The Ultimate Evil

Synopsis

With the TARDIS working perfectly, the Doctor and Peri use a gadget from the storage locker to find a holiday destination. On arriving on the seemingly peaceful planet of Tranquelya, they find that a hate ray is sweeping the continent, turning the civilians into rampant beasts and it can only originate from the other continent, home to their ancient enemies, Ameliarians.

Review

I came into this story with quite high expectations thanks to enjoying The Elite and enjoying The Nightmare Fair. Sadly, The Ultimate Evil feels a bit of a disappointment. Whilst the idea at the story’s core is a good one, it is let down by some poorly written dialogue and overacting.

One thing that is fantastic about this story is the sound design by Nigel Fairs, which does phenomenal work in evoking the Sixth Doctor’s television era. It is small things like this that really make a big difference to these Lost Stories and gives a narrative shorthand to where we are in the timeline of the Doctor and Peri’s relationship, for instance. In all of the Lost Stories that I’ve reviewed so far, the music and general sound design has been fantastic for establishing this. Helen Goldwyn’s direction also helps to recreate the feeling of a continuation from Season 23, and largely manages to keep the guest performances on the right side of overblown. That being said, she can’t do very much about the fact that Mordant

I think the biggest problem with The Ultimate Evil is that it feels pretty derivative of Vengeance on Varos, which, in my opinion is a far superior story. The very nature of having an antagonist who is watching the Doctor’s every move feels familiar and the general atmosphere of the story feels very gritty, which is both a plus and a minus. I’m not sure that Doctor Who, regardless of trouble behind the scenes, could have survived having two back-to-back Seasons with the tone of Season 22. Ultimately, the story feels so genuine Saward-era Doctor Who because the Doctor and Peri are absent from the main action for over thirty minutes of the narrative. It is no secret that Eric Saward was not in favour of the casting of Colin Baker as the Doctor, and the way he dealt with this was by keeping the Doctor apart from the action for as long as he possibly could. As much as I liked the Doctor’s outrage and feelings of betrayal that the TARDIS is working perfectly when he has nowhere in particular to be, the longer this scene goes on it just feels like a diversion. That being said, Daly’s story does having some interesting ideas. I like the idea of weaponising emotions like anger and fear, that Mordant is attempting to sell to the Tranquelans to restart the war with their neighbouring continent. I also liked the fact that when the Doctor visited them to warn them of the impending attack, the Amelierians were not the traditional peaceful society that we see in other stories, for instance Genesis of the Daleks. There are also ideas that aren’t developed fully, for instance, the fact that Peri is a doppelganger for Mariana, who dies at the beginning of the story. Despite being mentioned a couple of times and being given as justifications for the Tranquelans being so angry when the Doctor and Peri arrive, not very much else is done with this, and ultimately it feels pointless when it is revealed that Mariana is, in fact alive in the story’s closing moments.

The guest cast here are really quite similar and there are few stand-out performances. Mordant feels like rehash of Sil as well, which is ultimately disappointing and as he spends what feels like most of the story maniacally laughing, it is difficult to take him too seriously. Robin Sebastian does his best with what is essentially a one-dimensional villain who feels as though he is ultimately dispatched too easily by the Doctor. Guy Burgess does bring some feelings of distrust and sliminess to the character of Escoval, the traitor, but otherwise they are pretty non-descript.

Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant are pretty good here, even if the narrative sees them spend most of the story apart. They are both particularly good in the opening TARDIS scenes, which highlights how their relationship has become a bit more amiable. Colin Baker and script editor John Dorney reflect on how the character has changed in the interviews, highlighting elements like the Doctor’s tendency to repeat words getting more and more outraged as a shorthand to do this, which is something that I hadn’t really noticed before.

Verdict: Sadly, The Ultimate Evil is quite bland and derivative, which is a shame because it does have an interesting idea at its heart. It’s worth a listen but probably doesn’t have much replay value. 3/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown/Mariana), Robin Sebastian (Mordant), Kim Durham (Abatan), Guy Burgess (Escoval), Jack Forsyth-Noble (Locas), Paul Panting (Ravlos), Issy Van Randwyck (Koreelya), Jack Myers (Shankel/Leader) & Wally K Daly (The Bird).

