Timestamp Special #8: Death Comes to Time

Doctor Who: Death Comes to Time
(5 episodes, 2001-2002)

 

One more round with Sylvester McCoy before returning to the canon timeline.

After a brief introduction filled with metaphor and symbolism, we are witness to a massive and bloody battle in space. General Tannis decimates the fleet and destroys the city of Annit, obliterating nine million people before Admiral Mettna surrenders unconditionally. Thus begins the Canisian invasion of the Santine Republic. The admiral is killed despite her surrender, the Santinian president is assassinated by Tannis himself, and the Republic falls.

As Tannis begins his reign of terror, the Seventh Doctor and his companion Antimony arrive. Antimony knocks out the guard as the Doctor meets Senator Sala, the leader of a blossoming resistance. The Doctor takes the survivors away and works out a plan with them to stop the threat. When the Doctor spots burning trees, he realizes that someone wants to contact him and the travelers depart.

Elsewhere, a being identifying himself as a “God of the Fourth” arrives on a spaceship, enthralls the guards, and rescues a prisoner.

That prisoner is Ace.

Her mysterious benefactor is named Casmus, and he rescued her in order to teach her. He’s very much a Yoda to her Luke Skywalker.

As the Doctor and Antimony travel to the Temple of the Fourth on the planet Micen Island, the Doctor has a premonition which he ascribes to a nightmare. In the temple, they find statues of long dead Time Lords with an inscription: “We serve the many, for the many are One, until twilight falls and death comes to Time.”

The Doctor is met by a fellow Time Lord named the Minister of Chance, and he is the one who sent the fiery message. The Minister informs the Doctor that two Time Lords, the Saints Antinor and Valentine, have been murdered on Earth. The Minister fears a greater evil at work, and he takes over the Santine crisis while the Doctor investigates the threat to their kind.

Tannis punishes his guards for their failures: The lost resistance group nets one guard a bullet while Ace’s disappearance results in her guard Golcrum being exiled to the barren world of Animapersis. As he muses on how even Time Lords die, he reveals bigger plans in motion.

The Doctor and Antimony arrive at a radio telescope analysis center as the Time Lord delivers a lesson in temporal philosophy and mentions an encounter with an allosaurus. They meet with Dr. Kane, who explains that Valentine and Antinor were killed by animals, presumably a dog or large cat. The Doctor asks her what they were investigating, discovering that black holes are being created and expanding at a drastic rate. The fabric of space-time has been torn.

Antimony investigates the crime scene and encounters two policemen, Campion and Speedwell. They grill him before meeting with the Doctor, and Speedwell is called away to another animal attack in the East End. The Doctor accompanies the officer, but Antimony is left behind in handcuffs. The Doctor finds bite marks on the woman’s neck, her corpse drained of blood. They also find the body of a policeman and a bar with twenty additional corpses. A dark figure flees the scene, and back at the laboratory, Antimony encounters Campion in a similar state, and discusses the event with a dispassionate Kane.

Across the universe, Ace wakes from a dream about the edge of a whirlpool and a friendly yet dangerous man. Casmus teaches her how to remember dreams – perceptions uncluttered by shadows of matter – and tells her that they will soon visit the Kingmaker at Mount Plutarch to test her abilities. On Santine, the Minister of Chance arrives, dodges Tannis’s troops, and meets with the leaders of the resistance.

Back on Earth, the Doctor and Speedwell find more corpses and note that there are two distinct styles of killing. Some are for feeding, but others are were just in the way and used as a distraction. The pair dive into a manhole and track down the killer, the vampire Nessican. The police officer’s gun proves useless since severing the spine is the only way to kill a vampire. Nessican attacks the Doctor, but the Time Lord had eaten garlic so his blood poisoned the vampire. The pair get a call pointing them back to Kane, and they arrive at the lab just in time to kill her too. With her dying moments, she tells the Doctor that the tear in time is the work of a Time Lord.

Before his death, Nessican sent a message to Tannis: Earth is rich in resources and defenseless. Tannis is overjoyed by this report.

The Minister of Chance takes Senator Sala to the Canisian army. Captain Carne, the detachment commander, suspects a trap but accepts the gift and sends her away to be tortured. He also plans to kill the Minister at a later time. On the Canisian homeworld, Premier Bedloe and Tannis announce the defeat of the Santine Republic. Simultaneously, Tannis’s troops have surrounded the city and taken Bedloe’s child hostage. When Bedloe confronts the general, Tannis explains that he intends to use the leader as a front while Tannis conquers the universe. Premier Bedloe is left in the care of Major Bander with orders to kill the leader on command.

The Doctor analyzes the black holes and realizes that the tears in space-time could only be caused by another Time Lord misusing his powers. Antimony wonders whether it could be the Minister of Chance, but the Doctor thinks otherwise, planning to strike on Alpha Canis while the Minister occupies Tannis on Santine.

Sala is tortured and returned to her cell with the Minister. The Time Lord heals her wounds, enabling her to infiltrate the base and find the other political prisoners. The Minister sets a trap for Carne.

As Ace and Casmus travel to Mount Plutarch, her lessons continue. There is no true chaos in the Universe, just an order of greater complexity than can be easily perceived.

When the captain interrogates the Minister, he is told that the Santine resistance plans to attack a prison at Luria. The reaction reveals that the prison really exists, which they had not known with certainty. They spring the trap by threatening to inform the general’s incoming envoy – the Fleet Pilot – that Carne revealed the secret, so Carne shows them a prison map in exchange for their silence. The Minister tells him where the resistance intend to attack, then uses a word of power to crash the planetary computers. In the confusion, the Minister and Sala flee while Carne deals with his own skeptical troops.

The Minister has a lot of strange powers that seem overboard for Time Lords.

The Doctor and Antimony arrive on Alpha Canis, and the Doctor explains why they can’t just kill the general outright. The Doctor plans to turn Premier Bedloe against Tannis, and he surrenders himself to the authorities under the pretense that he has kidnapped Bedloe’s children. The Doctor’s ruse works out, but his presence is reported to Tannis. Bedloe questions the Doctor personally, and the Doctor strikes a deal to rescue the children from the general’s personal villa in exchange for Tannis.

