Timestamp #119: Kinda

Doctor Who: Kinda
(4 episodes, s19e09-e12, 1982)

Timestamp 119 Kinda

After the last story, this was probably not the best time to shelve my favorite companion of these three.

At the outset, Nyssa’s not feeling well, so the TARDIS has settled on a jungle planet to evaluate her. Based on the results, the Doctor puts her into a coma to recover from not being included in the script. The planet is currently home to a team of explorers. They’ve taken captives and several of their own are missing. They are the perfect model of military tropes in fiction.

The Doctor, Tegan, and Adric explore the planet and come across a set of well-designed wind chimes, prompting the Doctor to consider intelligent life and civilization in the area. The chimes place Tegan into a hypnotic trance, and the Doctor is pulled away by Adric who stumbles into an armored suit. After Adric fiddles with device – and, thankfully, the Doctor chastises the impulsive boy – it takes them hostage and leads them to the explorer camp.

The Kinda – pronounced like the German for child, not the slang short-form for kind of – decorate Tegan with flowers while she sleeps, and her trance leads her to two figures playing chess. She fearfully explores the black void, noting that all of the inhabitants have the same snake tattoo on their arms. Meanwhile, the Doctor gets the backstory from the explorers and examines the hostages. The expedition scientist, Todd, believes them to be primitive but telepathic, and she explains their plans for the paradise world. They are interrupted by Hindle, current second in command, who tears apart the lab in a temper tantrum before playing Narcissus in the mirror.

The expedition commander, Sanders, makes plans to look for the missing team members. In the lab, Hindle has somehow taken leadership over the two Kinda, and as Sanders departs, Hindle and his new friends take over the outpost by force. Sanders takes the powered armor to the Kinda village, where a blind shaman named Panna and her acolyte Karuna plan to give a box to the approaching colonial soldier. They are visited by a Kinda male named Aris, the brother of one of the captives, and we learn that the males are mute and the women are not. The Kinda male leaves as Sanders approaches, and the gift of the box overcomes the commander with psychic force.

In the outpost control room, Hindle has dressed the Kinda captives in colonial uniforms. The captives release the Doctor, Adric, and Todd, who then have a ridiculous discussion with an unhinged Hindle. Hindle wants to sterilize a fifty-mile radius around their camp, using acid and fire to protect themselves from hostile plants. Adric has some sort of epiphany and volunteers to help Hindle, but since the Doctor and Todd won’t join him, they are sent back to their cell. To his benefit, Adric begins a plan to double-cross Hindle, but he is caught.

Are we in the throes of another story about the evils of colonialism? Looks like. I’m also picking up shades of Apocalypse Now.

On the other side of the looking glass, Tegan continues her mental breakdown in the void. She argues with duplicates of herself, then with the mysterious taunting figure, before agreeing to give the figure material form to be released from captivity. She awakens in the real world with the snake tattoo on her arm, a mischievous grin on her face, and about 10,000 more skill points in Charisma.

Hindle deliberates how to punish Adric for the boy’s treachery, but is interrupted by Sanders, who has returned with a completely different, almost childlike character. Sanders offers the box to Hindle, but Hindle refuses to open it. Out in the forest, Aris encounters Tegan. Tegan introduces herself as Mara, and in a moment of Star Trek V Sybok psychology, she transfers the snake and consciousness to Aris.

Hindle puts the Doctor and Todd back in the cell, this time with Sanders and the box. Hindle orders the Doctor to open the box, and when he does, Todd screams. It’s an overly-dramatic gesture as the box only contains a spring loaded puppet. Well, that and a psychic encounter for the captive group, in which the Doctor and Todd commune with the Kinda. The Doctor and Todd leave the compound and head for the source of the summons. They are met by the Kinda and develop a rapport with the easy-going people, but are soon interrupted by Mara-Aris who proclaims that the “Not-We” must be taken captive. Karuna attempts to read his mind and is convinced by an ancient prophecy that Mara-Aris is their new leader. Karuna defies the prophecy and takes the Doctor and Todd to Panna.

In the compound, Hindle plots to destroy the dome and surrounding jungle to protect themselves through death. Adric bides his time by playing along, but finds it difficult due to Hindle’s increasing instability. He eventually defies Hindle and takes the armor for a walk. At her cave, Panna examines Todd, but is surprised by the Doctor’s presence. Apparently, a male cannot open the box without being driven insane unless he is an idiot. Thus, the Doctor is an idiot (with a box, and a screwdriver).

Mara-Aris arrives with his enthralled gaggle of Kinda, and after taking control of Karuna, he takes the group to destroy the dome and the Not-We. Panna and the Doctor discuss the snake tattoo and the Mara, and they join with Todd in a psychic link. After their vision of the destruction of the Kinda and everything, they awaken to find Panna dead. Karuna senses this and breaks from the rushing Kinda to return to the cave. Once there, she reveals that Panna’s spirit has been transferred to Karuna. Together, the trio sets out to stop Mara-Aris. En route, they find Tegan and discover what she did to free the Mara.

