Geekbat Tunes

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Series 7 Overview

Series 7

Clocking in at only 4 serials long, Series 7 introduces the Third Doctor, begins the UNIT/Earth exile era, is the first in color, without TARDIS travel, with companion Liz Shaw, and a whole host of other changes- including introducing recurring villains the Autons and the Silurians (both of who only show up once or twice more in the classic series, I believe, plus two episodes in the New Series (though if you count Auton Rory it’s three, and the brief cameo in Love and Monsters would make it four, but for simplicity’s sake, and because I’ve worked so hard to try and FORGET Love and Monsters, let’s just count it as two.)) So, how did it go down?

Companion Liz Shaw started out a bit grating to me, but soon mellowed into a sympathetic (not just sympathetic to the audience, but her character was sympathetic toward other people), supportive, strong-yet-silent companion- she isn't outspoken or loud, and often more of a background presence, but she is competent, confident, and quietly supportive- so overall, I'd call her a positive- if slightly forgettable at the time due to her tendency not to be as outspoken as everyone else on the show- companion. This was her only season, so we’ll see how Jo Grant stacks up against Liz next series... Liz was written out for being entirely too competent- not needing exposition to explain things to her, and seldom needing rescue- seen as the two primary tasks of a companion. So, she was 'let go' (and, being pregnant, might have left that season anyhow). In-universe, Liz felt that she was redundant and not really needed around the Doctor, and returned to Cambridge from whence she’d been recruited. Liz did eventually get one ride in the repaired TARDIS, later in the Third Doctor’s tenure, and eventually went to work for P.R.O.B.E., another UNIT and Torchwood-like organization (as seen in the Doctor Who spinoff P.R.O.B.E.). It didn’t take long for her to return to UNIT, however, and like Ben and Polly, Sarah Jane, and the Brigadier, she is one of the few companions with an onscreen canon future to be established- as of the modern day, she is still with UNIT, and at the time of the 11th Doctor’s first visit to Sarah Jane Smith, was working a shift at the UNIT moonbase.

Meantime, the Brigadier seems to be having a little bit of an image problem- unlike his appearances in Web of Fear, Invasion, and the first serial of this series, in which he was open-minded, friendly, and competent, in the latter 3 serials he seems to be suspicious, antagonistic, doubtful, and especially possessed of that ineffable quality usually reserved for Miss Marple, Brother Cadfael, Mr. Monk, and other famous quirky detectives... in which the fellow that's never been wrong before and saved the day (and the lives of his associates) MULTIPLE times is doubted and derided as being out of his mind or overexagerating every time that he comes forward with a new theory, as if all of his past successes count for nothing. This same skepticism-without-reason is applied to the Doctor, sadly putting the Brig, who I want to like (and sometimes do) closer to the villainous madmen (see below), who also go forth in belief and action completely unswayed by logic, reason, evidence, experience, or history, when it's really unrealistic for anyone without a major mental problem to not factor in the experiences and sound advice that ought to be changing their position. The culmination of all of this is the unfortunate effect of rendering the Brigadier rather a different character than his first three appearances, and intermittently rather unlikeable; headstrong and willing to challenge the Doctor is one thing, but outright doubting him, ignoring him, disbelieving him, acting as if he doesn't have a track record of success but is some new, unknown, unproven quantity EVERY time- that's not doing the character ANY favors; and in the closing minutes of the series, the Doctor calls him on it, unsuccessfully leaving in a huff... whether this will result in a change for the next series, we shall see.

I must admit to surprise- they tease us with the TARDIS and time/space stories more often than I thought they would!

The theme of Series 7 seems to be "Madmen in charge"- obsessed, single-minded-to-the-point-of-absurdity villains who have gone slightly insane (Spearhead From Space being the exception unless you consider the Doctor or the Brig to fit that description...) This makes the season, unfortunately, more than a little annoying- "The generator must be reactivated/aliens must be killed/drilling must continue, no matter what!" can only be thrown in the face of reason so many times before it gets grating (usually... about once). 