Writer: Wally K Daly

Director: Helen Goldwyn

Parts: 2

Behind the Scenes

  • Big Finish did attempt to obtain the rights for this story in the original run of Lost Stories, however, Wally K Daly was involved in adapting the story for a version for the RNIB. The story had previously been novelised for Target Books.
  • Had the story been made for television, it would have been directed by Fiona Cumming.

Cast Notes

  • Robin Sebastian has also appeared in The Masquerade of Death and Imperatrix.
  • Paul Panting has appeared in a number of Big Finish plays, including Revenge of the Swarm and Mistfall.
  • Issy Van Randwyck has appeared in Family Matters, Requiem for the Doctor and Carnival of Angels.

Best Quote

Look at this, Peri!

Hmm…an ostrich egg on a plinth.

You have no idea. Follow me!

The Sixth Doctor and Peri Brown

Previous Sixth Doctor Review: The Nightmare Fair

The Nightmare Fair

A gung ho robot and a ravenous space plumber. We’re going to make an unbeatable combination!

The Sixth Doctor

Synopsis

The TARDIS is drawn to Blackpool in 1986 where the Doctor wants to investigate a space/time vortex whilst enjoying the attractions at the Pleasure Beach along the way. An old enemy is watching from under the amusement park wanting to challenge

Review

Imagine a parallel universe. One where Michael Grade never dropped the axe on Doctor Who and Colin Baker was able to complete his sentence at the end of Resurrection of the Daleks, leading into his second full season as the Doctor. A parallel universe where Doctor in Distress would cease to exist…sounds blissful, doesn’t it?

It’s that parallel universe that Big Finish attempt to give us a glimpse of in their adaptation of The Nightmare Fair, which would have been the opening story for the originally intended Season 23. Unsurprisingly considering the tone of his era as producer, Graham Williams’ script is quite light-hearted and it would have been interesting to see what kind of reception it would have received as it does not feel like a ‘traditional’ season opener, but it does feel like a response to the criticisms of the more violent Season 22.

The Nightmare Fair is a good, if not exceptional, story which does struggle with some pacing issues. The first part of this story feels as though it takes a long time to actually get going, and although the scenes of the Doctor and Peri enjoying the rides at Blackpool Pleasure Beach are lovely, it does feel as though it piles more pressure onto the second part. As a result, the second part has to both establish what the Toymaker’s plan is and ultimately rushes the ending. It’s well worth noting at this point that I have not read the novelised version of this story so I can’t say for certain whether this is due to an issue with Williams’ original script or the adaptation to audio, but I must commend the adaptation for feeling as though it would have fit into the era perfectly, even down to the unnecessary continuity references that were rife in this period of the show, especially alluding to characters like Duggan from City of Death. The antagonist of this story was last seen in a First Doctor story, and bringing him back to front up the new season feels like the move of a programme that felt it was too big to fail.

One thing that is noticeable here is that the personality of the Sixth Doctor has changed here. It is no secret that Colin Baker has issues with how his character was written during the time that he was the incumbent on television, and Big Finish has taken steps to make him more of a likeable character. Here, he is a hybrid of the two, which works tonally for the stories broadcast in the 80s, as the Sixth Doctor is certainly an adjusted character when he returns in Trial of a Time Lord. There is a mention in this story that the Doctor and Peri have been travelling together for a while, and it is nice to see that their relationship has shifted in a more positive direction. In the Behind the Scenes feature on this story, producer David Richardson talks about the challenges involved in making sure that the Doctor presented here has similarities with the ones seen on television and heard on other Big Finish productions. There are moments where we see the flashes of the original Sixth Doctor, like when he tells the Celestial Toymaker that he will have him to deal with if anything has happened to Peri. Baker is good here, as he usually is when he has a single antagonist to rail against – the Sixth Doctor is often at his best when exasperated and fighting someone of similar standing to himself.

