I'm sorry but another much maligned story and for no real reason really. I'm sure some fans haven't even seen it and some haven't seen it in years and just go by hearsay on how "bad" it is. It isn't. IMO.
There's so much going on that it all makes sense and all fits together. Visually the sets are perfect, as good as DW got up to this point. The effects, well, they're cartoony aren't they but the effects in DW are never really the thing.
Two ships collide but not physically or rather they appear out of hyperspace, one in the other, thus they can be separated but until they are...there are unstable areas on the ship. At the same time, the Doctor and Romana are introduced to a scientist and his team (we only really see the friendly but haunted Della) who have a CET machine where, like the CARNIVAL OF MONSTERS machine, life forms and bits of their planets are stored on crystals. The machine is also unstable. Also: someone is smuggling drugs on board the cruiser ship...if you're careful to notice uniforms, you'll spot one of the bad guys (yes, one, but there are more than one) as his uniform appears when he stuns the Doctor...at least I think it's him.
There's the usual and unusual Tom jokes. "Interfere, of course, we should interfere, always do what you're best at, that's what I say." And more: when told his cover is blown and that Galactic has gone out of business, the Doctor goes wide eyed, "I wondered why I hadn't been paid." The Doctor is also described by Romana as "...don't mind him, he just likes to irritate people." There's also some rare insights into the Doc's reasons for doing all this: he likes the impossible or rather likes making things seem impossible and doing them or something.
This story gets off to a cracking start. A lot is going on. If only the monsters that appear at the cliffhanger looked better...still, not as bad as everyone says, in fact, I really rather like it.
Okay so the monsters are rubbish. At least they are kept in the shadows in this episode and we don't see very much of them, nor their flare like pants legs or legs or whatever. The sets are still brilliant and the chase through the passenger area is quite good and it goes into the unstable zones. Quite good in my opinion except maybe the music which sounds like piano music set to a silent movie. We also don't know who the Doctor is chasing and grappling with so the mystery is sustained. And of course, Tom makes his famous quips and voice inflections at all the right times or wrong times if you are the villain or someone who doesn't get it.
Tom and Lalla are super in this, two angels come to help. Poor Rigg gets drugged and Della is in danger. I love when Tryst wants Romana out of ear shot to tell the Doctor the something and when the Doctor leaves him, Romana was just listening behind the corner and he knew it, "Did you hear that?" She repeats what Tryst tells him.
K9 and the Doc confer well but it is the interaction with the new guards, Fisk and whateverhisname is, that is witty, fast, and pacey. "Romana Who," is the new twist in the old Doctor who gag. And Tom keeps it going with other jokes, that fit in with the double dialog, as he talks about the drug runner, the guard asks, "Name and date of birth," and Tom says, "How should I know, I don't even know who it is yet!" and when he complies, about his date of birth, "Sometime quite soon I should think." The next chase down the corridor is faster and then into the cliffhanger as the pair fly thorugh the portal into Eden ("it does ring a bell"). Another GREAT episode.
A total joy. In the Eden set (not a great set but not terrible, it is very fantasy like in there and not at all like the much better sets from CREATURE FROM THE PIT jungles) Romana has to give the Doctor a plant root for him to BITE his way out of a plant attack. What other hero would ever have to do that? It’s amazing. Then he says, “That tasted quite good” or something to that effect. Inside, they find Stott and the pieces start to come together. Unfortunately, we get to see more of the Mandrels. Later when one is knocked down by K9, the Doctor tells a scared Romana that it is quite dead—it’s not. We can all see its stomach moving as it is still breathing! To add insult to injury, it gets up and attacks the Doctor later on. And even worse, Stott is seen outside in the hallway pointing his gun casually at others while he glances inside and sees the Doctor being attacked. It also seems to take ages for K9 to fire on it and he waits until the Doctor orders him to! Della being shot was a shock. The separation of the ships was amazing also. And who expected the Doctor to get taken by the separation and deposited on the smaller ship? Liars! NO one did, that’s who. Which is why this story is just great. Okay, so Demond and Tryst are denounced far too early in ep3 but again, who expected the monsters to be the source of the Vrax drug? Liars! No one did, that’s who. Okay, why didn’t the Doctor round up the monsters earlier than he did, he could have used the dog whistle to do it earlier perhaps. Another scary sequence and one that I’m not sure how to take each time I watch it is when Rigg under the drug influence is just laughing as passengers are attacked by the Mandrels. If the costumes and monsters were better, it would be very unsettling and disturbing. As it is, it’s just mildly so but for once, a lot of people get killed who are innocent, women and men. K9 again proves his worth by protecting Romana. Romana does the same “Do you have a screwdriver” gag from Rodan in INVASION OF TIME. And it still works. And let’s get this over with: the Doctor “oh my everything” scene has less defense for it than the Doctor blowing the monster protrusion in CREATURE FROM THE PIT, only to say that here, the “oh myeverything” scene is pretty short, even if it is WAY over the top for even this Doctor. Still, WHO expected the Doctor to use the machine to capture the smaller spaceship? Not I. One thing: I thought Fisk threatened Demond with a laser if he started to leave the area earlier in the story. Why not just use that to stop them? Or maybe it was damaged and I didn’t hear that. All in all a very good story, with faults and flaws but a story. It told a story. “Are you listening out there? Alittle bit of style, well style!” Oh a quote? What could I mean? Anyway, yet another enjoyable story.
One thing I forgot to mention was the Doctor's compassion for even the Mandrels: he tells Stott and Della in the end that the Mandrels have a right to live on their home world and he also feels sorry or pity for the one that attacked him and got burned up, "Poor thing..." Of course, I wonder if he feels for all those killed by the horrid things...
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