After dispatching Captain Carne, the Fleet Pilot reports the Minister’s activities to Tannis. The general orders the Time Lord located so he can deal with the threat personally. Elsewhere, Ace and Casmus stargaze while the human woman realizes that she will never have normal relationships with other humans again. She now has a special relationship with time and is introduced to the loneliness of being a Time Lord.

Nice. She’s being trained as a Time Lord.

The Doctor and Antimony break into the villa, rescue the child, and return him to Bedloe. Unfortunately, their deal is broken when Tannis strikes a new bargain with Bedloe.

On Santine, the Minister of Chance and Sala try to find their way back to the resistance. Sala asks about his name, which he explains is given perhaps by what they did but is unpronounceable by her tongue. In the end, she just calls him “Snake”. The path is treacherous and she is still weakened from the interrogation, so the Minister uses his healing power once again. When she questions why the Minister doesn’t use his powers to save everyone’s lives, he explains that she cannot understand his people’s position. They are soon intercepted by a resistance member and share the intelligence about the Lurian prison camp.

Ace is subjected to a test known as the “Cavern of Infinite Death”, wherein she must pass through the cave on the stalagmites without touching the red liquid covering the floor. Ace gives it the old college try, but falls in nonetheless. When she panics, Casmus reveals that the liquid is benign. The lesson: Soon she will be able to break the rules of the universe, but such power can easily be misused even with the best intentions.

In this particular story, Time Lords guard time and can manipulate it with a thought. The power is that over creation itself, and the place of a Time Lord is only to fight evil, not destroy it with a single stroke.

This is rather intriguing.

General Tannis threatens to shoot the Doctor or Antimony, and then reveals his secret: He is a Time Lord. Of course, unlike the Doctor, the Minister, or any of the other Time Lords, he wants to use his powers to rule the Universe. The Doctor tells Antimony to run, but the companion refuses, and Tannis suggests that Antimony sees the Doctor as his father. The next big reveal: Antimony is a robot, which Tannis displays by shooting the companion multiple times. Having seen so many companions leave or die, the Doctor built a companion who would always stay with him. Unfortunately, while Tannis taunts the Doctor, the general shoots Antimony in the head and leaves the Doctor to watch his companion die.

Tannis returns to Santine and discusses the Minister with his Fleet Pilot. Tannis realizes that the Minister cares for Sala, and he explains why he’s concerned about the Time Lord. One time, Tannis dropped a plague on a particularly obstinate planet to exterminate the population, but three days later, the plague was gone and the population was unharmed. Later, Tannis discovered a cult dedicated to a god they called “Manaster,” whom the general presumed was the Minister.

The Santine resistance mount their attack on the Luria prison, but Tannis traps them with a fleet and orbital fire. Sala pleads with the Minister to use his powers to save them, and he refuses until Sala is killed. The Minister loses his self-control and unleashes a hellish rage upon Tannis’s ships. Despite his extensive losses, Tannis orders retreat and decides to visit Earth.

Finally arriving at the home of the Kingmaker, an old woman who watches over the Time Lords, Ace is tested with a mission to Animapersis, the same world where Golcrum was exiled, a planet ravaged by biological and psychic warfare. She is tasked with restoring the planet to its rightful inhabitants without abusing her new powers. She is given a TARDIS and a wand, the latter of which she is told can manipulate time, but is warned against using. Casmus promises to wait for her, but the Kingmaker knows his time is nearing an end.

Ace arrives on Animapersis to find a cave filled with terrified survivors. She declares that she intends to defeat the ghosts and reclaim the planet, and a young woman named Megan offers to guide her to the nearby crater.

While he waits for his student, Casmus is visited by Tannis. The general explains that he has killed off the rest of the Time Lords and set the Doctor and the Minister at odds against each other. Tannis demands to know where the girl from his ship is located, and Casmus tells him that she is on Animapersis. Casmus toys with Tannis, explaining that the more important discussion is what Ace has become. She means something to both Casmus and the Doctor, which is why Tannis wants her dead.

She is a Time Lord not because of anatomy or appearance, but because of what she embodies and does. She is the envoy of a new age.

On Animapersis, Ace and her companion reach the edge of the crater and descend into its depths, facing the entrancing whispers of the spirits within. The spirits threaten to take Ace’s TARDIS and terrorize the universe unless she gives them Megan. Ace is overwhelmed and collapses, awakening on her TARDIS with a strange but talkative man who we know as Golcrum. The survivors are missing, and Ace realizes that she has killed the spirits and survivors with her newfound powers.

The Doctor visits Mount Plutarch, distraught and pleading with the Kingmaker for help in stopping Tannis. Since the general has not broken any laws of time despite amassing power and weapons, the Kingmaker refuses to interfere. She also points out that Tannis is the mirror of the Doctor’s power, and that the Doctor was summoned here to destroy the Minister for his violations.

Ace and Golcrum return to Casmus’s garden to find her mentor dead. The Doctor reunites with his former companion and brings word that Tannis killed Casmus. In turn, she reveals what she did on Anamapersis. The Doctor consoles her with the revelation that it was a test, and that every person there was an illusion. It was a Kobayashi Maru-style scenario designed to instill a memory of failure in recruits and remind them of the scope of their power, a power that that Ace does not yet possess. She mentions the wand, but the Doctor has her look at it again with new eyes. The wand is nothing more than a fancy stick.

The Doctor and Ace formulate a plan to stop Tannis: Ace and Golcrum head for Earth to intercept Tannis while the Doctor deals with the Minister. On the Canisian homeworld, the Doctor finds a village in flames. He confronts the Minister on a nearby mountain, pleading for help against Tannis. When the Minister refuses to help, the Doctor revokes the Minister’s ability to travel via TARDIS, a move that opens the former Time Lord’s eyes and guilt.

On Earth, in the NASA mission control room, the operators (does anyone else want to beat Bob with Ace’s stick?) are startled to find a fleet of spaceships approaching the planet. The President of the United States is informed, and Tannis offers an ultimatum: Surrender or he will bomb London. While the President stalls, the Prime Minister calls with word of countermeasures. The bomb explodes inside the gunship’s hold and a fleet of shuttles emerges from behind the moon, commanded by none other than Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart with Antonín Dvořák’s epic Symphony No. 9 (New World): IV. Allegro at his wings.