Big Finish developing characters also has an impact on Peri, as like a lot of companions she has seen her role increased as is now standard with the revived series. Nicola Bryant speaks on the Behind the Scenes feature on this story about her concerns about going back to a reduced role being allayed by this story where she does get a chance to display her resourcefulness, like when she manages to get the gun in Part One.

I detest caging even the wildest beast, Toymaker. But for you, there is no other answer.

The Sixth Doctor

The Celestial Toymaker makes his return here, played by David Bailie, and he puts in a strong performance as the central antagonist. The Toymaker has been trapped on Earth for several millienia, tricking unsuspecting humans into playing games against him and trapping them into immortality in servitude when they lose. He has developed an arcade game which harvests the souls of those who lose to it which then generate powerful creatures, with which the Toymaker intends to take over the World. Bailie is still recognisable as the same character as the one played by Michael Gough but adds some more childish glee in his schemes. Bailie and Baker play off each other beautifully, which help elevate this story which does have some moments that feel as though it is treading water. The Doctor and the audience learn more about the Toymaker, including that he is from an alternative dimension where time moves slowly. I quite liked the resolution to the Toymaker’s story even if it did feel a bit rushed, as I felt it was quite clever. Aside from Bailie, there are very few stand-outs from the guest performers, but I did quite like the character of Shardlow. The rest give rather stilted performances, sadly, which does detract from the story.

Verdict: A story with a good central idea and good performances from Baker, Bryant and Bailie, is let down by some pacing issues. 6/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), David Bailie (The Celestial Toymaker), Matthew Noble (Kevin), Andrew Fettes (Stefan), Louise Faulkner (Woman), William Whymper (Shardlow/Attendant), Toby Longworth (Yatsumoto/Truscott/Manager/Man) & Duncan Wisbey (Humandroid/Security Man/Geoff/Guard).

Writer: Graham Williams (adapted by John Ainsworth)

Director: John Ainsworth

Parts: 2

Behind the Scenes

  • This story would have kicked off the 23rd Season of Doctor Who had the show not been put on hiatus. Michael Gough would have returned as the Celestial Toymaker in a story which would have explained his origins. The story would have been partially filmed on location in Blackpool, following on directly from Revelation of the Daleks
  • The audio adaptation by Bigh Finish was the firest release of audio plays of other lost stories.
  • The original story was written by John Nathan-Turner’s predecessor as Producer, Graham Williams. The script was released as a novelisation which was used by the director John Ainsworth to adapt the story for audio. Williams himself passed away in 1990.

Cast Notes

  • Michael Gough had retired from acting by the time of production, so the role was recast with David Bailie. Bailie previously appeared in The Robots of Death and would reprise the role of Celestial Toymaker in Solitaire.
  • Matthew Noble had previously appeared in Cuddlesome and Return to the Web Planet.
  • Andrew Fettes has appeared in numerous Big Finish plays, including The Sirens of Time, the Gallifrey range and The Diary of River Song.
  • Louise Faulkner most notably has appeared in the Bernice Summerfield stories playing Bev Tarrant.
  • William Whymper also appeared in Dead Man’s Switch.
  • Toby Longworth has appeared in a lot of Big Finish including the Doctor Main Range, the Unbound Range, Bernice Summerfield and Iris Wildthyme.
  • Duncan Wisbey has appeared in a number of production across the Main Range, the Fourth Doctor Adventures and Jago & Litefoot.

Best Moment

Any moment that the Doctor and the Celestial Toymaker are together.

Best Quote

Ah-ha! There you are! I knew you’d be watching from somewhere. Well, don’t hurry on my account. Just let me know what you want when you’re ready. If I die of boredom before that, I hope you take it personally.

The Sixth Doctor

Previous Sixth Doctor review: Revelation of the Daleks

Timelash

Timelash The Borad

The stories I’ve heard about you.  The great Doctor, all knowing and all powerful.  You’re about as powerful as a burnt out android.