Everyone is stuck in a position of no authority over this obsessed madman, and while it makes an effective story trait for a villain (absolute power), it makes for an obnoxious watch.
"Sir, your infant son seems to be sleeping under the drill..."
"Stop bothering me with your foolish excuses! Double the rate of drilling! We will NOT slow down!"
"Sir, your hair is on fire!"
"Stop trying to distract me! The reactor MUST be kept online! We have no room in this operation for hair fires!!!"
These guys are in defiance of all reality, and unfortunately, the character type of an obsessed despot project leader that won't listen to reason or act reasonably is becoming a stock Doctor Who character. The RPGP, as I coined it in the Silurian review, MUST be stopped.

On the plus side, we're in color. The stories are generally more good than bad (with the Silurians being the only truly-unlikeable one), and while some effects production values seem to have decreased, most of them- especially in terms of physical effects, seem to have increased dramatically. It seems that they're now doing more than one take and filming this in a more traditional style- meaning less flubs in the final product, more closeups, better editing, more practical effects and stunts... it's more professional and a lot smoother, no longer like a live theater production on TV with every gaffe noticeable and only basic editing available. The trade-off...? Fewer serials per season- 4 for this one, 5 for the next few, as opposed to the typical 8 or 10. In addition, they’re long ones; there are so many 7-parters this series simply because longer stories can keep using the same sets, writers, and cast- so we have deliberately long, slow stories to save money!

(Also, there only seems to be 1-2 special effects of note per serial, as a trade-off for all of the stunts. Being primarily Earth-based, they only have 1 or 2 showcase effects sequences per episode, whereas many BWWs had a dozen or more to comment on. Here it’s “The explosions and the alien” or “The dinosaur and the burning tunnels” or “The travel effect and the lava at the door”. Just two, and only two. Very odd.) I don't know, though... not necessarily a bad thing. Less stories is sad, but... ideally, higher production values will mean less BAD stories to make up for it.

This series was nearly the end of the program- due to low ratings, the unproven new format nearly spelled the end of the series... and thus, Doctor Who will, next series, reinvent itself yet again- retaining the Earthbound/UNIT setting, but switching companions and shifting tones... As we move on to the Third Doctor's second year, and serials begin to gradually get shorter in length (a GOOD thing!), we shall see how all of these new trends pan out...!

As for the date, serials seem split down the middle: 2 for 1970, 2 for the ‘near future’ 1980s. We’ll keep a running tally as the series progresses and see if we can’t pin down which time period we consider the era take place in...

Overall, I found one story to be horrifically bad, and the other three to be fairly good. While I can’t say that this particular series has grabbed me as much as the Hartnell/Troughton era yet, there is a definite and appreciable upturn in quality- if the upturn in writing can match and the serial length come down just a bit, then this era could truly be something to behold. It has promise, and while not my favorite of the series thus far, I enjoyed it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Doctor Who: Inferno

Serial Title: Inferno
Series: 7
Episodes: 7
Doctor: Jon Pertwee
Companions: Liz Shaw (Caroline John), Brigadier Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney)

Crazy Professor Stahlman has this nutty dream to drill down to the core of the Earth to mine pockets of gas he suspects there to create a new energy source. He also has government funding, a bevy of experts he ignores, a UNIT presence he resents, and an abrasive personality and tendency to ignore all reason in the pursuit of his dreams. Lovely.

Still, the Doctor is onboard as one of those ignored advisers in order to get him access to the base’s nuclear generator, which he is using to experiment with re-activating the TARDIS console which he has removed from the ship. Liz is there to assist him. The Brigadier is there in an official liaison capacity. Sir Keith Gold, Executive Director, is there to provide oversight that Stahlman ignores. Petra Williams is there as Stahlman’s personal assistant. And newcomer Greg Sutton, an oil drilling expert, is there to provide practical experience in case of emergency… which Stahlman ignores. Suffice it to say, of the above list, only Petra is happy to be there… though, once he lays eyes on her, Sutton doesn’t seem to mind sticking around too much.