Everyone converges at the entrance to the dome. The Kinda gaggle attack Adric in the armor, but Adric inadvertently drives them away with a panicked operation of the machine. The Doctor frees Adric from the machine, and Mara-Aris takes the opportunity to run away. The protagonists enter the dome and confront Hindle, who has constructed a city out of cardboard boxes. The madman reveals that he controls the Kinda with mirrors, which they believe steal their souls. The Doctor takes a wrong step and Hindle snaps, nearly destroying the dome, but in the fracas, the mirror is broken, Todd gains control of the explosive trigger, and Hindle gets the box and an awakening.

Of course, Adric takes the opportunity to blame Tegan for all of this. One step forward with his attempt to stop Hindle, and now one step back again. I mean, this was a “Shut up, Wesley” moment, and I actually liked Wesley Crusher.

With Hindle’s threat disarmed, the Doctor sets a trap for Mara-Aris using large mirrors, forcing the Mara free the Kinda. The snake grows in size and nearly takes control of Tegan before finally dissipates, dispelled back to its prison. Hindle and Sanders are returned to their former states, and Todd submits a recommendation that the planet is unsuitable for colonization. The travelers (including Nyssa, who has recovered from her bout of being forgotten in the script) bid farewell to a too-green paradise.

On its face, this was a story of the evils of imperial colonization mixed with a strong pinch of the supernatural, which would have been just about average given how often Doctor Who dips into that particular well. The dragging anchor on this boat is the character issues. Adric got somewhat better, save for his need to touch everything and chastise Tegan. Tegan spent the majority of the story spinning her wheels in character impotence. And Nyssa? Poor Nyssa got caught between a poorly timed script and the character problems of the Nineteenth Series so far.

This story even has a large dose of mythology, ranging from Buddhist and Old Testament Biblical to superstitions shared by tribal cultures around the world, and science fiction that opens audiences to the myths that shaped humanity usually wins me over. I’m just so irritated with how the writer’s room is wronging the companions in these opening salvos of the Fifth Doctor’s run.

The thing that helps buoy it back up is the Doctor. He’s selflessly compassionate and innocent like a couple of incarnations before him, but he’s not as duplicitous as past lives. Instead of trying to pass off the failed sleight-of-hand with Adric and the computer card, which the Third and Fourth Doctors would have used to lure Hindle into a trap, the Fifth Doctor realizes that he cannot win and abandons the effort, saving himself for a better chance.

The Fifth is also far more patient and fatherly. It’s taken a few serials to see that, but now that he’s mostly baked, it’s easy to see a paternal hand guiding Tegan’s temper and Adric’s impulsiveness.

The Doctor himself may be what saves his fifth incarnation’s run for me.

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Visitation

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #118: Four to Doomsday

Doctor Who: Four to Doomsday
(4 episodes, s19e05-e08, 1982)

Timestamp 118 Four to Doomsday

 

This time, I begin to wonder if the Doctor would be better off without companions.

After a long, elegant, establishing shot of a starship model that might make Admiral Kirk drool, the story turns to our heroes as the TARDIS materializes with a bong. Despite the apparent perks of knowing the TARDIS has stopped, I have two questions: First, how long has that bong been around, and second, how soon will it go away?

The Doctor is trying to return Tegan to Heathrow Airport but a magnetic field shift has dragged them off course.  In a move that would have deeply upset his first incarnation, the Doctor takes a quick stroll (with a funny helmet) to check things out in lieu of using the scanners. As he pokes about, a floating robot watches him, feeding information to a hidden watcher. The Doctor, always savvy, knows that he’s being surveilled.

Tegan is eager to leave because Heathrow awaits, prompting Adric to turn on his charm. And by charm, I mean a blatant display of sexism (“That’s the trouble with women: Mindless, impatient, and bossy.”) and ageism (Nyssa’s only a girl, so Adric’s sexism can’t possibly apply to her, right?). The Doctor returns to the TARDIS (just before anyone (including me) can load the wunderkind into the nearest airlock) and gathers the team so they can go exploring. Tegan almost decides to stay behind, but refuses to give Adric the responsibility/power of holding the spare TARDIS key.

The team all don the crazy “space-pack” helmets and off they go: Nyssa is enthralled with the tech and the Doctor examines the surveillance robot. When a door opens, the Doctor takes Tegan (and both TARDIS keys) to explore the rest of the ship, leaving a temperamental Adric to watch over Nyssa.

Was it being stuck in the metaphorical fridge during the last adventure, Adric? Was that what made you so annoying this time?

The Doctor and Tegan arrive in the presence of three beings: The Monarch, Enlightenment, and Persuasion. They are beings from Urbanka, from a distant galaxy than our own, and are familiar with Earth having been there 2,500 years prior. As they discuss Earth fashion in Tegan’s time, Adric leaves Nyssa for a brief moment and the Trakenite disappears. A panicked Adric takes this news to the Doctor, and the trio leave the Urbankans for a dining room where they find their wayward companion.