Tannis orders a ground invasion, descending on Stonehenge to begin a march on London, but they are confronted by Lieutenant Colonel Speedwell (who was previously undercover, I suppose) and the might of UNIT. As the battle rages, Tannis abandons his troops and searches for the Doctor. He finds Ace first and starts beating her, but the Doctor intercedes. Tannis knows that, under the law, the Doctor cannot use his powers to stop him, but the Doctor surprises Tannis with a flash of blue behind his eyes. With a choice between abusing his powers or leaving Tannis to abuse his own, the Doctor decides to unleash the might of the Time Lords, an act that destroys Tannis and kills the Doctor.

As UNIT celebrates their victory over the invasion, Ace brings word to the Brigadier of the Doctor’s fate. She travels to Mount Plutarch where the Kingmaker confers the full power of the Time Lords upon Ace, marking the beginning of a new age.

 

This story was an amazing extension of the mythology constructed in the classic era, presenting a natural path of evolution for the Time Lord civilization. If it were placed in the franchise’s continuity, it would act like a world-breaking tale that could potentially reboot everything and carry it forward with fresh eyes.

And, oh, would I love to see more adventures with Ace in her new role, because she is amazing.

But it would also mean the end of the Doctor, and presumably, the end of the series under the title Doctor Who. In that regard, I’m glad we didn’t get that path going forward.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Movie

 

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 #147: The Ultimate Foe

Doctor Who: The Ultimate Foe
The Trial of a Time Lord, Parts XIII-XIV

(2 episodes, s23e13-e14, 1986)

 

It’s time for closing statements.

Picking up at the Doctor’s inadvertent admission of genocide, the Doctor charges that the Matrix has been tampered with so the Inquisitor calls upon the Keeper of the Matrix to testify. The Keeper denies the possibility on grounds that the Key of Rassilon is required to enter the database, and only senior Time Lords have access to the keys. Neither the Valeyard nor the Inquisitor is swayed.

Something sounded fishy here, so I waded back into the archives. The Invasion of Time calls out the Great Key of Rassilon, the literal key to ultimate Time Lord knowledge. So are all of these senior Time Lords holding Lesser Keys of Rassilon, and if so, what is the difference if they all lead to the same Matrix, arguably the source of all Time Lord knowledge?

Outside the station, two pods arrive and travel down the fancy corridor of light. They open to reveal Sabalom Glitz and Mel – though neither knows how they arrived at the station – and they barge into the courtroom to offer a defense for the Doctor. On cue, their mysterious benefactor is revealed as the Master, communicating to them from the depths of the Matrix.

First, this whole arc just got a lot more deus ex machina.

Second, it turns out that a Key of Rassilon can be duplicated. Looking back on The Invasion of Time and the (admittedly assumed) purpose of the Great Key and the “lesser” keys, this really makes me wonder about the Artifacts of Rassilon. Possession of the Sash, the Key, and the Rod could lead to absolute power and a Time Lord dictatorship, and if the keys are so easily duplicated then why hasn’t someone attempted a coup with a Gallifreyan 3-D printer?

The Time Lords in attendance do not recognize the Master (which is surprising given how often the High Council has interacted with the Master and/or sent the Doctor to stop him), but the Master seems to have a deep interest in the Valeyard and a strong desire to see him lose. The Inquisitor allows Glitz to testify and the rogue reveals that the mysterious box he was searching for contained secrets of the Time Lords. The sleepers – the inhabitants of Ravalox, then known as Earth – somehow gained access to the Matrix and were siphoning secrets into the box for later use, and the Gallifreyan High Council drew Earth out of orbit, initiated the fireball, and renamed the planet to protect the information.

Yikes. The Doctor’s enemy in this story is own people?

The Master reveals that the Valeyard was charged to tamper with the trial evidence in exchange for the rest of the Doctor’s regenerations. You see, the Valeyard is the Doctor… or rather the amalgamation of the Doctor’s darker impulses from somewhere between his twelfth and final incarnations.

The Doctor’s real enemy is himself.

The Inquisitor agrees that the trial must consider this new evidence, and the Valeyard flees into the Matrix. The Doctor and Glitz pursue him, landing in a warped recreation of Victorian-era London. The Doctor is attacked by a rain barrel, but he is saved by Glitz. The rouge hands the Time Lord a note from the Master pointing them toward a place called The Fantasy Factory. As they approach, Glitz takes a harpoon to the chest.

The Matrix is a place where logic has no hold, and we’re back to The Deadly Assassin.

In the courtroom, the Master testifies to the court that everything they saw was true with minor adjustments to cast doubt on the Doctor. He also reveals that Peri’s fate in Mindwarp was a lie. She is serving as a queen at the side of King Yrcanos, thus providing a great sigh of relief from your humble reviewer. The Master hopes that the Valeyard and the Doctor will destroy each other and leave him free to pillage the universe, and he suggests that the High Council be made to answer for their crimes.

Reasonable.

In the Matrix, we find that the Valeyard’s attack didn’t roll high enough to defeat Glitz’s armor class, and the rogue is convinced to help the Doctor and escape the computer. They enter The Fantasy Factory and meet Mr. Popplewick, a rather stuffy bureaucrat who loves his red tape. The Doctor rushes past the front desk to the proprietor’s office only to find a more officious version of Popplewick. The procedure is sacrosanct!

Before the Doctor is allowed to proceed, he is forced to sign over his remaining regenerations to Mr. J. J. Chambers – the Valeyard – in the event of his “untimely” death. Within moments, he is whisked away to a bleak beach where hands attack from beneath the sand and draw him down, reminiscent of the quicksand traps that permeated much of ’80s television and film adventures. Glitz adopts the role of reliable sidekick and tries to rescue him, but the Doctor overcomes the trap by sheer willpower, pretty much invalidating any amount of physical peril going forward. After a round of taunting from the Valeyard, the evil Time Lord forces the Doctor and Glitz into a nearby hut with a cloud of nerve gas.

