Retro ‘Doctor Who’ Reviews Vol. 5.5
The King’s Demons
Standard events are happening the 1215 England. The king wants to extort more taxes, a lord refuses, the king insults him and the lord’s son challenges the king’s champion to a joust. That’s when the TARDIS arrives. Right off the bat the production values for the episode are quite high with the setting looking pretty detailed and the joust being exciting. The king sees the time travellers as demons and, to the surprise of many, welcomes them to his court.
When the son of the slighted king arrives from London with the claim that he just left the king’s side and the one the Doctor has met is in fact an imposter the plot becomes more complex. Everything comes to light when it is revealed that the king’s champion is really the Master (up to his old tricks) and the ‘king’ is the robot Kamelion. The android was intended as a war machine and can be telepathically controlled in addition to having the ability to adopt disguises.
Being only two episodes long the story doesn’t take very long to resolve itself, especially after the Master and his ploy is uncovered. The actual robot used for Kamelion is quite cool (if slightly unsettling). He was intended to become a regular character but the death of the robotics engineer who created him shortly after the character was written into the show prevented this from eventuating. The episode is a brief bit of escapist fun, but it doesn’t stand out a great deal.
The Five Doctors
First thing first, this is quite the misleading title. ‘The Four and a Bit Doctors’ would be more accurate. Tom Baker, having only left the show a year or so earlier, declined to be involved in the special so the producers dug up some unused footage of the Fourth Doctor and Second Romana from the unaired Shada. The footage jars quite severly with the main story and they never interact with the rest of the cast. So think of this as the ‘The Four Doctors with Special Guest Star Tom Baker’ and you’ll be right.
Whilst getting some downtime with his companions the Fifth Doctor finds himself in an unexpected and large amount of pain. An unknown foe has been scooping up his previous incarnations, along with some companions and enemies, and dropping them in the ‘Death Zone’ on Gallifrey. Trapped in a deadly game the Doctors and companions all begin making their way towards the tower in the centre. The First Doctor (played by Richard Hurndall in place of the late William Hartnell) is joined by his grand-daughter Susan, the Second with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and the Third with Sarah Jane. Between them and the tower are all many of foes including Daleks and Cybermen. To make matters more complicated the High Council of Time Lords recruits the Master to help rescue the Doctor is exchange for having his regeneration cycle extended.
Eventually the Four Doctors and their companions all find themselves in the Tomb of Rassilon to confront their tormentor. It turns out to be Lord President Borusa is seeking immortality by obtaining the artefacts of Rassilon. Along with his partner Omega Rassilon developed the time travel technology and the various technologies he created offer different abilities including mind control and immortality.
As in ‘The Three Doctors’ the biggest selling point of this special is the interaction between the different performers. Whenever they share the screen there is a great chemistry between the four of them and plenty of in jokes fly. Hurndall perfectly captures Hartnell’s character, and the banter between Pertwee and Troughton is hilarious. A couple of sly remakes about Davison being the youngest looking but technically the eldest round things out nicely. Having Susan, Sarah Jane and the Brig involved is also great (especially the dialogue between Sarah Jane and Tegan) and cameos from K9, Zoe, Liz, Jamie and others are the cherry on the cake.
Being the 20th Anniversary special of the show that reunites many of the old performers the expectation is pretty high. Fortunately is does deliver, being packed with action and comedy to carry through the clever story. Fantastic stuff.
Warriors of the Deep
Since the Third Doctor last encountered them in The Sea Devils we haven’t seen any form of the Silurian race. This serial sees their aquatic form, the Sea Devils make another play for control of the Earth. One thing that makes the homo reptilia such an interesting foe is that they have the same claim to the planet as humans. What does diminish the impact of the return of these creatures is the fact that they’re using what look like the same prosthetics as they did a decade prior.
Arriving in Earth’s future the time travellers find the world’s nations divided into two groups. One nations has built a secret underwater base equipped with nuclear weapons and controlled via a mind link. Things take a turn for the dangerous when an undersea Silurian battleship takes an interest. Meanwhile, on the TARDIS, Turlough has changed his mind about returning to his own planet and joins the others in showing Tegan something of Earth’s future. After winding up on Sea Base 4 the travellers get caught between the distrustful human commander and the Silurians, who revive the Sea Devils to lead their attack.
Although it is good to the return of the Silurians there isn’t much to set this serial apart from the usual routine. Seeing the Doctor and companions get caught up between human jerks and alien invaders is one of the common plotlines used in the series. The idea of the underwater base is cool, and the design of the set is equally cool. The exploration of mind control weapons as a concept is interesting but mainly used to create artificial conflict than anything else. Not great, but not bad.