Problems (beyond the personal ones) arise when a toxic green slime begins spewing from the drilling pipe- one of the workers touches it and begins to mutate into a feral creature, radiating incredible heat, and going entirely and murderously berserk. While the Brigadier and returning character Sergeant Benton investigate (he was in Ambassadors of Death as the nitwit who let Lennox die on his watch…), the Doctor is testing the TARDIS console- and an unexpected surge of power due to a struggle between the mutated man and a technician in the reactor control room sends the Doctor and the console hurtling through a strange dimensional void, which he barely escapes from thanks to Liz. The Doctor is certain that he had almost reached somewhere, possibly somewhere important…

The mutated creature is killed by a UNIT soldier in self-defense when the group goes to investigate the reactor room, and the Doctor recognizes its eerie sound from something he heard once… in 1883 at the explosion of Krakatoa. Outside, the Doctor encounters another mutated creature (the technician attacked by the first man) which falls to its death from a catwalk- but doesn’t see a third creature, lurking in the shadows.

In the shadow of multiple murders and the strange green goo, Stahlman… refuses to listen or halt the drilling. (The nuclear station must be restored! The Wheel must run smoothly! The gas-flow will NOT be shut down!!!) Instead, he manhandles a canister of the stuff and almost-bravely gets it inside a containment box as the container begins to fracture from the heat- his hand is briefly exposed, and he begins to mutate very slowly, hiding his condition. He also sabotages the project computer, which was reading unsafe conditions and recommending a shutdown. He also throws the Doctor out of the project, cutting off the power, and then orders the drilling ACCELERATED. Then, a baby seal shows up with a warning to slow down the project, and he axe-murders it, followed by a message from God written in the clouds that says “STIOP YOUR DRILLING,” which he responds to by ordering a dome be built over the drill-site so that no one can see the sky.

Okay, maybe those last two didn’t happen, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did, just off screen.

The Doctor surreptitiously restores power when no one is looking and flees to his lab; Liz arrives just in time to see him and the TARDIS console vanish from reality. The Doctor, obsessed with finding out where his trip was leading, has ditched this dead-end world for… the same place? No, as he explores the area with Bessie (pulled along for the ride with him for some reason), he comes under fire, battles one of the mutated creatures atop a water tower, and finally finds Liz- a brunette Liz who pulls a gun on him- the Doctor comes to realize that he’s side-slipped onto a parallel Earth. Here, the Brigadier is the cruel and thuggish Brigade Leader, clean-shaven and wearing an eyepatch (and a large scar to prove that it’s not just for show- see, this guy I could believe committing the Silurian Genocide- okay, okay, I’ll let it go…), Liz is a fascist officer under his command, Sutton is a rebel against the totalitarian government given one last chance to be useful by aiding the slave-labor-manned drill project, Petra is a doctor with a severe dress sense, Sir Keith Gold is dead (killed in a staged car accident to prevent his attempts to shut down the project), and Stahlman… really isn’t any different. (No, that’s not just dry wit condemning his character- he really isn’t different!)

The same shenanigans have been going on in this alternate universe, but now the danger readings, mysterious murders, strange creatures, and broken computer are blamed on a saboteur- the Doctor. He is repeatedly interrogated, and even though he saves the day during a crisis with pipeline pressure, he is still thrown in a cell. His cellmate is a green, feral, beast-like creature; a Primord (so named only in the credits- like the Ewoks of Star Wars, the name is official and canonical but never spoken or known by anyone onscreen), the full result of the green slime mutation- an animalistic savage radiating incredible heat. When it kills one of the guards, the Doctor is able to escape- too late, as penetration of the crust is achieved. The Earth rocks and the bore-hole screams in howling fury; tremors and eruptions wrack the globe. In short, the Earth retaliates with a fiery fury unrivaled in all of human history. Stahlman (already infected as in our universe) enters the heated, boiling drill chamber and is sealed in… he, and the others trapped within, soon emerge as Primords and begin to attack the survivors, as the Doctor calculates that this world is doomed, and will soon tear itself apart from the crust-breaching. However, the survivors latch on to the Doctor’s plan to restore power to the TARDIS console and return him, at least warning the other Earth to prevent its following in their footsteps.