Tekker

Synopsis

On Karfel and 1885 Scotland, the Doctor and Peri, along with H.G. Wells work together to counter the despotic Borad.

Review

Sometimes, it is hard to come to stories without feeling as though you are weighed down by general fan perception, and sadly, Timelash is one of those.  However, having seen in multiple places people talking about how terrible a story it is meant I had no expectations when reviewing it for the first time.  I am not going to argue that it is the best Doctor Who story ever produced, however, I did enjoy it more than I thought at the outset.

There are some particularly good guest performances here, namely from Robert Ashby, David Chandler and, personally, I enjoyed the performance of Paul Darrow.  Ashby embews the Borad with a sense of real threat and menace by never raising his voice above a sinister whisper.  Combined with some really effective prosthetics, the Borad looks fantastic.  Equally, David Chandler is good as a young H.G. Wells, with the story giving him inspiration for two of his most famous works, The Invisible Man and The Time Machine.  Chandler is full of enthusiasm and curiosity for his surroundings, and his willingness to get involved really helps the plot along.  Paul Darrow’s performance is quite polarising, but for it is worth, I rather enjoyed it.   There are not so subtle parallels to Richard III, but I actually thought he was more like a more brutal version of Sir Humphrey Appleby from Yes Minister in places, a shrewd tactician.  I know that some people may find his performance hammy, however, I rather enjoyed it.  But this is coming from someone who likes Richard Briers in Paradise Towers, so you can take or leave my opinion on this!

Before I go on to talk about the problems with the story, I will just quickly praise the work of Pennant Roberts, the director.  Despite the story’s flaws, I never really ‘tuned out’ of watching Timelash, which is something that has occasionally happened to me whilst watching other ‘bad’ stories and this is largely due to his direction.  He manages to make the colony corridors look interesting and it is a good decision to make the Borad’s chamber stand out from the other sets by using lighting.

Does nothing please you?

Yes – purposeful travel, not aimless wanderings.

The Sixth Doctor and Peri Brown

Sadly, the story itself lets the performances down, and we also see a regression in the characteristics of the Doctor and his attitude towards Peri to something akin to The Twin Dilemma.  The Doctor here is portrayed as brash, insensitive and downright rude to Peri, in contrast to the softening that we have seen since his debut.  Try as they might, Baker and Bryant struggle to make their performances shine in this adventure, largely due to the acidic nature of their relationship and the fact that Peri is largely sidelined to be a damsel in distress for the majority of the story.  The fact that the Borad wants to use her to create a population of creatures like them is frankly laughable.  There is some really obvious padding here too.  The scenes with the TARDIS going through the Kontron Tunnel and the Doctor and Peri staggering around the console feel like they are afterthoughts and the reveal of the real Borad at the end of part 2 feels preposterous and tacked on.  The constant references to the Doctor’s previous visit whilst in his Third incarnation really get a bit wearing – and it does get to the point where you start to think that maybe there was a story in the Pertwee era when the Third Doctor visited Karfel with Jo.  It would, perhaps, have made for a better story if we had seen the Doctor’s visit through flashbacks, although with the budget on offer here, getting Jon Pertwee to reprise his Doctor probably would have meant greater problems.

The budget problems cannot be ignored, as Timelash does seem to suffer with it more than other stories of this era.  This is understandable, perhaps, considering that it does follow a trip to Spain in The Two Doctors and precedes the return of the Daleks in Revelation of the Daleks, and at times feels like a forgotten younger sibling to both of them.  The seatbelts in the TARDIS look particularly bad, however, there are some things that do look good, like the Borad, the Bandrils and the Morox.  Perhaps, with the lack of money available to it, Timelash was always going to struggle.

