Timestamp #124: Arc of Infinity

Doctor Who: Arc of Infinity
(4 episodes, s20e01-e04, 1983)

 

A Time Lord is fooling around with the bio-data extracts of the Doctor and communicating with a mysterious holographic figure, an act that only a High Councilmember can perform. When he is discovered, he kills the security guard and disables the console. On the TARDIS, the Doctor and Nyssa are performing a little maintenance when they start to lose control. The mysterious being that received the Doctor’s biodata attacks the TARDIS and attempts to temporally bond with the Doctor. The attempt fails, and Nyssa discovers that the creature is made from antimatter and is shielded by an area of space called the Arc of Infinity.

On Earth in Amsterdam, two backpackers squat in a crypt at the Frankendael mansion (which is actually a real world place). In the middle of the night, they are awakened by the lights and sounds of a TARDIS materializing. When one of them investigates, he is attacked by a bird-like creature, and the other backpacker runs in fear. He ends up at a hostel where he has a reservation and discovers that his friend was expecting company: His cousin is arriving the next day.

The Time Lord High Council, led by new Lord President Borusa, are investigating the antimatter being and its link to the Doctor. The commander of the Chancellery Guard, a man with a familiar face named Maxil, orders the Doctor’s TARDIS to be recalled to Gallifrey. When it arrives, Maxil arrests the Doctor and Nyssa, and when the Doctor resists, he is shot. Luckily, the gun is set to stun.

What a welcome home. At least the one computer technician is friendly enough to help behind the scenes.

The Doctor and Nyssa are taken to the TARDIS, which Maxil powers down to prevent it from leaving, as the High Council discusses how they could have handled things better than meeting one of their own with guns. Of note, Councilor Hedin is played by Michael Gough, previously the Celestial Toymaker and soon to be Batman‘s butler. He doesn’t seem to age much.

Our remaining backpacker, who we shall call Robin (for that is his name), arrives at the airport to greet his friend’s cousin. His hypnotized friend is named Colin, and the new arrival is none other than Tegan. Robin and Tegan adjourn to a local café to discuss Colin.

Maxil retrieves the Doctor and Nyssa, escorting them by gunpoint to the council chambers. Nyssa, despite being an alien, is welcomed by the High Council. (Speaking of aliens, where are Leela and K9 in all of this?) They discuss the Doctor’s tumultuous history (including Romana’s conspicuous absence, although they don’t use her full name) before detailing the antimatter being’s threat to the universe and how to solve it. Since it is being drawn to the Doctor through his bio-data extracts, the obvious solution is to execute the Doctor. As the Doctor is led away to await execution, Nyssa pleads with the High Council. En route to the TARDIS, the Doctor meets up with Damon, the friendly computer technician, who slips him evidence of a traitor on the High Council.

Damon teams up with Nyssa and arranges to meet with the Doctor. They compare notes (including a mention of Leela) before Commander Maxil shoos the pair away. The order is given to execute the Doctor, and we discover that the antimatter being is in the TARDIS on Earth with Colin. Under the sound of a cloister bell, the Doctor is taken before the High Council and, despite a last minute appeal by Nyssa, given the same treatment as only one Time Lord before: Destruction.

At the exact moment of dispersal, the antimatter being attempts to bond again, and unbeknownst to the High Council, the two are directed into the Matrix. The Doctor’s body, on the other hand, was shielded and hidden by the traitorous councilor. The antimatter being reveals that his is a renegade Time Lord, but leaves the Doctor before explaining further. Meanwhile, Maxil and the Castellan discover that the Doctor survived and begin a search of the TARDIS and the Citadel.

On Earth, Tegan and Robin investigate Colin’s mysterious circumstances. They find the bird creature (an Ergon) and are transported inside the renegade’s TARDIS where they are scanned. The renegade uncovers Tegan’s connection to the Doctor and uses her as leverage to gain the Doctor’s cooperation. The Doctor resists at first, but relents as the renegade tortures Tegan. The Doctor is rematerialized in the Citadel, and the renegade releases Colin as a reward for Tegan’s assistance.

The Castellan analyzes Damon’s evidence, then assembles the High Council to reveal the traitor: Lord President Borusa. As the Castellan weaves a tale of treachery, the Doctor finds Damon and Nyssa in the computer room and makes plans to return to Earth. Meanwhile, the real traitor is revealed through communication to the renegade to be Councilor Hedin.

Oh, Alfred, how could you?