The Monarch investigates the TARDIS, but is dissuaded when he cannot pick the lock. Meanwhile, the travelers are joined by an ancient Greek man, an Aborigine, a Mayan, and a Mandarin, all representing their various cultures from various points in human history. They are soon joined by two humanoids, dressed in clothing similar to the sketch that Tegan provided to the Urbankans, who bring word that the travelers are invited to complete the voyage to Earth with them on the ship. Shockingly, they identify themselves as Enlightenment and Persuasion.

Over the meal, the Urbanakans reveal their mission: They are traveling to Earth on a mission of resettlement, carrying three billion survivors after their planet was destroyed. After the meal, the travelers are shown to their quarters where the Doctor defeats the Monarch’s surveillance before discussing their situation. They deduce that the Urbankans have visited Earth four times, each time taking a sample of the human species and making the 4,000 year round trip. This trip is the last, presumably to settle on the planet.

The Doctor breaks the lock on their quarters with his sonic screwdriver, and the team explores the ship. Tegan and the Doctor are separated from Adric and Nyssa, are each pair discovers groups of humans built from members of each of the four representative’s cultures. One room houses a series of cultural demonstrations, a second a hydroponics bay, and a third a cold computing room with minimal oxygen and entranced workers with strange discs on their hands. Adric and Nyssa find another room where a Greek soldier who was mortally wounded during the cultural display is miraculously healed, but they are soon taken captive by the Monarch.

The Greek representative, Bigon, summons the Doctor and Tegan with the promise of information, and they converge on the travelers’ quarters. The philosopher explains that the Doctor’s estimated timetables are off: Each time the Urbankans have visited Earth, their voyage has sped up. He also reveals that they only living matter on the ship (presumably, excluding our heroes) is that in the plant nurseries. The tribes of humans are, in reality, all androids.

Both teams of travelers learn this secret from separate sources. A select few of the androids (including the Urbankans) operate independently in both body and mind, but those with the discs only have motive power. Nyssa and Bigon call those units slaves, but the Monarch rejects this. He is trying to save humanity from their mortality, after all. Bigon foresees human extinction through strip-mining of the planet, but Adric buys into the vision of peace, prosperity, and replacement body parts. The boy is also downright rude to Nyssa, rejecting her opinion as silly and immature.

Adric, showing off as the smartest boy in the room, unwittingly explains all of the Doctor’s secrets to the Urbankans, and the Monarch asks the boy to solicit a tour of the TARDIS from the Doctor. However, he detains the skeptical Nyssa and allows Enlightenment to hypnotize her. Meanwhile, the Doctor, upon learning that the Monarch also has plans to meddle in time through superluminal travel, accompanies Bigon on a fact-finding mission, leaving Tegan behind in the quarters. She has an altercation with Adric before leaving the room and heading for the TARDIS, hell-bent on attempting to escape.

Yeah, she’s getting annoying too.

The Doctor and Bigon find Nyssa in one of the processing chambers, which download a subject’s consciousness before turning them into fertilizer for the greenhouse. Luckily, they rescue her, but at the cost of an informant reaching the Monarch with news of Bigon’s treachery. As the Doctor and Bigon plot, Adric and Persuasion arrive simultaneously, the latter ordering the Doctor’s execution and an effective lobotomy for Bigon. Nyssa saves the Time Lord by shorting out the slavery discs with the sonic screwdriver and a pencil, and as Adric rejects the Monarch, Persuasion takes the Doctor, Nyssa, and Adric to the throne room. There, the Doctor is ordered to stop interfering, and the Monarch takes Nyssa hostage.

Back in the TARDIS, a panicked Tegan attempts to pilot the craft away but only gets as far as the space near the ship, effectively removing the escape route. Meanwhile, under the cover of the cultural celebration, the Doctor finally sets Adric straight and explains the Monarch’s plan. The pair spark a revolution with the help of the sentient androids, a freed Nyssa, and a newly restored Bigon. As they plan is put in motion, the Doctor attempts to retrieve the TARDIS, but his plan is stalled by Persuasion. The Doctor saves Adric from Persuasion by tearing out the android’s circuit board and tossing it into space. Enlightenment also tries stopping the Doctor, but Adric stops her in the same manner. The Doctor uses a cricket ball to propel himself to the TARDIS, which he then pilots back onto the ship. The Monarch strikes back, trying to kill the travelers by shutting down life support, by they survive with the space-packs and shipboard pressure helmets.

The team head for the TARDIS but are intercepted by the Monarch. The Doctor splashes the Urbankan with the same compound that was planned for the human race, causing the Monarch to miniaturize because (conveniently) he had never been fully converted into an android. Before the travelers depart, the Doctor also reveals that the Monarch’s time travel plan was fatally flawed, and the humanoid androids decide to take the ship to a new world and establish new lives.

With everything said and done, the TARDIS dematerializes and heads for Heathrow. En route, Nyssa collapses, setting up a plot point for the next story in a way that we haven’t seen since the First Doctor .