Fighting off Primords with fire extinguishers (cold is more effective against them due to their heightened heat), Petra and Greg- blossoming in a doomed romance- manage to get the power restored- but the Brigade Leader pulls a gun on the Doctor, demanding safe evacuation for the group back to his universe. The Doctor dearly wishes to save them, but can’t, as bridging the dimensional barrier with them could prove catastrophic (even though it wasn’t when he crossed over…)- when his arguments fall on the deaf ears of the desperate thug, Parallel Liz, whom he has reached, shoots him down and gives the Doctor the time he needs to escape. The Doctor begins the crossover as flowing magma roars through the complex and the end of the world accelerates…

But it may be too late- in our universe, a few hours behind its counterpart (and thus drilling has not yet reached the critical point), Sir Keith Gold has also gone to his superiors to lobby for shutting the drilling down, and after his driver’s bribe and orders from Stahlman to delay him are discovered, the car gets into a crash- perhaps the events the Doctor has seen ahead in the other universe are inevitable! And even if it isn’t, the Doctor arrives in our universe, comatose from the traumatic crossing… with only three hours left to go on the drilling, the time is ticking down.

Murmurings in his sleep get the attending Liz thinking about concerns to the drilling project, especially as things he half-coherently warns of begin to happen. When the Doctor awakens in a half-manic state, he spurs into action, and begins smashing equipment in the drilling control room. Judged to be still delirious, he is restrained by UNIT soldiers and removed from the buildings- but Liz finds evidence to confirm his ravings, an realizes that the Doctor is right on the money. Repairing the computer, she is able to confirm the Doctor’s dire warnings- as outside, the Doctor uses his Vensuian Karate to escape his escort and return to the drill shaft, as Sir Keith shows up- alive, but with a broken arm, showing the Doctor that events CAN be changed.

One thing is destined to happen, though- Stahlman reaches a critical point in his mutation, and instinct takes over- smearing himself with more of the goo, he completely hulks out into a full Primord. He emerges to attack as the drill reaches critical and warnings sound all over the complex…

The Earth is then destroyed.

Not buying it? Okay, no, actually Stahlman is subdued with a fire extinguisher and Greg Sutton manages an emergency shutdown of the generator. The Doctor announces that, with the console functional again, he is leaving. He and the Brig exchange harsh words when the latter objects to his departure, and the Doctor vanishes… only to reappear, bedraggled, moments later, having made a jump directly into the nearby garbage dump and breaking down. Chagrined, he mends fences and grovels a bit to get the Brigadier’s help in retrieving the console, as an amused Liz looks on.

The season-ending Inferno is quite an interesting story which at first seems to be shaping up as something quite different than what it turns out to be. We dip into the Star Trek Mirror Universe conceptual spring for this parallel-Earth tale about a brunette Liz and a clean-shaven, eye-patched Brigadier on an alternate, totalitarian and oppressive Earth, the manically obsessed professor drilling through the Earth’s crust to reach the mantle in both worlds, and to a lesser extent, a mysterious green possibly-sentient goo that mutates humans into green-skinned versions of Lon Chaney’s Wolfman makeup. Yikes! Let’s get into it…

The story does a good job of bait-and-switch, setting up what seems to be a standard-beyond-standard by-the-numbers alien invasion/zombie plot- and then throwing things in a totally different direction, doing enough establishing work to get you good and familiar with the scenario so as to recognize it in the parallel world, and then cutting loose with, essentially, a cautionary tale- not only a disaster story in the alternate world, but a picture of what the Doctor must return in time to PREVENT in our own world. They even throw in another twist, as the story in the parallel world lasts long past the drilling and into an Armageddon-survivor post-apocalyptic scenario, trying to get the Doctor home while under siege by monsters overrunning the base.

