Another story that gets much flak. Truth is this episode has almost nothing wrong with it. The planet is a great jungle planet, one of the best sets ever, well dressed, misty. The locals are pretty much serious types who call place names by what they stand for (the place of the death is called that because anyone found in it is put to death). The Doctor, a new voiced K9, and Romana start off with a breezy out there TARDIS scene and...
then the Doctor is attacked by wolf weeds, one of the more innovative side off monsters ever. And he calls out for Romana in a reverse of every time a companion is attacked and cried out for the Doctor...brilliant. Tom is, of course, wonderful in this.
Lalla...is good too. She seems to be, especially in ep 1, doing an impersonation of the Mary Tamm Romana. Which makes sense since this is the first one she filmed as Romana and the script was written for Mary Tamm's Romana. And somehow it all works!
Okay much is made of the scavengers being Jewish but when I first saw this, I didn't really get that and didn't make the comparision. They just seemed to be bumbling crooks. And not really very funny.
The Doctor encounters Adrasta's people and in an actually tense battle, loses Romana to the kidnapping formerly mentioned scavengers. He's also in some kind of wooden handlock and headlock and makes the most of his scenes in it. Very funny and shows the Doctor is adept at using what he has and making the best of it.
Adrasta, far from being the over the top villainess she might become or is blamed for by fans, presents herself at first as a strong leader with some finesse..at first at least and she also doesn't seem to be that evil...a good guise. The Doctor in turn is quite funny when meeting her and her scientists, "Who are these, the undertakers?" and being faceitious, "A titanic frog..." may be the layer of the shell.
The one thing I noticed was that the engineer who gets thrown in the pit later, Doran looks like the one who was thrown in at the start of this ep! He's not, I don't think.
All in all this is not a terrible episode but I know many will disagree. It has tension, a mystery, and a great setting and with the culture being drawn out by having a background that makes sense. Not a bad start.
With the advent of ep2 comes one of the best guest stars and characters, Organon. Almost every line he utters is funny or relevant and he’s helpful to the Doctor. It is very funny when in ep3 Adrasta orders Organon killed unless the Doctor makes K9 kill Erato, the monster. And the Doctor goes over to the old man/astrologer and says, “Organanon, old chap, it’s been awfully nice knowing you.” And there are so many other bits from both Tom and Organanon that it would cover too pages to write them all. Of course, in ep 2 there’s the bit with the book how to teach yourself Everest climbing and/or how to teach yourself Tibetan. There’s some danger when the savages kill to get into Adrasta’s lair. One thing: why did the monster kill people? We’re not sure it’s not really bad or as bad as Adrasta herself but it seems some of them died from the fall (one guard falls in after being shot by K9 and the Doctor tut tuts the guard) or from fear. Then there’s the Doctor’s much publized antics in trying to communicate with the thing. Communications never been a big problem in DW when you’ve got the translate all TARDIS or at least when it was stated the TARDIS could do this in MASQUE OF MANDRAGORA but never mind. Here it is a problem. Unlike SPACE: 1999 where survival and communication can be the entire problem, here in DW it’s just a small thing really but this time it’s handled well…both shows have merit in how they do it all. SPACE had a whole episode that could have been avoided if it could have communicated with the SPACE BRAIN, an excellent episode, not that there are many first season eps of that show that are bad. Anyway, the Doctor seems to acquire an awful lot of male companions in these stories leading up to his getting Adric. In any event, this story is rather good and there’s nothing that’s terrible, really. And there’s the mystery of how the thing got in the pit, and if it is good or bad. The ep cliffhanger to 3 deals with Adrasta in danger from…the Doctor and Erato. In some ways, even though she’s a horror harpy, some sympathy can be felt for Adrasta, I guess. Still, nothing bad in these episodes and thus the season goes on tremendously. Oh and more about the Doctor: he was born under the sign of crossed computers, has used up about 130 of his 90 lives (a joke surely?). While this has been compared with STAR TREK-DEVIL IN THE DARK, one of the TREK’S I really like, here there is more humor; there in TREK’s DEVIL there was none. It was morbid, grim, almost sad story that ended well. In DW the story is sort of similar but with a lot more humor and a lot more mystery once the communication is had. In TREK there was nothing to be said once the humans found out the monster was a mother who’s children they were unwittingly killing. Ahh and we get Romana slapped for being so obnoxious. Adrasta does seem to be multi layered in a lot of the early stuff.
okay, so for once, the cliffhanger ends with the person in trouble dying (didn't that happen in THE POWER OF KROLL also?) but anyhow, Adrasta is dead, long die Karela, the old hag. Played uniquely by an old woman the new villain stirs up much trouble. Added to that the trouble with Erato's people on the way and a neutron star is what they are sending to destroy the planet...not sure why. I guess to exact a revenge? Anyhow, the Doctor takes care of all that. There are some more geninuinely funny bits, the whole "YES" routine, Organanon's bits and as he rails against the Doc's supposed allowance of his almost death...
and another villain dies. It does drag a bit here and there and with the main villainess gone, it seems a bit...over already but that's DW...the villainess gone, a new one takes her place in a way and that was not expected.
The story is a good one and ends well. K9 is used to good effect and I don't really mind his voice being all that different but I do miss John Leeson. Lalla gets really good in the role (not that she wasn't in DESTINY or CITY, she was but here this was her first performance and she goes from a Mary Tamm impersonation to her own version of Romana and it comes off well). Tom is great as always and during this period he's rarely bad. One thing: in this story and a few others from last season and maybe this one: the Doctor seems to stop his various execution threats leveled against him by just shouting, "WAIT" or "STOP" and the killers obey him. That's..a bit strange but he's so commanding as the Doctor maybe it would work.
Anyway onward we go in yes, the best season of DW ever!
The Gallifreyan Embassy - Forum