Thus ends a paint by numbers adventure. There were a few interesting twists in the story, but it felt haphazard as if the writers were tossing everything at the wall to see if it would stick. After the last few adventures of being strong and independent, Tegan is poorly characterized in this one as selfish and “hysterical.” As much as I despise using that term to describe any woman, it fits this story’s portrayal of Tegan: Her fear and panic over what she sees as unnatural combined with her impatience toward getting home, and that led her to snap at the Doctor, make rash decisions about trying to pilot the TARDIS, and (inadvertently?) knock Adric on his tuchus. Her overwhelming emotions are driving her to lose control, and it’s way out of character from what was established in Logopolis.

In a similar vein, Nyssa and Adric were also poorly treated. Nyssa was effectively a prop and Adric has become a chore to watch. His lucky-can-do-no-wrong character has plummeted into the abyss of cockiness and arrogance, and his blatant chauvinism isn’t helping any. Of the three, Nyssa’s my favorite, but she needs more than to be the hot potato.

Sadly, this was an average story, but the characters (both in portrayal and writing) dragged it down. If I was the Doctor at this point, I’d jettison the writing staff, deposit both Tegan and Adric somewhere, and take Nyssa on an awesome adventure. Because frankly, she’s the only one of the companions who isn’t outright irritating me.

 

Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Kinda

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #117: Castrovalva

Doctor Who: Castrovalva
(4 episodes, s19e01-e04, 1982)

Timestamp 117 Castrovalva

A new season, a new Doctor, but first, a recap. Behind the scenes, it had been a year since Logopolis, so we get a quick review of the Fourth Doctor’s final moments before it’s off to the races.

The companions try to get the new Doctor back to the TARDIS, but they are captured by guards at the Pharos Project. The Doctor is loaded into an ambulance as the companions are frisked, but Tegan and Nyssa steal the ambulance and escort the Time Lord to the TARDIS.

The Master arrives in his TARDIS, stuns the guards, and leaves Adric in a suspicious state. The ladies get Adric to the Doctor’s TARDIS where the boy pilots the craft away without even a word of thanks. Upon hearing Tegan and Nyssa talk about the Doctor’s quest to reach the Zero Room, Adric follows the Time Lord and finds him playing Theseus with his scarf and clothing. The Doctor is cycling through his previous incarnations and companions. Something appears to be wrong with the regeneration.

But why? Is it because the Fourth Doctor did whatever it was with the Watcher? Or was it the traumatic nature of his demise?

Actually, I blame the Time Lords. The first regeneration went perfectly fine with just a little bit of recuperation afterward. After they forced the Second Doctor’s regeneration, every one since has been dicey.

Tegan and Nyssa discover a “TARDIS Information System” and try to control the craft. When they discover that their flight is pre-programmed and that they cannot crash, they enter the TARDIS corridors and pursue the others.

As Adric wanders off on his own, the Doctor stumbles across a mirror, tries on a recorder for size, and finally discovers his new uniform. This incarnation fancies cricket. Upon hearing the Zero Room door cycle, he rushes off and finds Tegan and Nyssa. Together, they find the Zero Room, a place completely isolated from the universe where the Doctor’s brain can heal without interference. As he drifts into a healing trance, he explains each companion’s role as he heals: Tegan is the party’s coordinator, Nyssa is the technical expert, and Adric (with his badge for mathematical excellence) is the navigator who will help bridge the disconnect between the new Doctor and the old.

Adric appears to them and reveals that the Master has set a trap with him as the bait. The real Adric is… somewhere (I presume the Master’s TARDIS), and the one on their TARDIS is a projection. Nyssa heads for the Console Room, noting a rising temperature in the corridors. The Cloister Bell sounds and the Doctor tries to leave the Zero Room but he collapses. Tegan returns him to the room before joining Nyssa, and together they discover that the Master has set their course for the Big Bang. The Doctor arrives, but is thrown to the deck in the turbulence. A convenient roundel opens, emptying a first aid kit onto the Doctor, and an automated wheelchair arrives – both of which presumably acts of the TARDIS to help her companion – and the Doctor finishes his journey to the Console Room. With his companions, along with an adrenaline boost from the emergency at hand, he helps save the craft by reconfiguring the TARDIS interior to generate thrust.

The trouble is that he lapses back into a coma before explaining how to select which rooms to delete.

As the TARDIS flies closer and closer toward destruction, the companions delete a quarter of the interior at random and they are saved. On the Master’s TARDIS, Adric tries to conceal their victory, but the Master is able to burn through the boy’s mental blocks.

The downside to the companions’ solution is that the Zero Room was among the jettisoned spaces. The companions find a suitable substitute with Castrovalva, where Tegan (crash) lands the TARDIS on its side in the nearby forest. Nyssa helps the Doctor construct a Zero Cabinet and, after changing into a more functional wardrobe, joins Tegan in carrying the Doctor into the wilds of the planet.

Along the way, they lose the wheelchair and Nyssa’s ion bonder, forcing them to carry the Cabinet by hand. Unbeknownst to the ladies, they are being watched from the nearby brush. Tegan spots the castle of Castrovalva and the companions attempt to seek help. When they return to the Zero Cabinet, they find it empty with a small pool of blood nearby.