Verdict: Not as bad as it’s reputation would have you believe, Timelash will never go down as a fantastic Doctor Who story, but there are enjoyable elements. 3/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Robert Ashby (The Borad/Megelen), Denis Carey (Old Man), Paul Darrow (Tekker), Eric Deacon (Mykros), Neil Hallett (Maylin Renis), Jeananne Crowley (Vena), David Ashton (Kendron), David Chandler (Herbert), Tracy Louise Ward (Katz), Peter Robert Scott (Brunner), Dicken Ashworth (Sezon), Steven Mackintosh (Gazak), Christine Kavanagh (Aram), Martin Gower (Tyheer), Dean Hollingsworth (Android), James Richardson (Guardolier) & Martin Gower (Bandril Ambassador)

Writer: Glen McCoy

Director: Pennant Roberts

Parts: 2

Behind the Scenes

  • Last story of the classic era to revolve around an adventure with a historical figure.
  • Being broadcast after The Two DoctorsTimelash becomes the second story to have a reference to the following era, with an image of the Third Doctor appearing.
  • Paul Darrow previously appeared in The Silurians and Denis Carey appeared in Shada and The Keeper of Traken.

Best Moment

The Doctor’s reaction when Herbert reveals himself on the TARDIS, shortly after the Doctor has kicked Peri off is really rather good.

Best Quote

Avaunt thee, foul, fanged fiend.

I can assure you that I’m not that long in the tooth, and neat blood brings me out in a rash.

Back from where you came, spirit of the glass.

Not just yet, if you don’t mind.

Herbert and the Sixth Doctor

Android Timelash

 

The Two Doctors

The Two Doctors

What’s the use of a good quotation if you can’t change it?

The Sixth Doctor

Synopsis

The Sixth Doctor finds himself teaming up with his Second incarnation to ensure his own existence in the presence.

Review

There is a distinct advance in bringing an experienced Doctor Who veteran in to write a story like this one, and that is that he completely understands the character of the Doctor.  Robert Holmes, who worked on the programme regularly from the late 1960s, is one of the best writers to work on Doctor Who in the show’s history and his experience writing for various incarnations really serves him in good stead here.  That’s not to say this story is perfect, however, as there are other issues at play here.

Holmes’ characterisation, despite the story’s other flaws, is on point.  The version of the Sixth Doctor he presents here is a lot better than most of the other stories in Colin Baker’s first season.  Here, the arrogance and hard edges to this incarnation are still present but they are dealt with much better and he seems a lot more recognisable as being consistent with past incarnations with the Doctor.  Examples of this include his snarking with the homicidal computer onboard the space station and his unwillingness to drop the initial mystery despite Peri’s misgivings.  Combined with a spot-on interpretation of the Second Doctor, and this element really works well.  The idea of having the Doctor converted into a species that he seems to see absolutely no redeeming qualities in is a really interesting idea and something that has never really been explored before or since  The story does have a rather heavy-handed nature when it comes to the writer almost lecturing about the issues surrounding eating meat and this is down to Holmes’ vegetarianism, but they are hardly subtle.  One of the clearest examples of this is the character of Oscar who kills helpless animals for fun but cannot stand the sight of gore.  The story also suffers from the rewrites and Robert Holmes’ lack of interest in Seville as a location is evident – he famously wanted the story to be shot in New Orleans and had a lot of jokes thrown in about the differences between English and American English.  The story does also have a more general issue which is its attitude towards violence, which definitely seems to be down to Eric Saward, but is particularly problematic when it comes to the death of characters like Oscar.

Two Doctors - Dastrai, Jamie, Doctor

It’s also really nice to see Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines back in Doctor Who.  Both actors feel as though they have not been away, despite a gap of nearly twenty years since both played their parts regularly and using the first part of this story effectively reintroducing them works really well.  I really like the reaction shot when the Second Doctor realises that he’s picked up a cucumber rather than a knife in his initial meeting with Shockeye.  This story does also add significant credence to the idea of Season 6B, which is a fan idea to explain some plot holes, such as Jamie and the Doctor openly talking about the Time Lords and the ageing of both actors.  The two returning actors also seem to enjoy great chemistry with both Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant which makes this story more enjoyable, but it is a shame that we don’t get to see these two Doctors spend more time together.  The scenes with both Doctors together really fizzle and it seems clear that both men had great rapport and respect for the other.

