the Cybermen bursting through plastic as they wake up on the freighter or the Cyberman trapped in the door.  He also uses low angle shots well which makes them feel all the more imposing. The way that Ringway, a member of Brigg’s crew who has been helping the Cybermen, is so easily and callously killed shows that the director and writer really understand the Cybermen.

Earthshock Cyberman.jpg

The second shock is the death of Adric.  Adric’s death is the first companion death since Sara Kingdom in The Dalek’s Masterplan and the first and, to date, the only longstanding companion to die in the course of travelling with the Doctor.  There are hints dropped early on in the episode of Adric’s dissatisfaction travelling with the Doctor since his regeneration which makes the viewer suspect a departure may be imminent, especially as Adric starts looking into how to get back to E-Space.  Something that does make me chuckle is the fact that Adric states that the Doctor has become more immature since his regeneration – a bit of a strange statement as Davison’s Doctor is much soberer and mature than his predecessor.  When the moment does come, sadly Waterhouse’s timid typing on the computer does give away that something is going to happen.  Those who have read my other reviews of Davison’s first series as the Doctor will know that, by and large, I have found him incredibly irritating, which I’m not entirely sure is entirely Matthew Waterhouse’s fault.  Sadly, the character is one of those boy genius characters that some writers seem to think will appeal to the younger audience, like Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation.  Having come to Classic Who in my late teens to early 20s, he’s sadly only ever really grown on me.

Now I’ll never know if I was right.

Adric

Then there’s the decision to not have the closing theme music.  It feels especially jarring after a noisy finale and it does feel like a strange decision to end on.  However, in the Putting the Shock into Earthshock documentary on the DVD, Steven Moffat says that there are three options, and all seem naff:

  1. Run the usual closing credits;
  2. Play a sad version of the Doctor Who theme; or
  3. Play no closing music.

Behind the camera, Peter Grimwade produces superb direction, making the caves under the Earth’s surface feel dark and atmospheric, perfect for the black-clad androids to sneak around undetected by the soldiers in the caves.  Grimwade was, according to actors like Peter Davison and Matthew Waterhouse, a difficult man to work with and unusually for the time, directed from the studio floor rather than the gantry.  It can’t be denied, however, that it got results in this story and a similar style of directing would be used by Graeme Harper in the later 1980s stories.  In terms of the story, it is quite nicely done, but definitely has Saward’s fingerprints, evident by the number of guns and deaths on show here, which would become more prevalent when he went on to become script editor for Davison’s later seasons.  The scene where we see Snyder’s remains sizzling on the rocks stands out as one that wouldn’t feel out of place in Colin Baker’s first season.  In front of the camera, the main cast give good performances and the soldiers that tag along with them are also compelling enough characters to keep you going.  The obvious piece of casting that feels jarring is that of Beryl Reid as the captain of the freighter, who does her best, but feels really out of place.  This is a prime example of John Nathan-Turner’s stunt casting, which would persist through his era of Doctor Who, however, in a story like Earthshock, it almost falls by the wayside.

Verdict: Earthshock is one of the highs of Peter Davison’s first season on the TARDIS, even when the two big shocks are public knowledge.  There are flaws, but I believe that they are so minor they don’t inflict too much damage on the story.  10/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), James Warwick (Lieutenant Scott), Clare Clifford (Professor Kyle), Beryl Reid (Captain Briggs), June Bland (Berger), Steve Morley (Walters), Suzi Arden (Snyder), Ann Holloway (Mitchell), Anne Clements (Trooper Baines), Mark Straker (Second Trooper), David Banks (Cyber-Leader), Alec Sabin (Ringway), Mark Hardy (Cyber-Lieutenant), Mark Fletcher (First Crew Member) & Christopher Whittingham (Second Crew Member)

Writer: Eric Saward

Director: Peter Grimwade

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • Producer John Nathan-Turner took a gamble with this story by keeping the reveal of the Cybermen a surprise.  The public gallery at Television Centre, which overlooked the studio floor, was closed and a Radio Times cover photoshoot was cancelled in order to maintain the secret of the Cybermen’s return.
  • Adric’s death was yet another gamble, as no long-standing companion had died previously to this.  Part Four is the only episode of Doctor Who to be broadcast without the closing title music.
  • Adric’s death was intended to unambiguous, however, it has been materially changed by a Big Finish audio story, The Boy That Time Forgot, revealing that Adric lived on in a bubble universe.
  • This story marks the first appearance of David Banks as the Cyber Leader, a role he would reprise in the other Cybermen stories of the 1980s.
  • June Bland would go on to appear in Survival.

Best Moment

The cliffhanger at the end of part one is probably one of the best examples of cliffhangers in Doctor Who history.

Destroy them! Destroy them at once!

Cyber Leader

Best Quote

Emotions have their uses.

They restrict and curtail the intellect, and logic of the mind.

They also enhance life.  When did you last have the pleasure of smelling a flower, watching a sunset, eating a well prepared meal?