The Doctor and an armed Nyssa race to the TARDIS as Maxil and his guards pursue them. Our heroes come across Hedin, who has Borusa at gunpoint and is demanding access to the Matrix, and are captured by the traitor. Hedin reveals that the renegade is Omega and is going to be transferred to our universe. They are interrupted by the Castellan, who inadvertently kills Hedin and takes aim on the Doctor before being called off. They are all too late, however, as Omega takes control of the Matrix.

The Doctor enters the Matrix and uncovers Tegan’s location. He and Nyssa slip away undetected, return to Earth, and after a lengthy search, they find the crypt. They defeat the Ergon but fail to stop Omega’s transfer into normal matter, revealing an exact duplicate of the Doctor’s appearance. Unfortunately, the transfer was incomplete, and the Doctor, Nyssa, and Tegan chase Omega into the city as the renegade slowly deteriorates. The chase ends at the end of a dock, where the Doctor reluctantly expels Omega back to the antimatter dimension, ending the threat.

After checking on her cousin, Tegan reveals that she has nowhere else to go, and she rejoins the crew of the TARDIS as a willing passenger.

This story got a bit long in the tooth during elements of the chase and the return to Gallifrey, but much of that was absolved in the otherwise solid plot and characters. Definitely a good start to a new season.

 

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

 

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Snakedance

 

 

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.

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Timestamp #65: The Three Doctors

Doctor Who: The Three Doctors
(4 episodes, s10e01-e04, 1972-73)

Timestamp 065 The Three Doctors 2

 

Happy 10th anniversary, Doctor Who! Traditionally, you’d get something made of tin, but the Time Lords are feeling benevolent.

A Pandora’s box arrives in the form of a cosmic ray research module, and it’s hungry because it eats Mr Ollis, the warden of the bird sanctuary where the module crash-landed. Doctor Tyler arrives and takes the box to UNIT where the Doctor analyzes the data, and the Doctor trolls the Brigadier with a silicon rod to stir his tea. As the Doctor and Jo investigate the crash site, the module consumes Doctor Tyler, and a psychedelic cloud leaks out, menaces our heroes, and eats Bessie.

Someone needs a copy of Care and Feeding of Psychedelic Clouds for Dummies.

As if that’s not enough, several cyclopean crab creatures apparate and storm UNIT HQ. The Brigadier leaves Sgt Benton in charge of the lab and leaves to assess the situation, prompting the cloud to arrive and force the Doctor, Jo, and Benton to take refuge in the TARDIS. The TARDIS won’t dematerialize, so the Doctor plays his last resort card and calls the Time Lords.

The TARDIS has been redecorated again, and while I liked the wash basin roundels more, this is still a step up from the wallpaper that dominated the Troughton era. While I was observing that, Sgt Benton was having his “bigger on the inside” moment, which made me laugh.

The Time Lords determine that the attack is stemming from a black hole which bridges into a universe of anti-matter, but they can’t help because the same gateway is siphoning all of their power reserves. Despite the First Law of Time, which forbids the Doctor from doubling back on his own timeline (wait, what?), the Time Lords break the rules and send the Second Doctor to help the Third.

Oh, the irony.

The Second Doctor arrives, heralded by his trademark recorder, and followed by his dislike of the new décor. Sgt Benton is overjoyed, since the last time this saw this Doctor was during the Cyberman invasion. The two Doctors link together telepathically, but can’t get anything accomplished because the “dandy” and the “clown” can’t stop bickering, so the Time Lords call up the First Doctor to set them straight. He can’t come all the way in because of a plot-convenient time eddy that the council cannot overpower, but he passes the word that the black hole is a time breach and that they must cross it.

The Time Lords, by the way, call the First Doctor the “earliest Doctor”: Hartnell’s character was definitively the original.

The Third Doctor decides on a bad plan and rushes out of the TARDIS. Jo follows, and both are consumed. The Second Doctor sees that the cloud has been temporarily satiated, so he and Benton leave the TARDIS to investigate. The Brigadier meets the Second Doctor again, and he jumps to the conclusion that the Third Doctor has regenerated… er, degenerated… er, changed back into the Second Doctor. Bickering and hilarity ensue.

The Second Doctor deduce that the cloud is made of antimatter, and that it was sent by someone powerful since it hasn’t caused a matter-antimatter annihilation. He suggests confusing it with useless information, such as with a television. That’s right, Doctor Who went meta before meta was a thing. While the Second Doctor works that problem, the Third Doctor and Jo wake up on a barren world with the one-eyed crabs, pieces of the laboratory, and Bessie, and they use the car to track a set of footprints to their source.