The Brigadier has another unfortunate serial in which he is sometimes on the Doctor’s side but sometimes not, though certainly far more positive than the Silurian madness. He is firm and authoritative (as much as his position allows) in dealing with the mad professor, but he’s still in Ms. Marple Mode (MMM), doubting or mistrusting the Doctor who has yet to be wrong (unless you count the Silurian incident, which the Brig might- but since the Doctor doesn’t show any evidence of acting or being motivated based on those events, why should we assume the Brig is?)- which the Doctor calls him on at the end, and rightly so. Does their reconciliation mean a change in the Brig’s character for next series? We shall see. Meanwhile, Nicholas Courtney gets a chance to stretch his acting legs with a turn as the nasty, cruel, thuggish, and selfish Brigade Leader, who becomes the piece’s secondary villain by the end- a nice evil mirror universe character to have fun with.

Liz – in her swan song, after a very brief 4-serial run- gets a bit more to do as the sinister-but-smart evil counterpart of herself, who, just like the real article, is the first to give the Doctor a chance and believe in the possibilities. In the end, she’s the one that takes charge and acts as the voice of reason (shooting the Brigade Leader), allowing the Doctor to escape and warn our Earth. (In fact, the actress said she had more fun playing her evil doppelganger than she did her regular role!)

In the real world, she only has the first and last episodes and a few cutaways, but manages to be both supportive and stern in warning the Doctor off of another ‘test run,’ and has a great scene in which she realizes what he’s up to. So… still fairly background in her this-universe incarnation, but in her alternate persona, the actress finally gets a chance to break out of the background. I think Liz may end up going down as one of the meekest and mildest companions in Doctor Who history (save for her initial appearance). She hasn’t given me a strong character impression to counteract her initial noxiousness, but while I still don’t have a strong positive impression of her character, her gently supporting and sympathizing nature, and tendency not to call much attention to behavior negative or positive, has managed to soothe away the initial feelings. To put it more simply, she hasn’t done anything to make me ‘love’ her the way Jamie, Zoe, Steven, Ian, Barbara, etc. have… but I don’t dislike her, either. She’s on my good side in general, but more towards the middle neutral ‘I don’t mind them one way or another’ median than towards any extreme of like or dislike.

The Doctor has a number of moments, from his Karate bits to several good action and chase scenes in both worlds to his taking charge and smashing the controls at the end to his TARDIS trip and surreptitious theft of power to complete the TARDS-console trip midway through, a very clever gambit. He has an excellent farewell/exit scene at the end that we, as the audience, know won’t pan out, and indeed his situation gets reset seconds later, denying him time/space travel once again- and he has yet another great scene to end with. He also has a wonderful moment describing himself as feeling like a ‘shipwrecked man’ without the TARDIS and his ability to travel in time and space- a lovely and moving picture of the Doctor’s torment in exile. He is take-charge in this serial in a way not seen since Troughton in Seeds of Death, active and in-charge, even as a prisoner. He has great moments in his interrogation and escape, as well. He also has a number of great quotes- about computers “I don’t care for them myself, but they are tools, and if you have a tool, it’s stupid not to use it,” about the console’s humble appearance “You were expecting a rocket ship with Batman in it?”, and about the professor himself… when he announces to the professor that “You, sir, are a nitwit!” you want to cheer and give him a high-five, because you’ve been wanting to say the same thing to him for the last hour! (In addition, the radio announcement scene near the end in the mirror universe is clearly Pertwee’s voice- and was indeed cut from the original British broadcast for being too recognizable).

Yes, Professor Stahlman is a pain in the neck, another stock RPGP character in the Robson/Lawrence/Carrington mode, driven by Hollywobsession, the kind of obsession that presumably occurs only in TV shows and movies, and involves a completely unreasonable degree of insane, unyielding, driving obsession which not only cannot stop, but cannot slow down long enough to take measures that will ensure its own success in the long run until you begin to suspect that the character is not so interested in their end goal (drilling through to penetration) as they are to the action that they seem to be contributing more to (running the drill as fast as they can without stopping EVER) since their choice to repeatedly endorse the latter action is actually endangering the success of the former goal! And he does so to a dangerous degree, actually smashing safety equipment and the like! Strangely, in the parallel universe of evil counterparts and fascist, totalitarian doppelgangers… he doesn’t really seem any different.