The companions track the blood trails but are soon ambushed by the warriors who were pursuing them earlier. They spot the Doctor, who is also following the blood trail, but he doesn’t recognize his name. The Doctor is taken captive by one set of warriors while another retrieves the Zero Cabinet, but once inside the walls of Castrovalva, they are revealed as middle-aged intellectual hunters rather than warriors, led by a librarian named Shardovan. The blood trail was from a wild pig, the night’s main course. The Doctor is counseled by an elder named Portreeve, and is offered a meal, a tonic, and a place to sleep.

The companions scale the rocks to Castrovalva, taking the long way around, and are shown the Doctor before being seen to their own quarters. Meanwhile, as the Doctor sleeps, Adric emerges from the shadows and skulks about.

Come the morning, Nyssa directs the locals to take the Zero Cabinet to the Doctor’s quarters. There, she finds a projection of Adric who directs her to keep the Doctor in Castrovalva until his regeneration is completed. The image breaks up, and the Master is satisfied that his machinations will proceed uninterrupted.

Tegan and Nyssa are shown to the library to research telebiogenesis while Portreeve shows the Doctor important events since the Time Lord’s arrival. During the display, the Doctor realizes that he’s missing a companion, but he can’t remember who it was. A delightful young girl helps jog his memory, and the Doctor demands the story from Nyssa and Tegan. The Doctor tries to leave the town, but finds that he cannot as the space is folding in around itself. It’s a space-time trap, which is forcing the Doctor into a relapse, and someone has taken the Zero Cabinet.

The Doctor remains in his quarters while the companions search for the Cabinet. He finds a clue in a book and asks for more. He also asks the town doctor, Mergreave, to the describe the geography of Castrovalva, but is dismayed when the doctor locates his own pharmacy in four distinct locations within the town map. He tests another townsman and gets the same result, and coupled with the fact that the books appear to be forgeries, he determines that Shardovan is behind the events.

The companions find the Zero Cabinet, deliberately hidden by the townsfolk, and return it to the Doctor. He climbs inside and asks to be carried to the Portreeve, enlisting the assembled townsfolk. At one point, Shardovan is drawn away and confronted by none other than the Doctor about the nature of the civilization. The Zero Cabinet arrives in the Portreeve’s chambers, and it is revealed to be filled with the stacks of books by the elder, who is really the Master in disguise. Castrovalva is nothing more than a fiction entered in the TARDIS database by the evil Time Lord.

The Doctor and Shardovan sneak in through a back way and convince the other town leaders to help stop the Master. He pulls aside the tapestry to reveal that Adric wasn’t being held on the Master’s TARDIS but in Castrovalva itself all along. Shardovan sacrifices himself to free Adric, and the Master escapes into the fireplace, which is his TARDIS. Everyone tries to escape the space-time trap, but only Adric can see the way out since his mind created it. The Master, also unable to leave, tries to force his way out but is stopped by the townspeople as Castrovalva collapses in upon itself.

The Master defeated himself.

The Doctor and his companions return to the TARDIS, and with the revelation that the instructions Tegan used to pilot the craft were also a fabrication, they climb aboard and set sail.

Wait. What? The “TARDIS Information System” was a fabrication? So, how did the Master conclude that the Doctor wouldn’t finish configuration dump of the TARDIS and not delete the Zero Room?

The rest of the Master’s plan makes sense to me except for that one point.

As for the rest, I’m not totally sold on this Doctor. The story was okay, but nothing special, and I’m glad that the companions were able to carry the plot while the Doctor finished baking. Well, they carried it to a degree; Tegan and Nyssa were instrumental in saving the day and the Doctor, but the whole story was in exchange for effectively fridging Adric (and his badge for mathematical excellence) for the entire story.

Without the +1 bonus for a regeneration episode, this would be nothing more than an average story.

Rating: 4/5 – “Would you care for a jelly baby?”

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Four to Doomsday

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #116: Logopolis

Doctor Who: Logopolis
(4 episodes, s18e25-e28, 1981)

timestamp-116-logopolis

 

It is the end of the Fourth Doctor, but the moment has been prepared for.

A restless Doctor paces in thought inside the Cloister Room, a new and expansive set, pondering decay and entropy. He decides that instead of returning to Gallifrey and facing inquiries on why Romana decided to break Time Lord law and get involved in affairs of the universe, he should let “a few oceans pass under a few bridges” and head to Earth. He also plans to repair the chameleon circuit by materializing around a police box and measuring it in thirty-seven dimensions. His musings on the procedure are interrupted by the Cloister Bell, a signal of impending universal catastrophe.

On Earth, that real police box that the Doctor wants to use is replaced with a TARDIS. The police officer who was actually using it is killed. Nearby, we meet Tegan, a forgetful flight attendant. She is being driven to the airport by her Aunt Vanessa when her car gets a flat right next to the killer police box. She decides to fix it herself and avoid asking for help, and the women don’t notice when the Doctor’s TARDIS arrives, barely missing the target. The Doctor adjusts and the bad box appears in the console room. Meanwhile, Tegan notes that the spare tire is also flat, but does not notice the pure white figure studying them from across the road.