The twist: The hut is the Master’s TARDIS. The Master explains that the Valeyard has to be stopped because he has none of the Doctor’s morality, leaving him eviler, more powerful, and a huge threat. The Master tricks the Doctor by putting him in a catatonic state and leaving him as bait for the Valeyard. The Master’s Tissue Compression Eliminator proves useless against the Valeyard and the pair is forced to retreat. Meanwhile, Mel somehow arrives in the Matrix and escorts him out of the Matrix and back to the courtroom.

Mel testifies in the Doctor’s defense, offering footage from Terror of the Vervoids as evidence. The Inquisitor is not swayed, sentencing the Doctor to death. The Doctor accepts the verdict with surprising calm, and we find out that this is yet another Matrix illusion. Outside the Matrix, the real Mel is incensed, prompting her to steal the Key of Rassilon and enter the Matrix. She intercepts the Doctor, but he chides her because he knew it was a ruse based on her digital doppelgänger’s testimony. Together they enter the Fantasy Factory in pursuit of the Valeyard.

The Master charges Glitz, first via failed hypnosis then with a treasure chest, with finding the Ravalox Matrix box. Glitz finds the memory tapes and Mr. Popplewick while the Doctor discovers a list (in his own handwriting) of judges from his trial. Together, they force Popplewick to take them to the Valeyard, but Glitz trades the Doctor for the memory tapes, which he then passes to the Master.

The Doctor reveals Popplewick to be the Valeyard in disguise. He further discovers a maser device aimed at the courtroom, ready to kill the assembled Time Lords as a last resort. The list of names was a hit list. He dispatches Mel to evacuate the courtroom.

In the real world, Gallifrey is collapsing into chaos. The High Council has been deposed by a civilian revolt, and the Master takes the opportunity to seize control. The attempt is stymied when he loads the Ravalox drive into his TARDIS console and it freezes both the Master and Glitz in the Matrix.

Mel tries to evacuate the courtroom while the Doctor destroys the maser using a feedback loop. The surge strikes the Valeyard, knocking him down as the Fantasy Factory explodes. The Doctor returns to reality and learns of Peri’s true fate. The Inquisitor offers the presidency to the Doctor, but he declines, instead offering it to her. He also suggests that the Master should be punished but that Glitz can be reformed.

Leaving his fate up to the Time Lords means that the Master will be back. No doubt.

Mel and the Doctor depart with a quip, and the Doctor nearly abandons Mel at the hint of carrot juice in their future. Instead, they board the TARDIS and take off for points unknown. Meanwhile, the Inquisitor dissolves the court and orders the Keeper to repair and reinforce the Matrix.

Unbeknownst to anyone in attendance, the Keeper is the Valeyard in disguise.

 

As part of the Trial of a Time Lord arc, The Ultimate Foe provides a decent enough resolution, bolstered by the revelation that Peri survived and is living a good life. She did look a little sad, but I assume that it’s the weight of her role as leader. I can’t imagine that she actually missed the Sixth Doctor after all the abuse he has subjected her to, but she might miss the thrill of the adventure.

On its own, the story of The Ultimate Foe is fairly weak. The introduction of the Master weakens the power of the Valeyard and turns this “dark Doctor” into “Master Lite”. The disguises, the logical trickery, the drive to steal regenerations and kill the Doctor… all of it is just a rehash of the Master’s various machinations. The resolution also points out a massive plot hole: If the Sixth Doctor dies with regenerating, there can’t be a Twelfth Doctor or beyond. The Valeyard cannot exist unless he remains outside of time, and if he does stay outside of time then what is the point of all that power?

On a series continuity note, I did enjoy the call back to the Doctor’s dislike of the nickname “Doc”. We’ve seen it at least four times before: The Dalek Invasion of EarthThe Time Meddler, The Five Doctors, and The Twin Dilemma.

On a project note, this is the first time that an incarnation’s finale doesn’t get the regeneration handicap. This wasn’t intended as the final story for Colin Baker, and he doesn’t even begin the regeneration process in this story.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Twenty-Third Series 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 #130: The Five Doctors

Doctor Who: The Five Doctors
(Twentieth Anniversary Special, 1983)

 

“I am being diminished, whittled away piece by piece. A man is the sum of his memories you know, a Time Lord even more so…”

After a heart-touching introduction by the First Doctor, we find the Fifth Doctor – To save on confusion, I’m going to call them by number right out of the gate – putting the finishing touches on a brand new control console, and I actually kind of like it. The team is relaxing at the Eye of Orion, taking some time away from the rush of their recent adventures. The tranquil atmosphere has something to do with a bombardment of positive ions, and the Doctor agrees with Tegan that they can vacation for a little while.

Elsewhere, a black-gloved hand fiddles with controls and activates a scanner. On the screen is none other than the First Doctor (though not quite the genuine article due to an obvious need for recasting). A black Phantom Zone-like two-dimensional triangle swoops down and scoops up the Time Lord, an act that causes the Fifth Doctor considerable pain. The First Doctor is reduced to an Eaglemoss figurine and placed on a crystalline display.

Next up, we’re taken to UNIT HQ where Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is talking to his replacement, Colonel Crighton, when the Second Doctor arrives. The Time Lord has arrived to attend the Brig’s farewell speech and is unhappy with the renovations at UNIT HQ. He and the Brigadier take a walk, reminiscing over the Yeti, the Cybermen, Omega, and the Terrible Zodin (okay, not so much that one) before they too are swept into the Phantom Zone and turned into toys.

On to the Third Doctor, who is trying to outrace the spinning triangle in Bessie. He fails.

Tegan and Turlough escort the Fifth Doctor to the TARDIS, where he tells them that he must find his older selves to stop whatever is chewing at his soul. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Sarah Jane and K9 puzzle over the danger that the robotic dog detects. Sarah Jane ignores his concerns and heads to the bus for her daily schedule. She’s later consumed by the mysterious triangle.

The Fourth Doctor and Romana are punting down the river at Cambridge, just like they did in Shada. It’s a clever re-use of footage, really. Anyway, they are also taken, which causes the Fifth Doctor to collapse, but not before he sets the coordinates. The Fifth Doctor fades in and out before the TARDIS lands, and the mysterious figure adds models of Tegan, Turlough, and the Fifth Doctor to the display.