These things are irrelevant.

For some people, small, beautiful events is what life is all about!

The Fifth Doctor and Cyber Leader

Earthshock Doctor TARDIS

Black Orchid

Black Orchid 1

A superb innings, worthy of the master.

The Master?

Well, the other doctor.  W G Grace.

Sir Robert Muir and The Doctor

Synopsis

The TARDIS arrives in 1925 England, where due to a case of mistaken identity, the Doctor ends up playing in a local cricket match. The travellers accept an invitation to a costume party but events take a more sinister turn when the Doctor finds a dead body.

Review

Black Orchid, sadly, feels paper-thin.  Observing some of the best detective dramas, thinking of programmes like Inspector Morse, manage to build up dramatic tension and uncertainty about the eventual reveal of the murderer.  I don’t think that it is entirely the story’s fault, as there are only fifty minutes to work with, but there is nothing similar here.  There is no uncertainty as to who the murderer is, and the story does wear its literary allusions on its sleeves, pastiching stories like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Agatha Christie novels.

The writing and runtime certainly contribute to my issues with this story, as it ultimately feels like filler.  I strongly believe that Doctor Who is a flexible enough programme to be able to adapt to any type of story, however, the reduced time really means that none of the aspects of this story really work very well. None of the guest characters feel very fleshed out or believable, and the whole issue of Ann and Nyssa being identical feels extremely contrived.  It’s almost as if the long cricket playing sequence is also completely unnecessary, but I do quite enjoy Adric and Nyssa’s complete bemusement and Tegan trying to explain cricket to them, so I guess it’s actually quite a nice moment for this TARDIS team.  I completely agree with the main cast that this story lacks any dramatic tension – as soon as the first murder takes place, you know exactly where the story is going.

Black Orchid 2

On the positive side, however, it is nice to see the TARDIS crew out of their normal uniforms.  The costume designs at the ball are pretty fantastic – I’m particularly in awe of the Henry VIII costume seen in the background.  I also like the fact that, despite the fact that he is no longer wearing his pyjamas, Adric retains his Badge of Mathematical Excellence.  The party is a nice chance to see the team let their hair down, and it is particularly nice to see Tegan getting along so well with Sir Robert Muir, especially as the majority of the previous stories have seen her getting more and more irritated about the Doctor’s failings to take her to Heathrow.  It’s nice to see her and Nyssa having a good time at the party and dancing the Charleston.

I do feel like the climax is ultimately rushed though.  The Doctor’s arrest is rapidly undone by just showing the police officers the interior of the TARDIS, and even the fact that the police box is missing from the station is rapidly resolved, where elsewhere this would have been a cliffhanger.  I know ultimately the Doctor isn’t cleared of the murder of James until the police see the deformed George Cranleigh threatening Nyssa.  The second episode feels very rushed and thus denies a really satisfying conclusion.  The whole ‘Black Orchid’ element feels like a bit of an undeveloped and problematic plot point too, focusing on the British colonialism aspect that any foreigners would obviously wreak horrible revenge on George.  The fact that his two victims are servants and barely mentioned is also extremely problematic.  In a story with a relatively short running time, the Doctor’s companions don’t have very much to do other than spend time at the party, and in Adric’s case, eat.

Verdict: Black Orchid sadly never really feels like anything other than a two-part filler.  There are some nice moments, but they don’t redeem a paper thin plot and a rushed conclusion.  3/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa/Ann Turner), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Barbara Murray (Lady Cranleigh), Moray Watson (Sir Robert Muir), Michael Cochrane (Charles Cranleigh), Brian Hawksley (Brewster), Timothy Block (Tanner), Ahmed Khalil (Lakoni), Gareth Milne (The Unknown/George Cranleigh), Ivor Salter (Sergeant Markham) & Andrew Tourell (Constable Cummings)

Writer: Terence Dudley

Director: Ron Jones

Parts: 2

Behind the Scenes

  • Peter Davison, Matthew Waterhouse and Janet Fielding hated this story, citing a lack of mystery and any dramatic tension.  Sarah Sutton was more positive, but still rather dismissive of this story.
  • The first story since The Highlanders not to feature any science fiction elements other than the TARDIS and its occupants.  There is some dispute as to whether it is a ‘pure historical’ as the story does not focus on real people or real events.
  • The first two part story of the 1980s.
  • Peter Davison is a keen cricketer, and performed all of his cricketing scenes.
  • Ahmed Khalil had to have his voice dubbed in due to his lip disk.

Best Moment

Probably no surprise, but the cricket match is probably the best part of the story.  Despite it being overly long, it’s quite nice to see Davison’s talent at bowling!

Best Quote

So what is a railway station?

Well, a place where one embarks and disembarks from compartments on wheels drawn along these tracks by a steam engine – rarely on time.

What a very silly activity.

You think so?  As a boy, I always wanted to drive one.