Two Doctors Sontaran

Sadly, the story really drags.  The story spends a lot of time with the Sixth Doctor investigating what has happened to his previous incarnation and I really think Peter Moffatt’s direction makes the story feel very flat and lifeless in places.  The classic example of this is the reveal shot of the Sontarans, which seems bizarrely framed.  The Sontarans themselves were included at the instance on John Nathan-Turner, and it is clear that Holmes did not want them there as he seems extremely disinterested in them.  Speaking of the Sontarans, their costumes really let this story down, especially the loose neck collars which make them look less believable.  Chessene’s plot changes halfway through the story, from being obsessed with taking the Doctor’s symbiotic nuclei to unlock the secrets of time travel, to seemingly converting the Doctor into an Androgum for no good reason.

Verdict: The last multi-Doctor story of the Classic era is largely flawed but great fun in some places.  It is probably the story that seems to understand what the production team were going for with the Sixth Doctor, and it is great fun to see Troughton and Hines back.  6/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon), John Stratton (Shockeye), Jacqueline Pearce (Chessene), Laurence Payne (Dastari), Aimee Delamain (Dona Arana), James Saxon (Oscar), Carmen Gomez (Anita), Tim Raynham (Varl), Nicholas Fawcett (Technician) & Clinton Greyn (Stike)

Writer: Robert Holmes

Director: Peter Moffatt

Behind the Scenes

  • First appearance of the Sontarans since The Invasion of Time and their last appearance in the Classic series.
  • The first multi-Doctor story not marking an anniversary for the show.
  • Final story directed by Peter Moffatt and the first Sixth Doctor script written by Robert Holmes.
  • Last appearance of Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines.  Troughton was quick to agree to return, having enjoyed returning for The Five Doctors a couple of years previously.  He sadly passed away in 1987.
  • The story was originally set in New Orleans, where the plot involving the Androgums and food tied into the culinary tradition of the city.  However, funding was pulled, and the story was rewritten to be set in Venice, and then in Seville.
  • Jacqueline Pearce was a last-minute replacement for another actress and would go on to play Cardinal Ollistra in the War Doctor and the Eighth Doctor Time War series.
  • The TARDIS console used for the Second Doctor’s TARDIS was the prop used in the first two series of the Davison era as the budget could not accommodate the cost of the rebuilding of the original 1960s console.
  • The first three-part serial since The Planet of Giants and the last to date.

Best Moment

I really like the opening of the first part, where the scene changes slowly from black and white to colour.

Best Quote

Do try and keep out of my way in future and past, there’s a good fellow.  The time continuum should be big enough for both of us.  Just.

The Second Doctor

The Mark of the Rani

The Master and the Rani.jpg

He wears yellow trousers and a vulgarly coloured coat, but tread carefully – he’s treacherous!

The Master

Synopsis

In the 19th Century, the population is turning violent and unpredictable ahead of a meeting of the brains of the Industrial Revolution, and the Doctor has to get to the bottom of what’s causing it.

Review

The tone of The Mark of the Rani feels different from what’s come before it, which is probably the biggest plus point in its favour.  The inherent bleakness that seems to have saturated the show since the Saward era of script editing began disperses for this two-part story, which does lapse unfortunately into pantomime at times.  The story features a new Time Lord adversary in the shape of the Rani, but seems so keen to establish her as a serious villain that it comes at the expense of the Master.  This story also features a rather more standard portrayal of the Doctor, with the Sixth Doctor being generally more amiable.

One thing the story does massively benefit from is the location shooting, carried out at the Blist Open Air Museum in Ironbridge, which really helps evoke a sense of atmosphere and helps the story along.  Sadly, the direction doesn’t feel very cohesive and is very pantomime-y at times, which doesn’t help when the story feels particularly simple and threadbare at times.  Sequences like the scene with the Doctor wheeling towards the pit attached to the stretcher feel extremely ridiculous at times, the blame for which can be pointed at Pip and Jane Baker and Sarah Hellings in equal measure.  I would like to praise the design of the Rani’s TARDIS interior which looks absolutely beautiful, however, on the flip side, the land mines that turn people into trees are utterly ridiculous and the resulting trees look utterly ridiculous.  Where the use of a wonderful location helps to make the production look glossy, elements like these trees and Peri’s dress (combined, of course, with the Doctor’s garish costume) make it look cheap and are easy fodder for the programme’s detractors.