On Gallifrey, the Inner Council has convened, comprised of a newly-regenerated President Borusa, High Chancellor Flavia, and the Castellan. Shockingly, they admit the Master for a conference. The Inner Council offer a pardon for his long list of crimes and a whole new regeneration cycle in exchange for one act: He is to rescue the Doctor.

Surprise!

The First Doctor wanders an angular cave of mirrors, joined in a surprise appearance by Susan. (There were cheers from this Whovian. I’ve missed her.) The pair run as a Dalek (we haven’t seen them in a while!) rounds a corner and opens fire. The place is known as the Death Zone, an arena-like place on Gallifrey where beings from across the universe were sent to battle for amusement before the time of Rassilon. The Council sent two representatives who did not return. They attempted to send the Doctor, but all of his incarnations have vanished from the timeline. All of them (except the Fourth because Tom Baker had reasons) have been deposited in the Death Zone. Inside the Zone, the First Doctor and Susan trick the Dalek into a mirrored dead end. It fires and the reflected beam destroys the creature, revealing the mutant within the armored casing. Through a hole in the wall, they see the tower of the Death Zone and decide to investigate.

Elsewhere, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier tangle with Cybermen and the Third Doctor reunites with Sarah Jane as he rescues her from a terrible fall. As the First Doctor and Susan wander, they find the Fifth Doctor’s TARDIS and meet Tegan, Turlough, and the Fifth Doctor. The First Doctor spearheads introductions all around and then tasks Tegan with fetching refreshments. She objects, but the Fifth Doctor asks her to humor the oldest of the Doctors. After all, he used to get a bit tetchy. Meanwhile, the Master is sent into the Zone with the Seal of the High Council (to prove his credentials) and a transmat recall device. He is soon found by the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane, but the reunion is broken up by laser fire. The Master runs one direction while the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane go another, but without the aid of Bessie who took a direct hit to the engine.

The Fifth Doctor sets the TARDIS coordinates for the Dark Tower, a place that supposedly holds the tomb of Rassilon and is the current destination for all of the Doctors and companions. The Fifth Doctor, Susan, and Tegan set out on foot to disable the force field around it so the First Doctor and Turlough can move the TARDIS to its doorstep. Meanwhile, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier go in through the cave system beneath the tower, the Third Doctor and Sarah Jane encounter Cybermen, and the Fifth Doctor’s team encounters the Master. The last event is watched by a squad of Cybermen, who rush the Time Lords and stun the Master. The Fifth Doctor sends Susan (who twists her ankle) and Tegan back to the TARDIS before using the transmat recall to return to the capitol. The First Doctor decides to take up the Fifth Doctor’s task, and Tegan joins him. Amusingly, the First Doctor still has a great deal of resentment at being addressed as “Doc.”

The Fifth Doctor confers with the Inner Council about who has control of the time scoop and the Cybermen. He uncovers a homing beacon inside the recall device, surmising that someone led the Cybermen to the Master to attack the Doctors. Borusa has the Castellan, who originally gave the device to the Master, arrested and his office and quarters searched. Meanwhile, the Master makes an arrangement with the Cybermen, who then converge on the TARDIS.

The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane encounter a Raston Warrior Robot, a perfect killing machine, halting their progress until it passes. Luckily, the Cybermen approach and engage the Raston, providing a diversion for our heroes to escape (with the Raston’s supplies). In the caves, the Second Doctor and the Brig find a Yeti, which they evade before finding a door to the Dark Tower. It is unlocked, so a trap must lie beyond.

In the Citadel, a chest containing Black Scrolls of Rassilon, forbidden knowledge from the Dark Times, is found in the Castellan’s quarters. The Castellan is taken away for interrogation but is shot dead (without regeneration) en route. The Fifth Doctor is forbidden by Borusa from returning to the Death Zone. Flavia is tasked with taking care of the Fifth Doctor, and they discuss the possibility that the Castellan was not the traitor.

At this point, all three entrances to the Dark Tower are in use. The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane zipline across to the upper entrance, the Second Doctor and the Brigadier are in the basement, and the First Doctor and Tegan use a biometric entry coder to open the front door. The Master follows through the main entrance with the Cybermen. Interestingly, the First Doctor does not recognize his former classmate. The Master tricks the Cybermen into a death trap, but the CyberLeader survives until the Master tricks and kills him with a Cyberman blaster. The Master passes the trap, followed by the First Doctor and Tegan who survive by using π. Stay in school, kids… math can save your life.

The Third Doctor and Sarah Jane descend toward the Tomb of Rassilon, but the closer they get, the more psychic energy pushes back on Sarah Jane. The Third Doctor scouts ahead and finds former companions Mike Yates and Liz Shaw. Similarly, the Second Doctor encounters Zoe Heriot and Jaimie McCrimmon, but in both cases, the former companions are only specters designed to impede progress toward the heart of the tower. Once the Doctors understand that the companions are mere illusions, they disappear with chilling screams. The First Doctor is unaffected since, at his age, he has nothing left to fear.

The First, Second, and Third Doctors, along with their current traveling companions, finally arrive at the tomb. After a series of reunions, the Doctors decipher the Old High Gallifreyan language of mathematical symbols to discover that whoever wears Rassilon’s ring shall achieve immortality. The First Doctor is troubled by the last line in the text: “To lose is to win and he who wins shall lose.” The Master arrives shortly afterward and threatens the Doctors, but he is sucker-punched by the Brigadier and tied up by Tegan and Sarah Jane.

The Fifth Doctor goes to confer with Borusa, but the president is nowhere to be found. The Doctor discovers that the Harp of Rassilon is a musical key. The key unlocks a chamber where the figurines (including one of the Master) are being overseen by Borusa, the true mastermind of this scheme. The president is not satisfied with leading Gallifrey for all of his lifetimes, but instead want to be immortal and President Eternal. He plans to use the Doctors to clear the path and traps, leaving the way open for him to claim the prize. When the Fifth Doctor refuses to help, Borusa uses the power of the Coronet of Rassilon to compel his cooperation.

Politicians, right?