The TARDIS’s instrumentation fails due to a gravity bubble, forcing the Doctor to leave and investigate. He sees the ladies fixing the car and the white figure before returning to his console room. Once inside, he enters the police box and discovers that it is another TARDIS with a dark console room and the original police box inside. So we have a TARDIS within a TARDIS once again.

As Tegan decides to call for help, she enters the Doctor’s TARDIS just as the dark TARDIS dematerializes. As a result, she is trapped alone inside the Doctor’s TARDIS. The Cloister Bell sounds once again and Tegan investigates. Meanwhile, Vanessa follows her into the police box and finds the Master.

The Doctor and Adric investigate the police boxes, finding themselves in a near-infinite loop. The Doctor breaks out to find the police investigating Vanessa’s car, and inside it they find miniaturized versions of the original police officer and Vanessa herself.

The officers believe that the Doctor is responsible for the strange situation, and the Time Lord offers to accompany them to the station until Adric stages a diversion and they both run for the TARDIS. Upon hearing the Cloister Bell, they attempt to dematerialize but cannot leave Earth. The Doctor reconfigures the TARDIS interior by jettisoning Romana’s old room, and he sends Adric to answer the Cloister Bell while pilots the ship.

Where does Romana’s room go? Into the vortex of time and space? Recycled into the multi-spatial geometry of the TARDIS?

The bell stops as Tegan enters the Cloister Room, so Adric turns back, but Tegan encounters the other TARDIS. The Cloister Room becomes downright creepy as the Master laughs maniacally. She attempts to find her way out as the Master’s TARDIS dematerializes and rematerializes as a tree.

The Doctor reveals that he has a message from Traken, through which he deduces that the Master has killed Tremas. He knows that they cannot continue to Logopolis if the Master’s TARDIS is still within his own, so he decides to materialize under the Thames River and flush the TARDIS out. Unfortunately, he misses and lands on a nearby jetty instead. The white figure appears and beckons, telling the Time Lord that he must continue on to Logopolis. When they arrive, Tegan bursts into the console room and the Doctor declares that, based on what he has learned from the mysterious figure, he and his companions must part company. Meanwhile, the Master’s TARDIS vanishes from the Cloister Room and reappears outside, taking the form of a column.

The Doctor and his companions meet with the lead Logopolitan, the Monitor, and ask for his help with the chameleon circuit. As the Monitor works and passes the calculation on to the rest of the Logopolitans, the Master begins to kill them one by one. The Doctor recognizes the Central Register (the hub of Logopolis) as a replica of the Pharos Project from Earth, an attempt to contact alien life, before taking the calculation to the TARDIS. He locks Tegan and Adric out, then inputs the figures, but since they were disrupted by the murders, the TARDIS shrinks by half. While the assembled crowd (and the mysterious white figure) watches, Nyssa arrives thanks to “a friend of the Doctor’s.”

I kind of want the half-scale model of the TARDIS.

The Logopolitans take the TARDIS to be analyzed as the Master jeers from a secluded location. They use sonic projectors to stabilize the TARDIS as the Monitor tracks down the errors in the calculation, which they isolate to the murdered analysts. Tegan shows the corrected calculation to the Doctor through the scanner while Adric and Nyssa track down the Master; Adric believes that the white figure is the Master, while Nyssa wants to find her father. The Master uses the latter to his advantage by attracting the young woman and using a bracelet to control her.

The TARDIS is restored through the revised calculations, and the Doctor emerges shaken but unharmed. He reveals Vanessa’s death to Tegan and vows to stop the Master no matter what it takes. The Doctor retrieves his companions and encounters the mysterious white figure, whom Nyssa reveals is the “friend of the Doctor’s” who brought her to Logopolis.

The writing worked for me here. I honestly thought that the Master was the “friend” who brought Nyssa as a distraction. This twist was intriguing.

The Master wheels the sonic projectors into the calculation centers and activates them, silencing all of the calculating Logopolitans. The Master holds them for ransom until the Monitor explains why they replicated the Pharos Project on the planet. The Doctor arrives, revealing that the Master is not Nyssa’s father, and revealing that Logopolis is the cornerstone over the causal nexus. As Adric tries to reposition the projectors, the Master forces Nyssa to choke Adric until Tegan restores the devices. The Master attempts to demonstrate that his control is temporary, but the damage is done: Logopolis is dead.

Wow. I’m actually impressed with the evil here. It wasn’t direct action that destroyed a planet, but it’s still evil nonetheless.

The Master tries to use Nyssa to kill the Monitor, but the entropy has spread to his controls. Nyssa is freed from her bracelet, and the Monitor explains that since the universe has long since passed the point of heat death and is on its way to collapse, the Logopolitans have been opening temporary voids to channel the entropy into other universes. One such void is like the one that sent the TARDIS to E-Space. The Master’s interference has collapsed the voids and put the universe back on course to death. To save it, the Doctor allies with the Master – much to his companions’ chagrin – and sends his companions into the TARDIS. Tegan, however, disobeys and leaves as the TARDIS dematerializes, piloted by the mysterious white figure outside of all spacetime.