Back on Earth, the Brigadier wants the Second Doctor to address the Security Council, calling him the Third Doctor’s assistant to sideline the whole regeneration question, much to the Second’s chagrin. The cloud gets the hunger pains again, and the Second Doctor, the Brigadier, and Benton take refuge in the TARDIS. The Brigadier’s “bigger on the inside” moment trumps Benton’s as he accuses the Doctor of building the contraption from UNIT materials and funds. As the Third Doctor and Jo find Doctor Tyler and are subdued by the crab monsters, the Second Doctor works with the First Doctor who suggests letting the cloud attack the TARDIS. When it does, the entire headquarters building is transported into the black hole, which leaves the Brigadier nearly apoplectic. He goes off to call in this new development as the Second Doctor and Benton find Mr. Ollis, and then get captured by the crabs.

We also note that the TARDIS is just a prop thanks to a camera angle that peers all the way inside.

And then we meet the architect of this whole thing: The legendary long lost Time Lord named Omega. He was the solar engineer who created the supernova that powers Time Lord civilization, but was supposedly killed in the resulting explosion. In reality, he was transported to the antimatter universe, where his will and thought turned the formless matter into physical form. It’s also his cage, since his will is the only thing maintaining reality, and he vowed revenge on the Time Lords who left him stranded. Omega deduces that the Second Doctor and the Third Doctor are the same Time Lord, and boy is he angry. He places them in a cell pending execution, and they continue bickering before the companions put them in their place. I loved that!

Omega has control of the singularity, which grants him immense power, and Jo considers that the Doctor must also have some potential in this universe. The two Doctor will a door into existence, they all escape the cell, the companions get lost and escape the palace, and the Doctors get discovered by Omega in the singularity chamber, where Omega challenges the Third Doctor to a mental Thunderdome. The Third Doctor is defeated, but the Second reasons with Omega using the imprisoned Time Lord’s freedom as leverage.

The Time Lords send the First Doctor into the black hole, reasoning that together they are powerful enough to defeat Omega. The Second Doctor laments his lost recorder (foreshadowing!), but deliberately angers Omega to challenge the villain’s self control. The two Doctors reason that if Omega can transport matter to Earth on the light stream, he could transmit himself as well, but Omega reveals that he is a prisoner of his own design. If tries to leave, he loses control over the construct, and if he stops controlling the construct, he cannot leave. He brought the Doctor(s) to become the new caretakers. As he prepares to leave, however, he discovers that he no longer exists in a form that can survive outside of the antimatter construct. Omega is powered only by his will to live, and that only works on this side of the mirror. He goes all Kylo Ren on everything since he does not want to live like that, and the Doctor run back to the TARDIS just in time to let all of the companions seek shelter.

The First Doctor is unable to fully appear in the antimatter universe since the Time Lords’ power is so badly compromised, but he links with his successors and formulate a plan. They ask Omega to bring the TARDIS to him, and then ask the companions to trust them implicitly. They promise to set Omega free only if he sends the companions home, and Omega counters that he cannot be freed, but will keep the Doctors as his companions. Each of the Doctors’ companions step into the light stream and go home.

As much as I tear into the Brigadier’s character, he did have a very touching moment as he saluted the Doctors. He truly believes it to be the last time that he shall see them.

The Doctors offer Omega the TARDIS’s force field generator as a means to escape, but he physically rejects it, and the Second Doctor’s recorder (which has been on the TARDIS inside the generator the entire time and not modified to exist in both universes) annihilates with the anti-matter in a supernova, breaking the bridge and returning everyone to their rightful places. Poetically, the act also restores power to the Time Lords, making it the second time that Omega has exchanged his life for their civilization.

In exchange for his help, the Time Lords forgive the Doctor of his crimes: After fifteen serials in exile, they return his knowledge of time travel and provide him with a new dematerialization circuit. Jo is elated, since the Doctor decides that he can’t leave Earth yet since he needs a new force field generator.

Thank the Maker, we get time travel again!

Overall, this was a great story, and it was fantastic to see Troughton back in action. His madcap style is a great contrast to Pertwee’s pompous prim and proper. It was also good to see how well the companions and Doctors all interacted, although it would have been nice to bring in some of the First and Second Doctor’s companions as well. Time and budget are always constraints, and it might have also muddied the plot a little.

One place where I’m torn is with Hartnell’s final performance. It was so good to see him in character again, but he was obviously very ill and not fully back to where he left the character thirty-six serials ago. Sadly, he died two years after this performance, his last as the Doctor and his final acting performance overall.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: Carnival of Monsters

 

 

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.