The Third Doctor reverses the polarity of the neutron flow on the control console, and with the forcefields down around the Tomb of Rassilon, the TARDIS engages autopilot and moves to the tomb with Susan and Turlough. The movement is just in time as the Cybermen detonate a bomb to destroy the TARDIS, but they miss. Soon, the Fifth Doctor and Borusa arrive via transmat to claim the prize. The first three Doctors combine their psionic powers to break the telepathic hold, and as the Fifth Doctor is freed, the voice of Rassilon issues a challenge to Borusa. The First Doctor convinces Rassilon to surrender the ring to Borusa, and the president’s desire is granted: The faces that line the plinth come to life, for they are those who have previously sought immortality, and Borusa becomes one of them.

Rassilon offers immortality to the Doctors, but they decline in exchange for the chance to go back to their respective timestreams. The Fourth Doctor is restored to Shada, and the Master is restored with the promise that his sins will find their punishment in due time. As the Doctors says their farewells, the First Doctor (smugly) explains that he convinced Rassilon to give Borusa the ring because he finally understood the riddle: It was a trap set by Rassilon to weed out the more selfish of their people because they were a danger to civilization. Each set of Doctors and companions boards the TARDIS in order and the TARDIS splits through a form of temporal fission to return them their proper homes.

Chancellor Flavia arrives and tells the Doctor that he is due back to the Citadel. Since Borusa has been disqualified, the High Council has decided that the Doctor shall resume his duties as Lord President. He orders Flavia back to the Citadel, telling her that she has full authority until he arrives in his TARDIS. After ushering Tegan and Turlough aboard, he sets a course and dematerializes, stunning his companions by announcing his intention to not take office.

“You mean you’re deliberately choosing to go on the run from your own people, in a rackety old TARDIS?”

“Why not? After all, that’s how it all started.”

 

All in all, this was a wonderful story to celebrate a significant milestone. I was curious, so I looked at scripted entertainment television across the United States and United Kingdom and came up with a short list of shows to reach twenty years by 1983: Coronation Street, Guiding Light, As the World Turns, General Hospital, The Wonderful World of Disney, Romper Room, Search for Tomorrow, Captain Kangaroo, and The Edge of Night. There were also a couple of semi-scripted children’s shows like Blue Peter and The Sooty Show, but the fact remains that, in a world dominated by soap opera longevity, Doctor Who was the only science-fiction drama reach that mark.

Yeah, they deserved this party.

I was very pleased to see so many of the companions back in action, even if their cameos were short. While I would have loved to see Liz, Zoe, and Jamie get into the mix, the saying holds true that too many cooks spoil the broth. It was clever, however, to subvert nostalgia with the canonical circumstances of The War Games. I appreciate that level of attention to detail.

I did miss having Tom Baker in the mix, which would have drawn The Five Doctors down to four if it hadn’t been for Richard Hurndall. From what I gather in fan circles, his involvement as the First Doctor is sometimes disparaged, but I thought he did a fantastic job. Mixing his performance with the archival footage at the beginning (effectively bringing us two First Doctors) was a nice touch and a beautiful tribute to the beginnings of this franchise.

Finally, that wonderful musical mix over the end credits to tie the eras together: C’est fantastique.

 

Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”

 

 

UP NEXT – Twentieth Series 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 #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.

Timestamp #97: The Invasion of Time

Doctor Who: The Invasion of Time
(6 episodes, s15e21-e26, 1978)

timestamp-097-the-invasion-of-time

 

Duplicitous Doctor is delightful.

Somewhere in deep space, the TARDIS is parked on an alien ship. The Doctor negotiates with the ship’s crew as Leela and K9 keep the TARDIS running. Leela tries to use the scanner, but the Doctor disabled it to prevent her interfering. The Doctor signs a contract granting him complete control over the Time Lords, returns to the TARDIS, and departs. Leela takes a dip in the TARDIS swimming pool to pass the time.

On Gallifrey, the Time Lords detect the incoming TARDIS, but they cannot determine who it is, so they increase security. The TARDIS materializes and the guards, led by Commander Andred, arrive with orders to arrest the pilot and destroy the capsule. The Doctor emerges and demands to be taken to Chancellor Borusa.

Leela is on Gallifrey? How can she be there but Sarah Jane could not?

Upon meeting with Borusa, the Doctor claims his legal right as President of the Council of Time Lords. He is very gruff and brusque with the Time Lords, who are unaware that every interaction is being watched by the mysterious aliens. The Doctor selects his Presidential chamber, including 20th century décor and lead-lined walls, and orders that Leela be given proper accommodations.

Once the Doctor in inaugurated, he will be connected to the Matrix, the repository of Time Lord knowledge and history. The ceremony proceeds, but once the circlet is placed on his head, the Doctor collapses in pain. He is attended to by the surgeon general, although Borusa wants him arrested (which cannot happen to the President under law), and taken to the Chancellory to rest. Leela is taken away for questioning in the matter, and when she arrives at the Chancellory, the Doctor recovers and has her expelled from the Citadel since aliens are not allowed there. Leela runs to evade capture.

At this point, everything’s playing out as if the Doctor is completely betraying Leela.

Borusa tries to call the Doctor’s bluff, but the Doctor tells him that as long as Leela remains at large, Gallifrey is in danger. Borusa leaves the Doctor rest, after which the Doctor dons his normal attire and escapes the Chancellory. He hopscotches his way to the TARDIS with Leela in pursuit, but he locks her out and then shares a secret plan with K9. While on the run, Leela stumbles into the space traffic control room and meets the operator, Rodan. Together, they note that a massive warship is approaching the planet, but Rodan assures Leela that it cannot harm them so long as the planetary transduction barrier remains in place.

The Doctor leaves the TARDIS and returns to the Chancellory just in time to meet with Castellan Kelner, who has been watching the Doctor’s adventure the entire time. Meanwhile, a guard unlocks the TARDIS, releasing K9 who stuns the guard for his trouble. K9 disables the transduction barrier, allowing the warship to approach and three aliens to materialize in the Citadel as the Doctor laughs an evil laugh.