The Doctor and the Master seek out the Monitor, who reveals a plan to make the voids permanent. Before he can transmit the information to another universe through a void, he is consumed by the entropy. The Master attempts to run, but is covered in collapsing rubble. The Doctor and Tegan take the research and escape using the Master’s TARDIS, rescuing the cad along the way. They arrive at the real Pharos Project on Earth to send the information through one remaining void.

On the Doctor’s TARDIS, the mysterious white figure tasks Adric to pilot the TARDIS to the Pharos Project. As he works, Nyssa watches the entropy wave destroy part of the universe, including her home of Traken. The TARDIS arrives on Earth moments later.

Poor Nyssa.

The Doctor and the Master feed the program into the computers, but the transmission antenna needs to be properly aligned. The companions distract the guards as the two Time Lords make their way to the antenna, but the Master double-crosses the Doctor and uses the antenna to transmit a message of domination instead of one of salvation. If they do not acknowledge his rule over the universe, he will send the signal to close the void and destroy everything. The Doctor runs to disconnect the cable that could transmit the signal to close the void, and as he hangs on for dear life, he sees visions of his enemies: The decaying Master, a Dalek, the Captain, the Cyber-Leader, Davros, a Sontaran, a Zygon, and the Black Guardian.

The Master escapes, and the Doctor falls.

It is the end for him, and he is accompanied to his death by visions of Sarah Jane, Harry Sullivan, the Brigadier, Leela, K9, and Romana. The Doctor is not troubled by this however, and he smiles, for the moment has been prepared for as the mysterious white figure arrives. He is the Watcher, and has been some form of the Doctor all along. The Watcher melds with the Doctor, and the Time Lord regenerates.

The ending was a bit rushed. I would have liked more explanation about the Watcher and his meaning. As it stands now, it’s a plot convenience on the order of the Third Doctor.

But, those complaints are small potatoes in comparison to the positives. I loved how the companions truly carried this story. I also loved how the Doctor gave his life to save the universe. It can’t happen with every story, but they are much more powerful when he is willing to make that sacrifice.

So, yeah, this is a top story even without the handicap I give to regeneration stories.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Eighteenth Series and Fourth Doctor Summary

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #115: The Keeper of Traken

Doctor Who: The Keeper of Traken
(4 episodes, s18e21-e24, 1981)

timestamp-115-the-keeper-of-traken

 

An old face gets a new face.

Finally back in N-Space, the Doctor and Adric travel near the Mettula Orionsis system, a place known for its universal harmony. In a move that surprises the Doctor, the TARDIS falls into orbit around Traken and an old man appears in the console room. He is the Keeper of Traken, he has taken control of the TARDIS, and he is dying soon and will need to pass his powers to a successor. He asks the Doctor to come, but warns him of danger in the form of a Melkur, a supremely evil creature that was trapped in a garden and turned into a calcified statue. The creature has a fan: A woman named Kassia seems smitten by it.

You know, Adric has an uncanny knack for the TARDIS controls. Is he supremely intelligent and learning how to pilot the blue box, or is he just getting lucky like he did in Nowhere?

Flash forward to present day where Kassia is marrying Consul Tremas, a man who has been blessed as the next Keeper. Kassia is relieved of her self-imposed burden of tending to the Melkur, and Tremas’s daughter Nyssa is prophesied to take up the task. After the ceremony, Kassia returns to the garden to bid farewell to the Melkur, and it speaks to her in a single ominous word: “Soon.”

In the morning, the Doctor and Adric review the Time Lord’s logs (the latter being far more confused about them than the former) to see if he has ever visited Traken. On the planet below a dead body is found under mysterious circumstances. Kassia organizes a meeting of the planet’s consuls and, believing that the event was a murdered, declares that the Fosters (the local guards) be armed. The consuls are unsure.

The Doctor and Adric arrive on the surface and investigate the Melkur. After some wandering about, they are surrounded by armed Fosters. They are taken before the consuls, who have just voted to summon the Keeper and are surprised to discover that their leader has summoned the Doctor to appear before them. The consuls send Proctor Neman and his Fosters to verify the Doctor’s story by visually sighting the TARDIS, but the Melkur shoots red light from its eyes and the craft vanishes before the Fosters arrive.

Wait… what?

The consuls summon the Keeper for his advice. As the Doctor asks him to verify the story, the Melkur arrives. The Keeper declares that infinite evil has invaded the sanctum and disappears, and the assembly draws the conclusion that the evil is the Doctor.

To quote another famous doctor, oh boy.

Kassia declares that the travelers are agents of the Melkur before dramatically fainting. The Doctor, believing in more a scientific reasoning for the events, offers to help Tremas scan the area. Consul Tremas offers them asylum under his privilege, which means if the travelers are at fault, Tremas will share their fate. As they investigate the strange energy fields, the Melkur continues to rampage through the courtyard, and Kassia discovers the corpses in its wake. She hides the bodies before the consuls find them, but the Doctor finds evidence anyway before asking for breakfast. As they eat, Kassia consults with the Melkur, and after the meal, the Doctor and Tremas search for the TARDIS while Adric and Nyssa analyze the data.

