Retro ‘Doctor Who’ Reviews – Vol. 5.6
After taking the time to publish our definitive guides to the Doctor and the Companions we return to the adventures of the Fifth Doctor. Sadly we are going say farewell to Tegan.
Tegan requests that the Doctor take her to 1984 so that she could spend time with her Grandfather. Upon arrival they initially believe that they have landed in the wrong century as medieval times as people in 17th century clothing are riding horses through the village. It’s really a historical re-enactment of a famous battle, but things seem to be getting out of hand. The villagers who are partaking in the celebration are taking things very seriously, and there’s a youth he seems to feel he is in the 17th century.
All the strange energy is focused on an unstable church. An alien known as the Malus, who had been trapped in the church. The massive face of the alien pushes through the wall, revealing to the Doctor the source of the psychic energy that is resulting in the medieval war games and temporal rifts.
Again, not a spectacular episode. An imaginative enemy in the alien being trapped in the wall, but the special effects are so basic it does draw attention away from the concept. The conflict resolves in a very basic way as well, with someone falling into the Malus’ mouth and it self-destructing while everyone runs into the TARDIS. Peter Davison seems to be growing tired of the role at this point, and his performance is lacking the usual energy. Given the routine nature of the recent episodes it’s none to surprising.
After visiting the Earth at different time periods in the last two serials the TARDIS takes the time travellers much further into the future to the planet of Frontios, the last outpost of humanity after the destruction of the Earth. Under attack by meteorite showers sent by an invisible enemy and people disappearing by being absorbed into the ground the people are desperate to survive.
Although the Doctor is reluctant to get involved – the cardinal rule of the Time Lords – he does concede that they need to interfere in order to ensure the survival of the human race. After struggling to help people with the limited medical resources available. Investigations reveal an underground race of Gravis and Tractators, giant insects who can control gravity. By using the corpses of the colonists they can power their machines to continue their mining operation.
During the episode Turlough takes an unusual turn. Sparked by the ‘race memory’ of his people being attacked by the Tractators he suffers a breakdown and spends much of the serial ranting like a madman, which is the most he’s been given to do since the Black Guardian Trilogy. With the slug-people using their powers to bring meteorites down to Frontios and the TARDIS trapped within the rock underground there Doctor has to rely on his wits to save everyone and preserve the human race. This makes for some good writing even if the enemy looks a bit silly.
Resurrection of the Daleks
It would’ve been remiss if Peter Davison had finished up his run as the Doctor without tackling the Daleks at least once. The story begins in 1984 with all manner of people from different points in history running down the street. This reveals a ‘time corridor’ causing a rift in time. The humanoids are chased by Commander Lytton who, in the future, is using his battle cruiser to attack a prison with only one prisoner: Davros, creator of the Daleks.
The story takes place in the two locations. The Daleks lead a successful raid against the prison ship and rescue Davros from his containment and he sets out to get revenge on the Doctor. In the London docklands the Doctor and his companions tackle more Daleks. As things progress the Daleks reveal their plans to assassinate the High Council of Time Lords by cloning the Doctor, and announcing that they have replaced multiple prominent figures on Earth with clones. The Daleks find themselves divided into those loyal to Davros and those following the Dalek supreme, and they fall into battle amongst each other.
Like the recent Silurian episode this winds up being a fairly routine adventure. None of the companions have much in the way of a story for them to follow and while the internal conflict between the Dalek factions is interesting it could’ve been a much larger part of the serial. Once again Peter Davison seems to be going through the motions. When interacting with the Daleks he’s on board with the character but during the bridging scenes it feels like a lull. Ultimately we have the time corridor story, the cloning plot and the Dalek in-fighting but not one story thread is given the time and depth it deserves. The only other part of the story worth noting is the abrupt departure of Tegan at the end of the story, devastated by the carnage she witnessed as a result of the Daleks she flees back to her old life.