The aliens are called the Vardans, and the Doctor entered into an alliance with them some time ago. He asks Borusa to meet him in his chambers later, and tells the Vardans that it is only a matter of time until he retrieves the Great Key. When he reaches his quarters, he explains everything to Borusa, their secret maintained by the lead-lined walls of the room. Leela was banished to protect both her and the secret. Leela convinces Rodan to join her in the Wastelands, which she believes to be part of the Doctor’s plan. The run into Andred, who lets them go but stays behind to face the invasion and keep tabs on Castellan Kelner. In the Wastelands, the duo encounters a tribe of Gallifreyan outsiders led by Nesbin. These tribe has rejected Time Lord society and live in the wild.

The Doctor and Borusa leave the chambers and meet with Kelner and the Vardans. The Doctor begins his act: He has Borusa placed under house arrest and directs Kelner with tracking and expelling trouble-making (potentially rebellious) Time Lords. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS where K9 is interfacing with the control panel. He places the circlet on the robot dog’s head, giving him access to the Matrix. Andred, in an attempt to defend his home, enters the TARDIS and corners the Doctor, threatening to assassinate him.

K9 stuns Andred before continuing his analysis. When the guardsman comes to, he realizes that his weapon is ineffective. The Doctor leaves Andred with K9 and discovers that Kelner’s men have eliminated Andred’s force. He returns to the TARDIS and explains things to Andred: The TARDIS shields them from the Vardans, and the Matrix has been invaded. The Doctor modifies Andred’s helmet to shield the guardsman from the Vardans, then constructs a plot to disable the remaining force field around Gallifrey. The downside is that only Rassilon has the power to do so, but the upside is that his being lives on in the Matrix.

Kelner and the Vardans discuss the Doctor’s erratic behavior and begin to plot against him. Meanwhile, Leela organizes the rebel tribe to stage an assault on the Citadel. The Doctor returns the Vardans and tries to earn back their trust by opening the planet to attack. He opens a hole in the shield directly above the Citadel, and a spacecraft approaches as three humanoids materialize in the Panopticon. As the hole opens, K9 leads Andred to the Presidential chambers and Leela leads the tribe to the Citadel. The Doctor returns to his chambers, prompting the Vardans to place Kelner in charge and order the Doctor’s execution, but K9 traces the Vardan signal back to its source and places their planet in a time loop.

Presuming that they have won, the Doctor, Leela, Andred, and the tribesmen converge on the Panopticon and being to celebrate, but their joy is short-lived as three Sontaran soldiers appear and take aim on the group. Well, that escalated quickly.

I did like how the Doctor immediately surrendered to save the assembled innocents.

The Sontarans used the Vardans as pawns to dismantle Gallifrey’s defenses. The Doctor hides his true identity as the Sontarans search for him, and Borusa works behind the scenes to provide a distraction. The Doctor’s group scatters while Kelner remains behind to polish boots with his tongue. The Doctor, Leela, Rodan, Andred, and Nesbin – basically, the power players in this plot – run to the Presidential Chambers and find Borusa. Hot on their heels, the Sontarans begin to assault the door, which Borusa had previously reinforced with titanium. Escaping through a secret exit, the group (now including K9) moves to Borusa’s office. The Doctor sends everyone onward to the TARDIS, then asks Borusa for the Great Key of Rassilon, the literal key to ultimate Time Lord knowledge. Borusa attempts to deceive him, but in the end surrenders the key to the Doctor, making him the first president since Rassilon to hold it.

On the way back to the TARDIS, Nesbin is killed, but with his last ounce of strength he takes down a Sontaran. The Doctor and Borusa retreat to the TARDIS with Sontarans in pursuit, and the Doctor entrusts the Great Key to Leela’s protection. As the Sontaran commander forces Kelner to widen the hole in the planetary shield, the Doctor works with Rodan to seal it. The overrides for the shield are controlled from the TARDIS, so Kelner sabotages the stabilizer banks and sends the time capsule hurtling toward a black star. The Doctor overrides the stabilizers, but that leaves the TARDIS stuck in state until the override can be, well, overridden.

Kelner gains access to the TARDIS, and the Sontarans pursue the Doctor’s group through her labyrinthine interiors. Which, in this incarnation, appear to be a series of industrial tunnels and eclectic rooms. In the workshop, the Doctor tasks a hypnotized Rodan as K9’s assistant, including possession of the Great Key, while he distracts the invaders. The Doctor’s group finds Borusa at the swimming pool, and he joins the running distraction. When Andred is inadvertently wounded, Leela takes him and Borusa back to the workshop. The Doctor meets up with them, and finds that Rodan and K9 have constructed a de-mat gun, the ultimate weapon of the Time Lords that erases its targets from all of time. The Doctor pursues the Sontaran commander to the Panopticon, where the warrior plans to destroy the Eye of Harmony, which will destroy Gallifrey. The Doctor uses the de-mat gun on the explosion, which removes the commander from time, destroys the gun, and wipes the Doctor’s memory of the entire event.

The Doctor used two different guns in this story. I really need to start a tracker of some sort.

With the day won, the now resigned President gets ready to depart, but Leela and K9 decline to follow. Leela has fallen in love with Andred, even though aliens are not welcome on Gallifrey, and K9 remains to look after her. As the Doctor flies on to his next adventure, his former companions mourning his newfound loneliness, he pulls a box out of storage: K9 Mark II.

This serial had some really good plotting and acting. It was great to see the Doctor playing such a powerful role in saving his home. I really wish that he hadn’t had the entire thing erased from his brain since the important part to forget was the de-mat gun.

It’s also time to say goodbye to Leela. Louise Jameson is a great actress, but Leela wasn’t my favorite companion. Granted, Sarah Jane is a hard act to follow, and Leela saved a couple of stories in her run. I will miss her.

The big downside to this story: The patched-in love story for Leela. It just appears as a quick method to eject her from the TARDIS, and that drags the grade down from a glowing top score to a solid four.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Fifteenth Series 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 #88: The Deadly Assassin

Doctor Who: The Deadly Assassin
(4 episodes, s14e09-e12, 1976)

timestamp-088-the-deadly-assassin

 

This story is an all-around exercise in Tom Baker trying to carry the show by himself, even including a unique introduction.