The consuls gather in secret to discuss Tremas’s actions and analyses. When it is revealed that Consul Seron also knew of the studies, the assembled consuls suggest that Seron should enter rapport with the Keeper instead of Tremas. Kassia reveals this to the Melkur, receives a special band as a token of its allegiance, and is commanded to be its eyes and ears in the court. Unbeknownst to her, the Melkur is being controlled from a remote location. She leaves the grove through a secret passage, unknowingly witnessed by the Doctor and Tremas.

The Doctor detects a time cone around the TARDIS which has displaced it in time. As he moves off with Tremas to investigate it, Nyssa and Adric attempt to enter the grove, but Nyssa is pulled aside by the consuls. Adric finds the Doctor and Tremas, and they move to a secluded location to discuss the young man’s findings. Adric has found readings consistent with a TARDIS, but not with a Type 40. They are interrupted by Seron’s attempt at rapport, which is successful but disrupted by Kassia as she kills the consul with her new laser vision. She declares the travelers and Tremas as agents of the Melkur, and they are forced to flee into the grove. The Doctor reveals the TARDIS against the protests of the Melkur, but before they can get inside Kassia stuns Tremas and the travelers are captured by the Fosters.

The trio are taken to a cell and the consuls are clamoring to resolve who will be the next Keeper since both candidates are now ineligible. Kassia consults with the Melkur who states that Tremas will only continue to live if she continues to serve, and that she must be the new Keeper. On a similar line of thought, the captives discuss the situation and come to a similar conclusion. Since a non-Trakenite cannot touch the Source, one would have to do so through a Traken native. As such, Kassia sways the remaining consuls to her cause.

Nyssa forces her way into the cell block by stunning Proctor Neman and the guards, then frees the captives. Nyssa leads them through the Sanctum as Kassia and the consuls find a recovering Proctor. As the Fosters close in, Tremas leads them all to his quarters, which is the last place that the guards would presumably look. There, the Doctor asks for the master plans for the Source Manipulator, the device that harnesses the Source for the Keeper. After some soul searching, Tremas provides them.

Meanwhile, Kassia reports her failure to the Melkur and is forcefully reminded of her task. Because the universe has a quirky sense of timing, the Keeper enters the last phase of his life, and the transfer of power must occur at the Keeper’s last breath. The consuls summon Kassia for the ceremony.

The Doctor, Adric, Tremas, and Nyssa converge on the TARDIS but are ambushed by the Fosters. At that moment, the Keeper enters his death throes and a storm rages across the planet. Kassia arrives and takes the title of Keeper, allowing the Melkur to touch the Source through Kassia. Inside the Melkur, a hideously scarred form taunts the Doctor, and as the Time Lord’s group leaves the grove, the statue disappears with the sound of a TARDIS.

Ah, yes. We know who this great evil is, don’t we?

The Doctor rushes to the Sanctum to prevent the final transfer of power, but it is too late. The Doctor sends Adric and Nyssa to the TARDIS as a screaming Kassia is enveloped in an energy field and the Melkur materializes on the throne. The Melkur summons Proctor Neman and orders the two remaining consuls, Tremas, and the Doctor confined to quarters. Meanwhile, Adric and Nyssa try to prepare the TARDIS for departure, but the engines are blocked. Adric explains a plan of last resort: Melkur can be defeated by destroying the Source.

Tremas and the Doctor discuss their options. They don’t have the five Consular control rings, but they do have the Source Manipulator plans so there is a chance. Unfortunately, the Melkur knows of the plans and sends Neman and his fancy new control band to retrieve them. When Tremas refuses, the Melkur materializes and forces them to relinquish it. Before fading away in weakness, Melkur destroys the scroll. Afterward, the Doctor ambushes the Proctor and the guards and steals the rings they hold. The Doctor and Tremas head to the Sanctum and attempt to break the Source Manipulator’s source code.

While they work, Adric and Nyssa construct their last resort device and install it at the Source. Melkur also arrives and stops the Doctor three digits shy of success. Tremas attempts to key in the remaining code, but Melkur stops him and forces the former consul to kill Proctor Neman with his own weapon. The Melkur outlines its plans for domination and reveals its true identity after taking the Doctor to its deepest sanctum.

The Melkur is the Master. The statue is his TARDIS.

The Doctor kindly offers to put him down like an rabid dog, but the Master restrains him. The Master reveals that he is on his last regeneration and near death after their battle on Gallifrey, and he plans to steal the Doctor’s mind and use the Source to extend his life beyond the regeneration limit. At the right moment, the Source is disrupted and the Doctor is able to escape the Master’s TARDIS and disconnect him from the Source. Consul Luvic leaps onto the throne to continue the line of Keepers, and the Doctor and Adric take their leave.

All seems well as harmony returns to Traken, but Tremas feels compelled to investigate a newly arrived clock. The consul touches it and it opens to reveal the Master. The evil takes over Tremas’s body and steps back inside the clock, a TARDIS he had hidden inside his old one, before dematerializing.

Nyssa returns to the Sanctum, but her father is nowhere to be seen.

The stage is set with this wonderful story. Next week, the Doctor falls.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Logopolis

 

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.