Stahlman is among the more annoying of the specimens of this already-annoying archetype, as he is in active denial whereas others like Lawrence and Robson seem to simply gloss over the valid points that others make instead of acknowledging them and then refuting them based on total illogic. His insistence on doing so, however, is his downfall- when he picks up the canister the Doctor warned him to avoid (a very cool scene with the fracturing container, by the way) for apparently no other reason than to SPITE THE DOCTOR who was telling him not to touch it for his own safety. It’s the only explanation for his not grabbing a glove, some cloth, simply turning the box upside-down on top of it, etc.- the infection that turns him into a monster and kills him (I think? Or paralyzes him? The monsters of this serial, their nature, and their fate, are really not well elaborated-upon) comes from his own insistence on doing a completely illogical thing contrary to his long-term goals simply for the express purpose of NOT doing the smart thing that someone else just told him to do, very much like a pouting, petulant child.

The monster concept was pretty cool, as is the notion of intense heat radiating from them, which I don’t think was always consistently portrayed, but was very neat whenever it was. Funnily enough, the Primords were an addition to the script to help pad out the 7-episode length.

As for his staff, though, I have to ask, just as I did for Robson, Charles, and Carrington (and many others)- just how loyal are his staff? At point do you just say “This guy is nuts and clearly very ill, staring off into space and groaning, doubled-over, while racked with pain- I am going to have to say that this guy is not in his right mind and I am not going to listen to him anymore, I’m going to follow established safety procedures.”? Loyalty is great and all, but- what have these RPGPs, these ranting, obsessed, insulting, belittling, decidedly-non-people-person, non-confidence-inspiring, selfish, introverted, demanding, impatient, short-tempered cruel bosses done to inspire their workers to follow them into the very gates of Hell? I mean, leaders like Washington, Patton, and Macarthur likely had trouble inspiring such loyalty in their troops; what the heck would these people- hired employees in all cases but General Carrington- have POSSIBLY done to inspire such loyalty and unwavering, unquestioning obedience in the men whose lives are being actively endangered by their ignoring every safety protocol and scrap of prudence?

Then there’s Greg Sutton, the oil rig driller. (Whose actor is a Who veteran, having first appeared as Za in An Unearthly Child) Not exactly Mr. Congeniality (at least to the prof. he’s nice to everyone else, and it’s only after he’s snubbed that he gets caustic), he says things like they are, and seems intent on the roughest, most drag-her-out-of-the-cave-by-the-hair, least tender, most-aggression-based romance ever seen on the face of the Earth (or as we Trek fans call it, a Kahn/McGuyvers romance) with the prof’s assistant, who he lumps into his aggressions for being a meek sheep to the crazy boss.

In the alternate universe, he is quite right in pointing out everyone’s futility in continuing on with their actions in the face of Armageddon, and at first seemed like the bloke to root for, bucking the tiresome totalitarian authority, beyond caring about the consequences… but he became quite obsessed in his own way with a completely and equally illogical need to escape. Considering that everywhere was equally doomed, is there any reason that his last days couldn’t be more fulfilling NOT risking his life in escape attempts to nowhere? Perhaps pursuing the potential romance he had right where he was? So, he became a bit annoying in his hypocrisy, challenging the illogical adherence to orders in the face of death to advocate his own illogical need to escape the compound in the face of death.

Sir Keith Gold was a nice and likable fellow who didn’t get much focus- save for the bizarre driving/chauffeur scene, but he was polite, considerate, concerned for others, safety-conscious, and acted as the voice of reason- not quite an everyman, but one that the everyman can easily identify with emotionally, if not in terms of position. It’s little surprise that such a reasonable fellow was killed off in the alternate universe, but it was nice when they threw us a curve in our world and spared his life. I liked him.

