Retro ‘Doctor Who’ Reviews Vol 5.3
In a moment of pure 1980ness the Doctor has an adventure involving the Concorde Jet. And why not? The entire notion of the Concorde jet is something out of science fiction. The story begins with an in-flight Concorde vanishing without a trace. This coincides with the Doctor finally succeeding in piloting the TARDIS back to Heathrow airport so that Tegan can resume her former life. This is something she may be more keen to do following the loss of Adric (after causing a small panic by instructing airport security to contact UNIT to confirm his identity). Naturally this leads to the Doctor investigating the missing Concorde.
Deducing that it is likely to be the result of a rift in time and space, the Doctor arranges for them to travel on another Concorde that follows the same flight pattern in order to replicate events. Turns out that he was right on the money and they all wind up travelling to 140 million years into the past. In this new locale they find the previous crew and passengers are being used for slave labour whilst being kept in line using psychic hypnosis, giving the prisoners the perception that they’re still at Heathrow. The creature behind this turns out to be Kalid, but when his ‘power’ is revealed to be electricity based the Doctor unmasks Kalid, revealing him to be the Master.
The initial set up is plenty interesting. Seeing the TARDIS turn up in the middle of Heathrow is an interesting sight, as is the Doctor having to explain who he is and how he got there. Although it’s only a way of inserting the Doctor and his companions into the story, it works immensely well. Everything from taking flight on a Concorde in order to find a tear in time to a villain capturing people through time in order to use them as slave via hypnosis is all done well. And all the different elements of the narrative are well paced out. After the Master is revealed everything slows down, leaving the impression that everything built up to this reveal but they didn’t have anything in mind far after that point.
At the conclusion of the episode the Doctor and Nyssa assume that Tegan wished to remain behind at Heathrow as she originally intended. Instead she chases after them as they prepare the TARDIS for dematerialisation, but she gets left behind.
Arc of Infinity
After their adventure on Earth the action shifts to the Doctor’s home world of Gallifrey. One of the Time Lords has turned traitor and has been stealing the stored bio-data of other members of the species. This is used to infiltrate the TARDIS and the Doctor’s metabolism. Looking for the one responsible the Doctor steers the TARDIS back to Gallifrey, but finds that he’s taken into custody. Although the High Council of the Time Lords understand that the Doctor is the victim of this attack the anti-matter creature who has infiltrated him is such a risk to the planet that they sentence the Doctor to death.
Meanwhile, on Earth, a pair of backpackers in Amsterdam hole up in an old crypt for the night. When one of them goes missing his cousin arrives in the country to find him – none other than Tegan. They find him hypnotised and working for an unusual bird-like creature that takes Tegan prisoner. After scanning her mind and finding that she knows the Doctor the creature, known as the Renegade, uses her to try and manipulate the Doctor. Whilst Nyssa investigates on Gallifrey the Doctor uses the Matrix (virtual reality world connected to the bio-data) to bargin with the creature that has attached itself to him. It is finally revealed that the one behind it all is Omega, the Time Lord who discovered time travel and has been trapped in an anti-matter universe.
The first time that the Doctor encountered the powerful, completely insane and vengeance driven Omega he needed to bring together three different incarnations of himself in order to defeat him. With Omega spending the bulk of the episodes acting via proxy it makes him more of a background threat up until the final episode. The most interesting part of the serial is when Omega is finally revealed (wearing the face of the Doctor) and takes himself off to Earth.
Considering the lack of ceremony surrounding the departure of Tegan in the previous serial it’s good to see that they weren’t planning on waiting long before she turned up again. Nyssa mostly functions as a sideline character to the Doctor and Tegan and she had a good arc developing. The use of Omega, such a powerful enemy in his first appearance, seems wasted. He seems reduced in power even after he fulfils his goal of taking corporal form in the real universe. As a way of bringing the cast back together and exploring the inner workings of Gallifrey it works, but as a return of a big bad it’s lacking.
Tegan is back on board the TARDIS but all is not well. As they approach the planet Manussa Tegan starts to suffer from vivid nightmares. When he learns that the nightmares take the form of a cavern shaped like a snake’s mouth the Doctor theorises that it is the Mara once again trying to control Tegan after having lain dormant in her subconscious. To get the bottom of things the Doctor takes them onto the surface of Manussa (formally the home of the Sumaran Empire) in order to find the cavern that Tegan saw in her dreams. Upon finding it Tegan takes fright and runs away.
Lost and confused Tegan begins to fall further until the spell of the Mara. During the time the planet gears up for the festival to celebrate the banishment of the Mara from the planet. Slacker son of the Federator is expected to lead the celebration but Lon (Martin Clunes before he was Men Behaving Badly) has no interest in the history, but rather the prophesy that the Mara will one day return. Before long the Mara spreads from Tegan to Lon and others to seek out the crystal known as the ‘Minds Eye’, which will allow it to take physical form once again.
Sadly this second appearance of the Mara was the last we saw of the creature. The Mara is a very different type of monster for the Doctor to confront, attacking people through their subconscious and feasting on their fears and suffering. Both this serial and Kinda are stand out adventures even by the modern standard.
Not that the story focuses purely on the monster. All of the characters are well utilised and have their own role to play in the adventure. Janet Fielding as Tegan gets the opportunity to play things a bit nastier for a change and plays the Mara controlled character extremely well. The story takes a couple of twists towards the end, and it comes down to the Doctor having to outwit his opponent…which is always the most interesting way to finish a confrontation.