Through the millennia, the Time Lords of Gallifrey led a life of peace and ordered calm, protected against all threats from lesser civilisations by their great power. But this was to change. Suddenly and terribly, the Time Lords faced the most dangerous crisis in their long history…

Driven by a premonition of the Time Lord President’s assassination, the Doctor returns home. He’s not exactly welcome since he is a convicted criminal – I guess we’re just ignoring the fact that his exile was forgiven? – the Gallifreyans guards plan to arrest on sight. It is, after all, Presidental resignation day, and the Time Lords don’t want any trouble.

We get several bits of new mythology here. First, the TARDIS is a Type 40, and she is obsolete. Second, we get to see the unique chapters and dress of the Time Lords: The Prydonians, of which the Doctor is a member, are devious and wear scarlet and orange; The Arcalians wear green; the Patrexes wear heliotrope; and there are several other “lesser” chapters who don’t get name-checked today.

There’s also the Seal of Rassilon, which we previously saw when it wasn’t the Seal of Rassilon.

The guards force the locks on the TARDIS – that’s a new one for me, since the mythology to date and in the revived series suggested that the lock was impenetrable – and the Doctor sneaks out. He encounters another guard who is immediately killed by an unseen assailant, and the authorities assume that the Doctor is responsible. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS, unaware of a dark figure watching him. The mysterious figure is working for the Master, who looks decayed and worn.

The guards transduct the TARDIS directly into the capitol, which inadvertently allows the Doctor to sneak in under a very formal disguise. At the ceremony, the robed figure takes down a camera operator. He sets up a rifle and surveys the stage through his scope. The Doctor dodges the guards by talking to Runcible, the journalist who is covering the event and refers to regenerations as “face lifts”. The Doctor spots the rifle and bursts through the crowd to the platform. As the President takes the dais, the Doctor takes aim and shoots the president. The guards arrest him shortly thereafter. The president died without naming a successor, and therefore Gallifrey is under constitutional crisis. Chancellor Goth orders both an immediate election to save face on the galactic stage, as well as an immediate trial for the Doctor.

The Doctor explains his premonition, but it is dismissed as impossible. The trial moves swiftly with a strong argument for prosecution, but the Doctor derails the trial by invoking Article 17 and running for president, which (in a moment of plotonium handwavium) guarantees his liberty until the election is over. He is given 48 hours to prove his innocence.

The Doctor inspects the rifle and discovers that the sights are fixed to prevent the shooter from getting an accurate shot. Inspecting the Panopticon, the Doctor finds his shot, which had gone wide. Meanwhile, Runcible reviews his footage from the incident and discovers the cameraman miniaturized inside the camera. The Doctor recognizes it as a tactic of the Master, and realizes that he is due for a final showdown. Meanwhile, Runcible is killed by knife.

Enter: The Matrix. The Master’s biographical data extracts have been deleted from the computer, and the Doctor’s has been tampered with. After a discussion of how the Matrix works – presumably as a repository for brain patterns after Time Lords finish their regenerative cycles – the Doctor deduces that the Master has used it to implant the premonition into the Doctor’s head to draw him to Gallifrey. Sneaky sneaky. The Doctor enters the Matrix to find the Master, and a battle of wills takes place over a rapidly shifting virtual landscape, which taxes both the Doctor’s and the assassin’s physical bodies.

You know, this is a really odd story.

The Doctor’s allies start to believe his story as they watch his physical readings during the Matrix experience, in which the Doctor runs, strategizes, and hides near a random toy spider.

The Master realizes that the Doctor is gaining the upper hand, so he sends an enthralled guard to the Matrix control room to kill the Doctor. The Doctor’s allies stop the threat as the Doctor gains the upper hand and unmasks the assassin: It is Goth. The antagonist tries to drown the Doctor, but the Doctor escapes and leaves the Matrix.

The Doctor and his allies track Goth to the Master’s lair. The Master appears dead – this is one time that I would endorse poking the corpse with stick to verify matters – and Goth is nearly at his end. Goth explains that he found the Master dying on Tersurus, at the end of his regeneration cycle. The Master promised all of his knowledge to Goth if he could return to Gallifrey. The Doctor is cleared of all charges, though Cardinal Borusa puts on his political hat and alters the story to make it more palatable, which makes Goth into a hero.

As if we needed any further evidence as to why the Doctor dislikes his own kind so intensely.

We get a little more mythology here. First, Borusa was the First Doctor’s mathematics instructor at the Academy. Second, Rassilon is established as an ancient Time Lord and founder of Gallifreyan civilization. Third, with repercussions throughout the rest of the franchise, we get the regeneration limit of twelve.

The Doctor presumes that there is more to this whole story, and believes that the secret lies in the ceremonial sash and rod, the keys to the Eye of Harmony, which is the heart of a black hole captured by Rassilon as the source of Time Lord power. That power is hidden under the Panopticon, and the Master plans to use it to restart his regeneration cycle. The Master escapes the morgue, his death a ruse – you really should’ve poked him with a stick –   and secures the sash and rod. He unlocks the Eye of Harmony and begins the process, one which will destroy Gallifrey and several other worlds. You know, go big or go home… or in this case, both.

So, is the Eye of Harmony linked to Omega as well? The lore stated that Omega used the creation of a black hole to give the Time Lords the power of time travel.

At this point, I’m also drawing attention to the Master’s makeup. It is atrocious.

We rush toward the climax as the Doctor pursues and fights the Master, stopping him (with appropriate dramatic tension) just before the last cable is uncoupled. The Master falls through a fissure in the floor as the Doctor stops the chain reaction, literally saving the world.

Cardinal Borusa is appalled at the damage, but congratulates the Doctor on his performance. The Doctor departs, and soon after, the Master does as well in his own TARDIS.

This was a nice experiment, but I was not impressed. The story was pretty bad on its own, and the Doctor desperately needs a companion to even him out. That said, as a primer on Gallifreyan mythology and means to resurrect the Master after so long, this one serves its purpose. It’s also a decent way to keep a nemesis alive after being away for 21 stories, while trying to figure out how to honor Roger Delgado’s performance.

It all settles out to an average score.

 

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

 

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Face of Evil

 

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 #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.