And lastly, the professor’s assistant, a passive-aggressive woman with a strangely vulnerable side in the alternate universe. Too much of a minor character in our own world to really review, she was a heroic and brave character- like alternate-Liz, a far more open and reasonable (for some reason, all of the parallel-males are just thick and obstinate- I suppose some might say that it’s a trait not reserved solely for the parallel Earth…) character who saw what needed to be done and risked her life to do it.

As far as production values, there were some great clearly-a-real-person fall stunts (in fact, the shot of a Primord falling off of a tank/catwalk near the end was, at the time, the highest fall ever performed by a British stuntman- not exactly the traditional perception of Doctor Who as a show made on-the-cheap), some nice combat, and a great chase sequence with the Doctor and Bessie. The introduction of Venusian Karate, giving the Doctor a chance to finally have something other than fast-talking to aid him in various confrontations, was a welcome change, a cool concept, and made for several fun moments- “Have you ever seen anything like THIS?” Sets and locations were good.

Music was minimalist, but good when used. Sound effects were pretty good- especially compared to the recent ear-piercing Silurian hogwash. I had hoped that we were seeing the Third Doctor Sonic Screwdriver with the ‘door handle device,’ but since there were two, I’m guessing it was a separate device.

Effects were generally positive- though the first travel sequence made use of some fairly stock camera/mirror tricks, it used them to generally good effect- reminiscent of the travel sequence from The Daleks’ Master Plan, actually. The curtain-of-bubbles transition was a simple but effective way of identify transitions between universes, and the parallel narrative, while it surprised me, was good at building the suspense. The volcano footage was put to good effect, and the lava-flow-through-the-doorway was rather impressive- technically simple but visually striking, a very iconic and effective image. Even the camera shake for the earthquake long shots was far more natural than such shots normally look, a very smooth execution for an often slipshod camera technique. And the man responsible for it all, VFX supervisor Jack Kine, is forever immortalized… as the face of the totalitarian regime leader on the posters.

The cliffhangers on this one felt a little sloppier, not quite as effective as the Ambassadors of Death, and the makeup- though it looked pretty good in patches or partial-mutants, was pretty hokey in its final form. Still, that lava/doorway shot… man, was that cool!!! And of course, we’re left with a deep-Earth menace never explored or explained, a menace bubbling deep beneath the surface that may return some day…

And speaking of returning someday, as per the novels, the Doctor’s estimates of mirror Earth’s destruction were a bit exaggerated… and though it was rendered nearly uninhabitable, a group of survivors managed to steal the TARDIS of the alternate-Master (a good guy in that universe) and bridge the gap to our universe- where they were (understandably) enraged that their crossing over did no harm, thus meaning that the Doctor could have saved them, and went on a campaign to destroy the Doctor, eventually being thwarted by UNIT, in conjunction with a 20-years more aged Ian and Barbara. Of course, as with all novels, this is not canon. Still, an interesting notion (that makes the ending here a bit bitter).

Great moments:
Venusian karate, the Doctor calling Stahlman a nitwit, and the lava through the doorway.

This story ends the series on a high point, garnering 4 out of 5 “Shoes!”, marred only by slightly slow pacing at first and a patently obnoxious stock villain. Still, this is a very good showing for the Third Doctor’s era, and a recommendation to watch. Most significantly, this is the final appearance of the original TARDIS console, which has been in use since An Unearthly Child all the way back in the pilot- it is fitting, then, that the console become a centerpiece of this particular story. Farewell, TARDIS v1.0- it shall be a long time until we see your like again. Or even the TARDIS again. Rats.

Nothing in particular implies a date. Slightly futuristic drilling technology and computer capabilities are offset by the fact that the computer technology is decidedly contemporary. Sure, there’s nuclear power, a drill that can reach the Earth’s core, etc., but nothing to suggest these aren’t meant to be contemporary. Still... the Doctor does end it by referencing the years he’s known the Brigadier, so I’m going to have to give this one the future-1980s nod.