The Doctor Mark of the Rani

The best part of this story are any scenes where the Doctor, the Rani and the Master are together.  As much as it may stretch credulity to find three renegade Gallifreyans in the same place and time, it is quite fun to see the Doctor interact with his own people.  In fact, when this trio are separated, the story does feel as though it slows immeasurably to feel like a bit of a slog. Kate O’Mara is clearly having an absolute ball, and the scene where she has captured the Doctor in the bathhouse is a particular delight as Colin Baker and O’Mara really spark off each other well.  The Rani is an interesting villain making her debut here and I largely feel that she would have benefitted from not having the Master present too, as the pair are really quite different as characters.  The story does seem to complete Anthony Ainley’s Master’s transformation into a moustache twirling parody of the character.  The fact that he thinks that he can destroy the Doctor’s TARDIS by throwing it down the pit really highlights this – the Master is supposed to be an intellectual equal to the Doctor, but this harebrained scheme really damages the character. Through I largely like his incarnation, especially from his first appearance in the late Tom Baker era and through the Davison era, however, his presence feels stapled on here and some of the dialogue he is given here is just plain ridiculous.  I feel that he was probably inserted to allow the story to show how evil the Rani is, but really it does do more harm than good to both characters.

He’d get dizzy if he tried to walk in a straight line!

The Rani

The story does have a lightness of tone which is much needed in this era, and I did broadly enjoy the bits that didn’t seem to lapse into pantomime.   The story is also relatively straight forward and continuity lite, despite the reappearance of the Master.  There are elements of it that I do find generally quite entertaining, but as stated above, when the three Time Lords are off-screen, it can feel a bit flat and slow.  This was my first time watching the story, and I felt as though the first part was coming towards a cliffhanger on several occasions before it eventually arrived, and when it did arrive, I felt disappointed by it.  The resolution is particularly frustrating too, with George Stephenson appearing as if from nowhere to rescue the Doctor.  There are no real interesting guest characters, and it is perhaps fitting that Luke turns into a tree considering a largely wooden performance.  The death of the Rani’s assistants is also particularly overacted – and again demonstrates issues with the direction and tone.  It certainly feels as though the story almost hypes up the entrance of Stephenson and also mentions other industrialists whom we never see.  This is a story that potentially promises a lot, however, when it comes to delivery, all we have is a rather light-hearted romp through history, which is fun in places but lacks any real feeling of stakes.

Verdict: The introduction of the Rani is positive, however, some lacklustre direction and writing really lets this story down. It is quite fun in places, and drags in others. 5/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Anthony Ainley (The Master), Kate O’Mara (The Rani), Terence Alexander (Lord Ravensworth), Gawn Grainger (George Stephenson), Gary Cady (Luke Ward), Peter Childs (Jack Ward), Richard Steele (Guard), William Ilkley (Tim Bass), Hus Levent (Edwin Green), Kevin White (Sam Rudge), Martyn Whitby (Drayman), Sarah James (Young Woman), Cordelia Ditton (Older Woman)

Writers: Pip and Jane Baker

Director: Sarah Hellings

Parts: 2

Behind the Scenes

  • The Rani makes her first appearance.  She was originally intended as an ongoing nemesis, however, she would only appear on television one more time.
  • With the appearance of historical figures George Stephenson and Lord Ravensworth, this story features historical figures for the first time since The Gunfighters.

Best Moment

The moments that really spark are the moments between the Doctor, the Master and the Rani, with the three renegade Time Lords sparking off each other.

Best Quote

I will venture just one question, Doctor.  What precisely do you do in there?

Argue, mainly.

Lord Ravensworth and Sixth Doctor