Adric, The Doctor and Nyssa

 

The Visitation

android visitation

I have appeared before some of the most hostile audiences in the world.  Today I met Death in a cellar.  But I have never been so afraid until I met the man with the scythe.

Richard Mace

Synopsis

Failing to take Tegan to Heathrow Airport, the TARDIS lands in the 17th Century.  After exploring, the Doctor and his companions find a space capsule has crash-landed, and three Terileptil prison escapees intended to wipe out the population of the Earth by releasing rats infected with an enhanced form of the great plague.

Review

The Visitation is a notable episode in Doctor Who history for being the debut of Eric Saward, who would play a major role in shaping the tone of the show as the script editor.  This doesn’t feel as dark, violent and grungy as some later Saward stories would become, however, and it largely comes across as an enjoyable if rather a straight-forward romp for the Fifth Doctor and his companions.

Visitation Adric and Tegan

The story feels really atmospheric, largely because of the large amount of location filming and the amount of research that Saward did into making it feel authentic to the period.  The story is notable for being the first since Horror of Fang Rock to solely be set on Earth, and while it’s a pseudo-historical tale, it feels true to the period.  There are hints of the violence that would come to be synonymous with Saward’s time as script editor, with the Doctor being involved in hand to hand combat and the killing of the family at the beginning of part one.  It is far from a perfect story, and feels quite straight forward in places, and only features one really developed guest character in the shape of Richard Mace.  Peter Moffatt’s direction is, as usual, pretty standard and fairly non-descript, but he is well known for having happy casts and crew and this may have helped some of the performances here.  One of the biggest problems with the story are the scenes with Nyssa making the sonic booster on the TARDIS, which seem to just be there to fill space without really adequate explanation of why Nyssa is doing this.

How do you feel now?

Groggy, sore and bad tempered.

Almost your old self.

Fifth Doctor and Tegan Jovanka

I do quite like the Terileptils, especially their design and the use of animatronics to give them more expressive faces.  This is all the more impressive considering the limited budget that they would likely have had to work on in this story, which is essentially a period drama, thereby requiring lots of costumes and hair work.  The remaining Terileptils plan to commit genocide by modifying the plague to make it all the more potent is quite a good idea, and the fact that Terileptils are fond of beautiful items is an interesting element to add to villains that could be quite one dimensional.  The android still to this day looks pretty decent, except for the cricket gloves, but these can be overlooked in the grand scheme of things.

visitation death

With regards to the central cast, Peter Davison is pretty solid here as the Doctor, and I particularly enjoy his frustration and resignation when he is told that he is going to be executed is superb.  He also gets to spend some time away from his bickering companions, which seems to be just in time for the character, as I think he is ready to just leave Tegan at the next destination he comes to.  This being said, there are signs of a promising relationship between this incarnation of the Doctor and Nyssa, with them exploring the house, showing the same kind of inquisitiveness.  Sadly, Tegan is pretty insufferable, being written as being determined to get back to Heathrow rather than actually appreciating the situation that she is in, whilst Adric yet again gives up the fact that the Doctor is a time traveller yet again!  Fortunately, the saving grace of the story is the performance of Michael Robbins as a failed actor turned highwayman Richard Mace.  Robbins has fantastic chemistry with Davison and steals every scene that he is in, which is perhaps fortunate.  Every other guest character in the story has no development, and is under the control of the Terileptils for the majority of the story, which feels like a bit of a waste, all things considered.

Verdict:  A good story which does suffer sometimes with pacing and being a bit too straight forward.  6/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Michael Robbins (Richard Mace), Peter Van Dissel (Android), John Savident (The Squire), Anthony Calf (Charles), John Baker (Ralph), Valerie Fyfer (Elizabeth), Richard Hampton (Villager), James Charlton (Miller), Michael Melia (Terileptil), Neil West (Poacher), Eric Dodson (Headman)

Writer: Eric Saward

Director: Peter Moffatt

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • This story marks the last appearance of the sonic screwdriver until the TV Movie.  John Nathan-Turner wished to get rid of it as it allowed the Doctor to escape difficult situations too easily.  Eric Saward originally intended for the Doctor to replace it at the end of the story.
  • First contribution to Doctor Who by Eric Saward, coming prior to his promotion to script editor.
  • This serial had very high ratings – it is one of the few serial stories to improve ratings episode on episode.  The final episode is one of only five episodes produced in the JNT era to achieve viewing figures of more than 10 million.  It was also one of only four times in this era that an episode broke into the top forty most-viewed programmes of the week.

Best Moment

I quite like the ending of Part Four, showing the Doctor’s actions in stopping the Terileptil plot causing the Fire of London.

Best Quote

Where is this Doctor from?

He’s never told us.  He likes to be mysterious, although he talks a lot about…er, Guildford.  I think that’s where he comes from.

You’re being a very stupid woman.

That isn’t a very original observation.

Terileptil and Tegan Jovanka